All dozen were delicious, but a few really stood out.
There is no bad time for brownies. In fact, all events and seasons are perfect for brownies, from tailgates and birthday parties to office farewells and neighborhood potlucks. And while mixing your own homemade brownies isn't terribly complicated or time-consuming, boxed mixes make this process even easier when you're in a hurry or just want to bake a batch without bothering with measuring cups and spoons.
Another great thing about boxed brownie mixes? You can bake them as they are, right from the box, but you can also dress them up with lots of mix-ins—chocolate chips, marshmallows, walnuts, sprinkles, and so on. You just need to make sure you start with a fantastic pan of brownies. So we tried a dozen mixes to find the best one. Did your favorite make the list?
How We Tested
I made each brownie mix according to the recipe instructions on the package. This included oven temperature, size of pan, and any additional ingredients (eggs and oil, mostly). Most brownie mixes baked at 325°F or 350°F, but a few were baked higher, at 400°F. Most also required an 8- x 8-inch or 9- x 9-inch square pan; a few were "family size" mixes and baked in a 13- by 9-inch pan. A few packages went so far as to suggest different baking times based on the type of metal pan you're using or if you used glass or ceramic. I cooked to the minimum bake time, and then used my skills as an experienced home baker to bake the brownies to the right level of doneness.
I then recruited my family—grandmother, mother, father, uncle, brother, sister-in-law, and 2-year-old niece—to test all 12 brownies with me. After all testers tried the 12 brownies, we discussed each one, and I took notes. I used this feedback to rank the boxed brownie mixes. Two rose to the top.
How We Judged
I conducted a blind taste test: I gave the testers a piece of each brownie, but I did not tell them the brands. I asked them to rank the brownies on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best rating and 1 being the lowest.
When they were tasting the brownies, I asked them to consider three important elements of brownies:
Chocolate flavor: Is this brownie chocolatey enough? Can you taste the chocolate or cocoa powder? Or is it mostly sugary sweet?
Texture: Brownies should be dense, but they range on a spectrum from cakey to fudgy. Is the brownie soft? Or have they baked to crispy pieces?
Overall flavor: Are these brownies sweet, too sweet, just right? How is the sweetness balanced by the other flavors? Can you taste any salt?
What did we not include? Any mixes with nuts, sauces, stir-ins, or frostings. We kept the testing selection narrowed to classic brownie mixes.
Boxed Brownie Mixes We Tried
I shopped grocery stores (Publix, Walmart, and Target) for name-brand and store-brand mixes. I also shopped at Whole Foods for their store-brand mix and other mixes available there but not other stores. Here are the ones we tried:
Miss Jones Double Chocolate Brownie Baking Mix
This 100% whole grain brownie mix is chewy and dense. It got high marks for its overall texture and intense chocolate flavor. It had bits of sugary crystals in the baked brownies, which made them seem more decadent than they are. (The bag touts this mix has 50 percent less sugar—it's made with cane sugar, chicory root fiber, tapioca syrup, and monkfruit extract). But even for people who like dark chocolate flavors, these brownies edged on bitter and sharp.
Whole Foods Market 365 Fudge Brownie Baking Mix
If you like the delicately flaky top crust that sometimes bakes on brownies, this is the mix for you. These brownies were chewy and toothsome, but they bordered on gummy. Some testers said they didn't taste much true chocolate flavor, but they weren't overly sweet, which was a nice balance to some of the other sickly sweet mixes.
Simple Mills Almond Flour Brownie Baking Mix
Here's a secret about gluten-free brownies: They can be and often are just as good as classic brownies because brownies can easily be made with gluten-free flours or no flour at all without compromising texture and flavor. Testers called these brownies "nutty," which may be because they use almond flour. They also liked the balance of chocolate flavor and sweetness. But the texture was described as "gritty" and "grainy."
Kodiak Cakes Protein-Packed Brownie Mix
If you like to pack a little healthfulness into your baked treats, the Kodiak Cakes brand is probably on your radar already. They make baking mixes and frozen waffles, flapjacks, and pancakes. These brownies, like the Miss Jones mix, are made with whole grains, and they pack a whopping eight grams of protein per serving. But if we're talking flavor, these didn't get a lot of thumbs up. The flavor was lacking; one said it was missing entirely. They were chewy and dense, which was a positive, but for all its health halos, these just weren't worth the work.
Krusteaz Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Brownie Mix
If you love an intense chocolate flavor, these brownies deliver, and the texture is dreamy: chewy and dense without being gummy or thick. However, each bite had an obvious graininess that couldn't be overlooked.
White Lily Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix
We love White Lily flour, as most Southerners do, so we were thrilled to see two new brownie mixes from this iconic baking brand. And while the brownies had a great chocolate-sugar balance, they were nearly too hard to eat (I broke the spatula taking these out of the pan). If you like the outer edges of brownies when they overbake, these might be the ones for you. But for us, we kept looking.
Betty Crocker Milk Chocolate Brownie Mix
If my niece is to be believed, these brownies are by far the best—and we did have really good things to say about them. They have a great chewy, fudgy texture with the flaky top crust that signals a good brownie. But this mix didn't bake up as well as we'd hoped. Even the edges didn't get very crisp. These are a true milk chocolate flavor, too. It's more sweet than many of the others, as you're not going to get a deep cocoa flavor.
Great Value Fudge Brownie Mix
This mix can be made in a 13"x9" or 8"x8" pan, which will probably result in very different brownies. We went with the square pan option, so these brownies were thick and tall. If you like thinner brownies, go for the larger pan size. They had a nice hint of salt, too, which was a welcome relief among so many overly sweet options. But we were a little underwhelmed with the chocolate flavor. For something called "fudge" mix, a richer flavor was expected.
Whole Foods Market 365 Gluten-Free Fudge Brownie Mix
We loved the first few bites of these gluten-free brownies, and the taste was strong with chocolate and a nice hint of salt. But we were left with an odd bitterness and powdery feeling in our mouths after eating the testing pieces.
Pillsbury Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix
If you have a crowd to serve, this is the option to reach for as it's a family size mix and bakes in a 13"x9" pan. It was also our second favorite brownie mix over all. The edges bake up crisp while the center is fudgy and rich. One tester said it had the "perfect sweetness," as others said the chocolate was dominant without being bitter or overpowering. We also said this was the ideal brownie for an ice cream sundae as the brownie was thinner and wouldn't overwhelm a scoop.
The Winners, Please
Best Gluten-Free Brownie Mix: Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Chocolate Brownies
No one guessed these were gluten-free brownies, which proves my point about how easily brownies can be made gluten-free. They had a texture that hit the perfect balance between caky and fudgy. The testers were also fans of the chocolate flavor calling it "really chocolaty" and "not too bitter."
Best Overall: Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Premium Brownie Mix
The top brownie mix won't surprise anyone who has tried this brand. These were way ahead of their competitors. In fact, I bake these brownies all the time and pass them off as homemade (or at least I don't volunteer that they're boxed). There's a nice bitter chocolate flavor that's blunted perfectly by the brownies' delicate sweetness. The crust has that dreamy flaky texture, and the center pieces were chewy, fudgy, and dense. This mix has chocolate chips in it for an extra bit of goodness.
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