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Sep 6, 2009 08:44 PM

Best brownie mixes? Duncan HInes?

What's the best boxed brownie mix out there? I was using Betty Crocker Supreme brownie mixes ( a bit more expensive than the regular BC brownie mix) and was pretty pleased with that. But, I heard about Duncan Hines. What flavor is best for the Duncan Hines brownie mixes?

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  1. I don't know about Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker but if I do not make brownies from scratch (which isn't that hard), the only mix I ever use and is arguably better than scratch is the Ghiardelli one. Highly recommend it.

    34 Replies
    1. re: cookie44

      I give it a third recommendation! It tastes fantastic. The little chunks of chocolate in it are delicious. Costco sells it in my area.

      1. re: meatn3

        I bought mine from Costco, too, but I haven't seen it there lately, boo hoo.

        1. re: Full tummy

          It just returned to my local Costco. Best brownie mix hands down.

          1. re: Divamac

            I'm in Toronto, which is nowhere near you, but I will check next time I'm there, just in case.

            1. re: coney with everything

              I agree, if you MUST use a mix (honestly, brownies from scratch are SO easy...), this one is the best. None of the others come at all close.

              1. re: coney with everything

                One more the Ghirardelli. It's incredible!!!

          1. re: cookie44

            Another enthusiastic vote for Ghirardelli - and I am a huge proponent of from-scratch baking. I simply haven't been able to improve on these. I do doctor them up often - add crumbled peppermint patties, a peanut butter swirl on top, perform a rocky-road-fication, etc. People practically fall off their chairs when I tell them they're not homemade, even when they're just in their "pure" form, out of the box.

            In our area, they're available in small boxes at the conventional grocery stores, and also at Costco.


            1. re: gansu girl

              I like Ghiradhelli brownie mix when I'm not in the mood to bake from scratch. I always add a tsp of vanilla, but they are quite good.

              I sent 4 boxes back to school with my daughter because they have the use of a common kitchen on their floor.

              1. re: gansu girl

                I usually do scratch but those Ghirardelli brownies were amazing! I've never seen a brownie so dark. Very rich and moist.

                  1. re: cookie44

                    Here are the ingredients: sugar, enriched bleached flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folate), chocolate chips (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla), partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils, natural cocoa, wheat starch, cocoa (processed with alkali), salt, artificial flavor, sodium bicarbonate, natural butter flavor.

                    Natural butter flavor? What is that ? I am not a fan of hydrogenated oils. Brownies are So easy to make yourself and don't have these fakeo ingredients. You'll love yourself more if you make your own. Make alot and freeze them.

                    1. re: missclaudy

                      What is your favourite recipe? Please share...

                      1. re: missclaudy

                        FYI: niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folate - all vitamins and minerals added to flour to prevent nutritional deficiencies, most are B vitamins btw.. Sodium Bicarbonate = Baking soda. Cocoa processsed with alkali = "dutch processed cocoa"...exactly what's in the Hershey's cocoa box.

                        A lot of these "fakeo" flavors are just the chemical names for the raw ingredients you would put into your own brownies- unless you don't use normal cocoa, baking soda, chocolate chips, or flour, in which case I imagine it would be difficult to make brownies. Yes, homemade might be better, but a Ghiradelli brownie is not going to kill you much faster than your homemade ones You don't love yourself any more or less because you make everything from scratch all the time.....And some of us don't have an extra freezer to "Make a lot and freeze them"...Or the extra time! It IS a lot more time to make them from scratch- measuring out all the ingredients. You must either have a lot of space (kitchen and freezer) and/or a lot of time (or a maid to clean for you). I thought your response was offensive to be honest. The OP asked for the best brownie mix- not a speech on why you don't love yourself if you don't make from scratch every time....(and that's aside from your "Fakeo" ingredients critique that shows some ignorance of nutrition and food chemistry.).

