Rainbow Rice Krispie Treats
Rainbow Rice Krispie Treats

Irvin Lin grew up in the Midwest in the ’80s and ’90s, when an HIV-positive diagnosis was a death sentence. He’s celebrating his survival and identity for Pride this year with these colorful Rice Krispie Treats.

There’s an expectation when someone finds out you’re gay. I blame RuPaul’s Drag Race and Queer Eye fully for this kind of reductive laziness. But I’ve also been known to accidentally live up to that fabulousness on more than one occasion. It’s never intentional. I don’t go around waving the rainbow flag and wearing glitter on my body (I mean, not every day, glitter is for special occasions). But being gay (and Asian) means I see life through a certain lens. A very special lens. And while it can be a struggle some days, it’s a core part of who I am. That means I can either back off and disappear or stand up and scream my identity out loud. When I have to make a decision, I often grab a megaphone and start shouting.

Of course I wasn’t always like that. I grew up in the southern Midwest city of St. Louis. Or rather, a suburb of St. Louis that was predominantly white. I was one of two Asian children in my elementary school. I ate weird food and wore weird clothes that my brother, who was six years older than me, gave me. And I dealt with microaggression throughout my childhood in college. It’s impossible to count the number of times I’ve been praised for my impeccable English or asked if I speak English at all, despite being born in a hospital a few miles from my high school. These are the stories that are universal if you ask any immigrant child who grew up in the ’80s. Being perceived as foreign, even if you were born in the US, wasn’t fun.

I came of age and came out when an HIV positive diagnosis was a death sentence. I didn’t know the time before. And when I finally got out of the closet, I was slightly afraid of meeting someone I could be romantic with. I’m feeling echoes of that panic and fear today with COVID. Being in the same room with a stranger is dangerous. That was then, and that’s how it can feel today.

But part of being gay is overcoming those stigmas and learning to conform. Every June, the entire LGBTQIA+ community celebrates something called Pride. And although it looks fabulous with drag queens and floats and people of all colors and genders partying hard, it’s called Pride Celebration because it really is a celebration. People are celebrating all the trials and tribulations that we have had to overcome as a community. They celebrate that new drugs can save people from dying of HIV or even prevent HIV transmission. They’re celebrating the fact that they can now legally marry someone they’ve loved for years. They celebrate the search for a chosen family with friends after their own biological family turned their backs on them. They celebrate survival and life one more year.

So this year I decided to make these Rainbow Rice Krispie Treats as a jubilant celebration. The rainbow flag was designed by Gilbert Baker, an artist and activist living in San Francisco in 1978. And although the flag has been criticized for its commercialization in recent years, Gilbert Baker intentionally designed it for everyone to use. He never made a dime from it. I took a classic Midwestern rice krispie treat, the kind of snack my Midwestern elementary schoolmates often brought for lunch, and used food coloring to turn it into an edible rainbow flag. Think of it as an edible version of me clutching that proverbial megaphone and shouting to everyone I know that yes, I survived another year too.

Liquid Food Coloring

I used readily available liquid food coloring from the grocery store on my rice krispie treats. It’s the kind that comes four in a set, in those teardrop-shaped bottles. Liquid food coloring isn’t as intense as more professional gel food coloring you can find at craft stores like Michael’s or JOANN. However, keep in mind that all artificial food coloring will darken and become more vibrant over time. You’ll find the rice krispie treats livelier the next day.

  • Purple: 12 drops red, 10 drops blue
  • Blue: 12 drops of blue
  • Green: 12 drops of green
  • Yellow: 12 drops of yellow
  • Orange: 10 drops yellow, 4 drops red
  • Red: 12 drops of red

That means you can use any food coloring you have access to. If you want more vibrant, richer colors, get some gel food coloring. It’s much more intense and gives you more saturated colors. If you don’t mind lighter, more pastel colors (like my rice krispie treats), just use the liquid stuff or add more food coloring. I’ve tried to keep the food coloring to a minimum in my recipe because the more you add to the treat, the more you can taste the bitter artificial color. There’s a delicate balance between being fabulous and being a bitter queen. I always try to err on the fabulous side.

You can try using natural-based food coloring in this recipe if you like. They’re becoming increasingly easy to find in well-stocked grocery stores, upscale markets, or online. Often the natural stuff fades when you bake or reheat it, but rice krispie treats are a no-bake treat. The minimal heat of the melted marshmallows should not affect the natural-based food coloring. Just remember that naturally based food coloring is often not as strong as artificial coloring and will fade over time, so enjoy these treats right away or expect your treats to be a little less vibrant the next day.

