Add These Ingredients to Your Savory Trail Mix

Food Lists savory trail mix
Add These Ingredients to Your Savory Trail Mix

As an avid hiker (and by avid hiker, I mean someone who occasionally wanders around the forest for a few hours, eating the entire time), I understand the importance of a trail snack. But for too long, I was subjected to the scourge of overly sweet trail mixes. Sure, they may have been dotted with the occasional salted cashew or, more unfortunately, little nubs of peanuts, but the focus of these mixes was always on the sweet components: the chocolate chips, the shriveled craisins, the M&M’s (god willing).

There is a place in this world for sweet trail mix, but should it be the dominant variety you find in grocery stores and overpriced health food shops? Absolutely not. Savory trail mix has not gotten the love it deserves, even though it’s just as valid a snack option for hikers as the sweet stuff. These days, you might come across a savory trail mix option or two at the store, but if you want to curate the very best salty snacking experience, you’ll make your own savory trail mix at home.

While you can always follow the Chex Mix model, there are a ton of under-utilized savory snack foods that work exceptionally well in a savory trail mix. I’ve included some of my favorite mix-ins, but don’t feel limited by these selections—the possibilities truly are endless.

Parmesan Crisps

Parmesan crisps are an elite snack on their own, but they’re even better when you mix them into a savory trail mix. They have all the features that make for a perfect snack: crunch, fat, saltiness. Have more than a few at a time, though, and Parmesan crisps can be overwhelming. Other savory snacks in the mix can cut through that intense cheesy flavor.

Pork Rinds

Pork rinds are chips for meat lovers, and they can add a ton of flavor and volume to your trail mix. Because they’re filled with a lot of air, they make you feel like you’re eating a lot, helping to fill you up when you’re on the trail (or at your desk). It’s a good way to bulk up a nut-heavy trail mix with a less-expensive ingredient.

Wasabi Peas

Supremely crunchy with just the right amount of heat, wasabi peas can make or break a savory trail mix recipe. If you really don’t like spicy food, you may want to skip them, but when they’re mixed with other ingredients, they’re not that overwhelming for most people. I scoop a generous handful of wasabi peas into my savory trail mixes, but you can adjust the amount you want to use based on your spice tolerance.


Popcorn is indisputably one of the best savory snacks of all time, ever. It’s a crunchy blank slate—it’ll take on the qualities of whatever you season it with, making it incredibly versatile, which is perfect when pairing with other ingredients. Plus, it’s inexpensive (especially if you make it yourself), so it can help bulk up your trail mix.

Cured Meat

If you’re trying to take your savory trail mix to a new level, try adding some cured meat to the mix. I love using tiny pepperonis, but you can cut basically any cured meat into bite-sized pieces. Your best bet is meats that are tougher and more substantial, like thick-cut salami, versus fattier, moister varieties like prosciutto.

Cajun-spiced Nuts

No trail mix is complete without a variety of nuts, and it’s up to you what varieties you want to use. If you want to add a ton of flavor to the mix, though, try using Cajun-spiced nuts. You may be able to find these at your local grocery store, but it’s also easy to add some Cajun seasoning to whatever nuts you plan on using. This extra bit of spice helps add flavor to the other ingredients as well, pulling all the elements together in a salty, savory mix.


Sweet trail mix often features candy like M&M’s, so why can’t savory trail mix include junk food as well? Cheetos offer crunch, bulk and volume to trail mix, and their intense seasoning makes them a good contrast to blander ingredients, like popcorn, in the mix. I personally think Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are your best bet for the most flavorful trail mix possible, but you can use whatever flavor you like best.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

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