                        1. re: QSheba

                          I agree with you QSheba. I bake from scratch a lot - but I feel no guilt whatsoever to make these brownies and serve them to my friends and family when I don't have the time and/or the energy to bake from scratch. (I don't have a maid either. ;0) )

                          1. re: flourgirl

                            What's with all the talk about maids? I must have a maid if I bake brownies from scratch? I WAS a maid, maybe that's why we are all confused.

                            1. re: missclaudy

                              I think you came across in your original post as being very judgmental about people who choose not to bake from scratch 100% of the time. We don't all have the luxury of endless amounts of time to be on top of our game 100% of the time. And unless you are constantly baking brownies, it DOES take much longer than making them from a mix. I'm a very serious home baker, I often make brownies from scratch but I think it's ridiculous to try and make people feel guilty about using mixes now and then.

                          2. re: QSheba

                            Okay, first of all, this poster was corrected a few days ago (it shows up farther down the thread) about what the vitamins and other enriching agents actually are and why they're there. And there are some odd things that go into cake and brownie mixes, like dyes and synthetic flavorings, that probably aren't the greatest thing for people to consume. If you look over her postings, it doesn't seem to me at least that she meant to be offensive, just emphatic.

                            And as for the extra mess, time, and space issues you raised...it truly doesn't take a lot more time to do brownies from scratch, unless you're doing a complicated version. That's coming from a full-time student and mother of a 3-year-old; trust me, if the time element were a killer, I wouldn't do it! You can also rest assured there is no maid cleaning up my small kitchen - I don't even have a dishwasher! I'm certainly not above making a mix batch once in a while, but I think her point - and mine - is that it's pretty easy to do brownies from scratch if you have the ingredients around the house and probably not the worst idea to avoid the odd dyes and synthetic flavors by making scratch batches when you can. It just doesn't seem like something we should all get upset about.

                            1. re: tonina_mdc

                              I'm not a big baker, but I have made brownies from scratch. Once. They were not that good. Probably a bad recipe. Or maybe not. The Ghirardelli pack I made was much praised by all who ate it, and I have to say it was quite a bit better than what I made from scratch. I invite those of you whose brownie recipes are better than a mix to share your recipes, so that those of us who feel we haven't the time or the talent to succeed sans box can try again! I am ready and willing. Just to note, though, my request to missclaudy went unanswered, and that makes me wonder, why try to proselytize when you're not really willing to go the distance? It feels a little like a lecture.

                              1. re: Full tummy

                                For a simple one, easy to clean, easy to make, try the Bakers One Bowl brownie. The key to making good home made brownies is knowing when to pull them out of the oven. When the outer 1/3 looks cooked, take them out. I won't say scratch must be better to everyone, though I prefer it, because I've found people prefer what they're used to. When people have only had box, they don't notice the gumminess in them and might prefer them BECAUSE they have that texture. So if you like the Ghirardelli, then you just might not like home made as much. No biggie. BUt, experimenting w/ brownies is always fun. If they don't turn out, crush, mix w/ whipped cream and toffee bits and you have a great dessert.


                                I'm a brownies fanatic and have a few go-to recipes. The Kraft one is my quick, in the oven in 10 minutes (or let the kids make it themselves) one. If there's another type you like, eg super rich and fudgy, marginally healthier, more adult intense dark chocolate flavor, cakey, etc., let me know and I'll post my favorite. Oh, the quality of the chocolate does matter, too. Though the recipe is for Bakers, I don't use Bakers.

                                1. re: Full tummy

                                  Fair enough! My current favorite is the scrumptious fudgy frosted brownie recipe from allrecipes.com: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Scrumpti.... I will willingly admit that the frosting part of this recipe is a bit labor-intensive (though DEFINITELY worth it if you have the time and interest!) However, the brownie part of this recipe is super yummy even on its own. This is a brownie for fudgy brownie lovers, so cakelike brownie lovers, be warned: this one may not be for you. But wow, are they ever deep and dark and delicious!

