Actually Good Black Bean Brownies

January  5, 2022
4 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Megan Hedgpeth. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog.
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 12 to 16 servings
Author Notes

There’s no formal record of who was the first to make black bean brownies. (Yep, black beans, from a can, the ones you’d find in a burrito, but in a brownie.) A quick look around the internet will tell you that the concept was popularized by gluten-free and other special-diet-friendly bloggers, as the black beans add heft to the batter in the absence of flour. This version is both gluten-free and vegan, as the black beans, applesauce, and nut or seed butter work to provide the brownies with structure and bind the batter—without flour or eggs. While this brownie certainly checks the boxes of being safe for certain dietary restrictions, this is not one of those desserts that doesn’t taste like a treat.

Note: Sweetened or unsweetened nut butter will work here: The former will, unsurprisingly, yield a sweeter brownie. Sunflower seed and almond butter are milder in flavor, and tend to melt into the background, adding richness and a subtle nuttiness, whereas peanut butter is much more obvious in flavor—both are welcome. —Rebecca Firkser

  • Baking spray or neutral oil, for greasing the pan
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup (202 grams) smooth sunflower seed, almond, or peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup (127 grams) unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup (78 grams) maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons (64 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (85 grams) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, divided
  • 1/2 cup (81 grams) salted roasted nuts, such as almonds, peanuts, walnuts, or hazelnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
  • Flaky sea salt
In This Recipe
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F and line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on at least two sides, then grease with spray or oil.
  2. In a food processor or high-power blender, combine the beans, nut butter, applesauce, maple syrup, and vanilla. Purée until completely smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in the cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt, then purée for another 1 to 3 minutes, until totally combined.
  3. Heat a few inches of water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Place half (42 grams) of the chocolate in a heat-safe medium bowl over the water. Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat. Scrape the bean mixture from the food processor into the bowl with the chocolate and use a spatula or wooden spoon to completely combine (really get into it—don’t worry about overmixing!).
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula. Scatter the remaining chopped chocolate, chopped nuts (if using), and some flaky salt over the surface of the brownies, then pat down ever so slightly. Bake for about 30 minutes, until dry to the touch and matte in texture, with a few cracks on the surface. Let cool completely in the pan (this is important as these brownies are incredibly fudgy—you can speed this up by placing the pan in the refrigerator after cooling at room temperature for 30 minutes) before slicing into 12 to 16 squares. Judge if you like, but these are also very good straight from the refrigerator or even the freezer.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Yogigirl
  • Claudz

2 Reviews

Claudz January 12, 2022
I'm absolutely in love with these brownies and I also love the fact that they're vegan. I made them with crunchy peanut butter and they're perfect! Not too sweet either. Wow!
Yogigirl January 9, 2022
I made this recipe tonight and I did like it a lot. Of course, I did not let them set and ate one gooey unset brownie. It reminded me of a flourless cake dessert. Not bad. They were still gooey when they cooled but the taste is quite yummy. And I appreciate the beautiful ingredients that go into this. I used a combination of peanut and almond butters. I will be making these again.