Big Little Recipes

For the Fudgiest Brownies, Skip the Flour

The Big Little Recipes cookbook is here!

November  9, 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. This week, we’re sharing a sweet treat from the Big Little Recipes cookbook, which is out now (blasts airhorn, throws confetti in the air).

Flour is the difference between a fudgy and cakey brownie—the more flour you add, the cakier it gets. So what would happen if you didn’t add any flour at all?

As with many existential questions, the answer is not an answer, but instead, another question: What is flour, anyway? Unravel this and you will be rewarded with the fudgiest brownies known to mankind.

According to Britannica, “In modern usage, the word flour alone usually refers to wheat flour, the major type in Western countries.” In the original Joy of Cooking, published in 1931, flour was called just that—“flour.” It was only in later editions that “all-purpose” became an expected adjective, as is the norm nowadays in food publishing.

Beyond all-purpose, there is cake, bread, whole-wheat, and white-whole-wheat, to name just a few. And then there are all the not-wheat flours, from potato to quinoa to chickpea to almond. In this handy volume conversion chart from King Arthur, there are 49 different varieties.

This breadth has yielded a category of cookbooks in itself. In 2014, Alice Medrich published Flavor Flours, which celebrated buckwheat, teff, oat flour, and more, and went on to win a James Beard Award. And this year alone, Roxana Jullapat’s Mother Grains, Abra Berens’ Grist, and Jennifer Lapidus’ Southern Ground all illustrate the spectrum of flours.

Which brings me to the term flourless. Because if flour can mean anything, what the heck does flourless mean? Growing up in a Jewish family, this word popped up at Passover every year, when Flourless Chocolate Cake was a favorite way to comply with kosher rules around the holiday. In this case, the understanding is no wheat flour (and lots of whipped cream to pile on top).


These delightful brownies follow suit. There is no wheat flour, but, if you want to get technical about it, there is another sort of flour—one we’ll make ourselves, in a matter of minutes, using an ingredient that many brownie recipes already call for: walnuts.

Some get roasted, for toasty flavor, and stirred into the batter. The rest are left raw, for a wheat-ish subtleness, and whooshed in a food processor until powdery. Thanks to the nuts’ buttery fat and zero gluten, the result is rich, crackly, and halfway to chocolate ganache.

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

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

Order now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • @bakewithMe2
  • Gabby
  • Kathleen Mary
    Kathleen Mary
  • Jan Allegretti
    Jan Allegretti
  • Runner Girl
    Runner Girl
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


@bakewithMe2 November 11, 2022
Could these be made with a little molasses and blue agave, and possibly combining either applesauce or a banana for the sugar?
@bakewithMe2 October 6, 2022
Can blue agave or molasses be substituted for the sugar?
Gabby November 13, 2021
These were delicious. The BEST. :)
Emma L. November 15, 2021
Thanks, Gabby—so happy to hear it!
Kathleen M. November 10, 2021
Just received the long-awaited - Big Little Recipes - which exceeded my every expectation! Amazing simplified culinary inspiration at its finest. Gratefully.
Emma L. November 15, 2021
Thank you so much, Kathleen M.—that means the world to me.
Jan A. November 10, 2021
Has anyone tried making these with aquafaba instead of the eggs? Should be great...right?
Runner G. November 10, 2021
When I saw the email with this recipe come through my inbox, I immediately wanted to jump on in and try it, especially since I was in need of a baked good item to bring to a group of friends the next day. Since a few of these folks have nut allergies, I used roasted and salted pumpkin and sunflower seeds instead. OH! MY! GRACIOUS! I'm still drooling. Emma, thanks for this delicious, oh-so-easy (and adaptable) brownie recipe! I'll be making them again and again...and again...
Emma L. November 15, 2021
Fun! Thanks for reporting back, Runner G.
Bonnie November 10, 2021
I’m definitely team fudgy and can’t wait to give these a try. I got my cookbook yesterday and this one jumped out at me. Thanks Emma and congrats on the new book.
Emma L. November 15, 2021
Thank you so much, Bonnie! I'm so excited you have the book.
Bonnie November 15, 2021
I’m thrilled. And the first thing I made were these brownies. Absolutely incredible. ❤️
Trisha November 9, 2021
They look great, but if you’re not a walnut fan, are you stuck? Substitutes?
Emma L. November 15, 2021
Hi Trisha! Pecans would be my next pick.
907baker November 9, 2021
Can you substitute the nuts for any seeds or eliminate them to make this nut allergy friendly?
Emma L. November 15, 2021
Hi 907baker—Runner G tried this with pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and says that works well. (Thanks, Runner G!)
chefpatty November 9, 2021
Could you use pecans instead of walnuts?
Emma L. November 15, 2021
I haven't tried that but it sounds very delicious!
MLKubicek November 9, 2021
Can this recipe be made with cream cheese? I only ask because I have tons of it right now and trying to find something fun and yummy to use it for, besides bagels and lox.
Emma L. November 15, 2021
Hi! You might be able to incorporate a cream cheese swirl, but I think your best bet is a recipe that already includes cream cheese. Lots of fun options here:
Anne Y. November 9, 2021
Can you cut the sugar drastically by half or a quarter?
Emma L. November 15, 2021
Hi Anne—I wouldn't recommend drastically cutting the sugar. In addition to adding sweetness (to balance the bitter cocoa and walnuts), sugar controls the texture of desserts. In this case, it ensures that the brownies stay moist and tender.
Clare M. November 9, 2021
Could other nuts be used instead?
Emma L. November 15, 2021
Hi Clare! I haven't tried this with other nuts, but I imagine something similar in texture to walnuts (like pecans) would work great.
Suzanne H. November 9, 2021
OMG!! They look amazing!!
Emma L. November 15, 2021
Thank you!