Brownie

These Quick & Easy Brownies Are Hiding a Strange Secret Ingredient

January 29, 2018

A few years back, a friend revealed to me a secret for making brownies that I haven’t quite been able to kick. It was mid January in New York and we were snowed in. We drew shapes on frosted windows with our warm fingers between TV episodes and foraged my apartment, and our brains, for activities. Going outside was beyond possibility, and when you’re trapped inside for hours—sometimes days—on end, resourcefulness becomes a necessary companion.

Food, too, becomes a site of experimentation. When you use that last egg or find the crisper drawer suddenly empty, creativity is key. We turned to the pantry, dry goods our final recourse, when our eyes fell upon that can of Goya black beans. An uncontroversial pantry staple, there’s never not a can of black beans tucked behind a box of pasta somewhere in my kitchen.

“Do you know?” she asked me, eyes alight. What exactly I was supposed to know, I did not know, but her excitement definitely made me curious. She reached again into my pantry and pulled out a box of brownie mix that I had bought once “in case of emergency.” With beans in one hand and a Betty Crocker box in the other, she explained to me the benefits of their union. Apparently, a can of black beans is all you need to bring brownie mix to life. She’d learned this from her aunt and promised I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Plus, she added, it’s vegan. I watched, curious, even incredulous, as she blended the beans and folded in the powdered mixture. The two gradually combined into a tarry batter, a dark chocolatey brown the color of…well, brownies. We greased our pan and heated our oven and popped in the tray of batter. We added nothing else: just brownie mix and blended black beans. As for cook time, we went with the directions on the box. After the suggested 25 to 30 minutes, we checked in every minute or so, testing the batter for completion with the tines of a fork. The brownies emerged rich and fudgy. The texture was denser than normal, not as much airy sponginess as I’m used to, but that’s kind of how I prefer my brownies anyway. As for the taste, the chocolate completely concealed any hint of bean.

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As it turns out, she was onto something. The fiber, oil, and liquid in the black beans replace any need for the oil, egg, or water that the mix calls for. Blending the beans creates a puree that stands in for the necessary moisture those ingredients would have otherwise provided. I’ve called upon this method a few times since, when I find myself craving something sweet and comforting but don’t have the energy to pull together anything craftier, more homemade.

I usually don’t rely on boxed mixes, preferring something more hands-on, but this method is easy, simple, and has proven a crowd-pleaser. Plus my vegan friends are fans, so it feels like a coup when I get to feed them a sweet after dinner. It’s been a few years since that particularly heavy storm, but each time I crack open a can of black beans I’m reminded of those snowy days and the fudgy, chocolatey squares we polished off without ever leaving my apartment.

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Top Comment:
“I made this within 15 minutes of reading the article. One box brownie mix, one can black beans puréed and boom, fudge brownies. So gd good!”
— Val F.
Comment

Have you ever heard of this trick? If so, let us know in the comments!

17 Comments

edna February 18, 2018
I've made brownies with canned pumpkin & they were delicious😊<br />Now I'm trying this recipe. Thank you Food 52!
 
Sandi L. February 17, 2018
I’ve made scratch brownies with lentils—and no detection from “others”...but haven’t tried black beans. I bet it will work on a scratch recipe....yep, not keen about mixes....
 
Val F. February 4, 2018
I made this within 15 minutes of reading the article. One box brownie mix, one can black beans puréed and boom, fudge brownies. So gd good!
 
Ibis February 4, 2018
Hmm, I wonder if using just the liquid reserved from the can of beans then - but not using the actual beans - could just be enough (and maybe can help to avoid the 'bean' taste as one commentor noted). I read an article with recipe from the NYT for 'aquafaba' aka vegan mayo from chickpea water. Seems the protein released from the bean was found to act as a 'binder'. I wonder if that'll work and also adding a date and vanilla extract to further mask the flavor? Or. making a recipe from scratch with the 'bean water'?
 
Ibis February 4, 2018
Oops, I wasn't signed in so I reposted but seems it auto-posted my first comment once I signed in. Sorry for the duplicate comment!
 
Ibis February 4, 2018
I wonder if using just the liquid reserved from the can of beans then - but not using the actual beans - could also be enough (and maybe help to avoid the 'bean' taste as one commentor stated). I read an article with recipe in the NYT for 'aquafaba' aka vegan mayo from chickpea water. Seems the protein released from the bean was found to act as a 'binder'. I wonder if that'll work and also adding a date and vanilla extract to further mask the flavor? Or. trying a recipe from scratch with the 'bean water'?.
 
marcellatp January 31, 2018
I had a friend serve me a black bean brownie once without telling me what I was eating. Both smell and taste gave it away - yuck! Everyones taste buds are different but the ones I ate were very "beany" flavored.
 
Julia G. January 31, 2018
What size/weight is an american can of black beans please? I'm in the UK.
 
Connor B. January 31, 2018
It's about 440 grams!
 
Jessica W. January 30, 2018
I've heard of black bean brownies but have never made them. Now I'll have to try!<br />www.slackergirlfitness.com
 
Barbara B. January 30, 2018
May I also ask about mashing the beans, were they whole or mashed or does it even matter? And... thank you for stating the liquid was included, I had that question too. Can't wait to try this!
 
Kt4 February 4, 2018
The article says blended, which I take to mean pureed. Let us know how it goes!
 
V January 29, 2018
Where is the recipe?<br />
 
Jeri S. January 30, 2018
Sounds like one box brownie mix, one can black beans. Blend black brands in blender, mix with brownie mix, bake per instructions on mix package until done. Pig out.
 
Nancy January 29, 2018
Yes, know of this trick and have made brownies with black beans....with results both moist and tasty.
 
Kentley January 29, 2018
Were the beans drained of liquid before being pureed in the blender (food processor?).
 
Author Comment
Valerio F. January 29, 2018
The beans weren't drained. That liquid was helpful to loosen up the mix.