Not all trail mixes are created equal- known for being an easy and healthy snack, what you include can make all the difference. The kids may enjoy a handful packed with candy and fruit, but the goal is to achieve a healthy balance of salty and sweet with a range of food groups. If you’re looking to strike this balance, we’ve put together some tips on compiling the best mix out there. The key ingredient? Honey roasted cashews. Whatever they’re paired with, this sweet take on the crunchy nut adds both salty and sweet flavors automatically while relying on the natural sweetness in honey.
Trail Mix Base: Nuts
Nuts are one of the staples of a trail mix- they can add varying flavors and textures while consistently including protein, healthy fats, and a variety of nutrients. Raw cashews in particular deliver all of these benefits—and honey roasted cashews add a depth of flavor. But you don’t have to stop there.
If you don’t want a super-sweet version of trail mix, you can do half honey roasted cashews and half regular salted, roasted cashews. Or if you prefer, you can use raw cashews as well.
You can also add other nuts to the mix. Almonds, peanuts, and pecans are all common choices in trail mix, and while they’re technically in the same category as cashews, they all have different properties that make them mixable.
Many people think that seeds are interchangeable with nuts in a trail mix, but the truth is both are great additions. Seeds offer a huge amount of nutrients, including protein, iron, magnesium, and a range of vitamins and minerals. Raw and unsalted seeds will add crunch and nutrition without overpowering the other flavors.
Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are the two most popular additions to a trail mix.
Adding dry fruit to a trail mix can be a balancing act, depending on when you want to eat the trail mix. Dried fruit has a very high sugar content, so if you’re looking to boost your low blood sugar after physical activity, or stave off hypoglycemia, dried fruit is a perfect addition. When looking to make a snack for the kids or manage weight, a smaller amount of this might be better.
Either way, you should choose your dried fruit carefully. Nothing coated in sugar is going to be a healthy addition, but sundried fruit is generally available. Raisins or craisins are the traditional choices here, but almost any fruit is available in dried form. Dried cherries are a favorite!
Of course, the point of trail mix is that there is a little fun mixed in with all the nutrients. Choosing something more decadent can add excitement to the snack, encourage picky eaters to partake, and add a balanced flavor. And some things, like dark chocolate chips, have nutritional benefits of their own. Popcorn is another favorite.
You can also top off your trail mix with spices or seasonings. For a more savory mix, salt and herbs are common choices. But to add some sweetness and aroma, we like to include cinnamon and nutmeg as well.
Honey Roasted Cashews
As the star ingredient in our trail mix recipes, the quality of your honey roasted cashews is important. The versions you find in a store may be full of preservatives and extra oils that negate the goals of your trail mix, so we recommend starting with high-quality raw cashews and roasting cashews on your own. This way, you can also ensure the honey is high quality and free of preservatives.
All you need is honey and melted butter, with some salt to taste. Stir cashews into the mixture, then spread on parchment paper and roast on a baking sheet for about 8 minutes.
If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve put together a starting recipe for you, as well as a customizable version. Both yield about 5 cups of trail mix, and when stored in an airtight container, these can keep for up to a month.
Go-To Trail Mix Recipe:
- ¾ cup pecans (raw or roasted)
- ¾ cup honey roasted cashews
- ½ cup raw sunflower seeds
- ½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
- ½ cup unsweetened dried cherries
- ½ cup unsweetened raisins or craisins
- ½ cup chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- pinch of nutmeg
Customizable Trail Mix Recipe:
- 1 ½ cups of raw or roasted nuts (we recommend honey roasted cashews!)
- 1 cup raw seeds
- 1 cup of unsweetened dried fruit
- Up to 1 cup of “fun stuff”
- Spices to taste