11 things you never thought to mix in your brownie batter

Brownies are one of America's favorite desserts, and boxed brownie mix can be found in almost every pantry. But doesn't the same dessert get tiring after so many repeat servings? While we admit that brownies are delicious flavor bombs, there is so much more that you can do with this chocolate batter. Adding different spices, fruit, or your favorite candy can elevate this sweet treat to another level of decadence. Next time you're jonesing for a chocolate fix, try adding some of these mix-ins to your brownie batter.

Peppermint

Peppermint may seem like strictly a holiday-season flavor for some, but this minty additive is refreshing year round. Peppermint is even known to soothe stomach aches, and the fudgy chocolate is just an added bonus. But don't just stop at adding actual chunks of peppermint to your batter (like in this recipe from Bakerita) — up the cooling factor with a few drops of peppermint extract. To make this even easier, use a boxed brownie mix. We won't tell.

Pumpkin cheesecake

Sure, you can throw a handful of chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, or M&Ms into your brownie batter, but why stop there? The Bojon Gourmet has an incredible recipe that won't just take your brownies to a whole new level — it'll turn them into something completely new that will be devoured before you know it.

There's a certain time of year — when the kids are back in school, when the weather's getting cooler and when thoughts turn to Halloween — that's synonymous with pumpkin spice. If you love it and you're always looking for new ways to use that perfectly perfect flavor in all-new ways, try swirling some pumpkin cheesecake batter through your brownie mix. Since the chocolate of the brownies is such a strong flavor, getting the right balance between chocolate and pumpkin can be a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, the bakers over at the blog have done all the experimentation for you, and all that's left for you to do is mix up this creamy, cakey, chocolatey-rich dessert, and enjoy.

Stout

If there's anyone who knows how to use stout, it's the breweries that are behind this heavy, flavorful beer. Deschutes Brewery offers up a recipe for what might be the perfect plate of adult-only brownies, sure to be a hit at your next after-dark party. With 10 ounces of stout mixed into their tried-and-true brownie recipe, these are sure to be a hit no matter which neighbors invited you over for game night or a backyard BBQ. The recipe will fill a 9-by-9 pan, but these heavy brownies are sure to be so heavy, rich, and decadent that you can absolutely get away with cutting them into small, bite-sized pieces. Serve them on the end of a toothpick, and you're also guaranteed to see people wandering off with more than one!

Bananas

Bananas will obviously taste delicious in a fudgy brownie, but did you know you can make the dessert healthier at the same time, like in this recipe by Chocolate Salad? Bananas are a popular substitute for oil and fat in baking, so if you're craving a pint of chunky monkey ice cream and trying to watch your calories, substitute banana for the oil in your brownie recipe, and mix in walnuts for a crunchy, healthy surprise. Extra tip: you may want to try alternative fillings, like applesauce and prune puree, if the dish you're preparing can't stand up to the strong flavor of the banana.

Bourbon

Quick, what goes absolutely amazingly with chocolate? If you answered bourbon, you're thinking in the right direction. There's something about the combination of chocolate and bourbon that's as close to heavenly as you can get on our planet, so why haven't you thought about stirring it into your brownie batter?

Broma Bakery has whipped up a recipe for a cake-like brownie positively laden with chocolatey goodness that's followed up by an extra kick of bourbon. Since the brownies are lighter than you might typically expect from a brownie, they're also perfect for frosting. Fortunately, after you've stirred a few tablespoons of bourbon into your batter (better sample a little first to be sure you like the taste!), you can also use a dash of bourbon in Broma's bourbon-and-chocolate frosting recipe. Need a decadent dessert to go with the grown-ups' after-dinner coffee and tea? Save this one for after the kids have gone to bed, and you'll surely convince the most strident naysayers that dessert is for adults, too!

Chili powder

If you've never had Mexican chocolate, you are missing out on an amazing flavor combination. It's usually made with high-quality chocolate, with the addition of either cinnamon, allspice, and sometimes chilies. The result is a smooth cocoa candy with an interesting spicy flavor at the end. Adding chili spice (like in Tutti Dulci's tasty recipe) to your brownie batter will give you a similar effect. Whether you are a fan of spicy foods or not, this is a delicious way to change up your routine of mundane desserts. Just keep in mind that chili powder is usually quite potent, so you won't need much to spice up your chocolatey squares.

Cookies

Everyone has a favorite cookie, so why not combine two good things and create something great? Oreos are universally a popular cookie and, of course, chocolate chip cookies are an American classic. Would we be taking it too far to tell you to add both of these to your brownie mixture, as Debbie Doo's did? Commonly (and somewhat ribaldly) known as "slutty brownies," this tasty creation has everything in it. Layer a batch of cookie dough in a greased 13x9 pan, then make your brownie batter and pour on top of the raw dough. Next, you're going to crumble an entire box of Oreo cookies. Yes, you read that correctly: an entire box. Evenly distribute the cookies across the batter. After you bake and cool the brownies, slice them and be amazed with the beautiful cookie layers.

Cinnamon

If you're looking for something with an extra kick, how about adding some cinnamon? There are a couple different ways you can do this, depending on how much of a flavorful burst of cinnamon you're looking for. If you're going for mild, Giada De Laurentiis has a recipe for spicy cinnamon-chocolate brownies that gets its flavor from a tablespoon of ground cinnamon stirred into the batter. This is a great one for anyone who's in a hurry, too, as she recommends it as a way to spice up boxed brownie mix. Let's be honest, we've all been scrambling for a last-minute dessert, and this is proof that they don't have to be boring.

Food.com has a recipe for a different kind of cinnamon brownie, and this is one where you're going to be using those amazing little cinnamon candies to stir into your batter. If you want something with a bit of a hotter candy kick, this one's for you! You can also opt to finish them off with some cinnamon and chocolate buttercream frosting, because, let's be honest, everything is better with frosting. Check out the frosting recipe over at Gimme Some Oven, and it might just become your go-to recipe for brownies and cupcakes alike.

Bar food

Have you ever been in a bar and wondered why they offer such abysmal snacks? The meager bowl of pretzels and nuts is quite disappointing unless you've had a couple drinks. Although adding a couple eggs, chocolate, and fudge can transform this into a treat worth having, if — like 24/7 Moms — you're using salted pretzels, opt for unsalted nuts. Otherwise, you'll end up with a sodium-drenched dessert that will leave you craving a bucket of water. Gauge the amount of nuts to mix in based off your own preferences, but instead of chopping the pretzels, try layering them on top of the brownies before baking. This makes a basic dessert look a good bit more visually appealing.

Goat cheese

Cheese paired with chocolate is a great way to combine sweet and savory. If you don't believe us, just do what The Kitchn did and try creamy goat cheese, raspberry, and dark chocolate brownies. The raspberry adds a slight tang to the dish, and the cheese makes for an interesting flavor inside the classic chocolate brownie. You can mix these additions into the batter, but we recommend swirling them on top to create an eye-catching design. If you're not a fan of funkier cheeses like goat, try the mild flavor of cream cheese. It has the same consistency and color, so you won't miss out on the flavor bomb this combination creates.

Dried apricot

For those of us who aren't chocoholics, there are ways to cut the sweetness in your favorite brownie recipe. Instead of adding fudge or chocolate chips, as many people do, try stirring in some dried apricots, as Civilized Caveman Cooking did. You can honestly add any kind of fruit to your brownie batter, though it's important to use dried versions of the fruit whenever possible. This is because the water naturally occurring in produce can alter the baking process — extra liquid can cause the batter to be too loose, and increase baking time. This can potentially give you a crispy product, instead of the cakey treat you were hoping for.

After making your favorite batter, chop some dried apricots and mix it in. Put a scoop of apricot jam — thinned with some water — in a small saucepan, and heat while stirring. After the brownies are cool, glaze with the apricot mixture. This makes your dessert even fruitier, and your presentation better than ever.