Buttermilk Makes Boxed Brownies Taste More Homemade

We all know brownies are one of the most loved desserts of all time — they're sweet, they're rich, and they pair perfectly with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. While there are a lot of great recipes for homemade brownies, we aren't always convinced making them from scratch is the right call when the dried boxed batters are delicious, reliable, and take all the guesswork out of making brownies. Perhaps the biggest complaint against them is that they lack some of the richness and depth of flavor of homemade brownies, but you can easily doctor up pre-made boxed brownies with one simple ingredient: buttermilk. Yes, buttermilk can extend its powers far beyond ranch dressing and pancakes; it's key to making your boxed brownies taste like homemade. 

Most brownie mixes will have instructions to "just add water" and maybe another ingredient or two, but instead of using H2O, opt for the same measurement of buttermilk, then follow the rest of the instructions as normal. Buttermilk adds a bit of fat, tang, and extra deliciousness to the mix without the inconvenience of changing anything else about the recipe directions. Swapping buttermilk for water is the best way to save on stress when you're making brownies for the next neighborhood bake sale.

Why buttermilk?

Plenty of boxed brownie hacks might call for the use of whole milk or even heavy cream, but buttermilk is uniquely suited to enriching boxed brownie mix. For one, though many people think it's ultra fatty given its name, buttermilk doesn't contain significant levels of fat like heavy cream. Store-bought or cultured buttermilk is just skim or low-fat milk that has been treated with lactic acid, which causes fermentation. So despite the rich name, swapping buttermilk for water won't drastically alter the baking chemistry of the mix. 

In addition to not changing the recipe on the brownie box, buttermilk also offers advantages for both flavor and texture. Alone, boxed mixes tend to be super-sweet, unlike homemade brownie recipes that may favor richer, semisweet cocoa powder or melted chocolate. The fermentation process for buttermilk gives it that subtly tart flavor it's known for, which enhances the flavors of the cocoa in the boxed mix. These more nuanced flavors will fool even the most seasoned brownie aficionado. The texture of boxed brownies can also be a good indicator that they aren't homemade, often ending up denser than homemade brownies. Buttermilk helps with that, too. Buttermilk will give the brownies a lighter texture thanks to a chemical reaction between the acid in buttermilk and the leavening agent in your brownie mix, which helps create more air in the batter. More buttermilk will lead to a more cake-like brownie (if that's your thing), while less will keep them both light and fudgy.