Minimalist snack mix

Chex mix, or “nuts and bolts” as we always called it, can be a big holiday project — but it can also be an anytime, year-round treat

John I. Carney
5 min readJun 2, 2022

Each year on Thanksgiving, my parents’ house was packed with various family members, and as some of us sat in the living room watching parades or football, we passed the time cracking nuts. After the holiday, Mom would have to take the vacuum hose to the sofa and chairs to get all of the shell pieces and nut crumbs that had been left behind.

We all happily shared in the nutcracking chore, because we knew we’d benefit in the end — Mom would turn out huge quantities of “nuts and bolts,” our own family version of Chex mix, with mixed nuts, Chex cereal, Cheerios and pretzels. Everyone would get a margarine tub full of the stuff — and, living close by, I often had a chance to get my tub refilled during the holiday season.

Mom passed away in 2010. Since that time, my brother Michael has taken it on himself to make nuts and bolts every year to share with the family some time around the holidays. Sometimes they’re delivered in person, sometimes by mail, depending on everyone’s holiday travel plans. It’s a nice family tradition, a tribute to Mom and an act of generosity on Mike’s part. (Mike’s wife Kelly is similarly generous with some of her kitchen projects, and I always look forward to them.)

I hope it doesn’t take anything away from that act of love to say that I sometimes make myself a simpler version of Chex mix, in smaller quantities, throughout the year.

You can, of course, buy pre-made Chex Mix, in an ever-growing assortment of flavors, and I occasionally do that as well. But the homemade stuff is better.

Some months back, I mentioned my new minimalist approach to snack mix in passing, but I decided to come back and go into it further.

The secret to making snack mix an anytime treat rather than a holiday project is in how you make it. Traditional recipes, like my mother’s, use the oven. But you can also make a quite good snack mix in the slow cooker, with minimal effort. My technique is stolen/borrowed from the website Gimme Some Oven, but I’ve adjusted the ingredients to fit my own tastes, as you’ll see below.

John I. Carney

Author of “Dislike: Faith and Dialogue in the Age of Social Media,” available at