Just hide the box afterward and no one will be the wiser.

By Jessica Furniss
January 20, 2021
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Most people have never made brownies from scratch for one simple reason: The boxed mixes are so easy and taste almost as good! However, if you want the convenience of a boxed mix but crave the richer flavor and fudgier texture of homemade brownies, these six easy boxed brownie hacks are just what you're looking for.

1. Use melted butter instead of oil.

Most boxed mixes call for vegetable oil, which gives brownies a lighter texture and more neutral flavor. To make them taste homemade, try substituting equal amounts of melted butter for the oil. This is my number one tip because the butter will add a richness both in flavor and texture. I mean, who doesn't want more decadent brownies?

2. Use milk, flavored creamers, or brewed coffee instead of water.

flavored coffee creamers
Credit: Jessica Furniss

Sticking with the theme of richer flavored brownies, using milk instead of water is an absolute MUST. The fat from the milk adds flavor and fudgy texture that water just can't achieve.

If you want to add even more flavor, use one of your favorite flavored coffee creamers instead of water or milk. Just imagine a hazelnut creamer paired with a Nutella swirl mix-in or maybe a Southern butter pecan creamer paired with some toasted pecans as a mix-in. The combo possibilities are endless!

Coffee also works as a great substitute for water because the sharp, bitter flavor of coffee will bring out the dark chocolate flavor of the brownies even more. Just make sure your coffee has cooled to room temperature before adding it to your batter.

stack of homemade brownies from brownie mix
Credit: Photo by Jessica Furniss

3. Add extracts or flavorings.

One of the most special things about made-from-scratch desserts is the ability to add a "secret ingredient" that can become your signature. As you read this, you can probably think of a recipe that your grandma made that only tasted right when she made it. It's very possible that her secret ingredient was an extract or flavoring!

A teaspoon of almond extract can give your brownies a charming old-fashioned flavor. Rum extract can work really well for a holiday flavor boost. And the classic vanilla extract works with pretty much any other element you might add.

4. Add mix-ins like cookies and candies.

candies, nuts, and sprinkles
Credit: Jessica Furniss

This is the part where you can let your creativity shine! 

Cookies, candies, and nuts make especially great add-ins. Oreos, mini peanut butter cups, candy sprinkles, mini Snickers bars, pecans, walnuts… just imagine all the possibilities! Add these pieces to your mixed batter and incorporate gently.

swirling peanut butter into brownie mix
Credit: Jessica Furniss

And let's not forget swirls! Peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, Nutella, caramel sauce, or white or dark chocolate fudge all make great additions when swirled into the batter. To swirl you'll make your brownies as usual then pour them into your baking dish then add dollops of the sauce you want to swirl in. Then drag a knife gently through the circles creating a line.

5. Underbake, just slightly.

homemade brownies sliced into squares
Credit: Jessica Furniss

Don't worry, I'm not telling you to eat raw brownies. But, to get that rich, decadent homemade brownie goodness, one of the best things you can do is pull them out of the oven 4 to 5 minutes earlier than you usually would. Even if you follow none of the other tips, this one alone will give you exceptionally gooey, melt-in-your-mouth brownies results. Trust me!

6. Toppings

homemade brownies topped with chopped candy bars and caramel sauce
Credit: Jessica Furniss

Everything that's a mix-in can also be a topping, but there are a lot more topping options too! Sprinkles, chocolate or caramel sauces, a sprinkle of flaky salt, and mini M & M's candies are all great toppings to add once the brownies have cooled. 

Plus, there are great toppings to add right when the brownies come out of the oven. Marshmallows added while the brownies are hot will melt just enough to create a great s'mores brownie. Andes mints or peppermint patties will give you a melty, gooey mint brownie. A sprinkle of chocolate chips added while the brownies are warm can then be spread once they melt and act as a quick ganache.

My Favorite Mix-Ins and Toppings

Pecan caramel brownies:

  • Substitute southern pecan coffee creamer for the water
  • Add in pecans and a tsp of rum extract
  • After they cook, I like to add a little caramel sauce and pecans on top

Peanut butter brownies:

  • Substitute French vanilla coffee creamer for the water
  • Add in pieces of mini peanut butter cups
  • Add dollops of creamy peanut butter to make your peanut butter swirl
  • Add some more mini peanut butter cups on top after they've cooled

Snickers brownies:

  • Substitute whole milk for the water
  • Add pieces of mini Snickers to the batter
  • Add 1 tsp of vanilla extract to the batter
  • Top baked brownies with extra pieces of mini Snickers and caramel sauce

You can use as many or as few of these tips as you like. However you choose to dress up your boxed brownies, you really can't go wrong!

Want to make brownies from scratch? Check out our homemade brownie recipes.

This story originally appeared on allrecipes.com