Recipe Review

I Tried 4 Popular Brownie Recipes and Found the Chewy Brownie of My Dreams

published Nov 5, 2022
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Overhead photo of 4 different chewy brownies, each made with a different recipe, on a marble surface
Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne
The Best Chewy Brownies

In the hierarchy of store-bought baking mixes, boxed brownie mix ranks so high it has to squint to see the cake and muffin mixes below it. Food blogs and publications are acutely aware of this interest, publishing taste-tests telling you the best ones to buy and reader hacks on how to make them even better. Kitchn even listed Ghirardelli’s Double Chocolate Brownie Mix as one of the most exciting baking ingredients every home cook needs. 

So why bother with homemade? If you’re anything like me, you crave the sense of pride that comes with making something from scratch. While boxed brownies suffice for movie nights at home, I prefer to bring something homemade to a potluck or dinner party. Plus, knowing I have a foolproof, go-to recipe for something as universal as brownies puts my mind at ease. (Yes, this is the sort of thing that keeps me up at night). 

In order to find this perfect brownie recipe, I began by considering the beloved qualities of a boxed brownie. The best ones are packed with chocolate flavor, boast a crackly, shiny top, and have crisp edges and tender, moist centers. But most importantly, they’re chewy. Not gooey and fudgy, not fluffy and cakey, but deeply, deliciously chewy. This, I believe, is the texture most brownie-lovers seek — and what recipe developers are promising when they say “better than boxed.” 

With that in mind, my mission was clear: Identify the top-ranking chewy brownie recipes and compare them side-by-side. Would it be the ingredients or the method that creates the thick and chewy crust, or maybe a combination of both? Are chocolate chips a distraction or do they complete the treat? And would I finally learn how to properly test a brownie for doneness? Read on to find out. 

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

Meet Our 4 Chewy Brownie Contenders

To qualify for this showdown, recipes needed to be described solely as “chewy” in their title, which immediately eliminated all of the “fudgy chewy” recipes. Mix-ins and frostings — with the exception of chocolate chips or chunks — were off-limits. I was also eager to try recipes that relied on different forms of chocolate. Ultimately, I landed on four popular recipes that each took a very different approach to achieving that sought-after chew. 

Handle the Heat’s Chewy Brownies were a no-brainer. It’s the first one to pop up in a Google search for “chewy brownies,” has a 4.84 rating from upwards of 700 votes, and included a significant amount of detail surrounding its methodology. It attributes its chewiness to an extra egg yolk, a mix of oil and butter, and the use of cocoa powder rather than melted chocolate. Cornstarch is also used to give the brownies a thick texture and shiny, crackly crust.

Cook’s Illustrated’s Chewy Brownies are a scientifically developed recipe directly inspired by box mix brownies, so I knew we shared the same goal. They claim the ratio of oil to butter is what gives the brownies their chewiness, and that a mix of cocoa powder and melted unsweetened chocolate is the key to their intense chocolate flavor. Chunks of bittersweet chocolate are also folded into the batter before baking. 

Delish’s Best-Ever Chewy Brownies take their cues from chewy ginger cookies and yeasted breads to create their chewy texture. The batter is made with molasses and light brown sugar, and the eggs are separated and the whites are mixed with the flour (mimicking gluten development). Their chocolate flavor comes solely from Dutch-processed cocoa powder, meaning this was the only recipe to not include a chip or chunk. Would this unconventional approach be the secret to success? 

Bigger Bolder Baking’s The Chewy Brownies of Your Dreams have a lofty rise and melty pools of chocolate, and therefore immediately caught my eye. A meringue-like chew is promised from a unique mixing technique, in which the wet ingredients are beaten on high speed for a full five minutes before getting combined with the dry. This recipe doesn’t skimp on the chocolate: It calls for a whopping 1 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder, and chopped bittersweet chocolate is folded into the batter and sprinkled on top. 

How I Tested the Chewy Brownies

I used the same brands for all the basic ingredients: Domino sugar, Crisco vegetable oil, Ghirardelli chips and bars. I used Divine cocoa powder for recipes that called for Dutch-processed and Hershey’s for recipes that called for unsweetened. 

I baked all of the brownies in the same oven on the same day and followed each recipe’s instructions for cooling and slicing. When it came time to dig in, I had multiple friends participate in a blind taste test. Ultimately, we landed on a clear winner, which will be the only recipe I use from now on. 

