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!

Healthy Rice Krispie Treats. NO butter or marshmallows! Easy recipe made with coconut oil and peanut butter. 10 minutes to prep, naturally vegan, and gluten free! Recipe at wellplated.com | @wellplated

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.

Healthy Rice Krispie Treats made with coconut oil and peanut butter. NO marshmallows or butter! Soft, chewy, and flavorful. Recipe at wellplated.com | @wellplated

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.

Vegan Rice Crispy Treats with Peanut Butter and Coconut Oil. Delicious, healthy, and gluten free! Recipe at wellplated.com | @wellplated

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!

The BEST Healthy Rice Crispy Treats. Soft, chewy, and full of flavor! Made with NO marshmallows and NO butter. Easy, vegan, and gluten free! Recipe at wellplated.com | @wellplated

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:

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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)

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
All images and text ©/Well Plated.

Nutrition Information

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

Did you try this recipe? I want to see! Follow Well Plated on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #wellplated. I love to know what you are making!

About Erin Clarke

I’m fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, travel enthusiast, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN…

27 comments

  1. I’m currently dairy free because our newborn has a suspected sensitivity, so I’ve been struggling with desserts/snacks for middle of the night feeds. THESE LOOK AMAZING!! Brown rice syrup is on its way and I can’t wait to try these!

  2. Because the original recipe does not contain peanut butter, I wonder how this recipe would work without it…just a thought. I think that brown rice syrup would definitely be easier to mix compared to marshmallows, plus I already have this in my pantry. Whole recipe sounds good and very simple to make.

    • Hi Chris, I think you would to use a nut (or seed) butter of some kind, as it binds the bars and is important to their flavor and texture. I hope you enjoy it if you decide to give it a try!

  3. Where were these rice krispy treats when I was in grade school?  Man oh man they were my fave back in the day, especially the ones with the chocolate drizzle!  Love these healthier homemade ones!

  4. These look amazing, thanks Erin! I’m not vegan but a lot of my friends are so I’m always looking for easy dessert recipes to share with them. Plus I love peanut butter–can’t wait to try these!

  5. Believe it or not, I’ve never had a Rice Krispie treat in my life, that I know of.  I would probably choose to make these with almond butter and forget the chocolate (my doctor has taken me off chocolate, boo hoo!).  About nut butters: it’s very easy to make your own if you have a food processor or high speed blender.  The only ingredient required is the nuts (just keep processing and scraping down the sides of the bowl until the right consistency is achieved), so you don’t have the oil separation issue.  (I just looked up Rice Krispie Treats and discovered that they are older than I am, so clearly I had a deprived childhood…)

  6. what a great idea! I can’t wait to make these for the kiddos and not be totally guilt ridden about all the junk in them.

  7. Was your peanut butter sweetened? Or was it the “just peanuts and salt” variety? Thanks! 

    • Hi Karra! I used Jif natural peanut butter (the no stir kind). I don’t recommend using the kind that needs to be refrigerated (which I think is what you were referring to), as it will be too oily.

  8. Looks wonderful! That brown rice syrup sounds interesting (:

  9. Straight up candy was always just too sweet for me. Wouldn’t want to get diabetes in one bite – Erin to the rescue again

    Rating: 5
  10. Shawnna Griffin Reply

    hey girl- these look so yummy! Very creative! Keep ’em coming!

  11. Thanks for a fun recipe and very creative. These were a hit. Now I am wondering what to do with the rest of my rice syrup? Thank you!

    Rating: 5
    • Hi Kelly, I’m new to rice syrup myself, so I’m afraid I don’t have any other recipes calling for it right now. That said, I know that there are lots of homemade granola bar recipes that do call for it, so you could try a Google search or even look on Pinterest for ideas. Or make some more rice krispy bars ;-) I’m glad you loved the recipe, thanks for leaving this wonderful rating!

  12. Hi Erin! I am assuming it would be ok to replace rice syrup with honey in this recipe ?

    • Hi Whitney, honey can be substituted for the brown rice syrup, but the flavor will differ and the bars may not be as chewy. I hope you enjoy!

  13. I made these today and my kid loved it. Since he does not like chocolate (I know, it is weird since I LOVE chocolate ) we used  coloured coconut as topping.  Maybe it is not the healthiest dessert out there but way better than those ready to eat Krispy bars😋

    Rating: 5
    • Thanks for taking the time to leave this awesome review, Andrea! I’m so happy to hear these treats were a hit for you and your son. :)

  14. Wondering if you could put a protein powder in these, if so what kind would be best?

    • Hi Lisa, I’ve never tried anything like that, but I would be worried it would make the bars too dry. You’re welcome to experiment and add more peanut butter or rice syrup to make sure that the bars are nicely coated and sticky if you do decide to add protein powder!

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