                                  1. re: tonina_mdc

                                    folks, we've removed a bunch of posts from this sub-thread. Debates about who is more or less offended or offensive really don't help anyone eat better, and we're asking that everyone let this part of the thread drop.

                                    1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                      Now I'm offended. ;) (not really, I just hadda be a smartie pants)

                                      Obligatory on topic comment:
                                      Sometimes I like mixes for time savings, and they DO save time. :) Sometimes I prefer doing from scratch because I have time and I do think it tastes better. Sometimes I eat raw chocolate because that's the easiest of all.

                                      1. re: Morganna

                                        Hahaha, sometimes I buy a brownie from a bakery because that's fastest of all, and it's the real thing, too!!!

                                        1. re: Full tummy

                                          Ooo bakery brownies can be great. Specially when they get into interesting flavours you might not actually want to make a whole pan of yourself. :) I gotta try brownies with coconut in them. Doesn't that sound good?

                            2. re: missclaudy

                              It's rare that I have had a good homemade or even bakery brownie. I've had a few, but not many. I am not a huge brownie fan, but the mixes I have had have been far superior to any homemade. I think brownies must be one of those things that are hard to do right homemade.

                            3. re: cookie44

                              I've been meaning to try the Ghirardelli mixes for a long time, but haven't gotten around to it yet. I think I've seen several varieties of their mixes in the store. Is there a particular variety that Ghirardelli Brownie Mix fans recommend?

                              1. re: Bzdhkap

                                The Double Chocolate is what they sell at Costco. This is my favorite.


                                1. re: Bzdhkap

                                  Another vote for Double Chocolate. The chips give it a nice bite/texture when cool. These are the closest I have found to homemade so I stock up when I find them on sale.

                                  1. re: iluvcookies

                                    again on the double chocolate chip. sometimes i just do the mix right from the package, sometimes I add a lot more chocolate chips (Ghirardelii of course) and sometimes walnuts or pecans (some people like nuts, some don't). the add-in's make the brownies much denser, if you like your brownies more on the cake side, reduce the add-in's, if you like them denser and fudgier, more add-in's.

                                2. re: cookie44

                                  I'll second the Ghiradeli mix. Anything with their name on it tastes great.

                                3. Don't know where you live, but I second cookie44's recommendation of the Ghirardelli mix. It is excellent. There is nothing about it that gives off "I'm from a mix" vibes; delicious.


                                  1. I love the one from Trader Joe's. The chocolate truffle mix, not the No Pudge (really don't like the no pudge).

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: jencounter

                                      TJ chocolate truffle brownie is the only one I would buy anymore, so darn good. I add a little kahlua or instant espresso, but it doesn't really need anything.

                                      1. re: coll

                                        This is the one I always use and add more chocolate chips, semi sweet from trader joes, to the batter. The brownies are great, and everyone loves them.

                                        The chips are the best, and are so much cheaper than the more popular one.

                                        1. re: coll

                                          I wonder if these are really Ghiradhelli under the TJ name.

                                          1. re: Jacey

                                            I don't think so, I wasn't overly impressed with the Ghirardelli when I tried it. These were love at first bite.

                                            1. re: coll

                                              I believe they are Dassant brand Truffle Brownie Mix--even the wording on the boxes is almost identical. I made the Dassant mix for years before the Truffle Brownie Mix showed up at TJ's--same size and shape of box too. They are VERY good.

                                              I add 2 T extra cocoa and 1 T of walnut oil if I have it--and they are very chewy. Love to add toasted walnut pieces too. NO frosting though.

                                      2. This is one of the best and easiest recipes, it's as quick as a brownie mix, I swear. I make 1 and half times the recipe and bake it in a 8X8 glass square baking dish lined with parchment. Baked 15 mins more than recipe recommends or until toothpick comes out clean.


