Big Little Recipes

You're 3 Ingredients From Fudgy Buckwheat Brownies

April 13, 2021

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or fewer—not including water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (like oil and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Psst, did you hear we’re coming out with a cookbook? We’re coming out with a cookbook!

One of the earliest brownie recipes dates back to 1896 and curiously, even disconcertingly, includes no chocolate—just butter, sugar, molasses, egg, flour, and pecan “meat,” as Fannie Farmer described it in her Boston Cooking School Cook Book.

This Big Little Recipe doesn’t skip the chocolate—I have my limits—but it does skip most of the other ingredients you’d expect from a modern brownie.

This is all thanks to a three-ingredient template you might have seen bopping around the interwebs: chocolate-hazelnut spread (such as Nutella), eggs, and flour. The spread adds chocolatey goodness, yes. But it also adds sugar and fat, which just about every brownie recipe needs, even Fannie’s. The eggs serve up richness and structure. And the flour, more structure.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“In this case, there is no possessive and the contraction “you’re” is the proper usage; one merely needs to keep reading the rest of the headline. “You (a)re 3 Ingredients From Fudgy Buckwheat Brownies” I’m all for grammar integrity, but the correction also needs to be correct. ”
— Erin C.

So what if the flour contributed flavor too? Why not?

While the usual all-purpose is as nondescript as an ingredient gets, there's a slew of other picks, like whole-wheat and corn and teff, that are happy to speak up, ask for your attention, and not take "no" for an answer. In this case, we’re turning to buckwheat.

Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Amanda Widis. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog.

A pseudo grain or pseudocereal, buckwheat is something of a misnomer, not related to wheat in the slightest. Instead, it hails from a plant that shares ties with rhubarb and sorrel. Unlike these cousins though, buckwheat is eager to be ground into a flour.

Gray and mottled, like a marble countertop or fuzzy kitten, this flour is one of my favorite ingredients for cooking and baking. And indeed, it’s a cherished staple around the world, from French crêpes to Russian blini to Japanese soba.

No matter the recipe, if buckwheat is involved, you know it at first bite. I could try to describe its brash flavor but, in her cookbook Mother Grains, Roxana Jullapat puts it better than I ever could: “deeply earthy, like a garden after the rain, and nutty, like toasted sesame seeds, with subtle aromatic notes of green tea and rose.”

This sort of complexity not only brings out the butteriness of the chocolate and the toastiness of the hazelnuts. It also keeps the cloying, candy-like sugariness of Nutella in check—yielding a brownie that’s sweet but not too sweet (especially if you’re up for the optional sprinkle of flaky salt).

What’s more? Because buckwheat is naturally gluten-free, it lacks structure that you’d often seek out in a cake or bread. In a brownie, this absence of structure is just what we want, careening us toward something supremely squidgy.

Top with a melting scoop of coffee ice cream if you know what’s good for you.

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate, Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
Preorder now

Put down those long grocery lists. Inspired by the award-winning column, our upcoming Big Little Recipes cookbook is minimalism at its best: few ingredients, tons of flavor.

Preorder now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • judy
  • Maria Kyong
    Maria Kyong
  • DivineJH
  • Emma
  • Gwen
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles on the fly, baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in October 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


judy April 18, 2021
Interesting. I don't tolerate sugar and flour baked together any longer, so buckwheat is worth considering. Unfortunately, I no longer eat Nutella. The recipe and ingredients have changed greatly since the original company is no longer able to sell their original recipe in the US. (Ferrero rocher, I think). Palm kernel fats and no longer hazelnuts, cocoa, cocoa butter and sugar. Does not taste anything like the original, sadly. Much like Cadbury's chocolate no longer tastes like Cadbury's. So I might try this one with one of the other chocolate hazelnut spreads that I have come across. Some are really good. But without the stabilizers and palm kernel oils.....would it be a waste of expensive ingredients to even try?
Maria K. April 15, 2021
Any chance this can be made without eggs?
Author Comment
Emma L. April 15, 2021
Hi Maria K! I haven't tried that myself with this recipe, but here's an article on egg substitutes that could be helpful for experimenting:
DivineJH April 14, 2021
May the buckwheat be substituted by almond flour?
Author Comment
Emma L. April 14, 2021
Hi DivineJH, worth a try! I love using almond flour in these 3-ingredient pancakes:
Emma April 14, 2021
"YOU'RE 3 ingredients brownies"? I am definitely not 3 ingredients brownies. We are doomed.
Erin C. April 14, 2021
In this case, there is no possessive and the contraction “you’re” is the proper usage; one merely needs to keep reading the rest of the headline.
“You (a)re 3 Ingredients From Fudgy Buckwheat Brownies”
I’m all for grammar integrity, but the correction also needs to be correct.
Gwen April 13, 2021
Someone in our family is allergic to hazelnuts, is there a nutella sub you can recommend?
Jhoshino April 13, 2021
Hi! I’ve had great luck with 88 Acres Dark Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter as a replacement for cookies and alone.
There’s also peanut butter and almond chocolate butter available but might be a risk for contamination with other nuts, so best bet is seed butters.
Sarah R. April 16, 2021
I have been thinking about trying this recipe with Soom’s chocolate tahini... but I’m nervous to try and fail because it would a shame to waste my beautiful jar of chocolate tahini. But let us know if you try it?