we are not truly a dessert family.  i do enjoy ending my meals with something sweet, usually a few dark chocolate chips, but we try to steer the kids clear of desserts and david doesn’t much care for them at all.   i have made it a bit of a personal crusade to revise favorite desserts into something appropriate for all of us to eat–substituting whole grain flours for refined, unsaturated fats for saturated, hiding all manner of fruits and vegetables within.  our “desserts” are thus almost all some version of a power muffin, just slightly sweet, hearty, and satisfying.  some people really enjoy this spin on sweets (thankfully, my family included), but best as i try to hide little punches of nutrition, true dessert connoisseurs can sniff me out without much effort, and generally don’t approve.

so, when i read cooking magazines, or watch cooking shows, or eat at a restaurant, i’m always cataloging ideas that i can later manipulate into something suitably nutritious at home.  such was the case with these brownies, a recipe i wish i could take credit for on account of the over the top results, but really, it’s borrowed from the december issue of bon appetite.  a few times i’ve wanted to make brownies, but have never gotten so far as even choosing a recipe to tamper with because the true identity of a brownie is so fragile and easy to violate.  but, with many visitors coming to town over the holidays, i was fully prepared to cave to the masses and crank out some true desserts.

DSC03664however, those many visitors turned into many chefs, and i wound up doing almost no cooking at all (not complaining).  and then a series of coincidences led me on a straight path to these devilish little darlings.  first, in an ongoing exchange between neighbors spanning all of december, we received a batch of brownies anonymously to ring in the new year, which got me excited about having more brownies around.  then, one of two cans of black beans intended for chili was mistakenly used for another purpose.  and the happy marriage of the two ideas–black bean brownies are a mythical subject i’d always wanted to try.

now just STOP your judging right there.  i already admitted it.  i make desserts that pastry chefs would not willingly feed to their dogs, i get it.  as a former vegan nutritionist, i have done all kinds of unspeakable experiments on all sorts of batters to enhance their nutritional profile…applesauce, prunes, zucchini, greek yogurt, silken tofu, flax, you name it.  these are not that.  these are ridiculous, decadent impostors in our whole grain life.  i had to hide them from the kids because one bite would spoil them forever.  and when david cut a 3″x3″ chunk to take to work today, i knew he’d only be able to eat two bites of it at most, the large remainder never to be finished (by him).

but chocoholics, look no further.  allow me to introduce you to your new favorite brownie.  these are so rich, dense, fudgey and moist with a chocolate flavor so potent it can quell the most crippling of cravings with merely a taste.  they are so sinful, i feel like it was pointless to make the small changes i did in the recipe.  however, changes being made, they are still so profoundly a true brownie, why not make them?

make no mistake, these aren’t healthy.  they are tweaked with some healthier variations on the original, but are definitely meant to be enjoyed in moderation.  pureed black beans replace half of the butter, so these are relatively low in fat (but not sugar).  and, what little flour is used is whole grain.  because the flour here is meant to bind instead of create a crumb, you could easily use a gluten free option like brown rice/coconut/almond without affecting the texture at all, i imagine.  want to go vegan?  use oil in place of the butter–melted coconut oil would add a nice subtly exotic flavor (and you’d need an egg substitute).  i wouldn’t eat these in the morning and call it breakfast, as we can with most of our other desserts.  that said, i can as much as guarantee that not a soul on this earth would ever guess the secret ingredient.

so, put these in your repertoire.  bring them to your next potluck.  make them for your next dinner party.  and once everyone is in chocolate nirvana, you may or may not choose to inform them you spiked your batter with black bean puree and whole wheat flour.  the fact that those two ingredients make up a tiny minority of ingredients needn’t be mentioned; this is a gateway dessert–you’ll have a religious experience yourself and might find yourself amid a new group of converts.


convert brownies, serves 16


  • 1/4 cup (half stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/4 black bean puree (no lumps!)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or flour of your choosing)

cooking instructions

  • preheat the oven to 325 F.
  • line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment or tin foil, leaving an overhang.  spray with cooking spray.
  • whisk together sugar, cocoa powder and salt.
  • whisk in butter and bean puree as thoroughly as possible–it will be a little dry, which will improve when you add the eggs.
  • whisk in eggs and vanilla extract, and get batter as smooth as possible here.  you want to whisk as little as possible once you add the flour, because whisking flour makes it angry and tough.
  • add flour and stir gently until just combined.
  • pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean (25-30  minutes is outlined in the original recipe–mine took at least 40, so keep a close eye)
  • let the brownies cool in the pan, then lift them out and cut.  enjoy at your own risk.

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