Easy Christmas Puppy Chow Chex Mix Recipe (Muddy Buddies)

Puppy chow, also known as muddy buddies, is one of those nostalgic Christmas treats.  We make this once a year during Christmas time. It is so much fun gathering together in the kitchen with my kids. They love nibbling on the Rice Chex, chocolate chips and all of the little goodies we like to add in. Sometimes we even make a double or triple batch and give these as little gifts to friends and loved ones.  I usually store already prepared muddy buddies in the refrigerator or freezer so I can quickly set out this fun treat when family and friends visit over the holidays.  For an extra indulgent twist on classic puppy chow, I like to sprinkle in gluten free pretzels, chocolate peanut butter cups and dye-free sprinkles.  The best part is that it only takes 10 minutes to whip up this delicious Christmas treat that is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Minimal Ingredients

It requires so few ingredients from your local store – just cereal, peanut butter, coconut oil, vanilla, powdered sugar and chocolate chips creates this great recipe. The other add ins are optional. One of the best ways to make it is by mixing together chocolate, peanut butter, coconut oil and vanilla extract (added at the end) in a saucepan. Pour over Chex cereal in a large mixing bowl and fully combine. Then add to a large plastic bag and coat with powdered sugar. Transfer to and spread out on a baking sheet so the mixture can set. Once it hardens into big delicious treats, you break it up into clumps of puppy chow. The end result is a huge batch of festive peanut buttery, chocolatey yumminess.

Other Names

Puppy chow by any of its different names like reindeer chow or monkey munch is the perfect thing to make and share this Christmas season. It’s crunchy, sweet, chocolaty – all the good stuff packed into one holiday treat. Christmas puppy chow, also known as reindeer chow or monkey munch, is the perfect festive treat to make and share. This easy recipe can be found all over social media and recipe cards this time of year and is a great way to get into the holiday spirit, but I think you’ll love reading about the somewhat healthy swaps I make and “healthyish” additions to make this treat extra festive. The basic recipe calls for just a few simple ingredients like crunchy Chex cereal, peanut butter, and chocolate to coat it. It’s an equal parts simple and delicious good stuff!

How Did Muddy Buddies or Puppy Chow Get Their Name?

In short, muddy buddies or puppy chow got their name due to the appearance and texture of the snack. Some of the key reasons are:

  1. Appearance – The snack is made of cereal coated with a powdered mixture of sugar, cocoa or peanut butter powder, and sometimes cinnamon or other spices. This gives it a muddy, earthy brown color that resembles dirt or mud.
  2. Texture – The powdered coating makes the cereal crispy and crunchy with a hint of sweetness. But overall it has a rough, gritty texture when you bite into it, similar to mud or dirt.
  3. Resemblance to dog food – The combination of the mud-like color and crunchy, grainy texture makes the treat resemble dry dog food or puppy chow, hence the alternate name “puppy chow.”
  4. Tendency to be messy – Because it is sticky, powdery, and crumbly, muddy buddies tend to leave kids’ fingers, clothes, and faces covered in the brown powder and crumbs. This parallels how dogs or puppies get messy and muddy when playing outside.

So in summary, the snack’s muddy/dirty appearance and feel on the tongue plus its resemblance to dog treats in both look and texture inspired the playful names of muddy buddies and puppy chow to describe the treat. Its tendency to turn kids messy like a muddy pup sealed its nickname forever.


On the Counter: Puppy chow will stay fresh at room temperature for up to 1 week when stored in an airtight container. The crisp cereal may start to slowly soften over time but will still taste delicious. Just be sure the container seals tightly to lock in freshness and prevent the powdered coating from absorbing too much humidity.

In the Fridge: You can store puppy chow in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks to maximize freshness. This is my preferred method. The lower temperature helps keep the powdered coating crisp and the snack tasting great. Allow to come to room temperature before snacking for best flavor and crunch!

In the Freezer: For maximum long term storage, puppy chow can go in the freezer in an airtight freezer-safe container or bag for 2-3 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the fridge before serving for that addicting fresh flavor and texture.

Holiday Add-ins

You can use this recipe for any holiday or occasion and get as creative as you like based on the holiday colors. For fall or Halloween, you can use sprinkles and candy that is orange and brown. For Valentine’s, look for pink and red colors. For 4th of July, go for a patriotic theme with red white and blue flavors. With so many more dye-free options, you can most likely find dye-free but colored sprinkles and candies. My top places to search for these items are: Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Sprouts and Amazon.

What You Need to Make Christmas Muddy Buddies

Before sharing the recipe, I wanted to mention a few options and swaps to make this recipe more suitable to your dietary needs and less inflammatory too.

