Gochujang Snack Mix (Recipe Redux)

This month’s theme on the Recipe Redux is a fun one that couldn’t have been better timed with all of my spring and summer travel plans — healthy recipes for snacks that will travel! You know I love a good travel snack so this was right up my alley. I put a spicy twist on the classic plane snack mix and upgraded the ingredients to be a little bit more balanced and interesting with this Gochujang Snack Mix.

Gochujang Snack Mix

Before we get to the recipe, let’s talk more about travel snacks and why it makes sense to actually pack them in the first place. Rarely do I go on a trip sans snacks!

I’m not opposed to airport food and the Denver airport actually has some really solid options (it’s the only reason I started getting there early 😂). But I do like having choices and not spending my entire food budget before the trip even starts, so I always pack a few things of my own, even if just to complement whatever I grab once I get there.

You never know when a flight will be delayed or cancelled so having something to tide you over to your next meal could be more clutch than you think. And besides being overpriced, a lot of the snacks available once you get on the airplane, are lacking in in the nutrition department (I’m looking at you, weird plane snack boxes).

Tips for Packing Healthy Travel Snacks

Protein & Fiber

Try to pack things that have some protein and/or fiber because these are generally a little bit harder to come by in the airport. Sure, you can probably find a banana or a red delicious apple but chances are it’ll be overpriced and flavorless.

Stay Hydrated

Stop paying an arm a leg for bottled water (or your other bottled drink of choice) and instead pack an empty re-usable water bottle that you can fill once you get through security. I have this one and LOVE it because I can toss it in my backpack without worrying about a leak, plus it keeps liquid really cold. Almost every airport has one of those handy filling stations now, and you’ll be happy to have it during your wait time and flight.

Keep it Varied

Bring a variety of options to suit whatever mood you’re in. Sweet, salty, savory, crunchy. You’ll be prepared for anything!

Favorite Healthy Store-bought Travel Snacks

Here are a few of my go-to choices for store-bought options, although this list changes as I find new products:

  • bars for something convenient, portable and filling

  • nut butter packets — especially the RX Bar ones that have added egg whites for more protein along with really fun flavors. These are great for adding to coffee shop oatmeal for early morning flights or eating with fruit for a snack later.

  • trail mix — usually a mix of dried fruit, nuts & dark chocolate

  • salmon jerky for a salty/savory option. I love this EPIC brand because they have interesting flavors like chicken sriracha and turkey cranberry sage.

  • a really good apple, because it’s sturdy, holds up well and isn’t a mess to eat (eating something like an orange on a plane is my WORST nightmare)

  • ginger chews. Does anyone else get queasy on take-off? I’m not sure if these do anything besides distract me, but I’ll take it.

  • tea bags. Just ask for hot water on the plane and you’re good-to-go. I take the lower caffeine options for evening flights and especially love TAZO green ginger.

Gochujang Snack Mix Recipe

Southwest is my airline of choice and they always pass out a free snack mix and pretzels once up in the air. So generous of them being that some airlines don’t even offer free water anymore. I wanted to put my own twist on the popular cheese version (you know the one!) and I thought I would spice things up a bit.

How to Make a Healthy Homemade Spicy Snack Mix

Lately I’ve been loving Korean flavors so for this recipe I leaned on gochujang, sesame oil, soy sauce and garlic. Gochujang is one of my favorite condiments of the moment!

Gochujang Snack Mix

If you aren’t familiar, it’s a fermented chile paste that has a mix of sweet, savory and spicy flavors and you should be able to find it at most grocery stores. If you want to learn more about Korean cooking and flavors, this podcast episode was awesome — they talked a lot about the staple ingredients and flavor profiles in Korean cooking.

I mixed the paste into some melted ghee along with a few other key ingredients to create a super flavorful liquid component and then poured it all over the mix before baking to get a nice caramelization. You can certainly use butter, but the ghee gives this extra depth of flavor so if you have it, use it!

Gochujang Snack Mix

The end result has a nice kick, but I promise it’s not too hot for those of you who are spice averse. Between the crunchiness from the nuts, the salt crystals from the pretzels and the crispiness from the cereal, this really has everything covered texture-wise too.

Whip up a batch to take with you on that next flight to make your snack game more interesting while keeping hunger at bay. Your seat neighbors will probbbbbably be asking you to share some.

