For most of my childhood, my parents had a small business that produced and distributed music. It was mostly instrumental music and it all started with a Christmas album that my dad and his friend Lewis made. Back in the early eighties, there wasn’t much in the way of instrumental Christmas music. There was plenty of the big band and pop stuff, as well as organ and choir music. But no matter how hard you looked, it was nearly impossible to find lovely, instrumental Christmas music.
So Lewis and my dad made an album (and truly, back in those days it was actually an album, on vinyl and everything) called Collection of Favourite Christmas Carols. Lewis played all various parts on his many guitars and my dad did the recording and designed the packaging. The only problem they faced was that once they had finished creating the album, there wasn’t any way to get it into the hands of the broader public. Thus, a distribution company was born and soon they were distributing thousands of titles to book stores, gift shops and card stores all across the country.
As they worked to create a business around the album, a woman named Eleanor joined the company. She was an old friend of my parents and was hard working, honest and just happened to love Christmas (though I don’t think it was a pre-requisite, it sure helped you survive in a workplace where holiday music played nine months of the year). One of the ways in which Eleanor displayed her holiday fervor was through the annual giving of food packages to her friends and family.
My sister and I looked forward to the arrival of Eleanor’s goodie bag every year. There would be a divided holiday plate, heaped high with homemade caramels (both regular and chocolate), sugar cookies and a tidily wrapped loaf of sweet nut bread. Along side, there was always a zip top bag, filled to bursting with her deeply toasted Chex Mix. Thing was, this was no ordinary Chex Mix. She always included Cheerios, generous amounts of mixed nuts (the brazil nuts were always my favorite to pick out) and Fritos. Competition over that bag of Chex Mix was fierce and my mom would often resort to hiding it and doling out small portions in Dixie cups.
When the internet arrived, the music industry changed and the business eventually disappeared. It has been years since I’ve had the opportunity to taste Eleanor’s Chex Mix. Until now. You see, I’m friends with her daughters on Facebook (they were my childhood babysitters, after all) and so after more than ten years of longing for it, finally hit them up for the recipe. I made it over the weekend and jackpot. It tastes just like it should – buttery, salty and oh so crunchy.
I’ve realized since making it that this Chex Mix recipe really isn’t too dissimilar to the one on the box. However, what makes this special is the extended roasting. I kept mine in the oven for over an hour, stirring regularly and alternating the trays from top rack to bottom with every stir. I kept it in there until the cereal at the very edges of the pan were almost burnt (but not quite). That’s what it took to really get that familiar, beloved flavor. I suggest you do the same.
Then, I recommend bagging or jarring up the bulk of what you’ve made and taking it to work or dropping some off with a neighbor. Because something this delicious and seductively crunchy is best shared.
Eleanor’s Chex Mix
20 cups cereal total. Here’s how I broke it down:
- 4 cups Cheerios
- 4 cups Rice Chex
- 4 cups Corn Chex
- 4 cups Wheat Chex
- 4 cups Crispex not original to the recipe, but I had some that needed to be used up so in it went
- 2 cups stick pretzels
- 2 cups fritos
- 1 cup peanuts
- 3 cups mixed nuts
For the Sauce:
- 2 sticks butter
- 5 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 5-8 dashes of Tabasco or other hot sauce
- 10 generous shakes garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked salt my substitution for Eleanor’s smoked almonds, which I was unable to find. If you can get smoked almonds, skip the salt and add 1/2 cup of the almonds to the list of ingredients above
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Place the cereals, pretzels, Fritos and nuts into your largest bowl. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. When it is nearly melted, add the Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, garlic powder and smoked salt (if using). Once it’s all melted together, remove the saucepan from the heat.
- Pour some of the butter mixture over the cereal, stopping to mix after each addition (if you have someone around who can pour as you mix, this process goes much faster). When all the butter is incorporated and the cereal appears to be well-coated, pour the cereal equally into two roasting pans (if you happen to have one of those very deep disposable ones, you might be able to get away with cramming it all in that. Stirring could be a problem, though).
