Thinking Outside of the Box: The Best Brownie Recipes

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Looking for some perfect brownie recipes for all occasions? We’ve got you covered. Read on for some of our best suggestions.

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In Search of the Best Brownie Recipes

The party is at 7 pm, and you’re supposed to bring a dessert. Pound cake takes too long and has too much chance for an over-baking mishap. A lemon tart is too complicated. Sorbet will melt. Quick, what’s something easy to make, universally pleasing, and hard to mess up? Brownies. Those chocolatey squares of pure heaven that no one has to ask you twice to try.

While you really can’t go wrong with a box of Duncan Hines, Ghiradelli, or Betty Crocker (my mom would always remind me that we are a DUNCAN HINES family, and don’t you forget it!), homemade is an experience all on its own. Of course, the classic, chocolate, fudgy brownies are hard to beat. But what if I told you that there’s a whole world of homemade brownie recipes that are so much different, dare I say, better than the plain box mix? Check out some of our best ideas for brownie recipes that will become your new go-to, whether you’re in a hurry or not.

My 4 Tips for Mastering Your Brownie Recipes

  1. If they’re chocolate brownies, always add more semi-sweet chocolate chips or chocolate chunks. It always makes the texture better, and everyone will ask you what your secret is.
  2. Err on the side of an under-bake rather than an over-bake. The brownies will cook a little bit more in the pan as they cool and settle.
  3. Test to see if they’re done by sticking the toothpick right in the center. While you don’t need it to be completely clean, you don’t want it soupy, either. Moist crumbs are what you want.
  4. Use tin foil or parchment paper on the bottom of your pan or baking dish. It makes clean-up a lot easier, and I find it helps with more even baking.

Brownie Recipes to Dress up a Box Mix

If you do ultimately decide to go the box mix route (raise your rubber spatulas in solidarity if this is you), try these simple modifications and mix-ins, and everyone will think you made homemade brownies.

Raspberry Cheesecake

Mix together 1 tsp almond extract, 4 oz softened cream cheese, 2 tbsp softened butter, ¼ cup sugar, 1 egg, and 2 tbsp all-purpose flour. Stir ½ cup raspberries into cream cheese mixture. Pour batter in pan and top with dollops of the cream cheese mixture. Top with another ½ cup raspberries. Get a marble effect by lightly dragging a knife through the batter. Then, bake until done.

Tropical Coconut

Mix ½ cup chopped macadamia nuts, ½ cup chopped dried pineapple, and 1 tsp rum extract into brownie batter. Pour batter into prepared pan and scatter surface evenly with 1 cup coconut flakes. Bake until brownies are done and coconut is toasted.

Ginger Spice

If you wanna be my lover, you’ve gotta make some dessert. These fudgy chocolate brownies are chocked full of holiday gingerbread spices. Mix ½ cup chopped crystallized ginger, 2 tbsp molasses, 1 tsp cinnamon, and ½ tsp ground ginger into brownie batter. Pour into prepared pan and bake until done; cool. Mix together ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar, ½ tbsp molasses, and 2 tsp water and spread over brownies. Allow glaze to set before cutting brownies.

One of My Favorite Box Mix Brownie Recipes: Grasshopper Brownies

Mix ½ cup chopped Andes mints into brownie batter. Bake until done and allow to cool completely. Melt ½ cup light green chocolate melts. Use a spoon to drizzle over the surface of brownies. This one is perfect for the holidays!

Buckeye Brownies

Buckeye brownies have 3 layers of crave-worthy goodness with a brownie base, peanut butter fudge center, and a chocolately top. Start by preparing the brownies according to the package instructions. For the peanut butter layer, mix 2 cups of powdered sugar with 1/2 cup of peanut butter and 1/2 cup softened butter to make a dough-like consistency. Spread with your hands on top of the brownies. In a double-boiler, melt together 1 cup of chocolate chips and 5 Tbsp butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Spread over brownies 2nd layer. Let cool and enjoy!

Crumb Coffee Cake

If you need a little something extra to top the fudgy brownies, this crunchy, sweet, brown sugar topping is perfect. And since coffee cake is technically a breakfast food, I don’t see why this can’t classify as breakfast, right? Okay, that may be a stretch. Mix 1 tbsp instant espresso powder and ½ cup chopped walnuts into brownie batter. Pour into prepared pan. Blend 1 stick softened butter, ½ cup sugar, 1¼ cups all-purpose flour, and 1 tsp cinnamon. Scatter the coffee cake crumb mixture over brownie batter. Bake until done, then let them cool. Enjoy!

