Happy National Trail Mix Day: The Ultimate Guide to Building the Perfect Trail Mix

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Photo by trekkyandy on Flickr
The beauty of trail mix is that you can put all sorts of ingredients together to make an ultimate and flavorful snack. The trick is putting together a cohesive mix.

So, in celebration of National Trail Mix Day, I have put together a guide to building the perfect trail mix, ensuring that you will make the best combination of sweet, salty and nutty ingredients with a variety of textures: crunchy, chewy and soft.

Sweet Ingredients

My favorite part of a trail mix is the sweet element. I purposefully pick out the sweetest pieces and eat them first because I have a terrible sweet tooth. You can satisfy this sweet element through a few different types of sugary ingredients. Many of these will add a chewy or soft element to the trail mix.

  • Chocolate: M&M's, Reese's Pieces, chocolate chips and chunks
    • Fruit: dried fruit (apples, pineapple, mango, etc.), raisins, cranberries and coconut
  • Candy: Skittles, gummy bears and marshmallows
    • Cookies: crushed Oreos, Nilla wafers, Teddy Grahams and animal crackers (circus animal cookies, if you really love sugar)

    Salty Ingredients

    The addition of salt in trail mix balances out the sugary components. You absolutely can't go wrong with sweet and salty combinations. Try pretzels and goldfish for crunchy and salty elements, or if you enjoy a softer salty ingredient, add salted popcorn. Adding sea salt to the mix doesn't hurt either; it can add flavor without adding calories!

    Nutty Ingredients

    Nuts add a special element to trail mix. Whether it's peanuts, cashews, almonds or pecans, the nuts will attach to the other sweet and salty ingredients in the mixture. You can sweeten the nuts with brown sugar or honey before adding them to the other components, or you can toss them with sea salt to enhance the saltiness in the mix. Just bake the nuts with the sugar or salt in the oven for about five minutes.

    When you combine these three flavors, make sure you have crunchy (cereal, granola, nuts), chewy (raisins, dried fruit, gummy bears) and soft (popcorn, marshmallows, chocolate chips) elements. This synergy of sweet, salty, nutty, crunchy, chewy and soft components creates a well-balanced trail mix.

    Here are three combinations that have each texture and flavor element:

    1. Granola, dried banana chips, chocolate chips, raisins, salted cashews
    2. Salted popcorn, Chex Mix, sweetened pecans, peanut butter chips, cranberries
    3. M&M's, pretzels, dried mango chunks, coconut, almonds, sea salt, marshmallows


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