Gochujang Snack Mix

Gochujang Snack Mix

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 8 cups | Prep time: 5 min | Cook time: 45 min | Total time: 1 hour (including time to cool)


  • 2 cups cheddar square crackers

  • 2 cups wheat square cereal

  • 2 cups salted pretzel twists

  • 1 cup whole raw unsalted almonds

  • 1 cup whole raw unsalted cashews

  • 1/3 cup melted ghee or butter (melt first, then measure)

  • 1 Tbsp (heaping) fermented chile paste (aka gochujang)

  • 2 tsp soy sauce

  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil

  • 1 tsp granulated garlic


  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

  2. Combine all dry ingredients (crackers through cashews) in a large dish or bowl.

  3. Melt the ghee in a liquid measuring cup (about one minute on high in the microwave), then add chile paste, garlic powder, soy sauce and sesame oil and stir with a fork until well combined.

  4. Pour the liquid over the snack mix and toss well to completely coat (it takes a minute or two). Transfer to a large foil-lined baking sheet and spread into a single layer.

  5. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Cool completely before transferring to an airtight dish or freezer bag.


this mix will likely keep for up to a week. You can also freeze it for up to four months.

if you like heat, increase the amount of gochujang to 1.5-2 Tbsp.


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Homemade Yogurt Ranch Dressing

Are you a creamy ranch dressing lover? Whether you use it as a dip for vegetables or a dressing for your favorite salads, I think you will be surprised at how easy it is to make your own. This homemade yogurt ranch dressing has a bite from the black pepper and raw garlic. Fresh herbs and lemon juice brighten it up perfectly. I hope you love it!

Homemade Yogurt Ranch Dressing

So I’m not going to start by talking about how ranch is “bad” and “here’s how to make it healthier”. You know that’s not how I roll around here. There’s nothing wrong with the bottled stuff if that’s what you have time for and you really love the taste but if you’ve never tried homemade, hear me out!

Ranch dressing is one of those magical foods that just makes things taste GOOD. It gets a bad rap because the traditional store-bought versions have taboo things like sodium and artificial flavors. I’m not entirely opposed to that stuff because I know it helps keep food products affordable and accessible and also cut down on waste (yeah, I’m not your average dietitian). That being said, I also like recreating store-bought favorites in my kitchen for a fresher, tastier and usually less expensive end product.

Homemade Yogurt Ranch Dressing

The Case for Going Homemade

When I worked in a restaurant, I remember making the ranch from scratch at the beginning of my shift during prep work in a HUGE batch. Kind of gross dealing with that much mayonnaise but the taste was seriously so much better than the bottled stuff in the store which can be (for lack of a better word) “goopy”.

My favorite part about the homemade version was that it was pourable and had a strong garlic and herb flavor. For awhile, I’ve wanted to make a variation that has the added health benefits of yogurt, but still has a great flavor profile from garlic, onion, fresh herbs and citrus (no seasoning packet required).

One day I realized that I happened to have all of the ingredients I needed to give this a go so I got to work on making the perfect homemade yogurt ranch dressing. I’m happy to report that my first test ended up turning out just right so here we are!

What You Need to Make Homemade Ranch

The key ingredients:

  • Full-fat Greek yogurt to add creaminess and mouthfeel (I used my favorite siggis 4%)

  • Fresh garlic grated on a microplane (no chunks), plus herbs and citrus to brighten it up

  • Dried onion flakes to provide that must-have {but slightly toned down} onion-y flavor

  • Buttermilk to thin it out without losing the creaminess (Yes you need it. Here are some ideas for using up the rest)

I also added just enough mayo to add a punch of richness while still keeping this on the lighter side, but you could skip it or use your favorite plant-based alternative instead (I know mayo is a touchy subject for some people). It’s as simple as whisking everything up in a bowl until smooth and creamy - you might never go back to the store-bought version again!

Homemade Yogurt Ranch Dressing

Use this yogurt ranch as a dip for fresh vegetables or drizzle it over your favorite salad. If you dip your pizza in it I won’t judge.

Homemade Yogurt Ranch Dressing

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 1.25 cups (5-6 servings) | Prep time: 5 min | Total time: 10 min


  • 2/3 cup plain 4% siggis yogurt (or other full fat variety)

  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise

  • 1/2 cup low fat cultured buttermilk

  • 3 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane

  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh chives

  • 1/2 lemon, juiced

  • 2 tsp dried minced onion

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

  • 1/4 tsp black pepper


  1. Add all ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined and smooth. Store in a jar with a tight lid, refrigerated, for up to 5 days.