  • Rice Chex Cereal – You can also use corn Chex depending on your preference. Feel free to mix different types of Chex as well. Just know that all Chex cereal is not gluten free, so be sure to read the box.
  • Chocolate Chips – We use chocolate per the traditional recipe. However, you can swap in white chocolate chips for fun, or if needed for dietary protocols, carob chips work too. Milk Chocolate, semi-sweet and dark chocolate are all great options too!
  • Creamy Peanut Butter – While the traditional recipe calls for peanut butter, any nut butter works.  Sun Butter also works as a nut free option.
  • Coconut Oil – The traditional recipe calls for butter, but we have been making it with coconut oil for years. Nobody will ever know that you made this swap!  You can keep the butter of course, or even swap for vegan butter, if you like.
  • Vanilla Extract – This helps add the perfect about of vanilla flavor to the melted chocolate peanut butter mix.
  • Powdered Sugar – Generally it takes 2 cups but we add more if needed to be sure every piece of puppy chow is perfectly coated in powdered sugar. Since we only make this recipe once a year, we go all out and use powdered sugar.  However, I have three healthier swap ideas for you.  #1 – Swap out for powdered monkfruit. #2 – Do 50/50 powdered sugar/monkfruit.  

Optional Add Ins:

  • Sprinkles – We try to avoid food dye at all costs.  It’s a major food trigger for one of my kids.  We go to Sprouts, Trader Joes, Whole Foods or buy dye-free sprinkles on Amazon.  
  • Gluten Free Pretzels – There’s just something about the sweet and salty combo that everybody seems to love.  Gluten free pretzels are such a fun addition to balance the sweetness of this dessert.
  • Chocolate Covered Candies – Because we try to steer clear of any food coloring, we substitute the red and green M&Ms typically found in this Christmas version of puppy chow for dye-free chocolate covered candies made by Unreal brand or Trader Joe’s.  They currently do not make a holiday version of their chocolate covered candies, so I buy the regular version and pick out the red (pinkish) and green candies to use for this dessert.  I then save the other colors for spring-themed treats.
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups – Again, because we make this recipe for the holidays, we add in Reese’s peanut butter cups to make this extra indulgent.  While I think this is a fun addition anytime of year, the little peanut butter cups do resemble ornament tops – so cute for Christmas!  For those of you with nut allergies, Trader Joe’s makes some super delicious chocolate SunButter cups that would make a great swap.

How to Make Christmas Muddy Buddies

  • Prep – Pour the Chex into a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  • Melt – Add the chocolate, peanut butter and coconut oil to a saucepan. Turn heat over medium low and stir continuously.  When almost all of the chocolate chips are melted, remove from heat as they will continue to melt and add in the vanilla extract. Note: You can also melt in a medium microwave-safe bowl.
  • Assemble – Pour chocolate peanut butter mixture over the rice cereal and stir. Put half of the mixture into large zip-top bag. Add half of the powdered sugar. Gently shake to coat. Once all of the Chex are coated, spread it out on the parchment paper to allow the chocolate to set to room temperature. Repeat with other half.
  • Serving – Pour back into the big bowl and add the sprinkles, gluten free pretzels, chocolate covered candies and peanut butter cups.
Festive bowl of puppy chow/muddy buddies

Easy Christmas Puppy Chow Chex Mix Recipe (Muddy Buddies)

Sarah Erickson
My gluten-free, dairy-free and dye-free twist on Muddy Buddies with some extra indulgent add-ins for the holidays.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American


  • 8 cups Rice Chex
  • 1-12 oz bag chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar plus more if needed


  • dye-free chocolate-covered candy
  • dye-free sprinkles
  • peanut butter cups
  • gluten-free pretzels


  • Pour the Rice Chex in a large bowl and set aside.
  • In a sauce pan, add peanut butter, chocolate chips and coconut oil. Over medium low heat, melt and stir frequently to combine. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
  • Pour chocolate peanut butter sauce over the Rice Chex and gently stir to combine, being careful not to break the Rice Chex in the process.
  • Put half of the chocolate covered Rice Chex in a gallon-sized bag. Add 1 cup of powdered sugar. Gently shake to coat. Repeat. Note: Feel free to add a little bit more powdered sugar to be sure the chocolate Rice Chex are fully coated.
  • Pour onto a parchment paper covered baking sheet to set the chocolate.
  • Pour back into a large bowl to serve or top with your favorite Christmas candies and sprinkles.


Equipment Needed: 
  • Large Ziploc bags
  • Large bowl
  • Baking sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Air-tight container
Keyword after school snack, christmas, dairy free, dessert, desserts, dye free, gluten free, holiday, muddy buddies, puppy chow, treats

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