- Place in oven and roast for 45 minutes to an hour. Remove the pans from the oven every ten minutes to stir the mix. If you’re using two pans, make sure to keep swapping their position in the oven, so that the mix roasts evenly. When the cereal takes on a deep, toasted color, it is done.
- Spread parchment paper or tin foil out on a countertop or table (you need at least three feet) and spread the hot mix out to cool. Once it is completely cool, pack it in plastic bags or jars. If stored in air tight containers, the mix will easily stay fresh for a month. Whether it will actually last that long is anyone’s guess.
I have always wanted to try this but never have. Maybe this will be the year!
Sounds great…can’t wait to try this version!
My dad takes pride in making a huge batch of Chex Mix every year at Christmas time. No fritos in his version, but extra nuts (my favorites are the cashews!). He also roasts it for a long time. Mmmm I can’t wait!!
I can’t wait to try this. I love when things get that deep flavor from roasting. YUM!
Chex mix has long been a tradition in our family too. One year my Mom added Honey Nut Cheerios instead of the regular and we all love the slight sweetness it added to the saltly. Now that’s part of our traditional recipe.
My aunt makes “Texas Trash” – it is sooo good. She’s 80 and bringing a big container of it up to Chicago for me this Christmas. It doesn’t have cheerios or fritos, but it has a lot of nuts (brazil nuts included) and the wheat chex are the best part, as they soak up the liquid and then get roasted until they’re hard and smooth like salty candy.
If you have a big slow cooker, you can make great Chex Mix in it. You can cook it a long time (stirring occasionally) and it gets that really “roasted” flavor without any fear of burning.
Jars of Chex Mix..looks so pretty! Yummo..I thought I was done with baking for Christmas but now I want these. Off to the grocery store..I need cereal.
Homemade is always the best…
Yum! Love, love love the toasted mixes, and yes, also prefer it with Cheerios in it. This sounds just delightful, especially with the addition of the smoked almonds. Gonna have to get some TODAY!!
I don’t know about the fritos, but my Grandma always used Cheez-Its or goldfish in the mix. Also, last year my mother in law accidentally used honey roasted peanuts and the mix turned out awesome!
I use pretzel goldfish instead of the sticks. Much easier to grab a handful that way
This recipe was one of my Grandmother’s holiday staples; she too had to hide it & dole it out to make it last. Now she’s not too steady in the kitchen and I make it for her. So funny you posted this yesterday, mine was in the oven last night!
I miss Chex. Can’t get them here in BC (and using Crispix just isn’t the same). Life without Chex mix–isn’t that crazy?
Thank you, thank you, thank you . I love ChexMix and have never made it and now I will!!
Could you please tell me what the gram measurements are for the sticks of butter. I know that here in Australia are sticks of butter are a different size to the ones available in the US. I would love to be able to make this but would like to get the butter measurement is.
Also – can someone tell me what frito’s are? I’ve never heard of this and haven’t seen it in any of our supermarkets here in Sydney.
Gail – One stick of butter in the US is 1/2 cup, or 4 oz, or 113.4 grams. Hope it helps!
Fritos are small, rectangular, very salty corn chips. Not really necessary to Chex Mix, just one of the many variations of ingredients. I love bagel chips in the mix.
Oooh, that chex mix looks awesome!
Anyone know if this mix freezes well? It looks like it makes so much, I would love to freeze some for impromptu movie/game nights.
My batch is about ready to come out of the oven. I used two kinds of Chex, and Honey Nut Cheerios, and it tastes amazing so far! Every time I take it out to stir it some family member grabs a bite. We’re not ones to wait, I guess!
this is a great recipe. i left out all of the nuts and put in extra rice chex and the whole bag of fritos. fritos!!!??? who would have ever thought!? thank you for sharing this recipe.
