Buddy Valastro's Favorite Ingredients To Boost Box Brownie Mix

What's not to love about box brownie mixes? Just about everything that you need is packed in one little box, the ingredients are already measured for you, and box mixes take care of the precise science that goes into baking, so there is very little margin for error. Besides, a box of brownie mix will always come to save the day when potluck dinners and bake sales have been left to the last minute or when sweet cravings suddenly strike.

As easy, convenient, and utterly delicious box brownie mixes are, they can also get boring very quickly — which is why a few clever mix-ins will go a long way in giving them a fresh spin. There are all kinds of ingredients you could add to jazz up a box of brownie mix, but Buddy Valastro's personal favorites happen to be a mix of frozen fruits, nuts, and more chocolate.

The Cake Boss recommends using frozen cherries, toasted coconut, and macadamia nuts specifically to add some flair to box brownie mixes. He also suggests throwing in a handful of chocolate chips to the mix, either milk, white, or dark depending on which you prefer. Using these ingredients can turn box brownies into more refined desserts that have deeper flavors and a variety of textures, and that taste a whole lot better!

Tips for using Buddy Valastro's brownie mix-ins

Valastro's favorite brownie mix-ins are simple enough to use, but there are a few things to keep in mind when baking with frozen fruit, nuts, and chocolate chips. For one, don't worry about thawing frozen cherries before adding them to the brownie batter as they defrost when baked in the oven. Dusting the frozen fruit in cornstarch or cocoa powder first is also a good idea as the powdery coating will prevent the cherries from sinking to the bottom of the pan. The same goes for chocolate chips: coating them in starch or cocoa powder will stop them from sliding to the bottom and will ensure that your brownies have puddles of warm melted chocolate throughout.

Macadamia nuts will add a fabulous crunch to contrast the fudgy, gooey, and chewy textures of box brownies — but toasting the nuts will make things even better. Toasting heightens the flavor of nuts by bringing out the natural oils present in them, making them more crunchy.

If you'd like to level the brownies up even more, Alton Brown in his book "EveryDayCook" recommends frying nuts in butter instead of toasting them and then using the same nutty butter to make the brownies. Toasted coconut too will add a nutty flavor to cut through the richness of chocolate brownies, but if you don't have any on hand, you can easily toast any sweetened or unsweetened coconut flakes in an oven, in the microwave, or even on the stove at home.

More ways to jazz up box brownie mixes

While Valastro's go-to ingredients to upgrade box brownie mixes happen to be frozen cherries, macadamia nuts, toasted coconut, and chocolate chips, you don't have to stop there. There are plenty more ways to give brownies a boost and it can be as simple as playing around with the liquids and fats. Most brownie mixes only require you to add water and fat — usually canola oil or butter — but you don't have to take their word for gospel. Swap the water with equal amounts of plant milk, flavored milk, a dash of booze, or coffee. As a bonus, coffee will also intensify the chocolatey flavor in the brownies.

Canola oil can be substituted with more flavourful alternatives such as olive or coconut oil. Similarly, butter can be browned before it's added to the brownie mix. It's also a good idea to crack one or two egg yolks to maximize the fudginess of the brownies. Or you can amplify the chocolatey goodness by topping them with a thick layer of ganache or chocolate glaze. If all of this seems like too much of a fuss — the entire purpose of a box brownie mix is its no-fuss convenience after all — you'll be amazed to find just how far even just a pinch of salt will go. Salt will heighten the sweeter flavors of chocolate by subduing any bitter notes and will upgrade your box brownie mix in a jiffy.