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How to Make Box Muffins Better

Love a good muffin but not totally into baking from scratch? This post is for you. How to Make Box Muffins Better is loaded with all my best tips and tricks for turning out gorgeous muffins with a perfectly tender crumb, using a box mix. 

High-domed Blueberry Muffins with a gorgeous crumb topping in teal paper wrappers

MUFFINSSSSSS. From a ~gasp~ box mix. 

Just kidding. I am totally not above using a box mix. I love them for cakes, I love them for cookies, and honestly, those little 98 cent packages of muffin mix you can grab at the store? They are totally delicious. But! If you are serving them up at a breakfast or brunch, and you want your box mix muffins to look the part, I have loads of tips for impressing guests whith a cheap box mix. 

Can I tell you a secret? Your favorite coffee shop muffins probably come from a mix. 

How to Make Box Muffins Better – Baking Tips

Mixing up your box mix is the first place you are going to start, and to get those high-domed bakery-style muffins, there are a few tricks you need to have handy right away. The very first thing I need you to do though, is to PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 425°F. 

I know the box says 375° or 400° in most cases. But the initial burst of heat is going to help our box mix muffins rise. The high heat creates steam that gives your box mix muffins rapid rise. So after you run through the rest of these tips, know that AT LEAST those first 4-5 minutes will be at 425°F. If your box mix instructions STATE 425°F, it’s all good. 

If your instructions call for a lower baking temperature, reduce the heat after the first 4-5 minutes WITHOUT opening the oven. 

a side by side comparison of muffins. One is made with a box mix but with bakery-style tips, and the other is made following the box mix instructions

Can I Use Milk in Place of Water?

You technically can, but it’s not recommended. MUFFINS AND CUPCAKES ARE NOT THE SAME! If your box mix calls for water, it’s probably because adding milk will make them TOO MOIST. Have you ever had your muffins just totally stick to the paper liner? So they look great and taste great, but when you go to unwrap them and eat them, you are like WTF half my muffin is stuck to the paper.

We want to avoid that and the weird eating gymnastics involved with getting said muffin off the paper. 

A tender crumb is good. Too much moisture is not. 

All of this said though, if your muffin mix calls for milk, USE MILK! Martha White Just Add Milk is one of my favorites. 

Mixed Berry Muffins warm and split open on a plate, ready to eat!

Don’t Overmix!

Have you ever made box muffins and they taste fine but they have just … the WRONG texture? Rubbery or tough muffins are because you got a little crazy with your mixer. My muffin preference is to whisk them up by hand. I like this OXO Balloon Whisk

Too much egg can also throw you off here. We aren’t changing the actual science of what’s going on with your muffin mix. We are just helping it along a little. 

Box Muffin Add-Ins

I have LOADS of suggestions on what to add in to your muffins, and could basically go on here for days. But here are a few of my favorites:

  • Add fresh or frozen berries! Your berry muffin mix will definitely have some berries included, but the more the berrier. Sorry. I am a nerd. 
  • add zest! Zest a lemon, an orange, or a lime and stir the zest into the batter for a burst of citrus
  • fill with cream cheese! To make a quick cream cheese filling just beat together 8 ounces of cream cheese + 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • fill with jam or fruit curd! No special tips here. Just keep in mind that jam and jelly are not the same. 

high domed blueberry muffins from a box mix still in the pan

Fill the Muffin Cups ALMOST to the Top. 

This is important. Most box directions will have you stop at the halfway mark. But if you want big, tall, high-domed muffins, halfway won’t cut it. 3/4 of the way full will give you a nice tall dome. ALMOST to the top will give you a muffin top. 

PRO TIP: If you think you’ll have muffin tops (the good kind), you should spray the whole top of the muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray. 

Toppings for Bakery-Style Box Muffins

These are the details that will make your bakery-style muffins shine! You always notice what’s on top first. 

Make Streusel Topping

This is actually my very favorite way to jazz up muffins whether I made them from scratch or not. Streusel topping is so easy and it adds buttery sweetness, and makes your muffins look very profesh. To make streusel topping you need:

  • 3 tablespoons soft butter
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour

Mix it up to a crumby consistency (I totally use my fingers for this) and sprinkle over the top of your muffins. These Blueberry Lemon Muffins are NOT from a mix; it’s a from-scratch recipe. But it calls for the same streusel and they are DELICIOUS. 

