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This scotcharoos recipe features a soft and chewy peanut butter crispy rice cereal base that gets smothered with a smooth and creamy chocolate butterscotch topping.
Scotcharoo Bars: The Problem and the Solution
Say goodbye to hard, crunchy scotcharoos forever with this tried and true (and heavily tested and tasted!) scotcharoos recipe that yields soft and chewy scotcharoo squares every single time.
After many batches of rock hard and crumbly scotcharoos and a lot of frustration, I finally turned to my BFF’s late grandmother’s recipe, which I remember as being THE BEST texture of scotcharoos I’d ever had.
Her secret? More peanut butter. Who can say no to that? Grandmas for the win, am I right?
THE PROBLEM: CRUNCHY AND HARD SCOTCHAROOS
Because of the nature of the ingredients for authentic scotcharoos bars (also sometimes called Special K Bars in the midwest), which are made from a base of granulated sugar and corn syrup, it’s easy to wind up with hard, crunchy, and crumbly scotcharoos. And it’s easy to get those results with Kellogg’s original recipe.
No matter how many times I tried, I could not get that recipe to turn out soft and chewy like the ones I remember from Grandma Zola. Surely I was doing something wrong. And I was. So now you don’t have to.
THE SOLUTION: SLOW HEATING AND MORE PEANUT BUTTER
When you heat something, you remove water/moisture. This simple principle is why melted butter and room temperature butter react differently in recipes.
As soon as you remove water from something, you’re concentrating it, which in the case of corn syrup means stickier, more crystallized, and likely to harden when it’s back to room temperature. We’ll talk about how to make sure we’re carefully heating it in a bit so that our scotcharoos stay nice and soft.
As far as the peanut butter goes, I have to give credit to Grandma Zola for that one. But what peanut butter lover has ever argued with more peanut butter? Likely none. Lucky for we scotcharoo lovers, we just get more peanut butter per bite with this particular scotcharoo bar recipe.
Scotcharoos Recipe ingredients
You’ll only need 6 ingredients to make this no bake recipe. If you’re an avid baker, you might have them all already, and if you’ve ever made my easy royal icing, you for sure have corn syrup!
For this scotcharoo recipe, you will need:
• crisp rice cereal (see note below about gluten)
• light corn syrup
• granulated sugar
• creamy peanut butter (not natural)
• semi-sweet chocolate chips
• butterscotch chips
KEEP THEM GLUTEN FREE
Did you know that Kellogg’s brand Rice Krispies are not 100% gluten free? If you want to insure your scotcharoos are gluten-intolerant friendly, find a brand that does not contain malt syrup. Our store brand crisp rice cereal does not include this ingredient, so I always reach for that box when I want to make Rice Krispies treats.
HOW TO MAKE SCOTCHAROOS
The method to make these classic scotcharoos couldn’t be easier. Once the sugar is cooked it’s just a bit of mixing, pressing, melting, and spreading.
Believe it or not but prepping this no bake dessert will only take 15 minutes of time, and then you can sit back and try to forget about them while they set.
PREPARE THE CEREAL AND BAKING SHEET
Before starting, you’ll want to put your cereal into a large bowl. Since our first real step is cooking the sugar, you want the cereal ready to go because the sugar will start to firm up as soon as you remove it from the heat.
Also, prepare your 9″ x 13″ pan by spraying it lightly with non-stick spray.
COOK THE SUGAR
Next, we need to cook the sugar.
Remember how I said this step is crucial in keeping the scotcharoos soft? You’ll have to pay close attention to this step, but don’t worry, I keep it super simple and you’ll know the cues when you see them.
Combine the corn syrup and granulated sugar in a large saucepan. I have tried this in a large pasta pot and it does not work as nicely. Be sure you’re using a saucepan and that your cereal is ready to go before you turn on that burner heat.
Next, heat this mixture over medium-low without stirring until the edges just start to bubble. Then, immediately remove from heat.
I repeat… Make sure you remove the corn syrup mixture from the heat as soon as you see bubbles around the edge of the mixture.
If you heat the sugar mixture past this point, you risk your scotcharoos being hard and crunchy. Keep them soft and ooey gooey by paying close attention to those bubbles. I promise, it won’t take very long, only a few minutes.
ADD THE PEANUT BUTTER
Once your sugar mixture has come off of the heat, pour the peanut butter into the warm sugar mixture.
Stir well until the mixture is all combined.
MIX INTO CEREAL
The next step is to simply mix our warm sugary peanut butter mixture with the cereal.
