Everyone loves an easy fudgy brownie, but sometimes your favorite box mix could use a little extra help to get there. In this article, we'll explore how to make box brownies better, and tips to bake the perfect brownie, starting with making better batter.
From adding in extra ingredients to adjusting the baking time, these boxed brownie hacks will transform your basic box mix into a mouth-watering masterpiece.
- Choosing the Right Box Brownie Mix
- Brownie Baking Techniques (Tips)
- Upgrading Ingredients
- 1. Use Real Butter or Browned Butter
- 2. Enhance with Salt
- 3. Swap Out the Eggs
- 4. Use Specialty Chocolate
- 5. Go Nuts or Nib it Up
- 6. Incorporate Fruit
- 7. Experiment with Spices
- 8. Use Cream or Buttermilk
- 9. Swap Water for Wine
- 10. Add an Extra Splash of Vanilla
- 11. Use Coffee or Espresso
- 12. Increase the Cocoa Powder
- 13. Introduce Caramel
- 14. Combine Different Baking Chips
- 15. Include Layers
- 16. Swirl in a Cheesecake
- 17. Top With Candy & Color
- About this recipe
- How to make box brownies better: step-by-step instructions
- Recipe notes & tips
- Lazy Girl Brownies Recipe Card
- 📖 Recipe
- How to Make Box Brownies Better
Choosing the Right Box Brownie Mix
Choosing the right boxed brownie mix is the first step in making delicious brownies. With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to know which one to choose.
I've tried a dozen easily-available brownie mixes from Giant and Whole Foods, and found that it pays dividends to spend a bit more for premium brownie mix. Here are my top tips to help you select the best box brownie mix for your particular tastes.
Read the Ingredients List
Take a look at the ingredients list on the box. Look for a mix that has high-quality ingredients like natural cocoa powder and real chocolate, both of which will result in a richer final flavor. Avoid mixes that contain artificial flavors and colors, or powdered fats.
Consider the Type of Brownie You Want
Before you get to baking, think about the type of brownies you want to make. If you prefer a more cake-like brownie, look for a mix that calls for more eggs and less oil. For a chewier brownie, look for a mix that calls for more oil or fat and fewer eggs.
Some brownie mixes are even marketed as cakey, while others are labeled as chewy or fudgy, so just choose a mix that aligns with your preferences at the time.
Check the Expiration Date
Make sure to check the expiration date on the box, particularly if you found it in the sale bin or in the back of the pantry. Using an expired mix can result in brownies that don't rise properly or have a strange taste.
Choose a Mix that Fits Your Dietary Needs
If you have dietary restrictions, look for a mix that fits your needs. There are many options available for gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, and vegan brownie mixes. Though there are also plenty of ways to work around those restrictions with pre-made mixes, as long as a true allergy isn't involved.
Remember, experimenting and having fun in the kitchen is part of the joy of baking. Just keep in mind that adding extra ingredients can affect the baking time and texture of the brownies, so be sure to adjust accordingly.
For example, adding extra liquid may require a longer baking time, while adding nuts or a nut butter may make box brownies more chewy.
Brownie Baking Techniques (Tips)
Choose the Right Pan
Select the appropriate pan size; it's usually mentioned on the brownie mix box. If you're not sure, a good rule of thumb is to use a 9×13" baking pan for larger batches and an 8×8" or 9×9" pan for smaller batches.
For a more cakey texture, use a glass or light-colored metal pan, and for a chewier texture, use a dark, non-stick pan or one lined with foil.
Adjust Oven Temperature
Preheat your oven before baking brownies, and generally before even preparing the mix. Your box may even say this, but you'll need to lower the oven temperature by 25°F if using a dark, non-stick pan.
However, for a cake-like texture, increase the baking temperature by 25°F without exceeding the recommended baking time.
Test for Doneness
Monitor the baking time closely and test the brownies a few minutes before the recommended time. Use a toothpick or fork to see if the center is baked properly, and don't keep the oven door open for more than 10 seconds.
The brownies are done when the edges are slightly crisp and the center is moist but not liquid. Avoid overbaking, as it can cause dryness, and be careful of added ingredients obscuring doneness (like chocolate chips making a cake seem underdone when it's just right).
Serve brownies with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream to complement the brownie's texture and taste. My favorites are either honeycomb vanilla ice cream or a classic mint chocolate chip, though mixing it up with a scoop of earl grey or pistachio ice cream can be a real game-changer.
Pair brownies with fresh berries or a fruit puree for a more sophisticated presentation and a contrasting fruity flavor.
1. Use Real Butter or Browned Butter
Substitute the oil called for in the boxed brownie mix with an equal amount of melted real butter. This will add a richer, creamier taste and improve the texture of your final brownies, making them taste more homemade.
You could even take it up a notch by using heavy cream or browned butter in place of the oil, which adds a slightly nutty, caramel-like flavor to your brownies.
