The Best Store-Bought Boxed Brownie Mixes, Tested by Food Network Kitchen
Over a dozen mixes went head-to-head. These are the ones that came out on top.
Brownies are a top 5 favorite treat for sure. Always chocolatey, they can be cakey, rich and fudgy or chewy. They hold their own no matter what you mix into them —nuts, cookie pieces, candies or my all-time favorite: chocolate chips. They can be left plain, iced, frosted or served warm with a generous scoop of melting ice cream on top. Making homemade brownies is pretty straight-forward, but keeping a boxed mix on hand for emergencies is always a good idea (chocolate emergencies are REAL people!) However, baking aisles are stocked full of an abundance of varieties and flavors. How does a Chocolate Fudge mix compare to a Dark Chocolate or a Chocolate Supreme one?
Determined to sort out brownie bliss from brownie miss, I ordered, bought and baked over 14 different mixes to find the best of the best. Below are my findings, along with my testing notes and other details since taste is subjective. Keep reading to see if your go-to variety made the cut.
My vote for best boxed brownie mix came down to a split decision. I found Ghirardelli's Dark Chocolate Premium Brownie Mix and Betty Crocker’s Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix to be equally rich and chocolaty. Their edges were chewy and their interiors were adequately soft and fudgy without tasting raw. In regards to the Ghirardelli mix, it yielded brownies that tasted the closest to freshly baked homemade ones and had the added bonus of stirred in chocolate chips for a secondary hit of chocolate. Their flavor was very pure and my mouth wasn’t left feeling like it was coated in sugar, either. Simply put: they were just delicious!
This mix was a little less intense than the Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate one. It was also a little sweeter with a distinct vanilla flavor. Some tasters preferred these brownies over the Ghirardelli ones because they were less rich and they were able to eat a few without feeling too stuffed afterwards. In terms of texture and flavor, these brownie had more of a bake sale vibe than a homemade one, but were still very tasty.
These brownies were a cross between a lava cake and brownie and were incredibly decadent. The boxed mix comes with two packets to stir into the batter — one with chocolate chips and one with fudge — and only calls for 1 egg, which helps keep the resulting brownies super dense. The baked brownies were pretty and inviting with a dark brown color, a few cracks and an evenly crackled top.
These brownies hit the perfect balance of flavor and texture and visually reminded me of those little squares of bliss you usually find individually wrapped at every bake sale. The baked brownies had a dark brown, shiny and crackly top. They had big, chewy edges and were slightly fudgy in the middle without being overly wet or oily. They were also chocolaty enough to be fully satisfying, but not so intense to make it hard to eat a big square. There was a touch of that boxed mix flavor to them, but it made them taste familiar and only added to their overall charm.
These brownies had a rich dark brown color and were very, very moist. The edges were nicely chewy, and a spoon could easily break through them when they were topped with a hefty scoop of melting ice cream, chocolate sauce and whipped cream. When eaten without the ice cream, I noted hints of vanilla, but it wasn't strong enough to overtake the chocolate flavor of the brownies.
I don’t always like to break gluten-free offerings into their own category, but this mix did stand apart in terms of the texture and structure of the brownies yielded. The mix utilizes a rice flour base, which gave the brownies a slightly sandy texture. The box instructions call for butter rather than oil (unless you’re making them dairy-free) which really added a nice richness that boosted the chocolate flavor. The brownies were dark and decadent and their interiors were dense and fudgy. They also had a cakey look to them. I gifted the extras to a friend who eats gluten-free and just welcomed her second baby, and she was in chocolate heaven!
How We Tested:
I tested out 14 different brownie mixes overall. Each one was prepared according to its package directions and baked in a 9x13 or 8x8-size pan. If the package listed baking instructions for both cakey and fudgy brownies, I chose the fudgy option. The baked brownies were all evaluated on the same day that they were baked, since brownies can stale quickly.
When judging each brownie, the main considerations I focused on were texture and flavor. In regards to the overall flavor of each one, I considered the balance of sugar and chocolate. Did it taste like chocolate or cocoa? Was it mostly sweet, with an artificial aftertaste? Did they taste oily?
When it came to the texture of each baked brownie, I focused largely on whether the edges were chewy or hard. Were the centers fudgy or similar to unbaked batter? Did the top develop a hard crust or have a soft, sugary wrinkled layer? Lastly, when cut, did the brownie hold together?