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Bean There, Done That: Gluten-Free Brownies



Years ago, when I taught a course called “Feeding Body and Soul,” students were asked to contribute a recipe that had been handed down in their family as a way to illustrate the power of food through the generations.  One young woman (who, in her words, had been “raised by hippies”) gave me a recipe for Navy Bean Muffins, made from the usual ingredients but using pureed navy beans instead of flour.  I thought this twist was just groovy, man, and resolved to some day make them myself.

Well, that day hasn’t yet arrived, but I did think of beans as the perfect addition to my GF brownies, about which I posted last Monday. This recipe for Gluten-Free Brownies is one of three for chocolate treats with hidden healthy ingredients, just up today on VegFamily magazine. To see the other two as well, check out the entire article.

The hidden gem in these rich, chocolately squares is pureed beans.  Now, before you go running to the hills, consider that many gluten-free recipes contain bean flours (such as chickpea, gram, soybean, etc.), so this recipe just takes the concept a step back, to the unprocessed, whole beans before they’re dried and pulverized.  And beans add a great boost of protein to any recipe, along with both soluble and insoluble fiber, and a host of minerals.

Initially, I thought that pureeing the beans in a food processor would be sufficient, but found the final product a bit grainy that way.  But cooking the beans really well, then pureeing in a blender, did seem to do the trick.

Because of the added loveliness of the legumes, I’m going to submit this recipe to My Legume Love Affair, hosted by The Well-Seasoned Cook.

Oh, and Sally, this one’s for you! 🙂

Gluten-Free Chocolate-Walnut Brownies 

These brownies are everything they should be:  fudgy, moist, and very chocolatey.  The beans are not detectable in the final product, but their health-enhancing qualities will be! 


NOTES:  I used chia rather than flax in this recipe.  In general, chia tends to retain moisture a bit more than flax, so the recipe may be a tad dryer if you use flax. I also wouldn’t substitute other beans for the white beans, as they may cause the brownie to taste gritty. [Edited, September 20: Since posting this recipe, I’ve heard from a few people who had different results when they changed some of the ingredients in the recipe.  I’ve found with other baking that subtituting flax for chia requires a 3-to-1 ratio (3 times as much flax as chia), and the results are a bit different.  I also can’t vouch for using different flours–I think the sorghum is fairly essential here, as it’s a soft flour that absorbs quite a bit of moisture.]

2 cups well cooked, drained white beans or navy beans

1/2 cup chocolate or vanilla soymilk (you could probably use almond milk as well)

2 Tbsp. tahini (sesame paste)

1/3 cup sunflower or other light-tasting oil

1 Tbsp. finely ground chia seeds or 3 Tbsp. finely ground flax seeds 

2 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract

1 tsp. tamari soy sauce (this brings out the chocolate flavor–trust me)

1 cup Sucanat or UNrefined evaporated cane juice

1/2 cup sorghum flour

1/2 cup dark cocoa powder

1-1/2 tsp. baking powder

1-1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped, if desired (or use chocolate chips if you leave the brownie unfrosted)

Preheat oven to 325 F.  Lightly spray a 9 x 9 square pan with nonstick spray, or line with parchment paper. 

In a blender (a food processor is not suitable for this recipe), blend the beans and soymilk until you have a perfectly smooth puree. Add the tahini, oil, chia, vanilla, tamari, and Sucanat, and blend again.  Set aside for a few minutes while you prepare the dry ingredients. 

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt.  Blend the liquid mixture again and check to see that the Sucanat has all dissolved (if it hasn’t, continue to blend until it dissolves).   

Pour the wet mixture over the dry and stir to combine.  Gently stir in the walnuts, if using. Turn the mixture into prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake 45-55 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through, until a tester inserted in the center comes out barely clean (a few moist crumbs may stick to it).  Cool in pan and frost if desired.  Cut into squares.  Makes 9 large or 16 smaller squares.   

Variation: You can also bake the batter in well-oiled mini muffin pans for “two-bite” brownies.  The minis bake about 20 or 25 minutes.

[An updated and slightly revised version of this recipe is featured in my cookbook, Sweet Freedom.  To find out more, check the “Sweet Freedom” button at right, or visit the cookbook blog.]


27 comments to Bean There, Done That: Gluten-Free Brownies

  • Those look too good to be true. I just keep staring and staring.


  • I’ll have to skip the soy part, but awwwwww, thanks! They look incredible.


  • wow these look much better than the ones I tried recently – definitely want to give these a go soon BUT I only have a food processor not a blender and I was wondering if I can substitute sugar or some other sweetner for the Succanat and some other flour for the sorghum? After one dodgy batch I would love a success with beanie brownies.


  • Romina,

    Thanks! And they ARE delicious.


    I think almond milk would do fine as a substitute, and probably add another dimension of flavor, too.


    Well, I’m not sure how that many substitutions would fare here, as the recipe seemed pretty delicate (I tried it 3 or 4 other times with just minor adjustments, and the others didn’t work).

    I really think the blender is essential if you don’t want detectable bits of bean in the brownies–do you have a hand-held one? (Since you blend the beans with the milk, that might work–you could do it in a tall cup or deep bowl).

