Secret Ingredients You Should Be Using In Your S'mores

S'mores are an iconic American dish and, for many people, no campfire is complete without them. While they're typically reserved for making while camping or over a backyard bonfire, there are a collection of ingredients that make s'mores worthy of seeking out alternate cooking methods. Did you know you can make s'mores in an air fryer?

Everyone knows the basic ingredients used to make a s'more: Chocolate and a toasted marshmallow sandwiched between graham crackers. While the classic s'mores recipe is undoubtedly delicious as-is, wait until you learn about the some secret ingredients that take the recipe from everyday to exceptional in every way.

To find the best game-changing ingredients for s'mores, I searched through chef recommendations, food blogs, and more. I also considered my personal experience, of which there is quite a bit. As a Coloradan, camping is kind of in my blood, so I've had plenty of opportunities to experiment with upgrading s'mores over a campfire. Take it from me, some of the secret ingredients I uncovered are so drool-worthy, that they just might change how you make s'mores forever.

1. Peanut butter

As far as I am concerned, there's no better sweet flavor combination than chocolate and peanut butter. With this in mind, my all-time favorite ingredient to add to s'mores is peanut butter. Not only does it provide you with the tasty chocolate-peanut butter flavor combo, but it also adds sugary, and often smokey marshmallows and cinnamon graham crackers to the mix. The result is the perfect blend of sweet, nutty flavors. Plus, peanut butter adds to the gooey texture of s'mores, resulting in a melty, crunchy blend that is undeniably delicious.

Adding peanut butter to your s'more is as easy as spreading it on the graham crackers. You can choose to put it on one or both sides of the sandwich. I prefer both. As an added bonus, peanut butter also helps keep the chocolate and marshmallow in place. If spreading peanut butter on graham crackers by a campfire sounds a bit messy, I have a genius substitution: Reese's peanut butter cups. I prefer Reese's Thins because it makes s'mores somewhat easier to bite into, but the regular ones are fantastic as well. Either way, it combines the chocolate and peanut butter into one simple ingredient. Of course, it's perfectly shaped and sized for a s'more as well, so it's a win all around.

2. Pretzels

Chocolate and pretzels are another iconic flavor combination. There's something about the mix of sweet and salty that people can't get enough of. So, it only makes sense that adding pretzels to s'mores is a fantastic choice. Pretzel s'mores feature a touch of saltiness that makes the sugary elements really shine. The addition of pretzels also enhances the textures and adds a super crunchy element that graham crackers don't achieve all by themselves.

Pretzels come in all different shapes and sizes, but the classic pretzel loop ones are ideal for building s'mores. The small ones that come in a bag are perfectly shaped and sized to insert into a s'more. Thin pretzel sticks also work, particularly if the marshmallow is gooey enough to prevent them from sliding out. I love sweet and salty treats so this is one of my top s'more additions. I also like to add peanut butter along with them because it gives the pretzels something to stick to. Of course, the flavor is nothing to scoff at, either.

3. Brownies

Thin brownies and brownie brittle are delicious ingredients for layering on s'mores. Chocolate cookies won't let you down, either. Whichever you use, they can be used right on top of the typical piece of chocolate in a classic s'more recipe. They definitely turn up the chocolate to the max, but I am one of those people who believes there is no such thing as too much chocolate. If you don't fall into the same, extreme chocolate lover category, I recommend leaving the customary piece of chocolate off. Either way, the addition of a brownie softens the overall texture and enhances the decadent taste in a drool-worthy way. Plus, there are all kinds of secret ingredients you can add to brownies that infuse them with additional exciting flavors and creamy textures. So really, the sky's the limit.

If you have a super crispy brownie brittle or chocolate cookies, you can use them in place of the graham crackers. Even so, I often prefer layering just one small brownie or piece of brittle inside of a s'more along with all the other classic ingredients. I find that the graham crackers create a smoother taste and a better balance of textures than brownie brittle alone. The cinnamon on graham crackers is also drool-worthy with the rich chocolate of brownies.

4. Fruit

Adding thinly sliced pieces of fruit to s'mores instantly transforms them into a bright, juicy treat overflowing with complex flavors. While classic s'mores are fairly rich and have a tendency to be dry (especially if the chocolate doesn't melt properly), fruit adds a light, refreshing element you're sure to love. Best of all, an abundance of fruits match well with the other ingredients on s'mores. Typically, the best fruit to layer in s'mores is either easily sliced or appropriately shaped to fit inside. For example, bananas, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, apples, and blueberries all make outstanding choices. While not 100% necessary, you can make berries more manageable if you turn them into a rustic smash or chunky purée.

If you want to experiment with something more unique, pears, nectarines and peaches also taste delicious layered on s'mores. Or, for a super unexpected twist, add watermelon slices to your s'mores. It probably sounds pretty unusual, but the result is a surprisingly delicious, juicy, summery treat. Sprinkling a touch of salt on the watermelon goes a long way, too. Just make sure to cut thin slices of watermelon so your s'mores don't get soggy. For convenience's sake, it's also best to size the slices similarly to the rest of your s'more ingredients.

