The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies

I cheated.

And I don’t feel one bit bad about doing it.

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies

I’m talking about cheating on my old faithful brownie recipe. It’s a fabulous recipe for fudgy brownies and has served me well since 2009, and I’ve had it on my blog since 2011. Every brownie recipe in my cookbook uses it as the base. The batter comes together in minutes by melting chocolate and butter together in the microwave, whisking in sugars, eggs, and flour. No mixer required, nothing complicated, and the results are fantastically fudgy, dense, rich, and perfect.

So why would I cheat on it? Good question. The simple answer is curiosity got the better of me.


The longer answer is that with cooking, if we only ever stuck to something we liked and never branched out, we’ll miss some gems along the way.

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies

I cheated on these Chocolate Chip Cookies and was rewarding with finding my favorite new recipe for Chocolate Chip and Chunk Cookies. The old recipe was and still is fine, better than fine; I just prefer the new one. But plenty of people still write saying they made the older recipe and are thrilled.

The same with these Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies. A few simple tweaks to an already solid recipe and I now have Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies (gluten-free), my new favorite peanut butter cookie recipe.

Sometimes my favorite recipe for an item is on such a pedestal and almost nothing could trump it, and to try is just an exercise in dishes-doing and ingredients-wasting. Oh, I’ve been there. If it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it.

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies

But I have seen so many adaptations to the Alice Medrich brownie recipe from her 2003 cookbook, Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate.

So many good cooks, websites and newspapers just can’t be wrong. Deb’s version has 763 comments, most of them glowing, so it seemed like a good gamble. The worst thing is that I’d be out of is some cocoa powder.

Yes, this recipe uses cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate. Up until these brownies, I was of the mindset that cocoa powder is totally inferior to melted chocolate and that nothing made with it could ever compare. Well, I was wrong, big time. These brownies are every bit as fudgy, moist, rich, and not at all dry, cakey, or inferior in any way to melted chocolate brownies.

I’m a stickler for fudgy-only brownies with zero traces of cakiness. If they fell short in any way, I’d be the first to say it. Actually, I was almost looking for a reason to shun this recipe and was going out of my way looking for faults, but can’t offer a single flaw.

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies

These brownies, like my old recipe, are so fast and simple to make. They’re as easy as using a boxed mix. In fact, if you like the taste of boxed mix brownies, you’ll especially love these. There’s some old-school nostalgia that comes from using cocoa powder.

They’re made in one bowl and the batter comes together with a whisk in minutes. Melt butter, cocoa powder and sugar together in the microwave. Stir in vanilla, two eggs, flour, and you’re done. If you’re looking for a short ingredients list brownie recipe that’s foolproof, look no further.

After pouring the batter into a foil-lined 8-by-8-inch pan, press 20 caramels in, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Alice suggests baking for 20 minutes but based on reading literally hundreds of comments on various sites from people who’ve made a version of this recipe, 20 minutes seems awfully short, even for me. And I love brownies so fudgy they’re nearly raw.

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies

I recommend baking for 20 to 25 minutes, checking with a toothpick, and if it’s still soupy, bake for 5 minutes. Do not bake over 30 minutes. The toothpick test won’t necessarily come out clean, but when I inserted a toothpick into the center at 25 minutes, it was still watery-fudgy. At 28 minutes, they were done. They will continue to firm up as they cool.

Don’t be tempted to bake longer than 30 minutes, even if you think they’re raw; they’re not. The longer they bake, the greater chance the cocoa powder will either scorch, burn, or dry out, and you won’t have the wonderfully moist, uber-fudgy experience you deserve.

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies

I let the pan cool on the counter for one hour, covered with a piece of foil, and placed it in the refrigerator overnight before slicing. I don’t think it’s possible to make really clean cuts unless these brownies are well-chilled because they’re so very fudgy. You could try cutting them with a pizza wheel if they’re sticking to your knife. Plus, in giving them time to really set up, the edges will firm up and turn chewier and the interior remains gooey, soft, and tender.

I prefer rich, fudgy brownies, French Silk Pie, chocolate mousse, and a piece of rich fudge to be served chilled. Or, you could skip all that, disregard any ideas of clean-cuts, and just scoop them out of the pan with a spoon. You may want to grab a huge ladle so you can shovel them in more efficiently.

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies

My husband said these brownies are not only the best brownies he’s ever had or that I’ve ever made, he said they’re the best dessert I’ve ever made, period.

With over 500 recipes on my blog, 100 in my cookbook, and oodles more that I try and don’t make either cut, for him to say that these are the best dessert I’ve ever made is ridiculously high praise. He does say this every 6 months or so, and he forgets what he likes, but still they trump hundreds of other things.

The Bruce Springsteen song, Tunnel Of Love, comes to mind with the photo below.

