Cocoa espresso muddy buddies are Puppy Chow for grownups

A salty chocolate snack for long summer nights

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published July 14, 2021 12:30PM (EDT)

Espresso Puppy Chow (Mary Elizabeth Williams)
Espresso Puppy Chow (Mary Elizabeth Williams)

One of the best things about traveling again is travel snacking again.

I realized this recently while I perused the beef jerky and pretzel options at a decrepit rest stop not far from the Catskills. I mean, mountains and lakes are nice but have you ever tried Bark Thins? At home, I eat sensibly and keep regular hours. On the road, I will gladly overpay for an impossible to open bag of pulverized trail mix. What happens in Krumville stays in Krumville.

Lately I've been thinking about how to hang on to those summer feelings a little longer — not with burgers and ice cream cones, but with the salty, sweet detritus of long car rides spent singing along with my kids to Olivia Rodrigo. With Puppy Chow.

I came late to Puppy Chow, entirely because I long believed it was really was dog food. It is not, which makes sense, because it involves things which would terrible for puppies. According to The Kitchn, the name derives from the fact that its key ingredient is Chex — a product initially manufactured by Ralston Purina. Like its cousin Chex Mix, Puppy Chow is one of the greatest repurposing of breakfast cereals ever created. It also now sometimes goes by the name of Muddy Buddies, which is less fun.

The classic formula involves peanut butter, chocolate and a generous coating of powdered sugar. But I like my Puppy Chow with a bigger bark, and my sweet things balanced with a bracing hit of bitterness. So I've scaled back the powdered sugar and added cocoa powder and espresso powder, and topped everything with flaky salt. I've also used Corn Chex because I believe that is the supreme Chex, but follow your heart here. 


Recipe: Cocoa Espresso Puppy Chow (Muddy Buddies)

Inspired by The Kitchn's Grace Elkus and Brown Eyed Baker

Serves 4 - 6


  • 5 cups of Corn Chex (or the Chex of your choice)
  • 1 cup (175 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips, or roughly chopped bar chocolate
  • 1/2 cup of peanut butter (I'm Team Chunky, but it's your preference)
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 cup (more or less) of powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder of your choice (I use 1 tablespoon of regular cocoa and 1 of black cocoa)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Flaky sea salt
  • Optional: 2 teaspoons of instant espresso powder


  1. In a medium saucepan, melt together the butter, chocolate, vanilla and peanut butter over medium heat. If you prefer, you can microwave them together in a microwave-safe bowl at high for one minute, stirring and then microwaving for 15 second intervals until everything is smooth ad well blended.
  2. In a gallon Ziploc bag, mix the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and espresso powder.
  3. Pour the Chex into a large bowl, and then gently stir in the chocolate peanut butter mixture. You want the Chex coated, but don't overdo it or you'll crush your cereal.
  4. Let the mixture cool 10 minutes or so, so the warm chocolate mixture doesn't suck up all the sugar mixture.
  5. Add the cereal to the bag, and shake until well coated. If you don't have large Ziploc bags, don't sweat, just mix the sugar and cocoa in a large bowl and then toss into your coated cereal and mix. It'll be lumpier but who cares?
  6. Pour the mixture onto a large cookie sheet lined with parchment and sprinkle with sea salt. Stick it in the fridge to firm up for a few minutes, then pour into a big bowl and pass around to your loved ones while you watch action movies.

More Quick & Dirty: 

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By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

MORE FROM Mary Elizabeth Williams

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