Nutrition Info

Per 1/4 cup serving: 75 calories, 3 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fat, 4 grams protein, 66 mg sodium, 2 grams sugar

BONUS: 5 Simple Salad Dressings

A free download with five of my favorite homemade dressing recipes.

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BYO Popcorn Bags

Well it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of awards show but my absolute favorite of the whole year is the Academy Awards and in case you didn’t hear, it’s coming up this weekend. Perfect timing because I just recently joined a monthly recipe challenge called The Recipe Redux (focused on reinventing delicious food and adding a healthy spin) and this month’s theme is… the Oscars!

Now I don’t know about you, but when I watch movies I almost always want some freshly popped popcorn. It can make a basic Friday in feel like a fun date night (or self-care night!). So yeah, add wine and popcorn to a movie night and I’m sold.

These BYO (aka “build-your-own”) popcorn bags are perfect for your Oscar party needs because everyone gets to pick their own favorite add-ins and build their version of a perfect movie-watching snack. We’ve got both sweet and savory covered here so no one will leave unsatisfied. Bonus: you might also learn a new technique for popping that takes all of two minutes and could very well replace the artificial butter flavored packets in your pantry.

BYO Popcorn Bags

All you need to make the base is these classic brown paper lunch bags and popcorn kernels. Did I mention how budget-friendly this is? I played around with the amount and I think 2 Tbsp is a good amount for one adult (for the kids, you might do just 1 Tbsp). No oil/butter or seasonings necessary yet, just add the seeds to the bag and microwave until popping slows to 2-3 seconds. You could even pass out sharpies so everyone can write their name/decorate their bags. Or perhaps write guesses for best picture winners on the bottom?

BYO Popcorn Bags
BYO Popcorn Bags

Leave the popcorn uninterrupted for a minute or so just in case you have any rogue last-minute pops. Then you can take the bag out of the microwave and you should see something similar to the beautiful sight above.

At this time, you can add your melted butter, salt and seasonings of choice because personally, I would rather have no popcorn than butter/salt free popcorn. That’s just me though! And remember, since everyone makes their own, there will be no popcorn to butter ratio disputes here.

BYO Popcorn Bar

Next comes the toppings. You guys, I could have seriously gone all out with this but for the purpose of this photo shoot (because I don’t have that wide of a lens, or enough of those cute little dishes) I decided to limit it to a few favorites. I went for a mix of raw unsalted nuts (since you will likely be salting the popcorn), unsweetened dried fruit, chocolate, something vinegary and something just for fun. Here are the specifics:

Other ideas that would be delicious: everything-bagel seasoning, truffle salt, nutritional yeast or grated parmesan cheese, wasabi peas, honey-roasted peanuts, pretzels, mini marshmallows, dark chocolate chips or white chocolate chips, spiced pecans/almonds, golden raisins.

No matter what you choose, I think everyone will go nuts for this! It’s a fun way to make party food interactive and still delicious. Plus, what could be more appropriate for a celebration of movies than popcorn? Enjoy!

Build-Your-Own (BYO) Popcorn Bags

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 2.5 cups | Prep time: 5 min | Cook time: 2 min | Total time: 10 min (including setup & toppings)

Ingredients & Supplies

  • One brown paper lunch bag (per person)

  • 2 Tbsp popcorn kernels (per person)

  • Melted butter

  • Kosher salt (to taste)

  • Various toppings including: cashews, walnuts, dried cherries, dried chickpeas (salt & vinegar), peanut butter M&Ms, Junior Mints, coconut chips, everything-bagel seasoning, truffle salt, nutritional yeast or grated parmesan cheese, dried edamame, wasabi peas, honey-roasted peanuts, pretzels, mini marshmallows, dark chocolate chips or white chocolate chips, spiced pecans/almonds, golden raisins.


  1. Add popcorn kernels to a brown paper lunch bag and fold the top down twice. Place in microwave on its side (so the bag stays folded).

  2. Microwave on high for 2-2 1/2 minutes or until popping slows to 2-3 second intervals.

  3. Let the bag sit untouched for about 30 seconds to make sure everything is done popping! Then gently open the bag and add butter, salt and seasonings as desired (shaking well to evenly distribute).

  4. Finally, add toppings of choice.


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