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After Trying 6 Boxed Brownie Mixes, There's One We'd Buy Over And Over Again And Another We Could Only Handle A Bite Of

We've been overlooking the winner for YEARS...

Last year, I conducted an office taste test of boxed cake mixes with the help of my wonderful coworkers, who probably all sank into a sugar coma shortly after eating from all six cakes. In case you missed it, Betty Crocker was our unanimous winner and will now be served at all of our birthday parties. Well, after many requests (just kidding, it was quite literally only one comment), I decided to make everyone uncomfortably full once again by testing out boxed brownie mixes.

Two people at a table with laptops, sampling brownies during a meeting. Whiteboard with writing in the background

Before my amateur baking days, I genuinely had no idea you could make brownies from scratch and thought that boxed brownie mixes were standard. A bit embarrassing, I know. But I'd be lying if I said I don't often crave the nostalgia (and, let's be real, the ease) of a boxed brownie mix. Also, in my opinion, brownies will always beat out cake when it comes to dessert.

Freshly baked brownies in a pan, cut into squares, ready to serve
Text "THE BRANDS" on a background resembling cracked brownies

Before we go any further, let's get into the brands I chose and a couple of disclaimers.

Six boxed brownie mix brands arranged on a patterned fabric
Close-up of freshly baked brownies with "THE BAKING" text overlay for an article

Every brownie was mixed and baked according to its package instructions. However, for every single brand, I found that I had to bake it for anywhere from 10–20 minutes longer than instructed. Could it be that my oven is 1,000 years old and horribly inaccurate? Possibly, but I still think it's worth noting. As much as I love an undercooked brownie, giving my coworkers food poisoning was not part of my plan.

A bowl of chocolate brownie batter being poured

Like with any boxed mix, the instructions varied a bit from brand to brand. Baking temperatures were the only slight annoyance to take into account, but I usually tried to pair mixes together that had to be baked at the same temperatures in the oven.

Recipe on a Betty Crocker brownie mix box with instructions and ingredients listed in English and Spanish
Close-up of brownies with "THE TEST" text overlay

As per usual, this was a blind taste test for my six coworkers who volunteered to participate. Since I was the one baking and serving, I knew what each brownie was, but I still tried to remain as unbiased as possible. I also have the memory of a goldfish, and I'd often forget which brownie was which as I was eating. The brownies were each assigned a number (the same numbers listed under the "brands" section), and each person was asked to fill out the form below, ranking their taste and texture. I then used this to calculate an average rating for each.

Survey form with questions on brownie taste, texture, and brand preference, plus an open-ended feedback section

Just for fun, I also asked everyone what their favorite brownie piece was. Surprisingly, I was the only one who favored an edge piece. What's even more surprising is that most people preferred the corner. Edge pieces are the best of both worlds, and I will die on this hill.

Brownies in a pan divided into corner, edge, and middle pieces with percentage preference labels

Now, without further ado, let's get into our official brownie ranking.

Six brownies labeled with brand names Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker, Great Value, Trader Joe's, Pillsbury, and Ghirardelli for comparison

6. Ghirardelli — Although it was the most expensive mix and deemed "premium" on its packaging, Ghirardelli was far from anyone's favorite. Everything from flavor to texture felt horribly off, and we couldn't help but think we were all being pranked.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Supreme brownie mix box with an image of a brownie and syrup

At this point, I regretted getting "Chocolate Supreme" because the chocolate syrup made these brownies taste wildly artificial — like licking chocolate frosting off a piece of cardboard. Natasha thought they were "overly sweet in an unpleasant, fake sugar way," and Lauren described them as having "no pizzazz." We all agreed that the flavor was more chocolate-adjacent rather than tasting like real chocolate. Ross even thought they tasted like mushrooms. Mushrooms, you guys.

Three colleagues are in a meeting with laptops, a whiteboard in the background, and snack remnants on the table

The texture also left little to be desired. Even as I was baking these, something felt...off. The batter was gritty in a way that the others weren't, and it felt like I was spreading chocolate frosting when transferring it to the pan. They were also matte on top rather than having that signature glossy finish. On a positive note, Ross and I thought the fudginess was decent. But Spencer couldn't get over the look of them — they were definitely the ugly duckling of the bunch.

In a surprising (and ironic) turn, almost everyone thought this was Great Value, the cheapest brownie mix out of the six.

A pie chart showing percentages for different brands, asking which brand the taste testers think it is


Here's how it broke down:

Taste: 1.6

Texture: 2.1

If this isn't proof that a high price doesn't always equal high quality, I don't know what is. It's entirely possible that the other Ghirardelli brownie varieties with chocolate chips are better, but I'd definitely encourage everyone to skip the "Chocolate Supreme" — there's nothing supreme about these.

