We’re all for making homemade brownies—whether they’re Ree Drummond’s skillet mocha brownies or her little brownie bites. But we’ll also be the first to admit that having a box of pre-packaged brownie mix in your pantry can do no harm. And with our easy tricks for how to make box brownies better, you’ll even have people thinking you made them completely from scratch!
As a kid, there was more than one occasion when I sprung it on my mother right before bed that we needed to make something for the school bake sale the very next morning. Before panic could kick in, my mom would always reach for a box of brownie mix to save the day. One thing I learned from Mom was that there’s nothing wrong with non-homemade brownies if it means you’ll get that warm-from-the-oven chocolate dessert in less time and with less clean up. Box brownies actually taste pretty good on their own, but there are ways to doctor them up and take that pre-made mix from pretty good to downright delicious.
Whether you’re in need of a quick bake sale treat or you simply don’t have the time or energy for a full baking project, a box of brownies is a convenient alternative to homemade, especially when you’re armed with these brownie mix hacks. To jazz up a box of brownie mix and make it your own, all you need is a good quality boxed mix and a handful of extra ingredients, some of which you may already have in your pantry closet. Ahead you’ll find tips for swapping ingredients, adding mix-ins, and even making your own fun toppings. Don’t worry—you’ll still have minimal cleanup and decadent brownies in under an hour.
Start With a Good Boxed Brownie Mix
What can I add to box brownies to make them better?
Add more chocolate.
It’s easy to bring even more chocolatey goodness to brownies when you throw in a handful of chocolate chips. Choose from semi-sweet, dark chocolate, white chocolate, or a combination of all three. You can even find morsels in different flavors, like peanut butter, mint, or cinnamon. For bigger chocolate chunks and more texture, chop up your favorite chocolate bar and mix it in with the batter.
Mix in fruit and nuts.
Give your brownies some more substance by adding walnuts, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, or any other nut you have in the pantry. Mix the chopped, toasted nuts into the batter for added crunch, then sprinkle some on top for a nice presentation. Along with the nuts, you can add dried fruit to the mix. Cranberries, raisins, or cherries would be great.
Use milk instead of water.
If your brownie mix calls for water as the liquid, consider swapping it out for something a litter richer and more flavorful, like milk or your favorite alternative milk.
Coffee and chocolate are like best friends—they bring out the best in each other. Adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of espresso powder or instant coffee (not coffee grounds) will intensify the chocolate flavor of the brownies. If you’re not a fan of coffee, don’t worry—it won’t actually make your brownies taste like coffee, but rather taste more like chocolate.
Use a dash of vanilla.
Ah, vanilla extract! It’s the key to making almost every baked good taste homemade. Adding a teaspoon of it to your batter won’t make it taste like vanilla, but it will give your brownies an extra layer of flavor. You can also swap the vanilla for something more potent, like almond extract or mint extract.
Give them a salty spin.
If you’re a fan of salty-sweet snacks, you’ll love finishing your brownies with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. The combination of salty and sweet will make your brownies feel more elevated. Looking for a fun twist on the contrasting flavors? Try finishing your brownies with salted pretzels or potato chips instead.
Top them with something festive.
After your brownies cool, add a layer of your favorite frosting (chocolate icing, vanilla buttercream frosting, or cream cheese frosting), then top them with shredded coconut, mini marshmallows, or sprinkles for a fun celebration.
Mix in candy.
Kids will love this one! Give your brownies some extra flavor by adding chopped candy bars to the mix. Whether it’s peanut butter cups, peppermint patties, or nutty chocolate bars, adding your leftover Halloween candy (or whatever holiday candy you have laying around) will make your brownies over-the-top good.
Finish with a scoop of ice cream.
There’s nothing better than a warm brownie ice cream sundae. Make any brownies taste better by adding a scoop of your favorite ice cream.
Give them a swirl.
Before baking, swirl the top of the brownie batter with caramel, Nutella, strawberry jam, or peanut butter for added flavor. Bonus: It looks pretty, too!
What is the secret to good brownies?
The perfect brownie is different for each and every person. Some people prefer their brownies soft and chewy while others like them cake-y and frosted. There really is no wrong answer. But no matter which style of brownie you prefer, we have a few tricks up our sleeve when it comes to baking delicious brownies every time.
Essential Tools You Need for Baking Successfully
What does an extra egg do to brownies?
If you take a look at the back of the box, you might notice some suggestions for altering your brownies, like adding an extra egg. The extra egg will make your brownies less fudgy and more cake-like. This is a personal preference, so if you like your brownies to have a cake-y texture, go ahead and add the extra egg, but be sure to follow the package instructions for other substitutions or changes to cook time.