As someone who is often described as a food snob, I have a surprising hot take: boxed brownies are just as good as brownies made from scratch, if not better. There, I said it. Don’t get me wrong, I love a fudgy, homemade brownie, but honestly, it isn’t that much tastier than a reliable boxed brownie mix. That said, just because you use a boxed mix doesn’t mean you can’t add a little flair to make them feel more delicious. Here are seven easy ways I dress up a box of brownies when the craving strikes.
1. Switch the Liquid
Switch up the liquid for something more flavorful—boxed brownie mixes typically call for water. Skip the water and swap it with coffee, milk, coconut milk, or even red wine to add flavor and dimension to your standard boxed brownies. Use the same amount of liquid of choice in place of the water called for on the back of the box.
2. Swirl It Up!
Think Nutella, peanut butter, caramel, cream cheese, or some combination of all four. Add a few dollops of your favorite spread on top of the prepared brownie batter, and use a knife to create a marbled effect before baking. I’ve been dreaming of brownies topped with swirls of peanut butter and good old-fashioned marshmallow fluff! To make it easier to swirl the ingredients into the batter, you can heat them slightly in the microwave, which makes them more fluid.
3. Add an Egg Yolk or Two
I know, I know, the price of eggs is very, very, very high these days, but considering most homemade brownie recipes worth their salt call for at least four eggs, adding in one or two egg yolks on top of what the box calls for is still more cost-efficient than buying, say, the chocolate needed to make good brownies from scratch. The extra egg yolks will give your brownies a fudgier texture.
4. Salt + Chocolate = BFFs
This is the easiest way to upgrade boxed brownies. Salt enhances the natural flavors and sweetness in chocolate and suppresses its bitterness. Sprinkle a few pinches of flaky salt on top of the brownie batter before baking.
5. Use a Flavorful Fat
You can swap the flavorless canola oil called for in most boxed mixes for a fruity olive oil or coconut oil—both complement the flavor of chocolate. If the box instructions call for melted butter, brown it first to add rich, nuttiness.
6. Top It With More Chocolate
When in doubt, top the brownies with ganache, an easy chocolate glaze made with melted chocolate and heavy cream. I was lucky enough to learn this advice early on in life: ganache can make almost everything better, including a box of brownies! You can make a simple ganache, chill it until it’s slightly firm and has the texture of a smooth nut butter, and spread it on top of cooled brownies before cutting and serving.
7. Add Some Fruit
I love folding fresh raspberries or strawberries to the batter before baking. Something about the combination of dark chocolate and sweet, tart berries just works. You could use a nice fruit jam instead; dollop a couple of tablespoons on top of the brownie batter and swirl it in before baking. It’ll be easier to swirl if it’s at room temperature or slightly warmed (in the microwave).