5. Betty Crocker — Most of our testers described these brownies as "fine" and nothing to write home about. We wouldn't be mad if we were served a Betty Crocker brownie, but I assume we'd probably be over it after a couple of bites.

Betty Crocker Fudge brownie mix box overlayed over an image of baked Betty Crocker brownies

Honestly, I didn't hate these and would probably rank them slightly higher if it were up to me (but not by much). They did taste a bit bland and there was an artificial chocolate taste that I couldn't get over. Fabiana agreed that they weren't "super chocolaty," and Ross found them to be "muddy tasting." Long story short, a lot of us were getting off-putting tasting notes that we couldn't quite put our finger on.

Person at a conference table eating, with a laptop open and presentation screen in the background

I never thought I'd describe a brownie as too fudgy, but that's exactly what Betty Crocker was, in a semi-unpleasant way. We were all a bit torn on texture, though. Fabiana agreed with me that they were very dense, but Spencer thought these "nailed" the fudginess. Aside from fudginess, my other benchmark for brownie texture is that crackly top, which these delivered pretty decently on. Although, it did easily flake off (something I've noticed happens with a lot of boxed brownies).

Brand guesses were a little all over the place. Most people thought this was one of the classic brands but didn't really think it was Betty. Maybe our opinion is a bit skewed after our previous boxed yellow cake test, which Betty reigned supreme on.

A pie chart showing percentages for different brands, asking which brand the taste testers think it is


Here's how it broke down:

Taste: 2.7

Texture: 3.5

To reiterate, these weren't terrible; something just felt a little off, and we were hoping for a bit more of a rich chocolate flavor. I think it's safe to say none of us would excitedly reach for a box of Betty Crocker brownies in the future (sorry, Betty).

4. Pillsbury —This was another middle-of-the-road brownie. Opinions were slightly torn: While some thought these were solid, a few of us felt that Pillsbury was missing something flavor-wise.

Box of Pillsbury Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix overlayed over an image of Pillsbury brownies

I'll start by saying these looked very promising as I was mixing them: The color of the batter was super dark and rich, giving me high hopes. Alas, my first bite into these brownies, and I tasted...nothing. Natasha, Lauren, and Ross all agreed that these seriously lacked flavor and didn't taste like chocolate. I compared them to those soft cookies you get at the grocery store rather than an actual brownie. However, Nora gave them a middle rating and thought they were "solid," and Spencer loved them, describing them as tasting "rich" and "fancy."

Person at a conference table with laptop and a plate of brownies nearby, in a casual office setting

Thoughts on texture were also divided. Half of us weren't super pleased, and the other half enjoyed the fudginess. I had to agree with Lauren when she described them as more of a "brownie-cake" hybrid. Fabiana even mentioned that they kept sticking to her teeth. I sadly feel like we got a little catfished by these — they looked like they would be super decadent and fudgy, but in the end, they were very "meh" and a bit too cakey, in my opinion.

People were split on whether these were Trader Joe's, Pillsbury, or Betty Crocker, so I'd consider that a semi-successful guess. Spencer, of course, thought these were the "premium" and expensive Ghirardelli brownies.

Pie chart showing people's guesses on a brand, with equal sections for Trader Joe's, Pillsbury, Betty Crocker, and a smaller for Ghirardelli


Here's how it broke down:

Taste: 3

Texture: 3.3

Pillsbury only ranked slightly above Betty Crocker, but if it were up to me (and only me), I'd personally swap the two since Pillsbury didn't only fall flat on flavor for me but also texture. It's not like we had the urge to spit these out, but Pillsbury was more of a one-bite-and-done situation for most of us.

3. Trader Joe's — This was the only brownie mix that called for butter, and boy, could you tell. While a couple of us ranked TJ's as our top choice, a few weren't sold on the chocolaty decadence of these brownies.

Package of Trader Joe's Brownie Truffle Baking Mix overlayed over a brownie image

There's a lot to unpack with TJ's brownies, so buckle in. As I mentioned, the mix called for butter rather than oil, so they were rich. They're also made with Dutch cocoa, making the chocolate flavor way more pronounced than the others. Both Ross and Spencer even described them as "too chocolaty" and lacking some sweetness. I won't lie; after the first bite, a few of us thought they were too bitter, and I felt like they needed those chocolate chips (which I believe were milk chocolate) to balance everything out.

Man in glasses and plaid jacket sitting at a table with his computer, holding a piece of a brownie

HOWEVER, I let these sit on my kitchen counter overnight (okay, I may have let all these brownies sit on my kitchen counter longer than I care to admit), and they were incredible the next day. Like, they were bakery-level quality in my eyes, with a perfectly dense, fudgy texture. Lauren also declared these as her favorite and "a win for boxed brownies," but I understand some of my coworkers' complaints over the bitter taste. Maybe I had an unfair advantage by getting to enjoy them the next day. (Brownies are always better the next day, FYI.)