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

1. The Too Chewy Brownie: Delish’s Best-Ever Chewy Brownies

Although I thought I was in search of the chewiest brownie, this recipe proved there’s such a thing as too chewy. The thin, flat brownies baked up without an outer crust or a shiny top, meaning there was no crinkle or crisp edge to break up the chewy texture. I attribute this to the sole use of brown sugar. Because brown sugar is more moist than granulated sugar, it likely made the surface of the brownies too wet for a crust to form. 

I did like how the molasses and espresso powder brought out the dark chocolate flavor of the cocoa powder, and cutting the oil with butter gave the brownies a nice richness. Next time I’ll try baking them with the recommended swirl of jam, or sandwich them with ice cream for chewy brownie ice cream sandwiches. 

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

2. The Cakiest Chewy Brownie: Bigger Bolder Baking’s The Chewy Brownie of Your Dreams 

This brownie-making experience was certainly unique. Beating the butter, oil, sugars, eggs, and vanilla for a full five minutes created a bubbly, pale-yellow mixture — similar to a thick pancake batter — that only got thicker with the addition of cocoa powder and flour. The final batter was like a sturdy buttercream frosting (or “chocolate lava,” as the video describes it), which was very different from the winning recipe’s loose, pourable batter. I could barely lift the mixing bowl to scrape the batter into the pan. 

Unfortunately, beating all the air into the batter (and adding so much starch-filled cocoa powder) made the brownies cakey instead of chewy. The recipe warns that this can be caused by overbaking, but I’m almost certain I underbaked mine. (All the melted chocolate on top made it nearly impossible to tell when they were done.) Thanks to the dark brown sugar, a hefty dose of vanilla, and the mountain of chopped chocolate, these brownies were also incredibly rich. It was hard to eat more than a few bites. 

If you’re in the market for a thick, decadent, cakey brownie, this will certainly satisfy. But unfortunately, it didn’t have the chew factor I was looking for. 

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

3. The Fudgiest Chewy Brownie: Handle the Heat’s Best Ever Chewy Brownies

This recipe gets major brownie points (hahaha) for its ease. It came together quickly in just one bowl, didn’t call for any fancy techniques, and the instructions were incredibly thorough. And the brownies looked great, too! They rose beautifully in the oven and formed a shiny, crackly top. They’re the platonic ideal of brownies. 

In the cakey-chewy-fudgy spectrum, these brownies landed firmly between chewy and fudgy. Their thickness, crackly top, and chewy edges kept them from falling completely into fudgy territory, but they were definitely gooier than what I was looking for. Cutting the brownies into small squares helped, but even still, these were very, very rich. With that said, I think they’d be a hit with most crowds, and are a great option when you need brownies ASAP. 

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

4. The Perfect Chewy Brownie: Cook’s Illustrated’s Chewy Brownies

These brownies were everything I was searching for. Using unsweetened melted chocolate in addition to the cocoa powder gave them big chocolate flavor that wasn’t overpowering and ensured the brownies didn’t bake up too dry. The snappy chunks of bittersweet chocolate provided a welcome contrast to the decadent centers, and I preferred their slightly more bitter flavor to the semisweet chips in Handle the Heat’s. 

The best part, of course, was their texture! The scientifically calculated 1:3 ratio of butter (a saturated fat) to oil (an unsaturated fat) yielded thick, chewy, satisfying brownies. Instead of leaving me with a stomachache, these brownies left me wanting more. Unlike super-fudgy brownies, which are too sweet for any adornments, these would be perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

I also appreciated the detailed instructions on how to check the brownies for doneness. Not only does the recipe tell you what to look for on the toothpick (a few moist crumbs), but it also instructs you on precisely where to test (halfway between the edge and the center). With these helpful tips, I was able to skip the guessing game that usually comes with brownie baking. The specific cooling instructions were also helpful, as I do think that cooling the brownies completely contributed to their chewiness. 

My only complaint is that the brownies stuck to the foil sling, so next time I’ll add more nonstick spray, use nonstick foil, or try parchment paper instead. But that’s a small price to pay for the world’s best chewy brownies, and it certainly won’t stop me from giving them a 10/10.

Do you have a favorite chewy brownie recipe? Let us know in the comments!