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If you like sugar - and I mean realllllyyyyy like sugar, then we have a lot in common. As a matter of fact, I probably understand you in a way most healthy people with cavity-free smiles just can't relate to. From one sugar addict to another: you may want to bookmark these caramel stuffed crispy rice treats for quick access during emergency cravings. You can never be too prepared.
I was actually taught to make caramel stuffed Rice Krispies treats by a friend who loves sweets as much as I do. I flew out to see her summer of 2009 and we cooked SO MUCH FOOD. The Rice Krispies treats were hands-down the best thing we made and what I remember most. Part of her directions were to "unwrap all the caramels and snack on a few while you wait for the rest to melt". I followed those directions every time I ever made them. You know...for consistency. I seriously made them so many times after that until I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance and later a dairy allergy.
I can't even tell you how much I've missed this dessert. When I first found sweetened condensed coconut milk at the store, this was the first recipe that immediately went through my mind. This and magic cookie bars.
The caramel stuffed Rice Krispies treats were a little tricker for me to figure out than the magic cookie bars because even though I had a dairy free replacement for sweetened condensed milk, the caramel candies aren't dairy free and I needed to find a safe gluten free cereal to replace the Rice Krispies too. I had tried Cocomels before so I just crossed my fingers that they would melt down ok. They worked perfectly! I used the sea salt flavor because I couldn't find original but I bet any of the flavors would taste great. Just note that if you are sensitive to cross contamination of dairy, the Cocomels are made on shared equipment as of the time of this post. However, I found this recipe for top 8 free chewy caramels and even though this recipe wasn't tested with them, I'm fairly certain they'll work.
I looked at several different rice cereals that claimed to be gluten free but many didn't look to be celiac safe. I love the Nature's Path gluten free cereals and their Crispy Rice looked safe to me and was certified gluten free so that's what I recommend and what I went with for this recipe. Hence the name "Crispy Rice Treats" ;) Just note that Nature's Path also has a line of non-gluten free products and a different rice cereal within that line so please make sure you grab the right one and always read all labels carefully.
Aside from converting these to gluten free and dairy free, I wondered if I could take these a step further and make them vegetarian friendly. The only swap would be the marshmallows and since there are no other animal products in the recipe, that would make them vegan too. The great thing about this recipe is every swap is 1:1 from the original recipe. So regular or vegan marshmallows will work. Gluten free cereal or traditional Rice Krispies. Dairy free caramels and sweetened condensed coconut milk or their dairy equivalents. I've tried all variations (of course it's been a few years since the gluten and dairy containing version) and they all taste almost exactly the same. That means that if you can eat gluten, dairy, or animal products, there's no reason to go out and spend more money on their pricier substitutes. I'll put the swaps in the notes section!
Easy crispy rice treats stuffed with a layer of runny caramel. You'll never believe they're free from dairy and gluten. Recipe includes a vegan option too.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of the dairy free butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add 2 cups of marshmallows and stir until they are melted with no lumps.
- Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 tsp of vanilla then gently fold in 3 cups of cereal until it is well-combined with the marshmallows.
- Using wet hands, press this mixture evenly into the bottom of a 7x11 inch casserole dish and set aside.
- Unwrap the caramels and add them along with the sweetened condensed coconut milk to a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir often to avoid burning. Once this has turned to a completely smooth sauce, pour over the cereal layer.
- Make your top cereal layer by repeating steps 1 and 2. Distribute this evenly over the caramel layer and pat down with wet hands.
- Once the treats have cooled down, they will firm up and hold their shape when cut. Cut into squares and serve.
Cocomels were used to test this recipe which do not contain any dairy but they are made on shared equipment with other dairy products as well as peanut, tree nuts, and soy protein (according to their website, the equipment is "purged" before production). If you react to traces of dairy or these other allergens, you might try replacing the caramels with this recipe for top 8 free caramels. I haven't tested this but I believe it will work just fine.
All of the "specialty" ingredients (gluten free, dairy free, vegan) in this recipe are 1:1 substitutes for their traditional counterparts in the original recipe. So if you can eat gluten, dairy, or animal products, feel free to save some money by using a gluten containing rice cereal, sweetened condensed milk (14 oz can works fine), dairy based chewy caramels (I highly recommend Kraft brand for this), or regular gelatin marshmallows.
Don't make both cereal layers in one large batch then divide it up. The top layer will cool and firm up before you can layer it on which will make the caramel seep out when you press it down. However, if you're looking to save some time and are good at multitasking in the kitchen, it won't hurt to make the bottom cereal layer and the caramel layer at the same time.