2. Enhance with Salt
Adding a pinch of salt to the brownie mix can help balance the sweetness and enhance the overall flavor of the brownies. You can also sprinkle some flaky sea salt on top just before baking, giving them a gourmet touch.
Switching up the type of salt you use in your brownie mix can also add a new dimension of flavor— try using smoked salt or flavored salt to give your brownies a unique taste.
3. Swap Out the Eggs
To make your brownies more cakey, add an extra egg or egg substitute to the mix. This will increase the overall volume and create a lighter, fluffier texture. For chewier brownies, use one less egg than the box instructions call for, which will result in denser, fudgier treats.
4. Use Specialty Chocolate
Enhance the chocolate flavor by adding chocolate chips, chunks, or grated specialty chocolate to the mix. Dark, milk, or white chocolate are all great choices, or even a combination of flavors for added complexity.
When you use white chocolate on top, it will even caramelize in the open to become blonde chocolate, whose crunchy caramel flavor is hard to beat.
5. Go Nuts or Nib it Up
For a simple textural addition, mix in a variety of nuts or even cacao nibs to your brownie batter. Chopped pecans, walnuts, or almonds will add crunch and flavor, while pistachios or even pili nuts will add a crunchy, decadent fattiness to the final brownies.
6. Incorporate Fruit
Adding fruits to box brownie mix can give them a fresher flavor. Stir in chopped cherries, raspberries, or raisins for a fruity twist; you can even use the dried, pureed, or frozen versions, if they're out-of-season.
Just mix them into the batter or sprinkle them on top before baking, or add them as part of the decoration afterwards. Some ideas include pumpkin puree, raspberry jam, and even cherry or grape jelly.
7. Experiment with Spices
Adding spices or extracts to your brownie mix can give them a unique flavor. Consider adding cinnamon, nutmeg, or peppermint oil to your brownie batter. You can even try adding a pinch of cayenne pepper for a spicy kick.
8. Use Cream or Buttermilk
Replace the water called-for in your box brownies with cream, buttermilk, or whole milk for more moisture and an improved taste.
9. Swap Water for Wine
Swapping water for wine can give your brownies a more sophisticated depth of flavor. Red wine pairs particularly well with chocolate, though white wine would work in a pinch, and result in somewhat lighter brownies. And don't worry; the alcohol will cook out.
10. Add an Extra Splash of Vanilla
Most recipes for homemade brownies call for the addition of some vanilla extract, but at best, most box brownie mixes contain a bit of natural vanilla flavor. Adding a splash of vanilla extract, or even just a bit more than called-for, will enhance the chocolate flavor.
11. Use Coffee or Espresso
Heighten the chocolate flavor in your brownies by adding instant coffee or espresso powder to the batter. But don't worry about making them taste like mocha! Adding coffee will just emphasize and enhance the chocolatey flavor, not change it.
Simply add a tablespoon of instant coffee granules or a heavy shot of brewed coffee to your brownie batter.
12. Increase the Cocoa Powder
Adding extra cocoa powder to box brownie mix will make them more chocolatey, but it is important to balance it out with some extra liquid or oil.
When adding cocoa powder, make sure you don't add more than ⅓ cup extra per box of brownie mix, plus an equal amount of coffee, water, milk, or cream & a pinch of baking soda.
13. Introduce Caramel
Brownies can taste even more luxurious with a swirl of caramel or dulce de leche. Dollop it on top of the batter before baking, then use a knife to swirl it in for a marble cake effect.
14. Combine Different Baking Chips
Mix in different baking chips like white chocolate, dark chocolate, mint chocolate, or butterscotch chips to add texture and flavor to your brownies.
15. Include Layers
Create layers or drop on a thick topping to amp up the presentation & flavor of your brownies. Consider adding a layer of cookie dough or white chocolate disks for an indulgent dessert experience. Or top the tray with a chocolate ganache, caramel drizzle, or a dusting of powdered sugar for an extra dimension of sweetness.
- Chocolate ganache: melt 1 cup of chocolate chips with ½ cup heavy cream. Pour over the cooled brownies and let it set.
- Cream cheese frosting: beat 8 oz. of cream cheese with ½ cup of softened butter (1 stick), 2 cups of powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Spread over cooled brownies.
- Buttercream frosting: whip ½ cup softened butter with 2 cups of powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Add milk as needed to reach desired consistency, then spread over cooled brownies.
16. Swirl in a Cheesecake
Try adding a swirl of cheesecake batter, drops of cookie dough, or a dulce de leche design to make box brownies taste better and look more beautiful, especially if you don't plan to frost them or top them with anything else.
17. Top With Candy & Color
- Chocolate candies: sprinkle candy-coated chocolates or M&Ms over the top of your brownie batter before baking to make a colorful batch of M&M brownies with a milky twist.
- Crushed candy canes: crush candy canes and sprinkle the pieces over your cooled brownies to make peppermint bronwies.
- Chocolate mints: layer York peppermint patties or your favorite off-brand alternative over the top of your brownie batter before baking them, for chocolate mint brownies, my favorite when I was growing up..
