This One Ingredient Swap Is the Secret To Making the Best Boxed Brownies Ever

No one will guess they’re not homemade.

Salted Caramel Brownies
Photo: Oxmoor House

While the familiar adage that homemade is always better typically rings true, there are always special exceptions, even in the South where Mama's recipe cards and passed-down dishes rule all. When it comes to baking, Southerners tend to take a situational-specific approach. It's perfectly acceptable to use store-bought pie crust for time-crunch purposes, but there are few scenarios in which pre-packaged frosting should top a homemade layer cake. Priorities!

Brownies are one such treat that is totally reasonable to lean into the store-bought shortcuts. The aisle of boxed brownie mixes has expanded into premium offerings that could pass as homemade, especially with strategic tweaking. For example, you're able to switch out certain ingredients to create a brownie that's even richer and more decadent with added depth in flavor. For that, we've got one major secret to enhancing boxed mix for your best quick-fix brownies ever.

For context, the average premium boxed brownie mix—such as Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix—usually calls for the addition of ingredients you are likely to already have on hand: eggs, oil, and water. If you're looking for extra fudgy brownies that taste straight from a bakery, consider swapping the water for coffee.

It's no secret that espresso and coffee can complement and enhance the taste of chocolate, often being used as ingredients in fancy homemade chocolate desserts and confections. However, you can even transform something as quick and easy as boxed brownies using coffee. Typically, boxed mixes call for a half-cup or less of water to be added when readying the batter. Instead of water, use brewed coffee and expect an ultra-rich brownie as a result. It'll make you even more tempted to throw in a fresh-baked dessert to enjoy after dinner—or to bring as a "Southern happy" to friends and family.

While some might hesitate at the thought of adding bitter coffee to a sweet dessert, it's actually the thing that can bring out the most flavor. Just like salt on watermelon, though that's a talk for another time.

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