                                        Edit: I forgot to post the link, so sorry.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. If you like really chewy almost fudge like brownies, I highly recommend the Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge


                                          I always add some dark chocolate chips or chunks and some broken pieces of Skor bar or similar chocolate covered toffee


                                          sometimes I even add mini marshmallows and walnuts and make it really decadent!

                                          I have tried many home made recipes but they always come out too cake like - where Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge always delivers and adding extra ingredients makes it seem like they were made from scratch! :)

                                          30 Replies
                                          1. re: LovelyAsia

                                            Have tried to make rocky road brownies, but the marshmallows melted into it -- even tried freezing them before adding to the batter. How do you keep them whole?

                                            1. re: Sarah

                                              If you want the marshmallows to stay whole, the only way I have ever managed to do it is by adding them on top in the last few minutes of baking so they just brown on top and sometimes I add marshmallows and chocolate chips for the last few minutes for a smores effect... but what I like about adding them into the mix last with nuts and then baking is they coat the nuts and caramelize which makes marshmallow / candy coated nuts in the brownies which my best friend says is the best part of the brownie!

                                            2. re: LovelyAsia


                                              People, artificial flavors (mentioned not once but twice,) hydrogenated oil, enriched (with what and why?) white flour etc.etc.make a brownie that takes 3 minutes shorter than making you own from scratch.Ones you make yourself will have real vanilla, unadulterated chocolate, fresh eggs, butter and a few other whole ingredients and will be made by you with love (or at least like) for your friends and family. Baking brownies is simple, fun and a great thing to teach kids for a first cooking project. And you won't be filling them full of all of those artificial and enriched foodlike substances.Have fun baking !

                                              1. re: missclaudy

                                                I'm on board with you in general, missclaudy. Probably 90% of the time when I bake, I make things from scratch. I prefer being able to control exactly how much of what goes into my baked goods. I don't really have any issues with enriched flour, but the whole bleached flour issue bothers me. Most importantly, I really like to bake! There just isn't anything terribly fulfilling about throwing a brownie mix package together, though we all have to do it every once in a while. But when I make something from scratch, I feel good about what I'm doing and I enjoy making other people a little happier.

                                                1. re: tonina_mdc

                                                  I'm not trying to be obnoxious, I would never,ever use a cake mix, just ain't my style.I have worked in several fantastic bakerys so I bake with ease. I just don't want to feed anyone all of those crappy ingredients.

                                                  1. re: missclaudy

                                                    I don't think it's obnoxious to want to make things from scratch, especially to limit loved ones' exposure to some of the weirdo additives that end up in mixes. I'm always looking for ways to make treats healthier (it's amazing how much sugar you can deduct from recipes for most baked goodies without affecting the taste, for instance!) and I just like to bake and cook. I just don't worry about the enriched flour part, because the items with which it's enriched are vitamins and nutrients we can all use. But the weird dyes alone in some of those cake mixes are enough to give me the creeps!

                                                    1. re: missclaudy

                                                      for those of us who don't bake often we just don't have the ingredients in the house. I live in a humid area and baking soda or baking powder last all of about 3 or 4 months before they are useless. I buy flour in small packages, enough to thicken a sauce or coat meat to be browned or battered. I used to buy 5 pound bags and keep them in the refrigerator or freezer, but even that way they tend to pick up odd flavors. I hate to have to throw out 3 pounds of a 5 pound bag of flour a couple of times a year. If I know I am going to be doing a lot of baking, sure, i'll go with scratch for a lot of things. But much of the time its just a huge waste of money.