5. Dark chocolate

Chocolate is an essential component of s'mores. There's no denying that. If you've never really put much thought into what kind of chocolate you use on your s'mores, this is your sign to start. Many people reach for milk chocolate because it is sweet and creamy. However, dark chocolate is a much better choice for s'mores. It isn't quite as sweet as milk chocolate and it has a richer flavor. Depending on the percentage of cacao, dark chocolate can even have a bitter taste. Regardless, marshmallows and graham crackers already have plenty of sugar. When you make s'mores with less sweet dark chocolate, it leads to a more balanced, deep flavor overall. Dark chocolate also pairs wonderfully with toasted marshmallows. It reduces the decadently sweet taste a touch without overpowering the toasted flavor.

With just three essential ingredients, choosing premium chocolate goes a long way regarding the flavor of your s'mores. In addition to using dark chocolate, do yourself a favor and get the good stuff. After all, marshmallows and graham crackers are fairly inexpensive. Even if you spend more on premium chocolate, the dish remains fairly low-price as a whole.

6. Bacon

If the smokiness of marshmallows roasted over a fire is your favorite part of a s'more, bacon has the power to give you significantly more of what you love. In addition to amplifying the toasted, smokey taste, bacon also adds a layer of savory, salty flavor, transforming ordinary s'mores into a gourmet delight. As the saying goes, bacon makes everything better, so why wouldn't that apply to s'mores?

Super crispy bacon is essential when it comes to layering it on s'mores. Anything less than crunchy will easily turn your treats into a sloppy mess. You'll want to drain as much excess grease off the bacon slices, as well. A little bit of grease is okay, but super crispy, dry bacon results in better textures throughout and ensures the graham crackers don't get soggy. Layering cooked bacon slices or chunks onto your s'more is super easy, and more than sufficient. Still, if you want to wow your friends, chocolate-dipped bacon won't go unnoticed. It also means you don't need to add more chocolate. Unless, of course, you want to.

7. Caramel sauce

Caramel sauce is a classic dessert ingredient, and if you think about it, it only makes sense that it is a phenomenal addition to s'mores. Will it be messy? Almost definitely. Still, I'm a firm believer that it's more than worth a few sticky fingers. Caramel easily fits into all the other flavors in s'mores. It tastes excellent with cinnamon, sugar, chocolate, crackers, and toasted marshmallows. Something tells me that thin, crisp slices of apple would also taste exceptional on caramel s'mores.

In addition to classic caramel sauce, you can also infuse caramel sauce with game-changing flavors that also pair with s'mores. For example, if you're not typically super into overly sweet, rich desserts, a touch of hot sauce in the caramel could change how you feel about s'mores. Or, for a brighter taste, fruit juice can be substituted for water when making caramel sauce. Both renditions only make s'mores tastier. If making caramel sauce from scratch isn't for you, you can always pick up some from the grocery store. Or, you can swap the sauce out for individual caramel candies with sea salt. Thinner squares are probably best. Also, make sure they are soft. Otherwise, your s'mores may be difficult to chew and enjoy as intended.

8. Potato chips

Potato chips are another one of my all-time favorite special ingredients for s'mores. They are thin enough to add a delicate crunch and salty enough to amplify and balance the sweetness. If you layer a potato chip (or two) between the chocolate and the marshmallow, it cracks into the surrounding ingredients when you take your first bite. As a result, it's not as messy as you might think. Regardless, the mix of sweet and salty flavors is beyond drool-worthy.

Plain, salted potato chips are ideal for s'mores. They have the perfect seasoning and don't take the flavor too far away from the original. They are definitely noticeable, but they don't add something like cheese or onion, which has the potential to ruin your s'mores. If you can manage to get your hands on a bag of chocolate-dipped potato chips, I highly recommend using them on s'mores. Unfortunately, they aren't super common, but you can always make some yourself by dipping store-bought chips in chocolate. Or, start from the ground up and make the chips, too. Homemade potato chips open up a world of possibilities regarding potential seasonings as well. Anything from chili powder to cinnamon to powdered sugar is perfect for sprinkling on chips intended for s'mores.

9. Oreos

Ah Oreos, another beloved cookie sandwich. While they are nothing like a typical cookie, they share quite a few traits with s'mores. Both contain chocolate, a sugary white filling, and crunchy cookie-like tops and bottoms. Thanks to all the similarities, they taste great when combined into one sweet dessert. Simply inserting a single s'more into your layered treat results in more of all the yummy s'more flavors you know and love.

Regular Oreos work just fine for s'mores, but I prefer Oreo Thins. They add all the delicious flavor without making a s'more too tall to comfortably bite into. You can often find special edition seasonal Oreo flavors too and almost any of them would be delicious in s'mores.

If making smaller s'mores sounds good, Oreos can help. As I'm sure you've seen people do many times, pull apart the sides of an Oreo. Place a piece of chocolate on top of the cream side. Stack a toasted marshmallow and then the other side on top and you wind up with delicious, tiny s'more.