- Colored sprinkles: add colored sprinkles to your frosting or icing for a fun pop of color, or even bake them directly into the brownies to make funfetti brownies.
About this recipe
Can Be Ready in 5 Minutes: no matter which mix you use, these box mix brownie hacks will still have your batter in the oven in under five minutes— just don't lick it right out of the bowl, no matter how unctuous it smells!
Kid-Friendly Creation: I've been making variations of box mix brownies since I was a kid, and I can indeed confirm that they're so easy even a 10-year-old can do it. Just remember to still offer supervision and help them get it out of the oven; the M&Ms are fun to decorate with, but they're hot enough to burn you fresh from the oven.
Which Box Mix to Use: In the US I like using the organic gluten-free stuff from Whole Foods, but whatever box mix you have will work. Just double-check that you're using a mix that's about 18oz, otherwise it won't work as well (you'll need to proportionally decrease the amount of each addition and alteration, based on the different proportions).
Favorite Box Brownie Mix: I really like the chewy results from Otto's grain-free brownie mix, but use anything you enjoy (or already have in the pantry).
Natural Cocoa Powder: this is not the same as dutch-processed cocoa powder, so if that’s all you have on hand, then you’ll want to add a teaspoon of baking powder to the dry ingredients. Natural cocoa powder has a more acidic & bitter flavor and a lighter color, and this difference is important for helping the sour cream chocolate cake rise.
Eggs: you could use a variety of egg alternatives to help make this cake vegan or allergen-friendly.
Unsalted Butter: you can also use butter-flavored coconut oil or vegan butter, but just make sure to use unsalted kinds so that you can control the saltiness level.
Coffee: contrary to popular belief, coffee actually enhances chocolate's flavor without becoming too obvious, itself. The result is an extra-fudgey, luxurious brownie.
Vanilla Extract: this adds balance to to the flavor of the cake. You can also use vanilla powder, if you want to avoid alcohol.
Chocolate Chips: mini-sized chocolate chips are preferred, but you can use any type you like most, or skip them altogether.
How to make box brownies better: step-by-step instructions
Step 1. Preheat your oven to the temperature specified on your brownie mix box. Then put everything in the bowl (except the chocolate disks if adding them to the top), and mix it all together well; this shouldn't take more than a minute.
Step 2. Line your baking dish with a large piece of wax paper, securing it to the dish with a swipe of butter if it keeps moving around. Scrape the batter into your baking dish, then put it into your preheated oven on the convection setting, and set a timer for the amount recommended on your box (usually 30-40 minutes).
Step 3. Check the brownies 5 minutes before they're supposed to be done, making sure the knife comes out clean when inserted into the pan. Then cut your brownies into 12 pieces and store in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Recipe notes & tips
Making it Vegan: use butter-flavored oils in place of the butter, and make sure to use an organic vegan chocolate. Otherwise, most box brownie mixes are vegan in their basic form (but double-check your boxes), so all you need to do is swap the eggs for applesauce or a chia egg.
Making a Glaze: you can use 1 cup of milk, dark, or white chocolate with ½ cup of cream to make a glaze for these brownies, but keep in mind that the sweeter the chocolate you use is, the more cream it may need to become fully liquid.
Easy Brownie Storage: treats made with these boxed brownie hacks can be kept for about 5 days in a gallon-sized ziploc bag, or for up to six months in the freezer (freeze the brownies with pieces of parchment paper in between for easy serving).
Lazy Girl Brownies Recipe Card
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How to Make Box Brownies Better
- 1 boxed brownie mix 18oz. is standard; reduce proportionally for smaller mixes
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- 2 eggs
- 1 stick butter melted
- ¼ cup espresso or brewed coffee
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract alt. ½ teaspoon vanilla powder
- ½ cup chocolate disks or chips for mixing or topping
- Preheat your oven to the temperature specified on your brownie mix box. Then put everything in the bowl (except the chocolate disks if adding them to the top), and mix it all together well; this shouldn't take more than a minute.
- Line your baking dish with a large piece of wax paper, securing it to the dish with a swipe of butter if it keeps moving around. Scrape the batter into your baking dish, then put it into your preheated oven on the convection setting, and set a timer for the amount recommended on your box (usually 30-40 minutes).
- Check the brownies 5 minutes before they're supposed to be done, making sure the knife comes out clean when inserted into the pan. Then cut your brownies into 12 pieces and store in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Making a Glaze: you can use 1 cup of milk, dark, or white chocolate with ½ cup of cream to make a glaze for these brownies, but keep in mind that the sweeter the chocolate you use is, the more cream it may need to become fully liquid. Alternately, you can swap the chips for sugar-free mint chips to make a mint chocolate glaze or frosting. Easy Brownie Storage: treats made with these boxed brownie hacks can be kept for about 5 days in a gallon-sized ziploc bag, or for up to six months in the freezer (freeze the brownies with pieces of parchment paper in between for easy serving).