It's safe to say that folks mostly associated this brownie with one of the two more expensive brands. As usual, with these taste tests, it's pretty easy to spot Trader Joe's in a lineup.

Pie chart showing brand guesses with Trader Joe's at 43%, Ghirardelli 29%, and others less


Here's how it broke down:

Taste: 3.3

Texture: 3.7

While Trader Joe's was my personal favorite, I'll echo Ross and say that this is definitely for dark chocolate lovers. The bitterness will initially hit you, but the milk chocolate chips help mellow things out. Definitely not everyone's cup of tea, and while it hurts, I respect it.

2. Duncan Hines — When you hear "boxed brownies," I imagine the taste of Duncan Hines is the first to come to mind. Its classic taste and texture were a pleasant surprise, mixed with a hint of nostalgia.

Box of Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge Brownie Mix overlayed over an image of baked brownies

This was the first brownie we all tried, and it gave us all a great base for the rest of the taste test. The flavor was classic, albeit still with a slightly artificial taste we'd come to expect from boxed mixes. As Spencer put it, "If you think, 'What does a brownie taste like?' then this is exactly what springs to mind." Were we absolutely blown away? No, but out of the three "classic" brands (those being Pillsbury, Betty Crocker, and Duncan Hines), it stood out and was described as "pretty good" by almost everyone.

Two individuals are seated at a table with laptops and plates with food, in an office environment

What really gave Duncan Hines the edge was its texture: the fudginess and crackly top were near perfect by boxed brownie standards. Lauren even compared them to a Cosmic Brownie or just a straight block of fudge. Fabiana and Nora echoed this and pointed out how wildly fudgy and chewy they were. As an edge-piece gal, I noticed that even the sides didn't get cakey, which is a huge feat. Not only was the inside a wonderful texture but the top and sides got perfectly crispy without the flaking of some of the others.

How this was the most successfully guessed brand, I will never know. It could be that Duncan Hines is a classic brand so many of us grew up with, so it's likely what we all associate most with the tried-and-true boxed brownie taste.

Pie chart showing brand guesses, with Duncan Hines at 72%, Pillsbury and Trader Joe's both at 14%


Here's how it broke down:

Taste: 3.6

Texture: 4.1

If you're looking for a classic brownie that'll be liked by anyone you serve it to, Duncan Hines is your guy. In my opinion, this is the brownie you could give the Cosmic Brownie treatment to and cover with chocolate ganache or frosting without overwhelming the taste. (BRB, doing this for my birthday.)

1. Great Value — It's safe to say that Great Value surprised us all. Rich, flavorful, chewy, and "expensive" — all words we used to describe these brownies. I'm not sure if they could pass for homemade, but they could definitely pass as a luxurious mix, which is especially surprising considering the price.

Package of Great Value Fudge Brownie Mix overlayed over a picture of baked brownies

Not one person thought this was the cheapest mix of the bunch. Fabiana described them as rich and flavorful and even noted that it "must be an expensive box." These brownies didn't necessarily have the complex flavors of Trader Joe's, but they actually tasted like chocolate without that weird artificial aftertaste. The words "super chocolaty" were thrown around quite a bit. Natasha even called them "glorious."

Two people at a table with laptops, one holding a plate of food, in a modern office setting

If the flavor didn't already convince everyone that these were premium brownies, then the texture sure did. Upon first glance, the color was super dark and rich, and they sort of sank after baking, giving them a dense, fudgy texture. They also had those beautifully crispy edges we all know and love, along with the signature flaky top that crunched down as we cut into them. After Ghirardelli, these were the brownies that the "flake" adhered to most. I swear, I could've finished the whole tray and would've still asked for more.

Considering almost everyone mentioned that Great Value looked "expensive," the majority of guesses for Ghirardelli don't surprise me, but the irony that people swapped the most and least expensive brands is still pretty funny.

Pie chart showing brand guesses: Ghirardelli 57%, Betty Crocker 29%, Great Value 14%


Here's how it broke down:

Taste: 4.3

Texture: 4.4

I can't believe how long I've been overlooking Walmart's generic brand brownies. I'd like to thank my past self for stocking up on boxes of this brownie mix when I first ordered them; I already know it'll become my go-to whenever I need a sweet treat (very often) but feel too lazy to bake (also, unfortunately, very often these days).

There you have it, folks! Great Value is the official winner of our taste test (and our hearts). Tell us your favorite boxed brownie in the comments below, and let us know what taste test you'd like to see us do next!