10. Chocolate hazelnut spread

Infusing your chocolate with a touch of nutty flavor is another surefire way to make s'mores a crowd-pleasing favorite. There are lots of ways to pull this flavor combination off, but a chocolate hazelnut spread like Nutella is one of the best. It easily spreads right onto graham crackers and adds to the gooey deliciousness of s'mores in a way you won't soon forget.

Making a dark chocolate hazelnut spread isn't super complicated, either. When you make it yourself, you can choose a darker chocolate to balance out the sweetness of the other components. Plus, you can choose premium ingredients. There's nothing wrong with Nutella, but it lacks the gourmet flavor a homemade sauce provides.

As with other chocolate ingredients, you can skip the piece of chocolate that usually goes on a s'more if you add chocolate hazelnut spread. However, a little extra won't hurt, so I say use both. Along the same lines, Trader Joe's Cookie Butter also makes a wonderful addition to s'mores. Instead of making the chocolate flavor the main event, it highlights the graham crackers with a similar, yet unique taste.

11. Chili powder

If you're like me, adding heat to a dish is never a mistake, and that includes my s'mores. You could opt for a chili-infused chocolate, or, better yet, simply add a dash of chili powder to your creation. Careful, though — this ingredient probably isn't for kids not used to spice. Even a small amount of heat is enough to make many children squirm with displeasure, and chili powder packs a serious punch for their immature taste buds. In addition to turning up the heat, many chili powders feature an earthy, almost roasted flavor that compliments toasted marshmallows to perfection.

I also like to add a sprinkle of cayenne pepper to sweet dishes and while I haven't tried it on s'mores (yet), I'm sure it would be a big success. It isn't as earthy as chili powder and it is a touch spicier, leading to a bolder flavor overall. Still, I would apply it to s'mores sparingly so you get a chance to experience all of the sweet flavors in tandem with the cayenne pepper. If you go too far, it could easily overpower the other ingredients.

12. Cinnamon

It may sound simple, but your s'mores are craving a dash of cinnamon. Instead of making your s'mores fuller or more gooey, it enhances the flavor of the graham crackers in a light yet noticeable way. So far, I've discussed quite a few ways to amplify the chocolate flavor in s'mores, but cinnamon takes a more subtle approach. It doesn't break the mold like some of the wild ingredient additions discussed, either, but it's delicious all the same. Best of all, executing this flavor booster is as easy as sprinkling cinnamon over the top of your creation.

Freshly grated cinnamon is your best bet if you want a full-bodied, vibrant flavor. I don't use a lot of cinnamon in my cooking so I rarely have fresh cinnamon on hand. However, cinnamon has a bold enough taste that store-bought powder won't be a disservice to your s'mores. There are a couple of different approaches you can take when it comes to incorporating cinnamon into s'mores. You can sprinkle it over a finished s'more so it dusts the top graham cracker with a boost of flavor. Or, you can sprinkle it inside, either on top of the chocolate or marshmallow, and then finish it off with the second graham cracker.

13. Powdered sugar

Martha Stewart is revered for her wealth of cooking knowledge and countless inspired recipes, and guess what? She has one for s'mores. Interestingly enough, there seems to be a slight debate about Stewart's best burnt s'mores recipe, and it centers around the fact that she doesn't use any chocolate. The overly burnt marshmallows don't seem to be helping either but honestly, I'm not surprised a lack of chocolate is polarizing. I mean, you won't catch me making s'mores without it. Even so, there's a fun secret ingredient she incorporates into her s'mores that I think is worth a try and it's likely why her marshmallows look like they have a caramelized shell: Powdered sugar.

Stewart's recipe for homemade marshmallows calls for rolling them in confectioner's sugar right at the end. The extra sugar coating produces a more charred, almost crème brûlée effect when toasted which, in my opinion, looks amazing. Some may say it's burnt to a crisp, but I am one of those people who loves a charred marshmallow because of how gooey it gets in the center. If you agree, powdered sugar may be your ticket to a quick, delicious char. Even if you don't make the marshmallows yourself, this tip could easily be a game-changer for store-bought marshmallows.

14. Stroopwafels

Alongside the chocolate and marshmallows in s'mores, graham crackers fall a bit flat. It's easy to upgrade the chocolate or even the marshmallows, but the graham crackers often get overlooked. Maybe it's because they seem like a necessary means to an end as far as creating a sweet sandwich or maybe it's because there aren't a ton of variations on the classic recipe. Regardless, stroopwafels are a delicious substitution that completely transforms s'mores. Instead of getting a mouthful of dry, crumbly graham crackers, you are rewarded with a soft, slightly gooey treat packed with flavor.

Hailing from the Netherlands, stroopwafels are the ultimate confection. These delightful cookies are made with a thin layer of delectable caramel sandwiched by two delicately thin waffle-like wafers. Shaped into small rounds, they are the perfect size for heating over a cup of steaming coffee, or, for making s'mores. Not only do they have a ton more flavor than graham crackers, but they are much softer, especially when layered with a hot roasted marshmallow. Mini Belgian waffles, vanilla cookies, or even cookies made in a waffle iron also make nice substitutes for graham crackers. Still, once you try stroopwafels, you may never make s'mores without them again.