                                                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                        Look, scratch versus mix is a matter of preference and opportunity, not a moral decision! I completely understand the desire not to waste ingredients. For several years, my family and I lived in a teeny house where the kitchen was right next to my infant/toddler son's room. He was a light sleeper, so I couldn't use my kitchen without waking him. During that time, I used mixes if I made anything and for the most part we lived off of prepackaged foods! Now that we live in our own home and I have a (still small, but not postage stamp-sized) kitchen where I can make all the noise and mess I like, I make 90% of my baked goods and main dishes from scratch. It just makes me feel accomplished to make my family's food myself. I do worry about all the unpronounceable ingredients in the mixes and convenience foods, but mostly I prefer to make things like brownies from scratch because I didn't really have that opportunity in the past. It's a luxury of sorts for me. :-)

                                                  2. re: missclaudy

                                                    As a result of processing all white flour has lost the nutrients originally found in the whole grain. Many companies replace the vitamins and minerals that have been lost, in the DH case - NIACIN, IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID - to compensate. It is a practice that started during WWII, when nutrients from other sources were hard to come by. It is the same flour you will find in all packaged white bread and, unfortunately, a lot of packaged "whole wheat" bread. Many people choose to eat products made with whole grains - I always check that my bread is made with stone ground or whole wheat flour - but I thought I would answer your question, lest you think it is enriched with frog saliva or recycled rubber tires. Nope. Just nutrients.

                                                    1. re: Justpaula

                                                      Thanks for the info. Don't you hate the taste of that funky frog saliva? I'd probably prefer it to some of the weird chemicals and fake flavoring they put in food though.

                                                      1. re: missclaudy

                                                        The frog saliva is why all cake mixes taste the same--they all use it. I hate the taste/smell.

                                                      2. re: Justpaula

                                                        Alas, I've never found me a stoneground wheat brownie I could enjoy, haha. It goes without saying that brownies are not the healthiest of foods, and I believe the enriched flour used in mixes is the exact same flour we purchase in the store to make our not particularly healthy homemade brownies. But, it's true, some of those ingredients are unhealthier than what I would use at home. That said, I don't keep packaged brownie mixes, and I probably shouldn't get used to making them from scratch, either.

                                                        1. re: Full tummy

                                                          Oh, totally. I made brownies tonight, from scratch. using my plain old white flour. Probably the same stuff in Wonder bread - and brownie mix. But, for an everyday thing like toast, I prefer to use the whole grain stuff. Mostly because of the fiber though.

                                                          1. re: Full tummy

                                                            King Arthur's whole wheat brownies are excellent, very fudgey, and even better the day after being baked. I don't think they're healthy (full of fat and eggs) but you get your fiber and phyonutrients from the whole grain.

                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                              Is that a mix? I'm in Canada, and I've never seen that.

                                                              1. re: Full tummy

                                                                I use the recipe but it might be a mix. KA has quite a few mixes but I don't know what there is. Here's a recipe:


                                                                And a variation that looks really good:


                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                  I guess the use of whole wheat flour makes them marginally healthier. Would you say they compete, flavour- and texture-wise, with brownies made with all purpose flour? As in, if you made a try of each, they would both be as well enjoyed? as quickly eaten? I'll have to try it; maybe I'll be a convert.

                                                                  1. re: Full tummy

                                                                    I'd say you probably couldn't tell they were whole wheat and they're really fudgey. But, I'm picky about my brownies and have a few favorite recipes, all for different reasons so it's not my main go-to brownie. They do compete w/ the other ones. One of the reasons I even tried it is because my kids don't get enough fiber but don't have weight prolems so it's just one more way of getting fiber into them. I'm not fooling myself in any way that they're healthy. They do disappear quickly when I've brought them out, but so do the tofu brownies I've made. Then again, most people bring box brownies and they also disappear so maybe there's just no bad brownie. :-) Personally, though, I'd take them over any box brownies I've had, even the Ghirardelli, going just by taste.

                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                      Wow. Tofu brownies. I salute your effort to be as healthy as possible when making brownies, but those sound kind of scary. I'm just not a tofu person, so that's a personal taste issue. And as for the notion that there is no such thing as a bad brownie...I made a batch of Duncan Hines brownies a few years ago because that was the only box mix I had and I wasn't doing scratch stuff at that point. I didn't realize that the mix was incredibly old. The brownies were literally half an inch thick. I wouldn't have given them to another living soul for anything. Yuck.