Other Favorite Toppings

streusel-topped blueberry muffins still in the pan

What are your favorite muffin-making tips? 

a side by side comparison of muffins. One is made with a box mix but with bakery-style tips, and the other is made following the box mix instructions
Yield: Makes 12 large Muffins

How to Make Box Muffins Better

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Love muffins but no time for scratch baking! You can make bakery style muffins with a box mix! How to Make Box Muffins Better is a fool proof recipe with lots of tips and tricks to turn out better box muffins every time!

Ingredients

  • 1 package muffin mix of your choice
  • additional ingredients according to package instructions (milk, water, oil, egg, etc)
  • add-ins such as fresh or frozen berries or lemon zest
  • toppings such as streusel or sparkling sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F and line a standard muffin tin with paper liners. Spray the whole pan (the flat top as well!) with nonstick cooking spray. this prevents your muffin tops from sticking.
  2. Use milk or water according to package instructions. Don't substitute.
  3. Mix the ingredients together by hand, and be careful not to over mix!
  4. Mix in additional berries or zest.
  5. Fill the muffin cups 3/4 of the way up. This might mean you have fewer muffins than your package instructions call for.
  6. Top with streusel or turbinado sugar, etc.
  7. Bake. If your package instructions called for a baking temperature BELOW 425°F, reduce the heat after the first 4-5 minutes of baking time to the recommended temperature. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN. Bake for the time your package states.

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Susan

Sunday 9th of August 2020

The blueberry muffin mix is great with added berries, lots of them. The apple cinnamon mix, add a whole apple to 2 pkgs mix. Added cinnamon or pumpkin pie mix is great! The berry mix add a handful frozen or fresh raspberries, blackberries, blueberries all together. I never add sugar to my muffins. The wet/dry ratio is not affected by added fruit. But do bake a bit longer. Use toothpick test. Not crazy about the strawberry mix even w chopped strawberries! I've been playing with the mixes for months. Cheap, easy and great! My next fling will be lemon/poppyseed w blueberries and lemon juice and zest!

Susan

Sunday 9th of August 2020

The cornbread mixes, especially the jalapeño one...add ham, onion, sweet pepper, scrambled eggs. Dice everything small so the flavors spread throughout the muffins!

Michele

Thursday 4th of June 2020

I want to add more fiber to the muffins (I've got a 4 year old in need of more in his diet), can I substitute some of the boxed mix for bran or whole wheat flour? If so how much? He doesn't like much in the food department, so I'm looking for ways to get him to eat healthier but in the foods he does like.

Susan

Sunday 9th of August 2020

@Michele, Marth White has bran mixes too!

Sylvia Scott

Sunday 24th of May 2020

Can I add cocoa to your chocolate chip muffin mix? If so how much is okay?

Susan

Sunday 9th of August 2020

@Sylvia Scott, I use a tbsp+ cocoa powder, 1.5 tbsp frozen chocolate syrup(homemade) and lots of Ghirardelli semisweet chips in 2 pkgs MW chocolate chocolate chip mix. Bake about 1-2 minutes extra to make sure is done completely. Yield 1 dozen rich and glorious muffins!

Heather Tullos

Tuesday 26th of May 2020

I don't think I'd add cocoa - that would really change the dry to wet ratio, and this is more about jazzing your boxed muffins up. Does the recipe call for eggs? You might be avle to melt a couple of ounces of chocolate, let it cool, and then SLOWLY whisk in the eggs (lightly beat them first). It's important to let the chocolate cool first or you will have a mess of scrambled egg chocolate which is gross. Otherwise this should work :)

Shirley

Friday 8th of May 2020

can i add bananas to the banana muffin mix? Do I change the other ingredients?

Susan

Sunday 9th of August 2020

@Lorelei, Wasn't crazy about the added banana.

Lorelei

Friday 5th of June 2020

@Shirley, I’m curious about this as well

Shirley

Friday 8th of May 2020

@Shirley,