My dad makes this every year & we all gain an extra 5 lbs. from eating it! We call it “chicken feed” & I remember having it ever since I was little. My dad always makes a batch at Thanksgiving & then for Christmas. He has a different variation every year but I especially like the Chex & Bugles – yumm!
I also grew up on homemade chex mix…this was before they sold it in bags in the store. My mom made it every year during December. I’m thinking the original recipe (which was the one she used) had seasoning salt in it, right? It was SO good! You’ve got me craving this now.
This year I added one of my childhood tradtions and taught my girls how to make the rice krispy treats…next year, I think I’ll add chex mix!! They will LOVE it!
The original recipe, from when I was a kid — TOO many years ago — was made in a skillet. We had to be careful not to let it burn; but wow! how I loved that taste. The stuff sold in stores just can’t hold a candle to it.
Oh Marisa — love your stories! My Mom made this ever year, but I never have. I just might try it this year and add it to my jam packages. She kept a typed little notebook of her recipes and there is always a little story at the beginning or the end of the recipe which notes the date she first made it and who she got the recipe from and any other little detail that suited her fancy. I’ll have to get out her book and see what her notation is for this one. Thanks!
Love, love, love this stuff!!!! I am a beautician and one of my customers brings me this home made mix every Christmas in a huge Christmas tin. I look forward to it every year. I think I will make it myself this year and add the honey nut cheerios to it, that sounds YUMMY! A great gift for those hard to shop for. Merry christmas and Happy Chexing.
I made this mix last year with the smoked almonds. It was VERY good. My only regret was actually that it didn’t have a bit more fritos. So, I adjusted to have more fritos. I love the way those fatty and salty little chips crisp up and toast!
Going to buy the ingredients for this years batch tomorrow.
But, this year, I’m going to give 80% away and eat the 20% as opposed what happend last year when I ate about.. mm… 100% of it all over several weeks.
Keeps really well in ziplocks.
Thank you for sharing such a wonderful childhood memory and thank you for the wonderful wonderful recipe! I’ve made this recipe for Christmas last year and I look forward to making it again this year. I love adding a little extra tabasco for some kick. 🙂
Close to the “nuts and bolts” that I grew up looking forward to around the holidays. I believe this was a Chicago Tribune $5 favorite in the 40s? 50s? We used all the Chexes plus Cherios, pretzels and peanuts. The seasonings were different, though. Added to the butter: 1 TBS smoke salt (though I use liquid smoke with a small shudder) 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp celery salt, 1 tsp marjoram, 1 tsp summer savory and either a dash of cayenne (about 1/8 tsp) or tobasco.
Thanks for all the great recipes. I’m knee deep in tomatoes and making butter and jam!
This is very close to my grandma’s recipe, she also used cheerios and fritos. I make it every year. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for this unique spin on party mix, I used goldfish pretzels, extra smoked almonds and peanuts since I didnt have other nuts. Also added a few dashes of dried onions. I cooked it in my standing roaster and it was so easy to mix and bake. So so good and gift worthy!
I decided to try this for the 1st time this year, used another recipe but had so much product left & sent it to work w/My Husband so all out! Decided to make more. Your recipe caught my eye because my Mother’s name is Eleanor, Very Heart Warming, So I know it’ll be Good! In the oven now. Makes me feel good doing something she used to do ????????
My dad always made a big batch of “Nuts & Bolts” with everything your recipe has, but using stick pretzels, well, no Fritos! I now make it Gluten Free using Glutino Stick pretzels and without Wheat Chex. As I read your list of ingredients, I was struck by the lack of Wosteshire Sauce in my batch! I had it out the day I was going to make it, but was delayed and forgot the day I actually made it! Oops.
Anyway, I came here looking for ways to dress up a Christmas tin for gifting. I saw Ziplocks & glass jars, but nothing for tins. Oh well, next year I will add Fritos! Thanks.