    You can definitely substitute brown sugar for Sucanat (which is basically dehydrated sugar). Regular brown sugar would probably make the brownie even moister. As to the sorghum, I really don’t know how something else would work out. I tried brown rice flour, which was dreadful, and bean flour, which created a much heavier product. The closest thing I can think of would be arrowroot flour, but you’d probably have to mix it with 50% regular flour.

    If you do dare to try them with all these changes, let me know how they come out! 🙂


  • these look AWESOME and I’ve been looking for a brownie recipe using beans for ages!!! Really!! I heard about this one lady who used them for her favorite chocolate cake, and I’ve never been able to find a recipe that looks like it would work! This looks awesome! What did you use for the frosting??


  • Carrie,
    Thanks so much, and for your comment. It took a few tries, but I think I’ve nailed it. The frosting is actually my regular agave-based one that I make around here (not GF, but for me that’s not an issue). I think the brownies would be great w/o the frosting, but I’d substitute chocolate chips for the walnuts in them, then, as they aren’t excessively sweet on their own. Let me know how they turn out if you try them!


  • […] Ahead: Gluten-free, egg-free brownies with beans in them (I’ll omit the tiny bit o’ soy)—freeze for later (thanks, […]

  • Thanks for the brownsie recipe. Tried it and they turned out great and very yummy. Thanks for the blog – thought it was time I said hello and commented after getting so much from your blog over the last few months.



  • Ross,
    Thanks so much for stopping by and for your comment! It’s great to know that my blog can be of use to those on a GF diet, even though that’s not the main focus. But I do seem to cook a lot of GF recipes!


  • […] Then when Heidi posted them on 101 cookbooks and I kept seeing them in different places, like Diet Dessert and Dogs and Have Cake Will Travel.  I was intrigued, but there were so many eggs, and more sugar than my […]

  • Ricki: Do you think a lower-fat version would turn out well — say, replacing half or 2/3 of the oil with baby applesauce or prunes?


  • always write,
    It’s worth a try, though I’m guessing the oil helps to bind the batter here. I’d start with half the oil and work from there.


  • You know, this is the first vegan baked good I’ve ever made, just because the ingredients were handy and your recipe was so easy to make low-carb! Loving the quirky bean base. The batch is in the oven–I will report back when they have been tested. Nice blog! 😀


  • Well, the batter sure tasted good! They never firmed up into brownies. Perhaps it takes some practice to make egg-less baked goods! They are yummy enough to eat with a spoon, though. 🙂


  • Mark

    My search for the perfect gluten free brownie continues. I am tempted to give these a try. Interesting recipe. By the way, best gluten-free brownies I’ve come across so far are the ready-made ones from a Canadian bakery called Patsypie. I bought a bag last time I visited Toronto and I couldn’t believe how good they were. (Great Peasnut Butter cookies too, incidentally.) My wife even liked them and she usually hates anything that’s gluten free. They seem to be available in the US now according to their website (www.patsypie.com), but still not in my area. Until then, I”ll buy them online. Anyhow, let’s see about your recipe….


  • dawn

    i’ve found brownies without eggs quite difficult. i might try this recipe. i was given a GFbrownie mix that is good but has to have eggs- without they do not set up well. I have not tries salba though- it might be better than flax.


  • Misao Kiley

    Oh my god! I just mixed up the batter and put these in the oven! The batter taste fantastic- only 20 mins before I can actually serve them! Fantastic recipe- although I subbed the sorghum flour for regular whole wheat flour- as I can tolerate gluten. I can’t wait to serve these to my boyfriend- and make him guess what has been snuck into the brownies! Beans! Can’t wait to see his face!

    I plan on frosting them with this sugar-free chocolate frosting: http://vegweb.com/index.php?topic=11677.0

    Thanks so much for this AWESOME recipe! It’s definietly a favourite! Also, I’m looking so forward to your book Sweet Freedom!! 😀 Thanks!


  • […] I’m not the first to make bean brownies for MLLA; Ricki (Diet, Dessert and Dogs) posted about Gluten-Free Chocolate-Walnut Brownies in February […]

  • These are great! Thanks for a great recipe!


  • Well, now I have to try these as well! They look utterly decadent. And I really did want to try an egg-free version, but was wondering how well flax would go over . . . I’m definitely giving this a try!

    Thanks for referring me to yours, I’m really glad I found it!!


  • Dana

    These were awesome! I was actually surprised how well they turned out. They stayed so most for days. My frosting was a little runnier than I wanted it though.


  • […] I have been wanting to make some bean brownies for a while now.  I love Ricki Heller’s blog and this recipe is adapted from her Bean Brownies. […]

  • […] I have been wanting to make some bean brownies for a while now.  I love Ricki Heller’s blog and this recipe is adapted from her Bean Brownies. […]

  • Lyndel Maroske

    Hi Ricki,

    I noticed you said in your instructions for making this gorgeous looking chocolate brownie, to add salba, Yet salba isn’t mentioned in the list of ingredients. What is salba? Are they the white chai seeds?



    Ricki Reply:

    Hi Lyndel,

    Yes, I meant to change the word “Salba” to “Chia.” Salba is one brand of chia seeds, but since any kind of chia will work here, I changed the wording. Will go make the change in the instructions, too–thanks for pointing that out! 🙂


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