Rich, fudgy, chewy, and full of chocolate flavor, there’s no saying no to brownies. These squares of decadent goodness have graced our kitchen counters, bake sale tables, and lunch boxes for decades. Though commercial brownie mixes hit grocery shelves as early as the 1950s, they didn’t pick up in popularity until the mid-70s and 80s. There’s no ignoring the convenience of these mixes, the problem is which is the best to choose from?
Nowadays, there’s no one flavor of brownie. Each brand has an array of options – supreme, double chocolate, fudge, and milk chocolate are just a few – I’m not even mentioning the specialty mix in varieties (caramel, walnut, peanut butter, etc). To really decide which brownie brand was best, we had to start from the evenest playing field possible. The closest, most neutral flavor of the brownie varieties was either chewy or supreme. Our categories for a brownie weren’t complicated but they were essential.
What We Looked For In A Boxed Brownie Mix
Chocolatey Flavor: How intense is the flavor? Is it deep and complex? Or is it weak and flat?
Chewiness/ Moisture: What is the brownie crumb like? Is it sticky and moist? Or is it dry and crumbly?
Price: Even if the mix was cheap, how much oil and eggs did you have to add to the batter?
Note: All of the brownies were baked in the same 9-by-9 ceramic dish and baked according to the manufacturers’ directions.
4. Pillsbury – For Thick, Big Brownies
Pillsbury beats its subsidiary Betty Crocker, but is it enough of a difference to be a game changer?
Chocolate Flavor: While these brownies had a chocolate flavor, they felt very one-sided and flat. It had a cocoa powder quality and didn’t have the deep complex flavor we’re always trying to find in chocolate desserts.
Chewiness/ Moisture: These were some of the drier brownies which were odd because they baked up to be one of the thicket brownies of the bunch. The brownie skin was pleasing and thick but the brownie itself was hard to eat with the assistance of milk.
Price: Its cheap price didn’t mean it was cheap on the mix-in ingredients requiring ⅔ cup of oil, a good splash of water, and several eggs.
$1.48 512g (1 pound 2.4 ounce/18.4 ounce) ¼ cup water, ⅔ cup oil, 2 eggs (extra ingredient cost $.79)
3. Ghirardelli – For The Best Brownie Skin
The luxury San Francisco brand is known for rich quality chocolate, but does the decadence translate into their line of brownie mixes?
Chocolatey Flavor: It had a mild chocolate flavor by any chocolate dessert standard, but it was one of the strongest of the bunch.
Chewiness Moisture: It had a little bit of a drier texture, especially on the top. For a stand-alone brownie, it felt like it needed something extra like chocolate sauce or ice cream to give it balance. But don’t misinterpret this as a bad thing! The brownie skin was a delicious crispy contrast to the fudge layers below.
Price: It used fewer ingredients, but it was one of the thinnest of the brownies made in the 9-by-9 and looked a little deflated.
$2.64 531g (1 pound 2.75 ounces/18.75 ounces) ¼ cup water, ⅓ cup vegetable oil, 1 egg (extra ingredient cost: $.40)
2. Betty Crocker – For A Beyond Belief Chewy Brownie
Betty Crocker has been around for a long time, it’s one of the oldest brands, so you’d think they’d have this brownie mix thing in the bag.
Chocolatey Flavor: It had one of the weakest chocolate flavors of the four brands tested. Other than its color, it was hard to tell by taste alone that there was any discernible chocolate flavor.
Chewiness/Moisture: While these brownies lacked chocolate flavor, they made up for it with a chewy, moist texture. It was chewy, but it was almost too chewy to a flawed degree. The texture of this brand had a taffy-like quality to it, it was more like eating a gum ball candy than an actual dessert.
Price: The price was average, though the price was higher, it required less mixing in ingredients. Though it was baked up in a 9-by-9, you’d want to bake it in an 8-by-8 or smaller, that way you get that thick, tall slab appearance.
$2.27 453g (1 pound/16 ounces) 3 tablespoons water, ⅓ cup oil, 1 egg (extra ingredient cost: $.40)
1. Duncan Hines – It Doesn’t Win The Beauty Pageant But It Wins The Flavor Category
Duncan Hines held onto a strong advertising campaign boasting that their batter was the smoothest among the brands, and they had irresistible moisture to them, but did it hold up today too?
Chocolatey Flavor: It definitely was lacking a chocolatey punch, if you looked at the brownie the placebo effect would kick in and you’d taste more chocolate. Though this variety of brownie mix was the chewy fudgy version, it still needed to have a little more oomph.
Chewiness/Moisture: While its appearance wasn’t the most show-stopping of the bunch, these brownies were one of the chewiest of the brownies. It had a moist, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth, need-a-cold-glass-of-milk chewy and fudgy texture that wasn’t gooey. With a high-fat content, these brownies kept their texture for longer, and they stayed moist even when chilled (these would be perfect for ice cream sandwiches).
Price: While the price was one the lowest, you had to add more oil and eggs than other brands.
$1.24 520g (1 pound 2.3 ounce/ 18.3 ounce) 3 tablespoons water, ⅔ cup oil, 2 eggs (extra ingredient cost $.79)