Cookies and Cream

If “cookies and cream” is your go-to milkshake flavor of choice, this is the brownie for you. Mix ½ cup white chocolate chips and ½ cup broken Oreos into brownie batter. Pour into prepared pan and cover surface evenly with an additional 1 cup crushed Oreos. Bake until done.

How to Make Easy Brownies From Scratch

You may be ready to graduate from box mixes. But, if you’re ready to take the leap and make chocolatey homemade brownies for the first time, here are step-by-step instructions for my favorite, fudge-like, perfected homemade brownie recipe:

best brownie recipes

The Recipe to Top All Other Brownie Recipes

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper. Leave a couple of inches of overhang on two sides (this will make them easy to remove). Grease the foil/parchment.
  2. Combine 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup unsalted, hot, melted butter in a large bowl. Stir it briefly, then allow it to sit for 5 minutes. The heat from the butter will begin to dissolve the sugar (this helps make a shiny and crackly top), the sugar will not fully dissolve. After 5 minutes, whisk the butter and sugar for 30 seconds. Add 2 large eggs (room temperature), 2 tbsp water, and 2 tsp pure vanilla extract. Whisk for 30 seconds.
  3. Sprinkle 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 2/3 cup powdered sugar, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, and 1/2 tsp salt over the wet ingredients. Use a rubber/silicone spatula or wooden spoon to stir the mixture until it is glossy and well combined.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 28-33 minutes (begin checking at 28 minutes). The brownies are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out without raw batter on it. Moist, fudgy crumbs are OK. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

Enjoy your chewy, fudgy, chocolate-flavored brownies with a glass of milk or vanilla bean ice cream. If you don’t have butter or choose not to use it, you can replace it with an equal amount of vegetable oil, canola oil, or olive oil (which will change the flavor). However, you should still warm the oil in a microwave-safe bowl before using it.

If you only have a 9×9 inch baking dish, adjust the baking time to about 10 minutes less.

How Do I Make Cake-like Brownies From Scratch?

This one-bowl, cakey dessert comes together in just a couple of minutes, and it’s much more light and fluffy than the fudgy kind. To make cakey brownies, you’ll need baking powder for a leavening agent.

Start by preheating the oven to  350°F and greasing an 8-inch square baking pan. Combine 3/4 cup melted butter, 1-1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract in a bowl. Add 3 room-temperature eggs and beat well with a spoon. Next, combine 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture. Beat until well blended.

Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the brownies begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. It should make about 16 servings (or 8 if you portion brownies like I do).

Beyond the Box With These Homemade Brownie Recipes

One of My Favorite Brownie Recipes: Turtle Brownies

Chocolate, caramel, and nuts. The three flavors are so simple, yet when they come together, it’s a whole new level of deliciousness. I like to use pecans, but this recipe by Tollhouse uses walnuts.

Red Velvet Chocolate Swirled Brownies

Red velvet always makes every dessert feel a little bit more sophisticated, right? Add a cream cheese swirl topping, and you’ll be set for Valentine’s Day, or who am I kidding? Anytime!

Sweet Potato Brownies

In these secretly lightened-up brownies, the sweet potato adds depth of flavor and moisture, keeping the brownies soft and fudgy without needing any oil in the recipe. The vegan sweet potato brownie recipe can be suitable for low-calorie, gluten-free, and sugar-free diets, and there’s a flourless option as well. To make them nut-free, just use sun butter or your favorite allergy-friendly alternative to peanut butter. You also get extra protein, iron from the cocoa, and a vegetable serving, all at the same time.

Matcha Brownies

Who knew brownies didn’t have to be, well, brown? These bright green are made with white chocolate and matcha powder instead of dark chocolate and cocoa powder. The rich, earthy flavors are perfect for matcha-lovers everywhere, and one brownie has more caffeine than a cup of tea!

Salted Caramel Blackberry Brownies

While salted caramel may be a much-loved flavor profile, adding blackberry takes this great recipe to a whole new level. Grab some heavy cream, add some sugar, and whip it up to make homemade whipped cream to go along with it!

Tiramisu Brownies

These tiramisu brownies have a base made from scratch, a middle layer of coffee-soaked ladyfingers, and topped with sweetened mascarpone cheese. Perfection!

Butterscotch Blondies

Not everyone is a chocolate fan, but we don’t hold it against them. Butterscotch blondies are the perfect alternative. They’re soft, thick, and chewy with the perfect butterscotch sweetness. They taste great alone, or you can add a scoop of vanilla ice cream with an easy homemade butterscotch sauce. Yum!

