This easy, crunchy haystacks candy takes just minutes to make using chow mein noodles, peanuts, and butterscotch chips. The microwave oven makes them particularly fast and easy, so if you need a quick treat for a last-minute gathering or playdate with your kids, our haystacks are even easier than no-bake cookies!
The candy is easy enough for small children to help make with a little supervision, so making them is a good family activity for a cold or rainy day. Remember that crunchy canned chow mein noodles are made with wheat and eggs, so be mindful of the ingredients if there are food allergies present in your household.
History of haystacks candy
Haystacks are composed of relatively small amounts of many ingredients, in flexible combinations, so they are well suited to serving large numbers of people at a low cost. The flexibility and crowd-pleasing nature of haystacks have made them a popular family and small-group choice for at least 60 years. Currently, haystacks are commonly used among three distinct North American religious subcultures.
Seventh-day Adventist haystacks begin with a corn chip base, often Fritos, though larger, restaurant style chips are often used as well, which are typically crushed with the heel of the hand, followed by beans, and grated cheddar cheese. Lettuce, vegetables, and condiments, especially salsa, are typically added last. Many Adventists are vegetarians, and most official or semi-official Adventist cultural dining events are vegetarian, which is one reason haystacks are so popular with this group. Often a soy-based ground hamburger meat alternative is used as an additional haystack ingredient. Haystacks are a common and iconic feature of after-service meals or potlucks, served either at church or in member’s homes.
A Seventh-day Adventist named Ella May Hartlein is credited with coming up with the recipe for this version of haystacks in the early 1950s, when she and her family craved Tostadas and could not find a Mexican restaurant close to their home.
The Amish haystack has less of a Mexican influence, and is less often vegetarian. The Amish haystack is built on a lettuce base, with crushed chips or crackers sprinkled on top, followed by cooked hamburger in tomato, spaghetti-like sauce. The haystack is finished with chopped vegetables, cheese, and any desired condiments. Amish haystacks tend to be associated with community fundraisers for families in need, as opposed to the Adventist haystacks, which are more associated with after-service shared community meals or “potlucks.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints haystacks
In the community associated with the church, these are better known as Hawaiian haystacks, so named for their frequent use of pineapple chunks as a topping. In contrast to the Mexican notes characteristic of the Adventist haystack, Mormon or Hawaiian haystacks are characterized by Asian notes, perhaps a function of the long-time presence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Hawaii. Hawaiian haystacks use a white rice base, covered by small pieces of chicken in a sauce or gravy. They are topped by a variety of items, often including the eponymous pineapple chunks, cheddar cheese, celery, tomatoes, sliced almonds, coconut, and chow mein noodles for crunch.
Hawaiian haystacks are particularly popular in Utah and other western states where there is a high percentage of members of the church. Commonly served at church potlucks, Hawaiian haystacks are part of what is sometimes referred to as “Mormon Cooking”, which also includes such dishes as pretzel jello salad, funeral potatoes and frogeye salad.
See our tips and variations below for suggestions and recommendations.
- 1 cup butterscotch chips
- 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (or chunky peanut butter)
- 1/2 cup peanuts
- 2 cups chow mein noodles (crumbled slightly, if desired)
Instruction to make haystacks candy
- Gather the ingredients.
- Lay a sheet of waxed paper or parchment paper on the countertop.
- Put the butterscotch chips in a medium microwave-safe bowl or container. Microwave at 50% power for about 3 to 5 minutes, or just until the butterscotch chips are melted.
- In a large bowl, mix the peanut butter, peanuts, melted butterscotch chips, and chow mein noodles, stirring gently to coat the noodles thoroughly.
Drop teaspoons of the mixture onto the parchment paper. Let them stand at room temperature until set.
Transfer candies to a container, separated by sheets of waxed paper.
Cover and store in the refrigerator.
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