Puppy Chow is one of those tasty little treats I usually buy pre-made from the grocery store, but more often than that, have at parties when someone else brings it. I wanted some, and as so often happens these days, I decided to make it on my own. In the process, I quickly discovered two primary recipes: with and without butter.
So I thought: is the butter important? What does it add? Of course, I bought a huge box of cereal, and I have plenty of chocolate and powdered sugar around, so why not make two batches and see? My verdict is below.
First, though, let’s talk ingredients. Puppy Chow (also known as Muddy Buddies, which is the official branded version from Chex) only ha a handful of ingredients in it. So, as always, you want to make sure you’re using the best ingredients possible.
- Cereal. Traditionally, Puppy Chow calls for Chex, which gives you the choice to use Corn Chex or Rice Chex. Alternatively, you can use Crispex, which is both corn and rice, and works great. Personally, I don’t think it makes a difference unless someone you’re serving it to has a sensitivity to rice or corn.
- Chocolate. A nice dark chocolate, 50-60%, is great. I typically consider something like Ghirardelli to be the bare minimum I’ll use for something like this. At the same time, since you’re mixing it with cereal, peanut butter, and powdered sugar, the quality of the chocolate doesn’t come through a ton, so don’t use high-end chocolate. I just wouldn’t recommend milk chocolate, since the powdered sugar adds a ton of sweetness already.
- Peanut Butter. In this case, I actually go the opposite way; while a good fresh-ground peanut butter is incredible, the ultra-smooth store-bought stuff works best here for texture reasons. Though, if you don’t mind tiny bits of peanut here and there, use whatever you like.
- Powdered Sugar. Use whatever you like. There are little nuances and differences, but that’s for much more picky recipes than Puppy Chow.
The two other ingredients — butter and vanilla extract — are optional.
So, what about those optional ingredients? Are they important? Do they make or break the treat? Should you add or avoid them? Here’s my verdict.
The Vanilla Extract disappears completely. Maybe — maybe — it adds a very slight added depth to the flavors. Honestly, though? I couldn’t taste it, and neither could my partner, trying them back to back. It’s just too subtle to be meaningful in a pile of chocolate and powdered sugar. Now, maybe if you used some kind of vanilla-infused powdered sugar it would come through more, but that’s an experiment for another day.
As for the butter? Again, it doesn’t change the taste in a way that was meaningful to me. In a blind taste test, I couldn’t tell the difference, except for one thing: the butter helps more powdered sugar stick to the chocolate, so the result is that you get a sweeter, more sugar/less chocolate per bite treat. You can even see the difference:
Buttered on the left, no butter on the right. See?
Truthfully, given that the difference in flavor, texture, and consistency comes down to having 10% more powdered sugar stuck to it, it really isn’t worth the added work or, really, calories. You’re free to add if it you like — and I’m including it in the recipe below — but I’m going to stick to the simple version, myself.
Oh, and one final note before the recipe: even though it’s called Puppy Chow, it’s not a dog food! Dogs love things like cereal and peanut butter, but the chocolate is toxic. Believe it or not, I saw several people complain that they weren’t warned of this and had their dogs fall ill because of it, and I don’t want any of my lovely readers to suffer the same fate. Puppy Chow is a treat for people, not for dogs!
- Double Boiler Or microwave-safe bowl.
- Mixing Bowl
- Rubber Spatula
- 5 Cups Cereal Rice/Corn Chex or Crispex (Or their store-brand alternatives.)
- ½ Cup Dark Chocolate Chips
- ½ Cup Smooth Peanut Butter
- 1½ Cups Powdered Sugar
- 4 Tbsp Butter Optional
- 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract Optional
- Put the cereal in your large mixing bowl and set it aside.
- Melt the chocolate and the peanut butter (and butter if you're using it) together, either in a microwave (stirring every 20 seconds) or over a double boiler. When it's fully melted and mixed together, add the vanilla if you're using it.
- Pour the chocolate over the cereal and fold the mix to coat. You want everything well-coated, but be careful not to smash and break up the cereal while you mix. If necessary, add more cereal to use up the chocolate.
- Let this mixture cool for about 15 minutes. The warmer it is, the more the chocolate will absorb the powdered sugar, and the more sugar you'll need to coat it all.
- Coat the chow with powdered sugar, using about half of it and folding just like you did before. Then, let finish cooling for another 15 minutes, and add another coat of sugar.
- If you want to separate the puppy chow from the excess powdered sugar, you can gently shake it all through a colander. Otherwise, just enjoy!