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As a person who would willingly make a batch of from-scratch brownies, I had to ask myself: Is a shortcut ever worth it? In my experience, homemade brownies are among the simpler baking tasks to master, plus, starting from scratch means you can control the quality of the chocolate and the texture, among other things. So I took it upon myself to taste-test all the boxed brands I could get my hands on, with the goal of finding the best brownie mix money can buy. Here, the fruits of my labor.

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Hold on—what makes a great brownie?

Here’s what I factor in for a truly excellent brownie, homemade or otherwise:

  • The texture. There are two kinds of brownie people in the word: Fudgy brownie people and cakey brownie people. While I respect differing opinions, I fall firmly in the fudgy camp—my ideal brownie borders on raw. Get that light, cakey stuff out of here. (Though, to be fair, I did include a cakey pick.)
  • The taste. In my humble opinion, brownies should be intensely chocolatey, but not so rich that you can only handle one bite. If the chocolate is too dark, it can verge on bitter, but if it’s not dark enough, the brownie will be too sweet. Like Goldilocks, I prefer things just right (read: somewhere in the middle).

Beyond those two essential qualities, I don’t have any hard and fast opinions. Mix-ins, while exciting, are not a necessity, and TBH, if they don’t add to the overall texture/flavor situation, I don’t want them (chocolate chips are a yes; nuts are a no).

best brownie mix
Katherine Gillen

Here’s how I conducted my taste-test:

With my ideal brownie in mind, I whittled my list down to 11 contenders, eliminating any boxes that contained extra mix-ins or strayed too far from classic chocolate flavor and fudgy texture. On the day of the big bake-off, I gathered my toolkit: a few cartons of large eggs; vegetable oil and butter; nonstick baking spray; and a mixing bowl, measuring cup, silicone spatula and whisk. While almost all of the brownie mixes included instructions for both glass and metal pans, I stuck with an 8-inch-by-8-inch nonstick pan for every batch. And if a box included instructions for fudgy or cakey brownies, you know I went the fudgy route. (It was also for consistency.)

And FYI, if I tested a mix and it *really* didn’t meet my expectations, I simply omitted it from the final results.

Our Favorite Brownie Mixes, at a Glance:

best brownie mix ghirardelli double chocolate brownie mix
Ghirardelli/Katherine Gillen

1. Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix

Favorite Overall

  • Value: 20/20
  • Quality: 20/20
  • Ease of Instructions: 20/20
  • Taste: 20/20
  • Texture: 20/20
  • Total: 100/100

If someone lied to me and said Ghirardelli’s Double Chocolate brownie mix was a batch of homemade brownies, I would unequivocally believe them (I know this because I’ve done it myself). They’re fudgy but not so much that you’d think they’re raw, and the inclusion of chocolate chips adds to the rich cocoa flavor. They’re not too sweet and not too bitter, and they have a gorgeous shiny, crackly top out of the oven. Seriously, I can’t find anything bad to say about these babies. Considering the quality of the chocolate isn’t a total mystery, it all makes sense.

Buy it ($2.39)

best brownie mix pillsbury chocolate fudge brownie mix
Pillsbury/Katherine Gillen

2. Pillsbury Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix

Most Nostalgic Tasting

  • Value: 18/20
  • Quality: 18/20
  • Ease of Instructions: 18/20
  • Taste: 18/20
  • Texture: 16/20
  • Total: 88/100

The appeal of Pillsbury’s Chocolate Fudge brownie mix lies in the fact that it tastes like a batch of brownies your third-grade BFF brought to share at lunch on her birthday circa 1998—cue the nostalgia. The thickest brownie of the bunch I tested, it tastes sweeter than most but with just enough chocolate flavor to keep it from being cloying. The texture walks a fine line between cakey and fudgy (I suspect you could shave off a few minutes of the baking time to get a gooier effect), making it an all-around crowd-pleaser. The mix is widely available and inexpensive, and it can be made in a variety of baking pans.

Buy it ($1.17)

best brownie mix aldi specially selected premium double chocolate brownie mix
Aldi/Katherine Gillen

3. Aldi Specially Selected Premium Brownie Mix

Best for Fudgy-Brownie Fans

  • Value: 19/20
  • Quality: 19/20
  • Ease of Instructions: 20/20
  • Taste: 17/20
  • Texture: 19/20
  • Total: 94/100

Aldi’s Specially Selected premium brownie mix is very gooey out of the pan, with a well-balanced chocolate taste and pleasantly fudgy texture. Like the Ghirardelli mix, it contains chocolate chips in the batter. In fact, it’s almost identical to the Ghirardelli mix, albeit not quite as rich or chocolatey. If I found myself at an Aldi, I would add a box to my cart.

Buy it ($1.69 in stores)

best brownie mix duncan hines chewy fudge brownie mix
Duncan Hines/Katherine Gillen

4. Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge Brownie Mix

Best for Cakey-Brownie Fans

  • Value: 18/20
  • Quality: 17/20
  • Ease of Instructions: 18/20
  • Taste: 16/20
  • Texture: 16/20
  • Total: 85/100

Yep, I realize the box says “chewy fudge.” And I even followed the directions for “extra fudgy” results. I still thought these were the cakiest of the brownies I tested, so I can’t imagine how cakey they would be if you followed the “cake-like” directions. That’s not a ding on the mix, though, because like I said, cakey brownie lovers deserve a treat too. (And it’s totally possible I followed the instructions incorrectly.) The flavor was mildly chocolatey but not overly sugary, and a box won’t set your budget back too far—a plus.

