14 Ways To Upgrade Your Boxed Muffin Mix

Man watches kid take muffins out of oven
Man watches kid take muffins out of oven - fizkes/Shutterstock

Grab a box of muffin mix, and let's let creativity meet convenience. No need to mess with flour, baking powder, sugar, and the other basics. That's already in the box. Instead, we can play with the fun stuff that'll take your muffins to a new level. Things like yummy toppings — did you know there's such a thing as easy-to-make lemon curd? Fruity, creamy, or crunchy mix-ins — how about putting graham cracker crumbs in your muffin? And since the box does force us to add water, we'll play with some liquids, too — tea for a muffin or two?

Just because you're using a box doesn't mean your muffins have to taste like every other muffin that came from that mix. Experiment and explore, and you just might find your new favorite muffin. With these ideas, no one will be wondering whether you used a mix — they'll just be eating and enjoying delicious muffins.

Read more: 12 Popular Ice Cream Brands, Ranked Worst To Best

Replace Water With Strong Coffee Or Strong Tea

Woman making coffee in pot
Woman making coffee in pot - Miragest/Getty Images

When the time comes to stir water into your muffin mix, use cooled coffee or tea instead. This is a fun way to play with flavor combinations. That chocolate chip muffin mix baked with coffee becomes a batch of mocha muffins. Just be sure to use strong coffee — even stronger than your morning wake-up cup.

But why stop at coffee? Tea works for muffins, too! Have fun mixing and matching tea varieties with muffin mix flavors. The citrusy hint of bergamot in Earl Grey goes well with a sweet blueberry muffin mix. Or try the slightly sweet flavor of matcha green tea with a zesty lemon muffin mix. And the spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger in chai tea add a fitting depth of flavor to apple cinnamon muffin mix.

For these tea transformations, remember that strength is key. And for stronger tea, don't rely on just the steeping time. Be generous with the loose tea, or double up if you're using bags. Strong tea infuses your baked goods with unique flavor, making those muffins from a mix taste extra special.

Add A Streusel Topping

Muffins with streusel topping
Muffins with streusel topping - Life morning/Shutterstock

You know that yummy crunch and buttery bliss atop a coffee cake? That's a streusel topping, and it belongs on much more than just coffee cake. A streusel topping transforms your basic boxed muffin into a delectable treat with little effort. It's pretty easy to make a streusel topping, with only four common ingredients — butter, flour, brown sugar, and salt. But you might embrace creativity and throw in some other ingredients for that wow factor.

Depending on your muffin mission, consider cozying up with some cinnamon or nutmeg for a bit of spice and everything nice. If you're nuts about texture, a handful of finely chopped almonds or walnuts can add that perfect crunch. Feeling fruity? Dice up some pears or apples. The streusel with diced apples from this chunky apple streusel bread recipe would turn a plain ol' cinnamon muffin mix into a gourmet experience.

As for logistics, sprinkle your mixed streusel evenly over the top of each muffin batter-filled cup. Resist the urge to press down, which can cause the streusel to sink into the muffins as they bake. The heat will melt the butter and naturally bind the streusel to the muffins. During baking, check for browning. If the topping is getting too dark, loosely cover the muffins with aluminum foil for the remaining baking time.

Add Fruit To The Mix

Sliced open strawberry muffin
Sliced open strawberry muffin - PhoebeG/Shutterstock

To upgrade your boxed muffin mix, just add fruit. Whether it's the fresh bounty from your local farmer's market or that forgotten bag of frozen berries at the back of your freezer (just be sure to thaw and drain first), you can use about ½ to 1 cup of fruit for bigger box mixes (14- to 20-ounce range). Fold the fruit into your muffin batter, and bake as directed.

For some reason, blueberries get all the attention with muffins. But sliced strawberries bake up into little pockets of tender sweetness. Add sliced strawberries to a batch of lemon poppy seed muffins for a sweet and tangy mashup. Or create a lovely contrast of flavors by infusing banana nut muffins with sliced strawberries.

As great as they are, there's no need to limit yourself to strawberries. Have fun with muffin flavors and fruit pairings. Raspberries or peach bits complement the nutty flavor in almond poppy seed mix. Diced apples in pumpkin spice muffins are a match made in autumn heaven. In the mood for something decadent? Try cherry pieces in chocolate chip or chocolate muffins. Discover your own cornucopia of fruity flavors as you take your boxed muffin mix to a new level.