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies

I have been trying to decide which recipe I like better, the old or the new. The old recipe produces brownies that are slightly chewier, and the surface and base have a crisper “skin” because there’s more butter by two tablespoons, and there’s cocoa butter solids from the melted chocolate. They also have a slightly more buttery flavor.

The new recipe is also chewy on the edges but is softer in general. Not cakey soft, just soft and tender and lighter-weight. They’re the brownie equivalent of a Softbatch-style cookie. Both versions are ridiculously fudgy, dense, rich with zero cakiness.

The old is made in a slightly larger pan (9×9 versus 8×8) and based on how much I cook, we don’t need big batches of anything, and the smaller size is preferred, yielding just 9 generous squares.

Both recipes are equally fast and easy to make; made in 1 bowl in the microwave, wish a whisk, no mixer.

There’s less ingredients in the new recipe – 2 eggs versus 3, and just granulated sugar rather than a mix of granulated and brown sugars. Neither recipe produces “sweet” brownies; both are deep, dark, and rich, but the new recipe is even less sweet. They’re a dark chocolate and fudge lover’s dream.

And not to be cheap but cocoa powder is less expensive than dark chocolate. As Alice said, “The best version happens to be the one you can make when you’ve eaten all the 70% bars you bought for baking, and only a forgotten tin of cocoa powder remains on the shelf.” Ironically I used cocoa powder that I’d had for ages that was just sitting on my shelf. I used natural, unsweetened cocoa powder (non-Dutched). However Dutch-process or Hershey’s Special Dark may be used.

Look how dark these are, without even using Hershey’s Special Dark. Unfortunately, I can’t find it in metro San Diego. I have a circuit of about 6 major grocery stores and Target that I utilize, and no one carries it.

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies

I think, overall, I like the new recipe better by a tiny margin; almost too close to call but I couldn’t very well say it was a tie. There’s a nostalgic quality that reminds me of the boxed brownies I’d made as a kid when I came home from school by stirring in water, oil and an egg and grossly underbaked them so they’d stay fudgy. Except with these, the flavor is infinitely darker, deeper, richer, and better.

And biting into huge caramel chunks doesn’t hurt either.

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies

Possibly the best brownies I’ve ever had or made, and definitely my husband’s new favorite. It’s a one-bowl recipe that’s whisked together in 5 minutes and produces ridiculously rich and fudgy brownies with zero cakiness. They’re made with cocoa powder rather than melted chocolate, and ff you think cocoa powder brownies are inferior to melted chocolate brownies, these will change your mind. Not too sweet; very deep, dark, and rich. They’re a dark chocolate and fudge lover’s dream, with big chunks of caramel baked in. Ready from start to finish in 30 minutes – as easy as using a boxed mix with results that taste a zillion times better.


  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process, I used natural)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste (I did not use salt, personal preference)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (original recipe is 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (weighing nearly 2.5 ounces or 65 grams)
  • 20 caramels, unwrapped (about 1/3 cup very thick, good-quality caramel sauce may be substituted and swirled or marbled over the surface)


  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 325F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil leaving overhang on the sides, spray with cooking spray; set pan aside.
  2. In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine butter, sugar, cocoa, optional salt, and heat on high power to melt, about 45 seconds. Stop to stir, and heat in 10-second bursts until mixture has melted and can be stirred smooth (mine took 45 seconds + 15 seconds). Batter will be very granular.
  3. Add the vanilla, eggs, and stir vigorously until batter is thick, shiny, and well blended. Add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with a wooden spoon (I used metal) or a rubber spatula. Pour batter evenly into the prepared pan.
  4. Add caramels in four rows of 5 across, pressing each caramel down into the batter so that the top surface of the caramel is nearly flush with the batter surface. They should be wedged in quite deep but not bottoming-out and not touching the bottom of the pan or they’ll be prone to sticking to it.
  5. Bake until a toothpick in the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes, is Alice’s suggestion, but I think this is too short. I baked for 25 minutes, checked with a toothpick and it emerged soupy/watery at 25 minutes. I baked for 28 minutes total.
  6. I recommend baking 25 minutes, checking with a toothpick, and baking for up to 5 more minutes, as necessary. Do not bake over 30 minutes or brownies will be prone to scorching, burning, turning dry, or setting up too hard. Brownies will firm up as they cool. I recommend cooling brownies on counter in the pan for 1 hour, covering pan with a piece of foil (to prevent fridge smells) and placing pan in refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight, to cool completely before slicing if you want clean-cuts because they’re so fudgy; using a pizza wheel may help if brownies are sticking to your knife.
  7. Brownies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. I prefer them chilled and keep them in the fridge. The caramel gets a touch hard, but softens in a few minutes at room temp.
Only Eats

