Beyond flourless chocolate cake, macaroons and my orange-scented loaf cake, I’m often stumped by what to make for Passover desserts. On the hunt for recipes I’ll make, I see gooey or difficult desserts aplenty. But we prefer relatively simple, finger food for Seder and afterwards. And vegan-friendly desserts get bonus points. That’s where these Pistachio Chocolate Crispy Rice Treats with cardamom come in.
I made a batch months ago, but hadn’t gotten around to finalizing the recipe. Then, when researching which ingredients are kosher for Passover, I realized that rice is now OK, even for Ashkenazic Jews.
Then, I found vegan marshmallows and remembered that crispy rice treats do not require eggs. Although most recipes use butter, I could easily substitute vegan butter. Bingo! A vegan-friendly sweet finger food. Plus they are gluten-free.
And while these morsels didn’t make it to the Seder table in 2022/5782, they will get there next year. (I made this batch just after the weekend, and they’re already gone.)
What Makes These Pistachio Crispy Rice Treats Particularly Good?
- Cardamom. Not an overwhelming amount. Just enough to give you a hint that they’re for grownups and not the ones you scarfed down as a kid. Do you use cardamom? I love it. If you’re a true fan, you’ll get the seeds out of the pod and crush them. But you can buy ground cardamom. As long as it’s fresh, you’ll get that amazing aroma. If you’re trying to imagine what cardamom smells like, think about sweets like Iranian baklava and Swedish cardamom buns. On the savory side, you’ll find it in garam masala, as well as in less well-known SouthEast Asian dishes, such as Kasundi, or fermented mustard paste. Called the “queen of spices”, cardamom is commonly ground from seeds in green cardamom pods. One source describes cardamom flavor as “an herbal warmth like a fragrant cross between eucalyptus, mint, and pepper—more citrusy than fennel and sweeter than cumin.”
- Topping. The ground pistachios and chocolate that top these crispy rice treats is another respect in which they are different from most. The topping hides a multitude of sins, appearance-wise, which I find useful as I’m a messy baker. It also highlights the nuttiness and chocolate, cutting down on the crispy rice and marshmallow tastes. I have nothing against the childhood treat factor that those two last ingredients provide. Still, it’s nice to take this sweet in a more sophisticated direction.
- Misc. ingredients. Finally, I added a touch of vanilla and a pinch of salt. While you probably cannot distinguish their taste in the final result, they add a “je ne sais quoi” bit of complexity to what begins as a kids’ treat. I got the idea for those ingredients from the plain but grown-up version in Sally’s Baking Addiction.
Tips for Making These Crispy Rice Treats
- Mise En Place – Be Organized. If you keep all the ingredients close by the stove, you’ll be prepared for the quick way you have to add the crispy rice, and subsequent ingredients. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a sticky mess that won’t behave. Your choice.
- Use a big pot.You’ll want extra space when it comes time to coat the crispy rice with the marshmallows. The first few ingredients don’t seem to need a big pot. But once the crispy rice goes in, you’ll be glad you have the extra room.
- Use parchment. You could grease the pan, but why would you do that when lining it with parchment is so much easier and less messy? If you use two pieces slightly longer than the pan inserted as in the photo below, and then let the parchment hang over the sides, you get the added benefit of handles to lift the crispy rice treats out of the pan.
- Gently spread it in pan. In other words, be gentle when you press the marshmallow/crispy rice mixture into the corners and smooth out of the top. Don’t mash the mixture. That takes the crunch out of the treats and turns them into rock-like boards.
Making Vegan Crispy Rice Treats
- Use vegan-friendly ingredients
- Vegan butter. Vegans do not eat dairy, eggs or other products made from or by animals. (Duh! – As my kids would say.) So, although butter is a no-go, there are several types of vegan or plant-based butter substitutes that work fine in this recipe. Just don’t substitute oil because it has a different consistency. Without the ability to melt and re-harden, oil will not allow the marshmallows to adhere to the rice and form crispy rice treats.
- Vegan marshmallows. “Regular” marshmallows contain gelatin, which is made from animal products. Honestly, whether you’re a vegan, omnivore, or something else, you do not want to know how gelatin is made. In any event, vegan marshmallows exist. The ones I bought use tapioca and carrageenan instead of gelatin. Tapioca comes from the cassava plant and carrageenan from seaweed. You can also make vegan marshmallows from scratch, just as you could make marshmallows. By the way, vegetarians would also use vegan marshmallows in these treats. Because while vegetarians use dairy (butter and chocolate that included milk products), they do not use animal products such as gelatin.
- Vegan-friendly chocolate. Any chocolate without milk should work. Cocoa butter is fine as an ingredient because it is a product of the cocoa plant, not dairy butter. Typically dark chocolate is dairy-free. Some semi-sweet chocolate may be dairy-free as well. The best way to tell if chocolate (or any other product) is vegan-friendly is to read the ingredient label.
- Do vegan ingredients in this recipe cook up the same as the “regular” versions? Not always. For example, vegan butter does separate a little when melted. And I found that the vegan marshmallows I used did not melt all the way. But in the end, the vegan butter worked fine when stirred, as did the marshmallows. Just don’t expect vegan products to look or act exactly as their non-vegan counterparts would.
- The finished product. The vegan version of these pistachio chocolate crispy rice treats were slightly less gooey than crispy rice treats made with non-vegan/”regular” marshmallows. But the vegan version was definitely tasty and approved by both my vegan and non-vegan taste testers.
Pistachio Chocolate Crispy Rice Treats
Pistachio Chocolate Crispy Rice Treats are a tempting, grown-up treat. Aromatic with cardamom and pistachio, they are delicious in either the "regular" or vegan version.
- 6 tablespoons butter or vegan butter 3/4 stick/84g
- 10 ounces marshmallows 284 g. See explanation about vegan marshmallows
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, ground
- 1 pinch kosher or sea salt 1 pinch = 1-2 light sprinkles from a shaker
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- 4&1/2 cups crispy rice cereal (Rice Krispies or any other brand) 5 oz/142 g
- 1/3 cup chopped, lightly toasted pistachios + a bit more if grating on top 1&1/2 oz/46g
- scant 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips + a bit more if grating on top 2&1/2 oz/71 g See note abut vegan chocolate
Line an 8" x 8" square pan with parchment. Let parchment hang over sides so you have "handles" to pull out the crispy rice treats after they have set.
Melt the butter on the stove on low-medium heat. Once melted, add the cardamom and salt, then the marshmallows. Stir until the marshmallows are mostly or all melted.
Off the heat, add the vanilla and mix in. Then quickly add the crispy rice cereal and stir. Then add the chopped pistachios, mix again and then add the chocolate chips and mix. the later you add the chocolate chips the more intact they will remain, but the mixture sets fast, so you can't wait more than a few moments while you are stirring the rest of the ingredients.
Move the mixture to the pan. It is gloppy, so you have to move it with a spatula. It won't pour like batter. Gently pat the mixture into the entire pan and smooth the top. If you'd like, grind or grate extra pistachios and/or chocolate on top. Let the crispy rice treats set for at least 1 hour at room temperature before removing them from the pan and cutting.
Special thanks to my video creator, editor, and taste tester, Liam Mulshine.