Buy it ($1)

best brownie mix king arthur baking company all american fudge brownie mix
King Arthur Baking Company/Katherine Gillen

5. King Arthur Baking Company All-American Fudge Brownie Mix

Best for Dark Chocolate Lovers

  • Value: 17/20
  • Quality: 19/20
  • Ease of Instructions: 20/20
  • Taste: 16/20
  • Texture: 17/20
  • Total: 89/100

If you’re one of those people who chooses dark chocolate over milk, the King Arthur Baking Company All-American Fudge Brownie Mix will win you over with its dark, cocoa-forward flavor. It’s not the most fudgy brownie (but not cakey by any means either), and I enjoyed that it wasn’t too sweet.

Buy it ($6.95)

best brownie mix aldi chewy fudge brownie mix
Aldi/Katherine Gillen

6. Aldi Baker’s Corner Chewy Fudge Brownie Mix

Best Value

  • Value: 19/20
  • Quality: 18/20
  • Ease of Instructions: 20/20
  • Taste: 17/20
  • Texture: 15/20
  • Total: 89/100

Considering this Aldi brownie mix costs less than a dollar, it’s a downright steal. I was impressed at how chocolatey it tastes, although it’s more sugar-forward than some of the premium brands I tried. While this mix doesn’t yield a cakey brownie per se, it’s also not super fudgy (similar to the King Arthur box). It also wins points for chewy-crisp edges, unlike any of the others on the list.

Buy it ($0.85 in stores)

best brownie mix stonewall kitchen traditional brownie mix
Stonewall Kitchen/Katherine Gillen

7. Stonewall Kitchen Traditional Brownie Mix

Worth the Splurge

  • Value: 17/20
  • Quality: 20/20
  • Ease of Instructions: 16/20
  • Taste: 19/20
  • Texture: 19/20
  • Total: 91/100

At almost $12 a box, Stonewall Kitchen Traditional Brownie Mix ain’t cheap—but it also tastes like something you might find at a really good bakery, so you get what you pay for. It could have something to do with the inclusion of butter instead of the typical vegetable oil, or the “coffee sprinkles” in the batter (we took a peek at the ingredient list). My only gripe is that you have to pull out a stand mixer or hand mixer to make the batter, which is extremely thick.

Buy it ($11.95)

best brownie mix stonewall kitchen gluten free chocolate brownie mix
Stonewall Kitchen/Katherine Gillen

8. Stonewall Kitchen Gluten-Free Chocolate Brownie Mix

Best Gluten-Free Option

  • Value: 17/20
  • Quality: 20/20
  • Ease of Instructions: 16/20
  • Taste: 19/20
  • Texture: 19/20
  • Total: 91/100

If the box wasn’t sitting in front of me, I would have no idea that this brownie mix was gluten-free. In fact, it tastes identical to the tradition Stonewall Kitchen mix on this list. Again, it’s not a cheap option, but it’s fudgy and rich enough to justify spending a little extra. There’s no chalky aftertaste like other gluten-free mixes I’ve tried, either. The batter is thick, like the non-gluten-free option, and does require a stand or hand mixer, which may be a dealbreaker for some.

Buy it ($11.95)

best brownie mix king arthur baking company gluten free brownie mix
King Arthur Baking Company/Katherine Gillen

9. King Arthur Baking Company Gluten-Free Fudge Brownie Mix

Gluten-Free Runner Up

  • Value: 18/20
  • Quality: 17/20
  • Ease of Instructions: 20/20
  • Taste: 16/20
  • Texture: 18/20
  • Total: 89/100

I’m not gluten-free, but I loved the Stonewall Kitchen gluten-free mix. I also totally understand not wanting to spend $12 on boxed brownies. The King Arthur Gluten-Free Fudge Brownie Mix isn’t quite as pricy, but it will satisfy a chocolate craving quite nicely. It tastes similar to the brand’s non-gluten-free version—super chocolatey and not too sweet. The texture was pleasantly fudgy and not crumbly or grainy. The only drawback was a subtle, chalky mouthfeel (I’m guessing from the gluten-free flour substitutes, tapioca starch and rice flour). Bonus, it can be made dairy free if you use oil instead of butter.

Buy it ($6.95)

best brownie mix simple mills almond flour brownie mix
Simple Mills/Katherine Gillen

10. Simple Mills Almond Flour Baking Mix Brownies

Most Natural Ingredients

  • Value: 16/20
  • Quality: 19/20
  • Ease of Instructions: 20/20
  • Taste: 17/20
  • Texture: 17/20
  • Total: 89/100

If the thought of artificial flavors skeeves you out, your options are a little limited in the boxed brownie aisle. But I was impressed by the Simple Mills Almond Flour Baking Mix Brownies, which has an extremely minimal ingredient list of all recognizable things. It’s almond-flour based, so it’s gluten-free friendly too. Because of this, the texture is a little crumbly and the flavor has a nutty quality, but as a gluten fiend, I was still impressed. I’ve also heard the brownies are best paired with Simple Mills’s chocolate frosting, if you’re feeling extra.

Buy it ($7.99)

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