Top With An Easy-To-Make Lemon Curd

Lemon curd in a jar
Lemon curd in a jar - Tetiana Shumbasova/Shutterstock

Get ready to zest up your life and your muffins with lemon curd. Lemon curd is thick and creamy, vibrant and tangy, and slightly sweet. Its bright yellow color matches its intense lemon flavor. A single dollop can transform a simple muffin into something exquisitely delightful.

The problem with lemon curd is it's a pain in the kitchen. Juggling the perfect temperature, nailing the timing, and stirring like your life depends on it — is it all worth it? Well, the good news is you don't have to answer that question. Convenience meets gourmet bliss with an easy, microwave-only lemon curd recipe. With that recipe, just six ingredients, and a few minutes in the microwave, you're about 10 minutes away from lemon curd heaven. Just a heads up, though — you will need a bit of preplanning because the lemon curd sets overnight in the fridge. It'll be worth the wait.

When the lemon curd is set and ready, what muffins will you top? Jazz up a blueberry muffin for a tart and tangy pairing. Give an almond poppy seed muffin a zesty makeover for a bite of sophistication. The existing citrus flavors in cranberry orange muffins will zing and sing when you add lemon curd to the choir. And if you can't get enough lemon, why not top lemon poppy seed muffins with lemon curd? An old saying is due for an upgrade: If life gives you lemons, make lemon curd.

Combine Different Muffin Box Mixes

Kid putting batter in muffin tin
Kid putting batter in muffin tin - Wita Design/Shutterstock

Combining boxed muffin mixes is like being a mad scientist in the kitchen, except your experiments lead to delicious results instead of questionable explosions. Enjoy the creativity of fun flavor combos. Give blueberry muffins a zesty twist by adding a lemon poppy seed muffin mix. Or combine a banana nut muffin mix with a chocolate chip muffin mix for a classic flavor pairing that feels like a warm hug — you might never make banana bread again. And with all the berry muffin mix options — blueberry, cranberry, strawberry — there's a mixed berry masterpiece just waiting to happen.

When you're wielding not one, but two boxed muffin mixes, you've got a couple paths to glory — do you want one batter or two? For the one-batter option, whisk together the dry ingredients from both boxes, then add all the required wet ingredients. Mix well into one batter. This one-batter approach gives the muffins a truly integrated flavor.

For the two-batter approach, prepare each boxed mix separately. With two batters ready to go, use a knife or a skewer to gently swirl the two prepared batters together in the muffin cups. This creates a marbled masterpiece with distinct, yet complimentary, flavors. Have fun playing matchmaker to create a uniquely tasty muffin from a mix — make that mixes.

Add A Surprise Center Filling

Jam-filled muffin with coffee mug
Jam-filled muffin with coffee mug - Dulezidar/Getty Images

You're about to bite into a seemingly innocent muffin. It looks like any other muffin on the outside, but wait — there's a plot twist lurking within, a surprise center bursting with flavor. Create this surprise easily by adding jam or another filling to your muffin mix batter. Start by filling the muffin cup about one-third to half full of batter. Drop a heaping teaspoon of jam into the center of each muffin, then cover with the remaining batter. Cook as directed, but remember you've added a plot twist, so keep your eyes on those muffins as they bake. When it's time to test for doneness, aim that toothpick just off-center — plunging into the jammy middle will leave you with a gooey, misleading clue. Once baked to perfection, give these undercover delights a little extra cooling time to avoid any surprise encounters with scalding jam.

This works with any kind of jam, so have fun mixing and matching with muffin box flavors. Try a blueberry muffin mix with raspberry jam. Or pack strawberry jam into chocolate chip muffins. Take that, chocolate-covered strawberries!

Add Crunchy Bits Like Nuts, Seeds, Or Cookie Crumbs

Muffin tin with batter and nuts
Muffin tin with batter and nuts - Vicki Vale/Shutterstock

Banana nut is a common muffin mix flavor, but who's to say your blueberry muffins from a mix can't have nuts, too? It's time to throw some crunchy bits into the mix. Nuts are a great crunchy choice to add flavor and a dash of nutritional goodness. For bigger box mixes (14- to 20-ounce range), fold in about ½ cup of chopped nuts into your batter and bake as directed.

