If you want to know how to make Rice Krispie treats even better, there’s an easy answer, and it’s probably in your pantry right now.

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Photo courtesy of Jessie Sheehan

I’ve been a huge Rice Krispie treats fan since back in the day. It was hands down my favorite sweet as a kid—I memorized the recipe from the back of the cereal box and made them regularly. Post-college I discovered a bakery near my first NYC apartment that sold them in massive blocks, and I purchased one a day for about a year. In 2007, the New York Times published a recipe for caramelized brown butter ones, and that has been my go-to recipe for over a decade—until now.

Last spring, at a food event I was working, I tasted the best Rice Krispie treat ever. It hailed from the geniuses at Brooklyn’s Meme’s Diner: Each one was gooey, buttery, soft, and chewy—a winning combination. Though I did not inquire at the time as to what it was that made the wildly addictive treats so spectacular (perhaps because I was focused on eating as many as I could without drawing too much attention to myself), I stumbled upon the reason here several months later: sweetened condensed milk.

For the uninitiated, sweetened condensed milk is evaporated milk with added sugar—which gives the product a longer shelf life. Miraculously, sweetened condensed milk is the magic that sends Rice Krispie treats over the top texturally (without making them too sweet), producing a wonderfully gooey and chewy dessert

My treats recipe calls for half a cup of sweetened condensed milk, but I’ve made some additional tweaks, like an extra cup of mini marshmallows for folding in at the last minute (because aren’t we all in it for the intense pockets of goo—or is that just me?), a generous teaspoon of fine sea salt, plus some of the flaky variety for sprinkling, and a tablespoon of vanilla (the vanilla works wonders with the melted, buttery marshmallows). In short, sweetened condensed milk, some extra marshmallows, salt, and vanilla is all that stands between you and the Rice Krispie treats of your dreams.

For those who are convinced Rice Krispie treats are reserved for bake sales, I have to disagree: They’re perfect for holiday potlucks, a stellar addition to your cookie box, and a great gift (though if you are sending them through the mail, wrap them in plastic wrap first so they don’t dry out). Or simply enjoy them the way I do: standing at my kitchen counter, uninhibitedly slicing slivers from the pan (when they are just this side of room temp) and not doing a very good job of sharing.

Rice Krispie Treats with Sweetened Condensed Milk

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  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • One 10-oz bag mini marshmallows, plus one cup
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies
  • Flaky sea salt, optional
  1. Grease an 8x8x2-inch pan with cooking spray or softened butter.
  2. Place the butter in a large pot on the stove and melt it over medium heat. Add the sweetened condensed milk and stir with a rubber spatula, for about two minutes, until the butter and condensed milk are uniformly combined (when you first begin stirring they will look separated), and small bubbles are forming in the center of the mixture.
  3. Add the bag of marshmallows and stir until melted and smooth Add the vanilla and salt and stir again.
  4. Off the heat, add the Rice Krispies and the remaining cup of marshies and stir to combine.
  5. Transfer to the prepared pan and press down lightly with a sheet of plastic wrap (you do not want to pack the Krispie treats down or they will lose their inherently soft and gooey texture). Sprinkle with flaky sea salt, if using.
  6. Let set up on the counter for at least an hour. Cut into 16 slices and serve. Leftovers (there won’t be any) can be placed in an air-tight container on the counter for up to 3 days.