Nuts and bolts are a Canadian classic holiday favorite snack similar to Chex Mix - if you know what that is.
Basically, it’s nuts, pretzels, and cereals mixed with spices and butter and baked in a low under brown and tempting.
I grew up having this as a holiday and Christmas treat. A dish of this homemade savory garlicky snack would be on the coffee table whenever we were entertaining guests.
Holidays are about food and sharing and munching, so there was always something, and this fits the need perfectly.
My mom and my aunts all made their own versions, and they would frequently gift it to each other when they visited.
This was a special treat because each one tasted differently. I still remember how my aunt Sheila used more garlic, and my aunt Donna used less salt.
Especially during the holidays we crave comfort and the things we know that are familiar. That’s why recently I started making this again as an adult.
My version features organic non-GMO cereals and fancy mixed nuts, and mini cheese crackers from Trader Joe’s rather than Cheerios and Shredded Wheat.
(By the way, you can change up the ingredients to your liking, but a shredded cereal is essential in my opinion to sop up the butter and spices.)
Because for newbies, I can tell you that the shredded wheat is the highlight when you’re eating this snack mix. With experience, you learn that the shredded wheat is going to taste the best!
RHmmm .. or maybe the cheese crackers. Now that I’m munching it’s hard to say. The nuts are delectable too.
Nuts and bolts ingredients
Another reason I think I always loved nuts and bolts has to do with all the spices. Garlic powder, onion powder, thyme and paprika are all pungent, flavorful, and mild.
When combined with the natural sweetness of the nuts and cereals, and the right amount of salt, it’s got just the right balance of flavors to really stand out.
We didn’t eat a lot of spices growing up, and so this was a rare opportunity where I got to taste garlic and thyme and paprika.
That too, we only had it once a year. Once it was gone, it was gone.
Even real butter was a treat during the age of margarine when everyone thought hydrogenated oils were a healthier choice.
Butter adds good flavor. Hopefully you eat butter. If not, you could substitute with ghee, which is lower in lactose, or use olive oil or coconut oil for a slightly different flavor.
Other ingredients to add in
- Mini corn chips
- Sun chips
- Your favorite nostalgic choice
- M&Ms or smarties
- Pita chips
Keep it organic and non-GMO
As I mentioned earlier, packaged cereals can be a landmine for refined carbohydrates and genetically modified wheat and corn.
I have made it a rule to avoid these products.
Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives to choose from. Just check the labels.
Store enough for a couple weeks in a sealed container in a cool place.
Keep the remainder in a ziplock freezer bag in the fridge or freezer.
Start a new holiday tradition
If you haven’t tried it before, I hope you love nuts and bolts as much as we do. Us Canadians know how to concoct a good thing just as well as the rest of em - eh.
Based on the experience of my husband, they are just as addictive, even if you didn’t grow up eating them.
Since nuts and bolts are so easy to make, you could also start the tradition of gifting a bag or a box to friends and family as a hostess gift.
Make sure to pace yourself when enjoying this snack. A few small handfuls - maybe ½ to ⅔ cup is a reasonable portion.
The nuts and wheat are quite filling, so make sure you don’t substitute this for a meal.
Also, when eating any dry snacks, remember to drink plenty of water so that you don’t dry out your digestive tract.
Finally, watch the salt. It’s better to err on the side of less and keep this taste on the subtle side. All of the individual ingredients probably contain salt, so you might not need to add any more.
Recipe for Nuts and Bolts
- 4 cups shredded cereal
- 2 cups o's
- 2 cups pretzels
- 1 ½ cup cheddar crackers
- 3 cups mixed nuts , (your choice)
For the seasoning
- ½ cup butter, (1 stick; see notes)
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon thyme
- Pre-Heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit
- Place all the dry ingredients in a large roasting dish. I used a pyrex rectangular baking dish 15”x10”x2 ¼”.
- Heat butter and seasoning spices in a small saucepan on medium-low heat. Simmer for 1-2 minutes to infuse the flavors and release the medicinal qualities of the herbs. Add
- Pour half the buttery seasoning evenly over the dry ingredients and mix very well using two large spoons. Add in the remaining seasoning, and mix very well again. Taste, and adjust for salt, or any of the other ingredients if desired.
- Place tray in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and mix well. Cook another 15 minutes, remove, and mix very well. Continue to cook a final 15 minutes, until the mixture is fully dry, and the ingredients are browned to your liking.
Butter substitutionsButter adds good flavor. Substitute with ghee, which is lower in lactose, or make this vegan by substituting with olive oil or coconut oil. Be aware that it will create a slightly different flavor. Also, this last time when I made the recipe I used just ¼ cup of butter and it was also good.
Worcestershire sauceA traditional ingredient in nuts and bolts, but it’s not vegetarian (unless you seek out a vegetarian version.) I used the following as a substitute and it worked quite well.
- 1 ½ tablespoon balsamic
- ⅛ teaspoon sugar
- ½ tablespoon soy sauce