How to Store Rice Krispie Treats

Store these rice krispie treats like regular rice krispie treats in an airtight container at room temperature for two to three days.

Use the microwave

You’ll notice that I use the microwave to melt my marshmallows, not the stovetop. I do this for several reasons. First, it’s convenient to just put in the microwave for a minute. Second, I don’t have to worry about the marshmallows overheating since I only microwave them for a minute. Third, I can reheat the marshmallows in a clear glass bowl or white bowl. I can set the glass bowl on a white surface and once I’ve mixed together the melted marshmallows and butter I can add food coloring of the color I want. The clear bowl and white finish allows me to see exactly what the color will be as opposed to a dark colored pan.

That means you can certainly use the stovetop and a skillet if you want to melt the marshmallows. Simply heat the butter and marshmallows over low heat to prevent the marshmallows from burning, then stir in the food coloring and rice krispies once melted. Continue the recipe as directed.

Cooking spray is best

Cooking spray is your friend in this recipe. They make little thin layers of colored rice krispies treats, so the cooking spray is there to keep you from getting frustrated with the stickiness.

That means you can easily use unflavored cooking oil and apply it if you like. Keep a small bowl of cooking oil (just a few tablespoons) by you while you assemble the layered colored rice krispies. They have a habit of sticking to your hands (like melted marshmallows do), and oiling your hands will help spread the sticky rice krispies into a thin, even layer.

Rainbow Rice Krispie Treats

preparation time
15 minutes

cooking time
6 minutes

rest time
60 minutes

total time
81 minutes

12 servings

12 bars

If using unsalted butter, add a pinch of kosher salt. You can use pure vanilla if you prefer it over imitation vanilla.


  • Nonstick Cooking Spray

  • 15 ounces regular sized marshmallows, divided

  • 6 tablespoons salted butter, divided

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons clear imitation vanilla, divided

  • red food coloring

  • Food coloring blue

  • Food coloring green

  • Food coloring yellow

  • 7 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) Rice Krispies cereal, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, such as Maldon Sea Salt Flakes (optional)


  1. Prepare the pan:

    Lightly spray an 8″ x 8″ square baking pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper cut to fit the pan, leaving a 1-inch overhang on the sides. This will help you lift the rice krispie treats out of the pan. Lightly spray the parchment paper.

  2. Melting Marshmallows:

    Lightly spray a large microwaveable bowl and silicone spatula with cooking spray. Add 2 1/2 ounces (about 12) marshmallows and 1 tablespoon butter to the bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute or until marshmallows are large and puffy. Immediately add 1/4 teaspoon vanilla and stir with the oiled spatula until most of the marshmallows are melted.

  3. Add food coloring:

    Stir in 12 drops of red food coloring and 10 drops of blue food coloring and mix thoroughly until color is even.

  4. Add the grain:

    Add 1 1/4 cups of granola and stir to fully incorporate. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan.

  5. Spread it in the prepared pan:

    Lightly spray your hands with cooking spray and spread the colored rice krispies in a thin, even layer covering the entire pan. The parchment paper will move as you do this. Just try your best to keep it in place or adjust as needed. Mist your hands again if they get sticky. Try to work quickly before the mix hardens.

  6. Wash and repeat:

    Wash and dry the bowl and spatula. Repeat this process starting with step 2 above. You will have 5 more colored layers by using:

    • 12 drops of blue food coloring
    • 12 drops of green food coloring
    • 12 drops of yellow food coloring
    • 10 drops of yellow and 4 drops of red food coloring for orange
    • 12 drops of red food coloring
  7. Cool and slice:

    Once you’re done with the last layer, which will be red, sprinkle some sea salt on top if you’re using it. Let the rice krispies cool for at least 1 hour, then lift them out of the pan using the overhanging parchment paper. Place it on a cutting board and peel off the parchment paper.

    Slice it into 12 pieces with a sharp chef’s knife and celebrate your pride with a big piece of fabulousness.

    Did you like the recipe? Let’s star down!

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Hello everybody, Even if you're limited on time and money, I believe you can prepare wonderful food with everyday products. All you have to do is cook cleverly and creatively!