Brownies are my thing and this Better Than Box Mix Brownies Recipe is really really good! They are perfectly chewy and moist and rich with intense cocoa flavour and a shiny crust. The recipe is so easy to prepare that you'll never want to buy a box mix again. Homemade brownies are always better than boxed, even those Ghirardelli brownies - they are better, I promise. Since this recipe mimics a box mix, it uses cocoa in the batter instead of melted chocolate. There's no oil and no water, just pure buttery cocoa goodness.
WHY YOU WILL LOVE THIS RECIPE
- Shiny top brownies - yes, you can achieve that quintessential shiny crinkle crust on top of your brownies even when you make them from scratch! It's all about science, so be sure to read my tips below to make sure you use the right technique to get that glossy top.
- Easy recipe, No mixer - My recipe for Better Than Box Mix Brownies is not complicated. No corn starch, no extra egg yolks, no corn syrup - it uses just basic ingredients with some thought-out science and technique.
- Soft & chewy texture - box mix brownies are know for their softer and chewier texture. That's because they don't have melted chocolate which has cocoa butter in it (a harder fat than butter).
- Cocoa brownies - just like a box mix, these brownies are made with cocoa powder and added fat instead of melted chocolate. But you know what? Say goodbye to hydrogenated fats and the added oil! Oil makes brownies with a greasy texture and I don't like the flavor. We are using butter!
- Homemade fudgy chocolate brownies - these have a chewy and melting fudgy texture. They are not cakey at all and they have intense chocolate taste.
I am the chocolate queen and what better dessert is there than brownies to completely indulge in chocolate? I almost ALWAYS make brownies with melted chocolate because that gives the best fudgy texture. It's my preference. But SO many people love the boxed brownie mixes that you can buy at the supermarket... And did you know that I developed some of those products for some brands? That's me! Your favourite Food Scientist 😉
- Cocoa powder - get your hands on some good cocoa powder! It’s the main flavor in these brownies and you want it to shine so use the best you can find. I love to use this Dutch Process cocoa powder for most chocolate recipes, and natural cocoa (un-alkalized) is also recommended for its fruity taste. Make sure you use unsweetened cocoa powder and not hot cocoa mix.
- Pure vanilla extract - vanilla plays a big role in enhancing the flavor of the chocolate. I like this Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla extract.
- Salted butter - I love salted butter for this recipe (it's one of my secret ingredients!). Salted butter has a richer dairy taste, almost like cultured butter, so it will enhance the taste of the cocoa. You can also use unsalted butter, and in that case you should double the amount of added salt.
- Granulated sugar - simple fine white granulated sugar keeps these brownies moist. It also dissolve more easily than brown sugar to give you that shiny top. I do not recommend reducing the sugar in this recipe or they will not have the same moist and fudgy texture and they may not have the shiny top.
- Icing sugar - this is my secret for the best homemade box mix-style brownies. Icing sugar or powdered sugar will dissolve very quickly and easily in the moisture from the eggs to ensure you get that shiny top. Remember - shiny and glossy is caused by dissolved sugars!
- Eggs - 2 whole eggs will provide majority of the structure in these brownies.
- Dark chocolate chips - this is optional, but I really like to add chocolate chips to cocoa brownies. It's also just like the popular Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate brownie mix! These bittersweet chocolate callets are very convenient and really rich.
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS
- STEP 1.) Melt butter with cocoa. Heat butter in a saucepan until completely melted and very hot (it will start crackling). Remove from heat and whisk in icing sugar, cocoa powder and salt until smooth.
- STEP 2.) Beat eggs with sugar. Place eggs, granulated sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium-high speed for 3-4 minutes, until creamy and lemon-colored. You can also use a hand mixer for this.
- STEP 3.) Combine eggs and cocoa mixture. When the eggs are pale and thick, add the warm cocoa mixture and beat for 30 seconds until smooth and shiny.
- STEP 4.) Add dry ingredients. Add the flour and mix it in. It should be smooth and glossy, like thick hot fudge. Fold in chocolate chips.