The choice of nuts can either complement the existing taste profile or introduce a new dimension to your muffin flavor. Reinforce the flavor in almond poppy seed muffins by adding almonds. Or if you're feeling adventurous, invite chopped pistachios to bring a nutty flavor to tangy lemon poppy seed muffins.

If nuts are your arch-nemesis, don't overlook opportunities to add crunch to your muffins. Try pretzel bits for that salty-sweet combo with chocolate chip muffins, shortbread crumbs that add a buttery decadence to lemon poppy seed muffins, or sunflower seeds that make pumpkin spice muffins sing with the flavors of autumn. Experiment with pretzel bits, cookie crumbs, seeds, granola, cereal pieces, or graham cracker crumbs to elevate your muffin mixes with added crunch.

Cream Cheese Makes Muffins Better

Whisk covered in cream cheese
Whisk covered in cream cheese - Nicolasmccomber/Getty Images

Cream cheese is for so much more than just slathering on your morning bagel. Yes, you can also slather it on your muffin. But let's take this a step further — a cream cheese filling that you bake right into your muffins.

Make the cream cheese filling by combining 8 ounces of softened cream cheese, ½ cup of granulated sugar, 1 large egg yolk, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla in a large bowl. Mix until smooth. Fill your muffin tins with the muffin batter of your choice — blueberry, pumpkin spice, or anything nice. Then, gently top each of the muffin batters with 1 tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture you've just prepared. Use a toothpick to swirl the cream cheese mix into the muffin batter. Bake as directed or until a toothpick comes out clean. The result? A dream team of muffin and cream.

If you enjoy culinary exploration, consider venturing into the wild with flavored cream cheeses. When you make your cream cheese mixture with flavored cream cheese, you might want to reduce the amount of sugar depending on the sweetness of the flavored cream cheese. Strawberry-flavored cream cheese swirls well with chocolate muffins for that classic fruit and chocolate pairing. Or pair brown sugar and cinnamon cream cheese with an apple cinnamon muffin mix for a taste that screams fall — but would be welcome any season.

Add Alcohol

Bottles of Baileys Irish Cream
Bottles of Baileys Irish Cream - John Keeble/Getty Images

If the muffins are for adults, bring in booze for a burst of fun. A little goes a long way here — use just a splash, not a flask. About 1 to 2 tablespoons should do the trick for bigger muffin box mixes (14- to 20-ounce range). Add this to your muffin mix, and reduce the amount of water called for in the recipe by the same amount.

Enjoy the art of spirited muffin making with creative combinations. Blueberry pairs well with vanilla or almond — adding amaretto would be a delicious option. And for that chocolate chip muffin mix, a bit of Irish cream makes a delightful addition. Rum is a versatile guest that gets along with many flavors — rum with cranberry muffin mix? Sure! Rum with banana nut? Why not? Rum with pumpkin spice? Spice it up!

Do keep in mind that boozy muffins are probably best for a relaxing Sunday brunch rather than before that important weekday meeting. The idea that alcohol content burns off in the oven is one of those things your grandmother got wrong about cooking. If need be, you can have non-alcoholic fun with syrups and extracts. Enjoy playing with flavors and baking with a little bit of mischief.

Add Peanut Butter Or Hazelnut Spread

Jars of Nutella and peanut butter
Jars of Nutella and peanut butter - Nina Dermawan/Getty Images

For a quick way to elevate the flavor of a boxed muffin mix, raid your pantry for some peanut butter or hazelnut spread, such as Nutella. Using peanut butter can be as easy as mixing a scoop of it into your muffin batter. If you find your batter's consistently getting too thick, add a bit of water to thin it back to muffin land. Bake as directed. This peanut butter trick works especially well with chocolate or chocolate chip muffin mixes. Or, as a nod to Elvis and what he liked to eat, go for peanut butter in your banana muffin mix.

With hazelnut spread, go for a swirl approach. Once your batter's cozy in its muffin tray, add 1 tablespoon of hazelnut spread to each muffin. Use a toothpick to gently swirl the hazelnut spread and the muffin batter. Bake as directed. As with peanut butter, hazelnut spread pairs well with chocolate, chocolate chip, or banana muffin mixes. It's also a decadent treat with raspberry muffin mix.

