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Want Healthy Brownies? Use This Secret Ingredient

June 26, 2024

Is there any dessert more comforting — or nostalgic — than a brownie? In our never-ending quest to make a more nutritious version of this favorite indulgent treat, we stumbled upon a delightful discovery: When you swap out the flour for chickpeas — yes, chickpeas — you end up with the ultra-moist, dense, fudgy, yet healthy brownies of your dreams. 

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Now, you may be thinking: Sure, chickpeas are great when blended into hummus or tossed into salads, but are they really versatile enough to use in desserts? The answer, as it turns out, is yes.

Here’s why it works: Blending chickpeas in a food processor turns them into a thick, nutrient-dense, protein- and fiber-rich mass that magically provides the structure brownies need. And thanks to chickpeas’ neutral, mildly nutty flavor, you don’t taste them (once you factor in the cocoa powder, maple syrup, and chocolate chips). Best of all, chickpeas are low on the glycemic index, meaning they won’t cause sudden spikes in your blood sugar levels. 

You asked: Can a brownie be healthy?

A brownie will never be a salad, of course — but this version does have benefits, along with simply being delicious.

  • They can accommodate almost any dietary restriction, as they’re gluten-free, dairy-free, nut free, and refined sugar–free. 
  • You can customize them according to your preferences. Add a swirl of tahini or nut butter, chopped nuts, dried fruit, or protein powder to boost the benefits.
  • They’re stress free. You toss all the ingredients right into a food processor, so there’s no need to wash multiple mixing bowls. 

Related: 10 Chickpea Flour Recipes Perfect for Gluten-Free Recipes

How to make healthy brownies

Here’s the recipe, with some additional tips and ideas for customization.

Secret Ingredient Healthy Brownies

Prep: 15 minutes
Bake: 30 minutes
Yield: 12 brownies

  • Coconut oil, olive oil, or avocado oil spray
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas
  • ⅓ cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
  • ⅓ cup neutral oil (such as avocado oil or refined coconut oil)
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened nut milk of choice
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • ½ cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Mist an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Place the chickpeas in a food processor or high-speed blender and pulse them a handful of times to break them up. 
  3. Add the maple syrup, espresso powder (if using), oil, cocoa powder, vanilla, nut milk, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to the food processor. Blend until the batter is smooth. Fold in the chocolate chips. 
  4. Transfer the batter to the baking pan; spread evenly. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack for at least 20 minutes.

Tip: You can slice and serve the brownies right away, or cover and refrigerate to serve later. Store leftovers in an airtight container on the counter or in the fridge. They’ll keep for 4 days at room temperature, or up to a week in the fridge.

Make them your own

Feel free to experiment with different additions or toppings according to your preferences. Here are a few ideas:

  • Add ¼ cup chocolate or unflavored protein powder (be sure to double the amount of nut milk to make sure the batter isn’t too dry)
  • Add a teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Melt some dark chocolate with coconut oil to drizzle over the top
  • Sprinkle the top with flaky sea salt
  • Add ⅓ cup of chopped toasted walnuts or pecans, or toasted unsweetened coconut 
  • Instead of the oil, use ½ cup creamy peanut butter (be sure to add 2 additional tablespoons of nut milk)
  • Add ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
  • Stir in fresh raspberries, or some finely chopped dried cherries
  • Swirl in tahini and sprinkle with sesame seeds

Read next: 10 Mediterranean Diet Dessert Recipes For a Sweet Tooth

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