The South's Most Beloved Appetizer Starts With A Sleeve Of Saltines

So simple, yet oh so delicious.

Alabama Fire Cracker Saltines
Photo: Kate Robertson

Sometimes an oven is like that mysterious black box on a magician's stage where odd things go in, and something far more delightful comes out. Ohhh. Ahhh. That happens when you put seasoned saltines in the oven and pull out the snazzy Fire Crackers a few minutes later. Ohhh. Ahhh.

What are Fire Crackers?

Fire Crackers, sometimes called Alabama Fire Crackers, are so easy that the recipe barely qualifies as baking. Just spread saltines on a sheet pan, drizzle on butter or oil, and a bevy of spices, including more red pepper flakes than seems prudent, yet their kick doesn't hurt much. The crackers will look too saturated initially, but they crisp up like champs during the bake.

How To Serve Fire Crackers?

Fire Crackers can be casual or fancy, depending on how you serve them. They are a robust side to soups, chilies, salads, and sandwiches—broken bits can pass for croutons. They are a killer party snack for guests to gobble by the handful alongside refreshing brews and beverages. A tin of these crackers makes a welcome hostess gift during summertime getaways. In some hometowns, baby and bridal showers feel incomplete without a tray of these crackers on the buffet.

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The ingredients are inexpensive and easy to find. You can substitute other crackers for the saltines. Contenders include buttery rounds and rectangles, thin wheat crackers, or those little cheese crackers the size of a postage stamp—pretty much any cracker can play well with the array of bold seasoning. The recipe is scalable, making it easy to halve or double down depending on your needs. It's wise to make more than you think you'll need because it helps make up for all you'll eat straight off the baking sheet as soon as they cool.

How To Make Fire Crackers


  • 16 oz. package of saltine crackers
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 4 Tbsp. (2 packages) ranch dressing mix
  • 3 Tbsp. red pepper flakes (if you can handle the heat, add more)
  • 2 cups olive oil


  1. Pour in the olive oil, seasonings, and spices using a large gallon Ziploc bag. Close the bag and knead to mix the ingredients thoroughly.
  2. Place all four sleeves of crackers in the bag, re-seal, and gently turn the bag over several times to coat the crackers with the spice mixture. The more times you do this, the better the coating.
  3. Let the bag sit overnight.
  4. Remove the crackers and lay them out on a baking sheet. Bake at 250°F for about 15 minutes. (Note: If you are short on time, the crackers still taste great when skipping the baking Step 4.)

No one knows the big bang moment of Fire Crackers, but they show the creative resourcefulness of home cooks who can doctor up a store-bought staple to transform it into a homemade treat. It's a recipe that spreads like wildfire through a family and circle of friends, popping up on the pages of community cookbooks across the South and then passed, pinned, and posted all over the place. We love these recipes. As Andy Griffith used to say, "Good cracker. Good cracker."

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