You will need:
- 3 large or 4 medium boxes cereal (at least 2 must be Chex/Crispix or similar; others can be Cheerios, Kix, or in my Dad’s case, whatever’s on sale)
- 4-5 cans nuts (I use 2 mixed nuts, 1-2 cashews, and 1 pecans)*
- 2 cups pretzel sticks/rings/flats and/or Cheezits (I love white cheddar)
- 1 stick butter or margarine
- ½ cup oil
- 1 bottle Worcestershire sauce (you will use most it)
- Garlic powder*
- Onion powder
- Seasoned salt (my favorite is Montreal steak seasoning)
- Cayenne or hot sauce (optional)
- Cooking spray
- 2 large roasting pans OR 2 large slow cookers
- Long-handled spoon or spatula
- Glass mixing bowl (preferably a batter bowl with pour spout)
Here’s what you do:
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees (225 for dark pan) or turn slow cookers to low. Coat roasting pans or slow cooker crocks with cooking spray.
- Melt butter in the bowl in microwave.
- Add oil, then Worcestershire sauce to desired taste and color; I keep pouring and mixing until the butter is a nice cola color (at least 1/2 cup).
- Add garlic powder* and onion powder to desired taste (at least 1/2 tsp each); then seasoned salt and cayenne or hot sauce. (Bear in mind when adding seasonings that the mixture will be spread pretty thinly throughout the cereal mixture, so be very very liberal to ensure good flavor. Seriously, add a little more.) To test, dip a pretzel stick or piece of cereal and taste; it should be very over-seasoned but balanced.
- Pour half the nuts and half the pretzels in each pan or crock.
- Divide butter mixture over the pans or crocks, pouring evenly. Quickly stir to coat well, then distribute each box of cereal (and Cheezits, if using) over the 2 pans and stir well after each.
- Bake 15 minutes; remove, stir very well, switch pan position in oven, and repeat 3 times. (For slow cooker, double the time to 2 hours total, stirring every 30 minutes.)
- When done, remove from oven or turn off and uncover slow cookers; allow to cool (if you can!) It should be thoroughly baked, slightly browned, and not greasy; so you should not need to spread on paper towels to cool, just stir well after removing from oven or uncovering slow cookers (check for “stuck-together” bits in the bottom of the container and break these up before they dry).
- Store in airtight container. Try to make it last through the holidays (in our house, we go through at least 2 batches, usually 3). Enjoy!
- For an extra-large batch, I use 5 large boxes of cereal (usually 4 Chex and 1 Multi-grain Cheerios), 1 large plastic jar (30 oz or so) of mixed nuts and 1 of cashews, and double all the other ingredients. This just barely fits in my 2 roasting pans, but does not fit in 2 slow cookers.
My Dad was the “Party Mix Master”; he would totally destroy the kitchen for several hours every year making it for the holidays. His mix is the gold standard by which I measure all others. He said the problem with most homemade party mixes were 1) not using enough butter/oil & seasonings, 2) not baking it long enough, and 3) not stirring thoroughly; these are the keys to getting good flavor all the way through. My trick is adding the nuts and pretzels first, since they do not soak up the butter and oil; they help distribute everything throughout the cereal.
*(Note: In 2014, I picked up The Pioneer Woman’s trick of using 3 cloves fresh minced garlic instead of garlic powder. It makes a noticeable difference in flavor. In 2020, we discovered that honey-roasted peanuts are really good in party mix!)