The moment I placed these brownies in the oven, I started whining like a disgruntled teenager because Luise had persuaded me to only sweeten them with dates and mix a whole can of black beans into the batter. “They are going to taste like sh*t” might have been the carefully formulated phrase I used. Baking brownies was my idea to start with and I usually don’t complain about healthy desserts, but I was tired that day and my mind was set on the caramel-tasting brownies from the bakery across the street. More than the flavor, it was their texture I wanted to recreate. The crusty top and caramel fudge center that you only can achieve with sugar, butter and flour. I knew these would be far from that. And in my mind that was all Luise’s fault.
The whining escalated into a discussion (aka argument) and by the time the timer on my phone rang, things were, well, kind of tense between us. I cut off a corner piece of the baked brownie and quickly realized that they weren’t as awful as I had expected. Of course when Luise asked me, I did what any 36-year old teenager would do and grunted: “They were okay I guess”. In reality, they were actually pretty good. They didn’t have that crusty texture or typical sugar taste but they were still sweet, gooey but not heavy, chocolatey, energy packed and rich. I added frosting to make them a little more sassy – using dates as sweetener and avocado and coconut oil for an ultra lush and creamy consistency. They turned out really beautiful and jam-packed with good stuff. Rather than a dessert, I’d say that this is more like an energy bar-style brownie, and I found myself sneaking back to the fridge several times that day for another bite.
We’re sharing the recipe and some notes below. But first, check out this little video from our youtube channel where we demonstrate how to make them.
Since that first batch of brownies, there have been at least six more batches. A few vegan attempts and various flavor and texture variations. I have gathered a few notes that might come useful in case you want to give them a try.
- We use very soft fresh dates that we buy in card board boxes and they are pretty affordable compared to loose weight or medjool dates. Sizes differ so use a scale if you want to be exact.
- If you can’t find fresh dates you can use dried dates that you soak in water for a couple of hours. Drain the water before mixing. However, I wouldn’t use dried dates for the frosting as they need the dates to be super soft to achieve a smooth consistency. Try maple syrup instead.
- If you aren’t used to sugar free desserts, you can add a couple of tablespoons maple syrup, honey or sugar to the batter. We have tried this recipe both with and without additional sweetening and they taste good both ways. It all depends on what you are used to and your expectations are.
- We use a quite mild olive oil and it works really well with the chocolate flavor (not strong at all). However, if you don’t like olive oil, you can use, coconut oil, rapeseed oil or butter instead.
- We have also tried a vegan, egg-free version using aquafaba (chickpea water) that we are sharing at the bottom of the recipe. We also tried making aquafaba using black bean water (because it’s a rest product of the beans in the recipe). It didn’t firm up as much when whisked but it did work as a binder. However, it looked kinda gross and added more bean flavor so we decided to stick with chickpea water instead.
- We add coffee to the frosting to disguise the avocado flavor. If you don’t like coffee, you can use almond butter or peanut butter instead to give it a flavor twist.
- Sea salt flakes are great on top and we love the salt + chocolate combo, but desiccated coconut would also look good.
- If you are allergic to nuts, you can mix toasted sunflower seeds into a flour and use instead of almond flour. And use pumpkin seeds instead of walnuts.
Black Bean Brownie Bites with Chocolate Avocado Frosting
Makes 24 bites
These taste sweet but not overly so, see notes above if you prefer to make them sweeter. Vegan version below.
20 soft dates (approx 230 g / 8 oz)
1 1/2 cup / 185 g cooked black beans (rinsed)
1/2 cup / 125 ml olive oil or other neutral oil
1/2 cup / 125 ml plant milk or regular milk
1/2 cup / 50 g oat flour (or same amount rolled oats, mixed into a flour)
1/2 cup / 50 g almond flour
6 tbsp cacao powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt
1 handful crushed walnuts (optional)
Chocolate Avocado Frosting
6-8 soft dates
3 tbsp coconut oil
2-3 tbsp strong coffee
3 tbsp cacao powder
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F. Pit the dates and add them to a food processor along with the rinsed black beans. Mix on high speed. Add oil, milk and eggs (leave out if you are vegan) and mix until smooth. Add almond flour and oat flour (you can make oat flour from rolled oats by simply blending them in a food processor or grinding them in a mortle and pester), cacao powder, baking powder and salt and pulse until everything is mixed. Stir in walnuts (and whipped aquafaba if you are making the vegan version). Place a baking paper in a 28 x 20 cm / 11 x 8 inch rectangular baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the brownies from the oven once they are firm to touch and leave until completely cool.
Make the frosting by mixing all the ingredients in a food processor until completely smooth. Taste and adjust the flavors, adding more dates (or maple syrup if you want it sweeter) and more cacao powder if you want it richer. Spread the frosting over the brownies, sprinkle with sea salt flakes and cut into bite-size pieces. Store in the fridge.
To make them vegan: Use 3 tbsp more oat flour. Leave out the eggs and whisk 1/3 cup aquafaba (chickpea water) into soft peaks that you stir into the mixed batter together with the walnuts. The vegan version needs approx 45-50 minutes in the oven and will come out slightly stickier but firms up once it cools.