I don’t think anything smells more reminiscent of growing up than party mix. I knew the seasons were changing as soon as I started to smell that buttery, garlicky, and Worcestershire-filled scent emanating from the kitchen.
The original recipe was posted in an advertisement in Life magazine in the 1950s. Recipes were often included as part of an ad to help push a certain product. I always wonder if the first person who actually made party mix from the recipe thought it was odd, but decided to give it a try anyway. Maybe once they made it, their eyes bulged out and they exclaimed that this was the best thing ever! Honestly, I still have that reaction sometimes.
Party mix is ever-evolving. No matter whose party mix I try, there are often an innumerable amount of different additions. I remember in high school, my friend’s family added Cheerios. I know others who add cheese crackers. The list is truly endless. I think that’s the real draw of party mix: you can make it your own and add whatever you want!
My grandma was a perfector of anything she made. In her later years, she didn’t make as much as she always had, but the recipes she did make were always perfect. Party mix was one of them. Each ingredient was important and it was one of the few times that name brand varieties were important to her.
For years, I too only stuck with the recipe as it was written in our family. I would always pick out the pieces I loved the most and often leave others I didn’t care for as much. Finally, I started making it just how I wanted. Grandma’s flavors were great, but this revised recipe really amps them up in a few important ways:
- Butter. To start, the butter is browned. Big surprise there, I know. If you follow me regularly, I tend to switch out regular butter for browned butter. You know why? Well, something magical happens when the milk solids in the butter toast and turn brown. The flavor becomes nutty and caramelly.
- Herbs. This is called herb party mix, so rosemary and thyme are cooked alongside the butter. While the butter sputters and cooks, the herbs release their oils and become crisp.
- Spices. The spices in this party mix are pretty classic, but I increase their traditionally conservative amounts. That translates into a punch of flavor that’s a bit more noticeable than the regular recipe.
The mix-ins remain true to Grandma’s form with just a few additions:
- Chex cereal is always found in any party mix, that’s the whole point. I like the Corn Chex variety best for its sturdiness.
- Wheat Chex is classic in our family and the heartiness is needed.
- I love a sweet-salty vibe, so Oat Squares cereal is a must. They’re little pockets of sweetness which become savory with the butter mixture.
- Some pretzels add a saltiness that’s welcome. For me, I scale back on the quantity, because they were never my favorite, but I know they’re needed.
- Grandma always used Parmesan fish crackers and it now feels like home.
- You can’t forget about the sesame sticks!
- Instead of just peanuts, which is what my Grandma traditionally used, I add in deluxe mixed nuts. They’re oversized, have all the fun varieties, and are the exact treat needed at Christmas.
This all becomes the ultimate party mix, which is why I tend to only make it at Christmas. To be honest, it really should be on constant repeat throughout the year. Maybe that’s should be a New Year’s resolution this year? Sounds good to me!
Watch how to make this herb party mix:
Brown Butter Herb Party Mix
- ¾ cup unsalted butter
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 ½ tsp onion powder
- 1 ½ tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp seasoning salt
- 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 4 cups Corn Chex cereal
- 2 cups Oat Square cereal
- 2 cups Wheat Chex cereal
- 1 cup Parmesan fish crackers
- 1 cup sesame sticks
- 1 cup pretzels
- 2 cups mixed nuts
- Preheat oven to 275°F.
- To start, brown the butter. In an 8-inch skillet, melt the butter with the thyme and rosemary over medium heat. Once melted, continue to cook until the foaming slows down and the butter becomes a deep golden color and smells nutty, 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes.
- While the butter is cooling, in a large bowl, combine the Corn Chex, Oat Squares, Wheat Chex, Parmesan fish crackers, sesame sticks, pretzels, and mixed nuts. Stir to combine and set aside.
- Once the butter has cooled, remove the thyme and rosemary, and set aside. Add the onion and garlic powder, seasoning salt, and Worcestershire sauce. Whisk to combine.
- Drizzle a few tablespoons of prepared butter mixture over the party mix and stir well. Continue to drizzle and stir in small amounts to ensure the cereal mixture is evenly coated.
- Pour onto two parchment-lined baking sheets. Spread out to an even layer and bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour, stirring and switching racks every 15 minutes.
- Once baked, remove from the oven. Cool 20 minutes and serve or store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to one month.