                                                                      1. re: tonina_mdc

                                                                        Bad brownies do exist. I made brownies last night, from a recipe that found online. I was trying to incorporate some overripe bananas. Well, they were horrible. I took one bite and, then even tried another bite this morning and tossed the whole pan. I did not know that texture like that could even happen to brownies. It was a shame, I tell ya. They made me wish I had picked up a box mix. So, I made oatmeal raisin cookies tonight. :)

                                                                        1. re: Justpaula

                                                                          I had a squash bread I tried this summer turn out like that. My summer squash plant went nuts and hyperproduced (even for the normally prolific squash, this was excessive!), so I tried a bread recipe similar to a zucchini bread that was supposed to work specifically for summer squash. I was really excited. My husband and my mother both tried it and then tried to find something nice to say. I tried a bite and promptly tossed it. It was the crumbliest, most hideously dry baked good I'd ever made. I do have a chocolate cake recipe that uses zucchini that turns out similar in texture to a moist cake brownie, if anyone is interested.

                                                                        2. re: tonina_mdc

                                                                          Tofu brownies were made for a vegan friend but everyone liked them so I've made them now and again when I want a cakey brownie. But, they are more time consuming than regular brownies. I think anyone who wants healthy brownies are kind of fooling themselves. I use butter, all eggs, etc.

                                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                                            Yes, if anyone ever manages to make a healthy brownie it'll either be the size of a microchip or taste like kelp. I just had a couple of bad tofu experiences in college, so the thought of tofu makes me shudder. I make my stuff with quality ingredients and I try to add fiber and cut back on sugar. But there's no getting around the fact that I'm using butter, whole eggs, a fair amount of sugar, etc. I try to make my brownies healthier - that does NOT mean they're healthy! But wow, they sure are good. :-)

                                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                                              I make a vegan chocolate cake that is one of the best things you will ever put in your mouth. It's no healthier than any other cake, although it is cholesterol-free if that's a concern, and it's one of the easiest recipes ever. I imagine you can tweak the recipe to make brownies if you understand how to do that. I do not. Perhaps I will try to figure that out.

                                                                              Didn't mean to change the subject to cake...

                                                                              1. re: Divamac

                                                                                I have a recipe I got here for vegan chocolate cake, it uses avocado. I only have one friend who is vegan and planning on trying it on her next time I see her (she lives over 1,000 miles away unfortunately).

                                                                                1. re: coll

                                                                                  No avocado in the one I make. I read somewhere (probably here) that cakes made without egg and milk were popular during the Depression and WWII. My guess is the the recipe I have is a product of that time. I just moved all of my of Internet print-outs into MacGourmet, so I tracked down the original recipe I use: http://dolphyn.com/recipes/ChocolateC...

                                                                                  1. re: Divamac

                                                                                    Holy jumping cats! I looked at that recipe and it sounds amazing! I know it's unfair, but when I think "vegan food," I usually think it'll be tasteless and/or expensive. I'm going to try it out as soon as I can. Thanks for the recipe!

                                                                    2. re: Full tummy

                                                                      KIng Arthurs is a whole catalogue of stuff that I always buys when I go over the border to the states...at one time they wouldn't export it to Canada, but I am not sure if that is still the case...maybe I'll 'google' it.

                                                              2. re: missclaudy

                                                                Well, there is a time & a place for everything....I scratch bake 99% of the time. But when renting a beach house this brownie mix is top of my list. I'm schleping enough stuff to cook for a week, so I really don't want to mess with partially opened bags of flour, sugar, cocoa, etc. Our group goes crazy over the brownies, often making several batches a day. I buy the package because it is fool proof, even the primary schoolers can make a batch.

                                                                1. re: meatn3

                                                                  Oh, absolutely. There is no way I'm dragging 90,000 baking supplies around with me on vacation or if we're moving or anything like that. I love to cook and bake from scratch, but the mixes have their role too. I can't wait until my little boy is big enough to help me make a batch of brownies!