Add Plain Or Flavored Yogurt

Spoon and single-serve strawberry yogurts
Spoon and single-serve strawberry yogurts - Madele/Shutterstock

For an easy secret ingredient to add to your boxed muffin mix, try yogurt. It's here to bring the moist, the tangy, and a little bit of magic to your muffins. And bonus points — yogurt adds a healthy dose of protein, probiotics, and calcium.

Plain yogurt works with virtually any muffin mix. Flavored yogurts also do well, opening up a wide world of pairing possibilities. Try vanilla yogurt in almond poppy seed muffins, lemon yogurt in blueberry muffins, strawberry yogurt in banana nut muffins, or peach yogurt in raspberry muffins. Or just jumble that list up, mix it around with some other yogurt flavors like key lime pie, cherry, and orange crème, and see what delightful yogurt and muffin mix combinations come about.

When you're ready to get baking, add ½ cup of yogurt for bigger muffin box mixes (14- to 20-ounce range). For every bit of yogurt you add, kindly show the door to an equal amount of liquid from the original recipe — maybe a little less water and a little less oil. Bake as directed and prepare to enjoy.

Add Shredded Carrots For Carrot Cake Muffins

Carrot muffins with frosting and nuts
Carrot muffins with frosting and nuts - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Let's talk about turning a simple pumpkin spice muffin mix into something spectacularly close to carrot cake's distant, quirky cousin. It's as simple as adding shredded carrots to the mix. The combination gives you the moistness and sweetness of the carrots along with the warm, spiced flavor of the pumpkin spice mix. Or if you're feeling adventurous, you could even swirl those shredded carrots into a cinnamon muffin mix for another sweet and spice combination.

Use 1 to 1½ cups of finely shredded carrots for bigger muffin box mixes (14- to 20-ounce range). The amount isn't an exact science — adjust based on your preference for carrot intensity. But do heed the "finely" part of "finely shredded carrots." Big carrot pieces can turn into awkward interruptions, while finely shredded carrots will melt into the cooked muffin for flavor and moisture in every bite. Bake the muffins according to the package instructions, but since you've added extra ingredients, you may need to extend the baking time by a few minutes.

And to really achieve carrot cake joy, top your carrot-infused muffins with a bit of frosting. Tangy cream cheese frosting, the traditional go-to for carrot cake, would pair well with your muffins. And for that extra touch of elegance and crunch, crown each muffin with a sprinkle of ground nuts.

Don't Forget The Savory Muffin

Just baked corn muffins
Just baked corn muffins - Marritch/Getty Images

Corn muffin mixes are a great canvas for creating savory treats. Mix in veggies, olives, cheeses, or meats. Since the iconic small box of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix is consistently the clear winner when looking for the best cornbread mixes, the following suggestions are for smaller corn muffin mixes, in the 6- to 9-ounce range.

Consider cheese for a quick and easy upgrade. Just follow the recipe on the box, and add in ½ cup to 1 cup of shredded cheese to the batter. Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Pepper Jack are great for a strong flavor. If you prefer a milder taste, try mozzarella or Swiss cheese. Bake as directed.

For meat lovers, follow the recipe on the box, and choose your mix in — maybe four slices of cooked and crumbled bacon or two cut-up hot dogs to create a corn dog muffin. With either choice, bake as directed. You could even use your baked corn muffins for mini sloppy joes — slice off the tops and slop about 1/3 cup of sloppy joe mixture onto each muffin. Add a sprinkle of chives and cheese, and you have yourself one delicious mess.

Make Something Besides Muffins

Chocolate waffles with blueberries
Chocolate waffles with blueberries - Desiree Dunse/Shutterstock

To really upgrade your boxed muffin mix, use it for, well, anything but muffins! How about waffles? Use 2 cups of muffin mix with 1 cup water (or milk), 1 egg, and ¼ cup of vegetable oil. If you want, toss in some fresh blueberries. Use this mix just like a waffle mix, and pour it into your warmed and greased waffle iron. You can use any muffin mix for this — blueberry muffin mix, chocolate chip muffin mix, raspberry mix — waffles just got a lot more interesting.

Or, move from breakfast to dessert. Cake pops are a fun and portable treat, but with so much frosting mixed with the cake, sometimes they're just a bit sickeningly sweet. Swapping out the cake base for a muffin mix is a great hack for making cake pops less sweet. If you prefer traditional cake, that's an option, too. Check out these tips for turning muffin mix into a cake.

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