Pour the mixture evenly over the cereal and, working quickly, stir with a large spatula until everything is well-coated.
Once the peanut butter and sugar mixture cools down a bit, I like to use my hands to gently combine everything, but again, you will need to work quickly as the cereal will start to set as it cools.
SPREAD INTO PAN
The next step is to gently press the mixture into the prepared 9″ x 13″ pan.
Try not to use excessive force here, as pressing the cereal in too compactly will, again, lead to hard and crunchy scotcharoo bars and you won’t have the soft and chewy scotcharoos you worked so hard to maintain while cooking the sugar so carefully.
This is another time I use my hands so I can really control what’s happening with the pressure. If your hands are sticking too much, spray them lightly with cooking spray or coat them with a little bit of butter.
MAKE THE TOPPING
The world’s easiest topping to make!
All you have to do is combine the chocolate and butterscotch chips in a saucepan. Then heat them over medium heat, stirring constantly to combine and mix the chips.
Alternatively, you can melt chips in the microwave. I would do this in no more than 30-second bursts. Stir stir stir between 30-second bursts to naturally distribute the heat and melt the chips evenly.
SPREAD TOPPING ON SCOTCHAROO BARS
The next step is to simply spread the melted chocolate and butterscotch mixture over the scotcharoo bars that are patiently waiting in the baking dish for that chocolate butterscotch bath.
Pour the whole melted mixture over the pressed cereal and grab a spatula, the back of a spoon, or a knife so you can spread it out evenly.
Make sure it covers the whole cereal bar mixture.
How to serve Scotcharoos Bars
The next stage is the hardest for sure, and that’s waiting until the scotcharoos are set.
I like to leave them to set up at room temperature rather than in the refrigerator as I think it keeps the bars even chewier.
If it is especially warm and humid where you live, you can go ahead and pop the tray into the fridge. Just be sure to let the tray come to room temperature before cutting into them as even chewy scotcharoos will be hard when cold.
Once the mixture is firmly set (it will only take about 1 hour), it’s time to cut them.
Once you have your perfect (or imperfect) squares cut out, watch your friends and fam enjoy every last chewy bite and crumb of these chocolate peanut butter bars. Or you can hide away and eat them all to yourself because no one is judging here and I certainly won’t blame you.
You’ll love this easy treat for family gatherings, a new tradition in your holiday season, and a great way to turn simple ingredients into this family favorite sweet treat.
Scotcharoo Recipe FAQs
- 5 cups (135g) crisp rice cereal1
- 1 cup (240mL) light corn syrup
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1 and ½ cups (384g) creamy peanut butter not natural
- 1 cup (170g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup (170g) butterscotch chips
- Spray a 9" x 13" baking dish lightly with non-stick spray. Set aside.
- Pour the cereal into a large bowl. Set aside.
- Combine the corn syrup and granulated sugar in a large saucepan. Without stirring the mixture, heat over medium-low heat until the edges just start to bubble2 then immediately remove from heat.
- Add the peanut butter to the warm sugar mixture, then stir until mixture is smooth. Pour the mixture evenly over the cereal, then stir with a large spatula until everything is well-coated. Once the peanut butter and sugar mixture cools down a bit, I like to use my hands to gently combine everything, but you will need to work quickly as the cereal will start to set as it cools.
- Gently3 press the mixture into the prepared pan, then set aside to cool while you prepare the topping.
- In a medium size saucepan, combine with chocolate and butterscotch chips. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly to combine and mix the chips. Alternately, you can melt chips in the microwave.
- When mixture is smooth, spread evenly over the cereal mixture. Let stand until firm, about 1 hour.
- When scotcharoos are set, cut into desired size bars (I like 4 rows on the short side, 6 rows on the long side). Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days. Bars are best on day 1-3 and will start to harden a bit after this. Storing them properly will help, and you can always microwave before enjoying, about 6-8 seconds on HIGH.
- Crisp rice cereal: if you want to keep these gluten free, pick a brand that does not contain malt syrup. Kellogg’s Rice Krispies contain malt syrup which makes them not gluten free.
- Cooking mixture: it is imperative that you stop cooking the corn syrup and sugar mixture as soon as you see bubbles. Cooking past this point will make your scotcharoos hard and crunchy.
- Press mixture into pan: just like Rice Krispies Treats, it’s important not to pack the cereal into the pan, as this will make them hard and crunchy. If your hands are sticking too much, spray them lightly with cooking spray or coat with a little bit of butter.
All nutritional values are approximate and provided to the reader as a courtesy. Changing ingredients and/or quantities will alter the estimated nutritional calculations.