Related Recipes:

Fudgy Nutella Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting – My old go-to brownie recipe, that many others are derived from and it works like a charm every time to produce flawless, fudgy, rich brownies in just minutes with one bowl and whisk

Browned Butter Caramel and Butterscotch Bars – The blondie equivalent of dark fudgy brownies and are as dark as blondies can get. They’re made with dark brown sugar, butterscotch, and caramel for rich depth of flavor. Ready from start to finish in under 30 minutes with 1 bowl and whisk

Oreo Cookie-Stuffed Brownies with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting – Stuffing candy and cookies into brownies is an easy way to get oooh’s and ahhh’s from anyone and is a fun way to use up odds and ends

Banana Bread Brownies with Vanilla Caramel Glaze – A happy accident when I was trying to make chocolate banana bread but instead created bread so fudgy, dense, and moist that it could hardly be called bread. Rich, dense brownies is a much more fitting name

Caramel and Chocolate Gooey Bars (GF with Vegan adaptation) – The hardest part of this recipe is unwrapping the caramels but the results are so worth it. Oozing with texture from oats and dripping with buttery caramel and chocolate

Quintuple Chocolate Fudgy Brownie Cookies – For the ultimate chocolate lover. Chocolate is used five times: Cocoa powder, melted bittersweet baking chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate chips, diced chocolate and caramel-filled truffles (or use your fave diced candy bar) and chocolate-filled Oreos

Mounds Bar Chocolate Coconut Cake Mix Cookies – Brownie-like in their fudginess and extremely easy and fast to make. The coconut candy bars are a great pairing with the chocolate

Thick and Soft Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies (gluten-free) – If your idea of dark chocolate must involve peanut butter, these are the cookies for you. NO Butter, NO Flour, and NO White Sugar used

Tell me about your perfect brownie. Fudgy or cakey? Frosted – and if so what kid of frosting? Stuffed with candy or cookies? Or are you a brownie purist?

Have you ever cheated on a favorite recipe? Did it pay off?

Thanks for the Breakfast For Dinner Cookbook Giveaway and Unreal Candy Giveaway entries!

141 comments on “The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies”

  1. These look so amazing! I have been experimenting with different brownie recipes and, when it comes down to it, my husband and I haven’t liked any better than a mix yet. I’ll have to try this recipe next since it has such high praise! Plus, how can you go wrong with caramel!? Delicious.

  2. You just got me in trouble with my man! I made the mistake of showing him this recipe and then reading your suggested recipes. He groaned after I read each one just like it was torture to hear and see them without being able to taste!

  3. There’s nothing wrong with cheating! I would do it too, especially if these brownies are the end product!

  4. When I cheated on my ole faithful brownie recipe with this one, I didn’t feel the least bit guilty after I took one big bite. I’m so glad you made them Averie and thanks for linking back to my ultimates. I think this incredible brownie recipe is fabulous on its own with an add-in or two like caramel or peanut butter chips. But with my experience trying to make these into cheesecake swirl brownies, I’ve come to learn that these soft, dense, and thick brownies are just TOO good to add much else to! I’m SO glad you made them because my words of convincing can only do so much! These truly are one of the best brownie recipes I’ve ever made. And my perfect brownie would involve peanut butter and/or caramel and/or mint in some way. And I like the edges of the brownies. :) The chewy corner pieces from the pan are my favorite part!

    • Between your words, Deb have 765 people writing in with glowing reviews, as well as dozens of other bloggers and their readers making them, I was like…okay, I have to stop holding steadfast to my other recipe and try these! And so glad I did. Then, when I read your post today about trying this recipe with swirling things and it not working well; it actually made me feel good (not b/c of what happened to you!) but because in my book I included 3 or 4 diff brownie recipes but my base dough was my other one, the melted/butter choc and I have to say, I LOVED every recipe and then was worried well maybe, what if, maybe I should have used this one…but then, when I read what you wrote, it made me feel relief like my swirled recipes wouldn’t have turned out well anyway. Long way of saying…you just never know with any of this stuff til you try and play around, right!

      Normally I love half-raw center cuts, but with these, I found myself cherry-picking off the edge pieces! :)

  5. I’ll take some extra fudginess in brownies any day–and chips or caramels are my favorite add-ins, though my husband likes little blobs of PB swirled in. I always love frosting on just about anything, but these look too good as is! I have always thought melted chocolate gives fudgier results than cocoa powder too–but just looking at these tells me otherwise! I can say that when it comes to cocoa powder, I doubt if I’ll ever cheat on Hershey’s special dark. I can only find it at Wal-Mart so I buy a few at a time!