Nutella Brownies

Nutella is the sweet condiment I can never get enough of, especially slathered between two slices of bread and topped with banana. But when they’re baked into a pan of hot, gooey brownies, I could probably eat the whole thing by myself.

chocolate hazelnut nutella brownie recipe

Nutella Brownies

A chocolate-meets-hazelnut match made in heaven! Perfect for your next party!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 12 people
Calories 176 kcal


  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar packed
  • 2 large eggs room temperature
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1/4 cups nutella divided
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • sea salt garnish


Nutella Brownies

  • preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  • Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch or 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil parchment, leaving an overhang on all sides. Set aside.
  • Beat the butter on high speed in a large bowl with a mixer until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute.
  • Add the brown sugar and beat on high speed for 1-2 minutes until creamed. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed.
  • With the mixer running on low speed, add the eggs and vanilla extract. Beat on medium-high speed until combined, then beat in 1 cup Nutella and salt. Mix until smooth and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer running on low speed, add the flour, mixing just until combined. Do not overmix. If using chocolate chips, gently fold them in.
  • Pour the batter into prepared baking pan. Drop teaspoonfuls of the remaining 1/4 cup Nutella on top. Using a knife, swirl the Nutella into the batter. Top with a sprinkle of sea salt.
  • Bake the brownies for 32-36 minutes. Test with a toothpick to determine doneness. If the toothpick comes out with only a few moist crumbs, the brownies are done.
  • Allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack. Once cool, lift out of the pan using the overhang on the sides. Top with more sea salt if desired and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container.


Calories: 176kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 2gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 45mgSodium: 115mgPotassium: 60mgFiber: 1gSugar: 12gVitamin A: 203IUCalcium: 22mgIron: 1mg
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Almond Shortbread Brownies

Have you ever baked rich, fudgy brownies baked into a buttery shortbread crust? You have to! Start by preparing a pan like you would for brownies. Combine 3/4 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of almond meal, 2 Tbsp sugar, and 1/4 tsp salt in a small bowl. Add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract to the 6 Tbsp melted butter and pour over the flour mixture.

Stir until it comes together. Press the dough into the bottom of the lined pan in an even layer all the way to the edges. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Set aside to cool while you make the brownie batter as normal. Pour the brownie batter over the shortbread, then bake!

Alternative Brownie Recipes

If you’re looking for an alternative to brownies packed with refined sugar, or you have allergies/sensitivities to certain ingredients, here are some recipe suggestions:

Fudgy Squash Brownies

Fudgy, dark chocolate zucchini brownies are so rich and delicious; you’d never know there’s a green vegetable hiding inside. The zucchini provides plenty of moisture, too, so you don’t have to worry about them drying out. You can also make other substitutes for oil/butter in your brownies, like avocado.

Pear Brownies

Have too many pears lying around that are about to go bad? If canning fruit isn’t your thing, you can use pears in plenty of other ways– like a new brownie recipe! Combining the subtle but sweet taste of pears with the rich chocolate brownie makes a decadent yet healthy dessert. You don’t see this flavor combo as often in the US as you do in Europe, but hey, why not branch out and experience a little bit of culture? This recipe doesn’t even need refined sugar to pack in plenty of sweetness with pears, applesauce, and honey.

Chocolate Plantain Brownies

If you’re a vegan or just looking for something a little healthier than typical brownies, you may want to try this brownie alternative. This easy chocolate plantain brownie recipe is Paleo, Vegan, and free of the top 8 allergens. These simple brownies are grain-free, egg-free, and sweetened with dates.

For these, you’ll need 2 large, ripe plantains, 1/2 cup pitted dates, 1/3 cup of cacao powder, 1 tsp of baking powder, 1/2 tsp of vanilla, a pinch of salt, and 1/4 cup of almond milk. Add all your ingredients to a food processor and blend well. Spread the batter into a foil-lined 8×8 inch glass baking pan, and bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes. Once they’re baked and cooled, top with a coconut cream frosting.

Gluten-Free Brownies

Fortunately, with the increased demand for gluten-free foods, gluten-free flour and baking mixes aren’t difficult to find anymore. King Arthur and Pillsbury make excellent gluten-free flour. King Arthur flour’s gluten-free brownie recipe includes Dutch-process cocoa powder. They’re fudgy, chocolatey, and perfect for satisfying anyone’s brownie craving.

Let’s Get Brownie Baking!

Who knew brownie recipes were so versatile? With all these recipes for easy homemade brownies, I know exactly what I’m making next time for the party. Happy baking, and don’t forget to share your favorite brownie recipes with your family and friends on FamilyApp!

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