Easy, Better-for-You Brownies March 9, 2017

by Eat Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Easy brownies that are also better for you? Yes, such a thing is possible! Get the recipe below…

It may surprise some people, but even as a Dietitian I have a sweet tooth. Chocolate, cookies, cake – I love them all! But rather than fight against my cravings, I’ve learned ways to make my desserts into better choices. One of my favorite things to bake is brownies, and the basics of making them are simple. Here’s what you need:

  1. A few wet and dry ingredients
  2. Something to bind it all together
  3. A special something to sweeten it all up
  4. A secret ingredient to really pop the flavor!

It’s as easy as that! But to take the nutrition up a notch, check out the baking swaps that’ll make you feel even better reaching for that second brownie. Because let’s be honest, one is never enough.

Let’s talk flour

The most important ingredient you’ll use for brownies is flour because it supports all the other ingredients. However, the type you use can really make a difference in how nutritious the end result will be. Swapping refined white flour for whole wheat guarantees an added dose of fiber, plus you’ll get extra nutrients like vitamin B.

  • Swap 1 cup refined white flour for ¾ cups whole wheat flour. This will also make your brownies more dense and crumbly.

Do you even need butter?

Typically, butter works together with the other ingredients to build body and texture. But to lighten up the fat content of your brownies, swap out some butter for bananas, ripe avocados, or tofu instead.

  • Swap 1 cup butter for 1 cup mashed banana. The bananas will work double duty to bind and lend sweetness.
  • Swap 1 T butter for ½ T avocado for a significant difference in calories and fat without any loss of flavor.
  • Swap 1 T butter one-for-one for silken tofu for a similar soft and creamy consistency. 

Oh, sugar, sugar!

Besides adding sweetness, sugar acts to stabilize the other ingredients and provide structure. But to cut down the calories in your brownies, consider swapping out some sugar for other foods that are naturally sweet.

  • Swap sugar for applesauce in a 1:1 ratio, but for every cup of applesauce you use, reduce the amount of liquid by 1/4 cup.  Bonus points if you make the applesauce from scratch!
  • Swap ½ tsp vanilla for 2 T sugar.

To learn more about the differences in sugars, check out this post on the sweet stuff.

Chocolate love

Cocoa powder is a purer form of chocolate, and it packs more chocolaty goodness without any extra added sugar. You can incorporate cocoa powder into shakes and smoothies like we did here as well as in brownies for a softer and chewier texture — not to mention loads of chocolate flavor.

  • Swap ½ the chocolate chips (be sure to use dark or semi-sweet) with real unsweetened cocoa powder.

Let the eggs go

While eggs are typically used as a binder when baking, if you’re making your brownies egg-free, flaxseed meal can be used as a substitute. When the ground flaxseeds are mixed with water, they become thick like an egg white for a slightly nutty flavor.  Bonus: they are also high in fiber and omega-3 acids.

  • 1 T flaxseed + 3 T water = 1 egg

Sneak in something unexpected

Time to shine and give people a reason to talk about what makes your brownies so special. This could mean experimenting with unexpected ingredients like black beans or zucchini (talk about a conversation starter). It could also be the opportunity to toss in a pinch of something that will leave people asking, “what is it that makes these brownies taste so good?!”

  • Increase the fiber and protein by baking with black beans (it also makes the brownies gluten-free).  Swap 1 cup flour for 1 cup black beans.
  • If you’re using a boxed brownie mix, blend in 1 cup grated zucchini – no one will ever know it’s in there!
  • Nuts and seeds provide a whole added dimension of texture, plus fiber and healthy fats in your brownies.
  • Boost flavor with spices like vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, orange zest, or even espresso grounds.

You officially know how to make easy brownies that are also better for you, and that’s a win-win situation! So indulge those chocolate fantasies and have fun trying out something new in the kitchen. If you feel inspired, I’ve shared the best delicious and fudgy brownie recipe below. But the best part? It’s easy!


Healthy and SUPER Easy Brownies (with Black Beans!)


  • 15 Ounces Black Beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons Applesauce
  • 3/4 Cups Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 Pinch Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels (mini, divided)
  • Secret Ingredient #1: 1 Tablespoon Orange Zest
  • Secret Ingredient #2: 1 Tablespoon Ground Coffee


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Zest 1 orange.
  2. Place black beans in a food processor, and process until smooth and creamy. Add eggs, applesauce, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, baking powder, salt, orange zest, and ground coffee; process until smooth. Add ¼ cup chocolate chips, and pulse a few times until chocolate is incorporated.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan, smooth top with a rubber spatula, and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup chocolate chips.
  4. Bake 30–35 minutes, or until edges start to pull away from sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Cool in pan before slicing into 2-inch squares.

Looking for a few other easy, healthier dessert recipes?  Check out how to incorporate beets into your next batch of easy brownies or whip up these easy and guilt-free “nice creams.”

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