- STEP 5.) Bake. Pour the batter into your prepared pan bake for 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached. Make sure you do not over-bake these or they will be dry. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let brownies cool completely in the pan. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before lifting out and cutting into squares.
EXPERT BAKING TIPS
- Use salted butter! Salted butter has a savory richness that really elevates and carries the cocoa flavor. Cocoa has no sugar or salt in it, so without a rich flavor carrier it can be rather unexciting. Use salted butter and see the difference yourself!
- Use a mixer. You can use a stand mixer or a hand mixer, but I do recommend using one since it will ensure that the sugar fully dissolved in the eggs for that shiny top.
- Invest in high quality cocoa powder. This is where it counts. I love to use a mild Dutch cocoa or Natural cocoa for this recipe. I would not recommend black or onyx cocoa, such as Hershey's Black Cocoa.
What is the best cocoa for making better than box mix brownies?
You can use a light Dutch cocoa powder or natural cocoa powder for this recipe. In fact I love to use Natural (unalkalized) cocoa here - it has fruity, floral and acidic notes and is more complex than Dutch cocoa. Although Dutch cocoa (alkalized cocoa) has a darker color due to the alkalizing process, it does not always mean that it has more flavor.
What is Dutch Process cocoa powder?
Dutch processing is a method of treating cocoa with an alkalizing agent to alter the chemical composition. This process enhances color, making deep red tones and black cocoa. However this also raises the pH and affects the taste. Generally, the higher the pH, the darker (more black/brown) the cocoa becomes.
The alkalinity of dark cocoa also makes these cookies crispy on the edges. At high pH, caramelization reactions happen faster so that sugar will cook quicker. It also means that the dough will set more slowly so that they will spread slightly more.
How do I make brownies with a fudgy texture?
Make sure the sugar is well dissolved because dissolved sugar will bind the moisture more tightly to keep it locked in. Also, make sure you never over-bake brownies. Check them after 20 minutes and then keep checking until the skewer comes out with a few sticky crumbs attached.
How do I make brownies with a chewy texture?
Use melted butter + cocoa powder. Butter is soft and pliable at room temperature with creates a more flexible and chewy texture. Also, sometimes you might not have chocolate around the house (what's the matter with you!!). But you might have cocoa powder and it's nice to have a recipe for each occasion.
How do I make brownies with a shiny crinkle top?
It comes down to finely dissolved sugar which is why this recipe uses a portion of icing sugar. Eggs are the main source of liquid in a brownie recipe, so it's important to whip the eggs with sugar to help dissolve it further. This will also create a bit of a foam which will help to create a softer-textured brownie.
These brownies are better than boxed mix brownies - that's a promise! Make them and tell me what you think. Will you buy a box mix ever again?
If you love brownies, check out all my other brownie recipes on this site below!Buckeye Peanut Butter Fudge BrowniesOutrageous Fudgy Chocolate Chip Cheesecake BrowniesPeanut Butter Cheesecake Swirl BrowniesHomemade Chewy Cosmic BrowniesThe BEST Small Batch Chocolate Fudge BrowniesPerfect Shiny Crust Fudge BrowniesTriple Chocolate Truffle Brownies
Better Than Box Mix Brownies Recipe
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8x8-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang at all sides.
- Place eggs, granulated sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium-high speed for 3-4 minutes, until creamy and lemon-coloured. You can also use a hand mixer for this.
- Meanwhile, heat butter in a saucepan until completely melted and very hot (it will start crackling). Remove from heat and whisk in icing sugar, cocoa powder and salt until smooth.
- When the eggs are pale and thick, add the warm cocoa mixture and beat for 30 seconds until smooth and shiny. Add the flour and mix it in. It should be smooth and glossy, like thick hot fudge. Fold in chocolate chips.
- Pour the batter into your prepared pan bake for 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached. Make sure you do not over-bake these or they will be dry. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let brownies cool completely in the pan. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before lifting out and cutting into squares.