sliced chocolate and peanut butter brownies

I hope we’ve built enough trust between us for you to believe what I’m about to tell you. It’s a secret that professional bakers have been keeping from you for too long.  The truth is BOX BROWNIES ARE BETTER THAN BROWNIES MADE FROM SCRATCH.  I know… criminal, really but facts are facts.  I think it’s the oil – the straight up OIL that we add to a boxed brownie mix that makes for the most irresistibly fudgy meets chewy brownies. Taste and texture already solved. And while I turn my nose up at exactly zero box brownie mixes, Ghirardelli is my favorite.  With ease we also get quality cocoa powder.  And now… because I can’t leave well enough alone, here’s my take on how to make box brownies better.  It involves more chocolate, a good dose of peanut butter, and blessed flaky sea salt.

Grab those box mixes, friends. And you know what? Stash the box at the bottom of the trash bin and take all the credit for yourself. Some secrets are worth keeping (and serving with ice cream).

how to make better box brownies ingredients in bowls

Here’s how to make box brownies better – the ingredients:

•  Your favorite box brownie mix – there is no wrong answer here.

•  Likely eggs, oil, and water needed for your chosen box brownie mix.

•  peanut butter

•  unsalted butter

•  powdered sugar

•  vanilla or banana instant pudding powder

•  whole milk (or really, any you prefer)

•  semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

•  heavy cream

• flaky sea salt

We’ll start by cracking open that box of brownie mix to make our brownie base.

In a large bowl whip together the brownie batter according to the package instructions.  This usually means whisking together oil, water and an egg or two to the dry ingredients.  The result is a thick and glossy batter.

Line a square 9×9-inch pan with parchment paper.  The parchment paper is optional but I find it helps in easily removing the brownies from the pan.

You’re free to add any extras you’d like to the batter.  Perhaps a few handfuls or nuts – my favorite being pecans, almond, or walnuts.

A teaspoon of instant espresso powder will deepen the chocolate flavor of the batter. A splash of vanilla extract extract is always nice, too!

Spread into an even layer in the prepared pan and bake in the oven until the top is dry and wrinkled.  A toothpick inserted in the center should come up with a few moist crumbs, not wet wet batter, ya know?

vanilla pudding powder added to peanut butter frosting

While the brownies bake and cool it’s time to DO THE ABSOLUTE MOST.  Doing the most is a lifestyle and with this recipe we’re doing the most and doing the least at the very same time.

In a medium bowl use electric hand beaters to blend together peanut butter, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. Essentially we’re making a juiced up peanut butter frosting.  After the peanut butter mixture is combined add a few tablespoons of instant vanilla pudding (though banana pudding is elite) and a few tablespoons of cold milk.  The pudding and milk will help to thin the peanut butter frosting AND help it to set once it’s refrigerated.

Spread the peanut butter pudding frosting over the cooled brownie and allow to rest in the refrigerator. Get ready for the next layer. That’s right – we’re not done yet. Let’s make chocolate ganache.

Heat heavy cream until it’s steaming, just nearly boiling. Keep a close eye. This happens quickly in a small saucepan on the stovetop or in a measuring cup in the microwave.

Pour the hot hot cream over chocolate chips or chocolate pieces. Let the entire mixture sit still. The warmth of the cream will penetrate the chocolate, melting it.  After five minutes or so, whisk the mixture, melting any stubborn chocolate bits.

Pour the warm chocolate ganache over the slightly chilled peanut butter mixture. Use an offset spatula to spread the ganache edge to edge, corner to corner.

Place the batch of brownies in the fridge to set.  This is the hardest part.  Stay strong.

better box brownies sliced on a wooden board

Slice and serve these beauties with a sprinkling of sea salt and/or toasted coconut.  This is a more-is-more type brownie mix situation so go for it.

Store any brownies that remain (is that even possible?) in an airtight container in the refrigerator or double wrapped in the freezer.

If you’re in search of another brownie recipe you’ll most definitely like:

Candy Bar Blondies – think of these as a brown sugar blondie base topped with just about every candy bar under the sun. The perfect place to stash any leftover holiday candy? Right here in these blondies.

Extra Nutty Homemade Brownies – you’re either with me or you’re against me on the amount of nuts I’ve topped these brownies with. Polarizing, yes. Absolutely incredible, also yes.


How To Make Box Brownies Better

how to make better box brownies with chocolate and peanut butter




  1. Prepare brownies according the package instructions. I recommend baking them in a square metal pan lined with parchment paper that overhangs the side of the pan so the frosted brownies are easy to remove from the pan and slice. Allow the brownies to cool in the pan when they come out of the oven.
  2. To make the peanut butter frosting, in a medium bowl using a electric hand beaters, beat together butter, peanut butter, and powdered sugar until smooth. Beat in the milk and pudding and beat to combine. The mixture should be thick but spreadable. Spread in an even layer across the cooled brownie.
  3. To make the ganache, place chocolate chips and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Heat heavy cream in a small saucepan or in the microwave until steamy and juuust before it boils. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate pieces and allow to sit undisturbed for 5 minutes. Whisks until smooth and glossy. While still warm pour over peanut butter frosting and quickly spread with an offset spatula until it reaches every edge and corner.
  4. Allow to rest at room temperature for about 2 hours until set before slicing. You could also cool these briefly in the refrigerator before serving though that will dull the chocolate ganache a bit.
  5. For extra credit, sprinkle lightly with flakey sea salt before serving.

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