Healthy Rice Krispie Treats
The day we moved into our new house, my friend Maggie arrived in our barren kitchen with a pan of peanut butter rice krispie treats. “I don’t know what it is about rice krispie treats,” she said by way of explanation, “but they really hit the spot.” She was right. It had been ages since I’d had one, and I forgot how satisfying a simple rice krispie treat can be. Today’s Healthy Rice Krispie Treats with peanut butter are a wholesome, made-over version of the classic that are guaranteed to hit the spot for you too!
Creating healthy versions of traditional recipes is one of my culinary passions, and when I was brainstorming easy no-bake summer desserts, the idea of Healthy Rice Krispie Treats was too tempting not to head into my kitchen to play.
What I hoped to achieve were Healthy Rice Krispie Treats that, even if they weren’t *as* good as the original, would still be yummy, reminiscent of the rice krispie treats of my childhood, and receive both kid and grown-up approval. What I actually achieved?
Healthy Rice Krispie Treats with peanut butter that taste like regular rice krispie treats with peanut butter but are made with (wait for it) NO marshmallows and NO butter. They’re also completely vegan, low-calorie, and did I mention they taste delicious?
BITE AND BELIEVE.
I realize that what I should do here is flaunt my recipe development prowess and say that I knew from the beginning that Healthy Rice Krispie Treats with coconut oil and without marshmallows or corn syrup or butter or anything else I considered central to rice krispie treat success would work. The truth? I thought this recipe was, in all likelihood, going to flop.
I was wrong. I was so deliciously wrong. Not only are these Healthy Rice Krispie Treats just as soft, chewy, and sweet as traditional peanut butter rice krispie treats, they actually taste like they contain marshmallows! I served them to a group of girlfriends, and no one suspected my secret.
Before creating the recipe, I did quite a bit of reading on what I could substitute for marshmallows in rice krispie treats. I also decided that, since I was making the rice krispie treats without marshmallows anyway, I might as well take it all the way and see if I could make it a vegan rice krispie treats recipe too. My exact reasoning on this subject: “Why not?”
My reading lead me to brown rice syrup. (I found a jar at our grocery store, but you can also order it online here.) While it’s a bit more processed than honey or maple syrup, it’s still fairly natural and certainly a healthier option than corn syrup, the primary ingredient in marshmallows. It also tastes so similar to marshmallows, I was floored!
This Healthy Rice Krispie Treats recipe is just a few ingredients—peanut butter, coconut oil, brown rice syrup, and vanilla for flavor—and takes only minutes to stir together on the stove. I can see it being a fun, easy recipe to make with kids, as well as a summer staple when it’s too hot to turn on the oven and no-bake desserts reign supreme.
I haven’t tried the recipe with other nut butters or sweeteners yet, but I imagine a no-stir almond butter or sunflower seed butter would be good substitutes for the peanut butter. You do need to use a nut (or seed) butter of some kind, as it binds the bars and is important to their flavor and texture. As far as the brown rice syrup, I think you would be safe to substitute honey, though please note that honey will alter the rice krispie treats’ flavor somewhat, since it has a strong taste of its own, and the treats may be less chewy than if you stick with the brown rice syrup. That said, I imagine they would still be worth second (and third) helpings. If you decide to try the recipe or play around with it, I’d love to hear how it goes!
Tools I used to make this Healthy Rice Krispie Treats recipe:
Healthy Rice Krispie Treats
Healthy Rice Krispie Treats made with peanut butter and coconut oil and WITHOUT marshmallows, corn syrup, or butter! Delicious, naturally vegan, gluten free.
Yield: 16 bars
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes (includes cooling)
- 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
- 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter* (I recommend using the no-stir kind that can stay in the pantry, as the refrigerated kind will be too oily and not set properly)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 cups crispy rice cereal (regular or brown rice—make sure it is certified GF if needed)
- Optional: 1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate, for drizzling
- Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, leaving some hanging over the sides like handles. Coat with nonstick spray. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown rice syrup, peanut butter, and coconut oil. Stir and heat until smooth and creamy. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract and salt, then the crispy rice cereal, stirring until the cereal is evenly coated.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan. With your fingers or a rubber spatula coated with nonstick spray, firmly press the mixture into a tight, even layer. Let rest 30 minutes to set.
- Meanwhile, if you’d like to add the chocolate drizzle, melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, being careful not to let the chocolate burn. Drizzle over the top of the treats. Place the pan back in the refrigerator for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to set. Remove the treats from the pan with the parchment or foil handles. Using a very sharp knife, cut into squares and serve.
- You can substitute another nut butter for the peanut butter, such as almond or sunbutter. For best results, ensure it is the no-stir kind that does not separate at room temperature, or the treats may become oily.
- Honey can be substituted for the brown rice syrup, but the flavor will differ and the bars may not be as chewy.
- Healthy Rice Krispie Treats are softest the day they are made but can be store in a tightly sealed ziptop bag (press out as much air as possible) or wrapped in plastic and kept in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. They are still safe to eat (and yummy) later on but will be more crisp versus chewy.
Serving Size: 1 (of 16), without chocolate drizzle
- Amount Per Serving:
- Calories: 90 Calories
- Total Fat: 3g
- Saturated Fat: 1g
- Sodium: 89mg
- Carbohydrates: 14g
- Fiber: 1g
- Sugar: 5g
- Protein: 2g