    • I go to Walmart like once every 3 years! It’s a trek for me to even find one but I’m about to go b/c I need Special Dark and everyone says they carry it there. And I am normally a must-have-frosting girl but these, Paula, don’t need it! And if anything, it would actually be overkill! You’ll never look at cocoa powder-based brownies the same way, I promise!

  6. Caramel desserts are my weakness. And combined with brownies? I could eat the whole pan!!!

  7. How on earth did you wait a whole hour before eating these?? My perfect brownie is the one that has a light dusting of icing sugar on top, but its not too sweet (dark choc is my fav)

  8. I am 100% with you on fudgy brownies. I love the idea of incorporating caramel into brownies. They look phenomenal! And I agree with Aimee – I could eat the entire pan!

  9. I know what you mean about the cocoa powder mindset, and I was totally skeptical too…and then this base brownie recipe became our favorite! Love that you added caramels and with your husband’s praise, I can’t imagine any chocolate lover who would be able to resist trying these.

  10. I have one go-to brownie recipe that I NEVER stray from…it’s just too good. And the caramel – I would just eat them all before I got any into the brownies!

    • Well if it’s on your blog, I need to see it! I felt the same about my old recipe Cassie. Like, I just couldn’t…it took years of convincing and like 10 other blogs to make this and for literally hundreds of their readers to chime in with glowing praise for me to cave and glad I did!

  11. The voices in my head are loving your perfect, equidistant caramel placings in that brownie batter. It’s the little things…

  12. Nuggets of caramel? HECK YES! Caramel brownies are my husband’s all time favorite dessert. I’ll have to mix things up a bit and try this version

  13. OH.MY.GOODNESS. These look so decadent and incredible, Averie! You know I love baking your recipes for my students, and this one is definitely going on the list! WOW!

    • I would have given my right arm for a teacher like you! My daughter for things like bday parties, at her school, the kids aren’t even allowed to bring in cake. They have to bring in airpopped popcorn, popsicles, rice cakes, fruit cups, veggie sticks or something similar. No candy, cookies, baked goods, or cake. It’s a little overboard!

  14. Just Awesome! The the contrast of colors!!

  15. Ohhh wow! All that caramel in that fudgey deliciousness? I normally leave most brownie making to my mom– she does it way better than I ever could. But with THESE? I think I might give her a run for her money

  16. I made these brownies as a part of my BB Mondays. They.are.amazing! To say the least. :) Love your addition of caramels! PS: The tunnel of love pic – SWOON!! :)

  17. I love cocoa brownies, these look fab!

  18. You’re making me want to cheat on my standard brownie recipe. Ya jerk. :)

  19. These brownies look absolutely delicious!


  20. If finding a good recipe and then never making it again is cheating, then I am WAY guilty! NO shame there, chica.

    I am all about the fudgy, dense brownies, but I never wnat to go the extra melt the chocolate step, and I was under the impression that the real cocoa creates the best brownies, but I love this!! If I do buy baking chocolate, and I do, I end up eating it straight, but cocoa powder I always have on hand.

    I don’t know how you can or did resist eating these all gooey and warm from the oven just to get a clean cut. I’m impressed. I eat that shit stright from the pan with a ladle, as you said. It looks really classy when I do it.

  21. Wow, these look amazing, Averie! That’s really high praise you’re giving…I’ve definitely got to try these! (:

  22. I need these!! Looks so gooey and fudgy!! :)

  23. Shoveling these brownies into my mouth with a shovel sounds about right. They look rich with chocolate!

  24. I don’t know where I’ve been, but I’ve never seen these before. You make them sound irresistible. And as for Hershey’s Special Dark, I wish I’d hoarded it last year, I can’t find it anywhere anymore!

    • I had resisted them for years but so glad I finally caved!

      I used to be able to get Hershey’s Special Dark if I as willing to drive like 30-45 mins north out of the city/metro San Diego and go to more ‘suburban’ grocery stores, i.e. the suburban Ralph’s, Albertson’s, Vons, etc. but now that doesn’t even work. The same thing happened to me in the last year. I wonder if they’re having SoCal regional distribution issues? If you do find it at a major grocery store, LMK. I have heard that Walmart carries it, but I never go to those! Target does not, I’ve stalked mine!

      • I’m about 30 minutes north of the city (downtown SD) so I’ll keep my eyes open at the regular markets – or ask those shopping for me to look since I can’t get out as much right now.

        And I know this is crazy, but at times I’ve seen some of the fancier (name brand) things that aren’t carried regularly in stores anymore end up at the 99 cent store (the regular one, not Dollar Tree) and still with the expiration date plenty far out. So that’s another (random) thought for others to try, too…

      • I know, the 99cent stores can be great for random stuff as can places like TJMaxx & Marshall’s! When I lived in N. County about 10 yrs ago, the groc stores up there had certain things that urban groc stores don’t get. Weird but true!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *