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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk
Recipe Review

We Tested 4 Famous Blondie Recipes and Found the Only One You’ll Ever Need

updated Oct 1, 2022
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Blondies get no respect. All too often they’re viewed as boring and bland — a subpar second to the vastly superior brownie. But I’m here to raise up this unsung bar cookie hero! When done right (rich and buttery flavor, chewy texture, salty-sweet mix-ins), a blondie can be as transcendent as a brownie.

I will admit, however, that baking a batch of wow-worthy blondies can be tricky. All too often, they taste like a giant, thick chocolate chip cookie, which is fine, but it’s not the same as the chewy, butterscotchy perfection of a proper blondie.

In an effort to find the ultimate, most foolproof recipe (and convince blondie critics to rethink their stance), I pitted four recipes against each other in a sugary showdown.

The blondie recipe I was searching for needed to have a chewy texture, a rich butterscotch flavor, and a good balance of mix-ins that didn’t overpower the bar. After polling Kitchn editors for their favorite recipes and researching the most popular and well-reviewed recipes online, I had my four contenders. And I’m happy to report, at the end of the day, I came away with a clear winner — and it’s the only blondie recipe you’ll ever need.

Credit: photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Meet Our 4 Blondie Contenders

To keep this showdown fair, I eliminated any recipes that called for mix-ins other than chocolate or nuts (Chrissy Teigen’s, for example, calls for peanut butter, while Cheryl Day’s boasts bourbon and coconut).

By testing recipes with similar ingredient lists, I knew I’d be able to determine how small changes — like whether the butter is melted, softened, or browned — affected the final outcome.

Smitten Kitchen’s Blondies, Infinitely Adaptable is an adaptation of Mark Bittman’s recipe that Deb Perelman has baked with every alteration imaginable. The recipe is a favorite of our Editor-in-Chief, Faith Durand, who described these squares as a “solid tablet of butter and sugar.” With a recommendation like that, it had to go on the list.

Cook’s Illustrated is a solid source for reliable recipes (they’ve earned the top spot in several recipe showdowns), so it was no surprise when Tools Editor, Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm, said it was her go-to. It’s the only one that has you melt butter without browning it, and it includes white chocolate, which intrigued me.

Sarah Kieffer’s Brown Butter Blondies stood out for being extra in every way, and that’s why they’re a favorite of Food Editor Meghan Splawn. This recipe has it all: brown butter, extra egg yolks, toasted nuts, two types of chocolate, and a generous glug of vanilla extract. Would all of these extras add up to the best blondie of the bunch, or would it be too much of a good thing?

Lastly, I included Ina Garten’s Chocolate Chunk Blondies recipe, which is most similar to a chocolate chip cookie in that you cream room-temperature butter with the sugar. In another truly Ina move, this recipe includes massive amounts of nuts and large chunks of chocolate.

How I Tested the Blondie Recipes

To control for brand-specific differences and to ensure all ingredients were fresh, I purchased new flour, butter, eggs, vanilla extract, nuts, and all other ingredients specifically for these tests. All four recipes were baked on the same day and cooled completely before slicing and tasting. I also tasted the blondies the following day to see how they held up.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

1. The Bar Cookie Dupe: Ina Garten’s Chocolate Chunk Blondies

The technique that set Ina Garten’s blondies apart ultimately led to its low ranking. This was the only recipe that had you cream softened butter with sugar (rather than using melted butter), and it gave the blondies a cakey, rather than chewy, texture.

Ina also calls for a whopping 1 1/4 pounds of chocolate chunks, and while this is a boon for chocolate-lovers, it completely overwhelmed the flavor. These treats make a decidedly decadent chocolate chunk cookie bar — but without the butterscotch flavor and chewy texture, these are not the blondies I was looking for.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

2. The Most Underwhelming: Smitten Kitchen’s Blondies, Infinitely Adaptable

These blondies are basic at best. They don’t contain any leaveners (Deb believes there’s “no place for baking powder or baking soda” in brownies or blondies), but a small amount of leavening would have improved the slightly brittle texture and flat appearance of these blondies.

I heeded Deb’s advice and was careful not to overbake them, but as a result they were the palest of the bunch, lacking the caramel flavor so essential to blondies. Ultimately, I decided that if infinite adaptations are necessary, maybe the base recipe just isn’t that great.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

3. The Good but Not Great: Sarah Kieffer’s Brown Butter Blondies

Of all the recipes I tested, I anticipated eating Sarah Kieffer’s blondies most. They seemed to have it all: nutty brown butter, extra egg yolks, toasted pecans, semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate, and a hefty dose of vanilla extract. And while the batter was the tastiest of the bunch (hey, I had to taste at every step of the process), once they were baked the flavor fell flat.

The nuanced nuttiness of the butter was overwhelmed by the flavor of the extra yolks and double dose of chocolate. The texture was almost perfect, but since it was packed with so many mix-ins, the chew of the blondie base became secondary. Ultimately, all the extra effort just didn’t seem worth it.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

4. The Clear Winner: Cook’s Illustrated’s Blondies

The search for the perfect blondie recipe ends here. These blondies were easier to make than the rest since you didn’t have to wait for the butter to soften or spend time browning it. Baking the blondies with melted instead of browned butter resulted in a rich butterscotch flavor with precisely the right amount of chew.

Browned butter has a deep, nutty flavor, which is delicious, but it doesn’t taste like butterscotch. In this recipe, the combination of pure, creamy melted butter and a generous amount of brown sugar created the flavor we were after.

As to the texture, when butter browns, the milk solids darken and the water evaporates. My theory is that the chewiness of these blondies may come from the gluten development that happens between the butter’s remaining moisture and the flour, plus a higher proportion of brown sugar than the other recipes.

In another move that separates this recipe from the rest, the editors from Cook’s Illustrated use a combination of white and

semi-sweet chocolate

The amount of mix-ins to batter was also just right, providing enough to have nuts and chocolate in every bite without overwhelming the blondie base. This is one instance where the detailed-oriented crew at Cook’s Illustrated dialed everything in just perfectly. Better blondies through science!

Do you have a favorite blondie recipe? Tell us below in the comments!