Let’s get one thing straight. When we say we’re here to help you bake a better-for-you brownie, we’re not saying there’s anything wrong with the classic rich, indulgent chocolate-y original. Oh no there’s not! Our collection of brownie recipes includes our Bakeproof columnist Anneka Manning’s classic walnut brownie (decadent but easy to make!) and her black and white brownies (a chocolate brownie with cheesecake swirl), and Adriano Zumbo’s rich chocolate brownies with caramel swirl (suprisingly simple!) along with a myriad of other variations.
But if you’d like to add some benefits to your brownies, or you need to avoid certain ingredients, such as gluten, here are some recipes and tips that are just the ticket, from leading cook Donna hay, popular SBS presenter Dr Michael Mosley, nutritionist Chrissy Freer and others.
Make it better with beans
You might be thinking this is a bad idea. You might be thinking it will taste weird. But food writer and nutritionist Chrissy Freer has written a whole book, Superlegumes, about cooking beans, pulses and legumes in fresh, healthy recipes for every meal, from vegetarian salads to indulgent desserts, and she knows how to make a brownie that’s tastes just as good but ups the ante by using adzuki beans in the batter, which add richness and body as well as a good dose of dietary fibre and protein. Another plus: as her recipe for double choc bean brownies explains, adding beans means you don’t need to use as much oil or butter, and the brownies are naturally gluten-free.
If you lean more to blondies than brownies, try Caroline Griffiths banana chai blondies recipe, which uses cannellini (lima) beans to create a tender brownie made with spices including star anise and cinnamon.
Embrace the benefits of cocoa, but with less sugar
"Cocoa is full of flavenoids and good things,” says Dr Michael Mosley. "It's when you pump it full of sugar and reduce the cocoa content that it's more ambiguous, so I'm afraid the lovely milk chocolate stuff is unlikely to be terribly good for you." In his book The Clever Guts Diet, Dr Mosley explains that cocoa is broken down in your colon to produce nitric oxide, which is good for your cardiovascular system, while also being a great source of flavonoids and polyphenols, which aid your gut bacteria. Give it a go in this recipe from the book for chocolate eggplant brownies, where the sweetness comes from a handful of dates, not processed sugar. They’re also gluten-free and egg-free.
Sneak in some selenium
“The pear and Brazil nuts give these brownies a lovely subtle flavour,” says GP Dr Clare Bailey and nutritionist Dr Sarah Schenker of this pear and brazil nut chocolate brownies recipe from The 8-Week Blood Sugar Diet Recipe Book(the companion cookbook to Dr Michal Mosley’s Blood Sugar Diet book.) “What’s more, Brazil nuts are an excellent source of minerals, particularly selenium (important for thyroid function and the immune system). Cut the brownies small and freeze any left over.”
Try Donna Hay’s choc-banana brownie
These gluten-free brownies are super fudgy due to the use of dates and banana in the batter, which also add natural sweetness, along with a little maple syrup. Hay makes them along with other great kid-friendly recipes in her TV series Donna Hay: Basics to Brilliance Kids (starts Monday 7 January on SBS Food Channel 33 – check the program guide for details) and calls these gluten-free, dairy free and refined sugar-free squares “almost good for you choc-banana brownies”. Get the recipe here.
Of course, if you want Hay's fully-laden molten choc chunk brownie (think of the richest, fudgiest brownies you've ever eaten, and now think of them one decadence level up — with an oozing molten chocolate centre!), you can get that recipe right here!
Need it to be gluten-free?
A lot of the recipes listed above are gluten-free, but if you’d like some more options, we’ve got more! In Anneka Manning’s beetroot, hazelnut and orange brownies, the brownies get a touch of earthy sweetness from the grated beetroot.
Or try her gluten-free coconut and raspberry brownies – “Wickedly rich, this gluten-free brownie can match it with the best of them,” she says. “Fudgy, thick and studded with tart raspberries.”
Or for another twist, Caroline Griffiths uses coconut flour in her gluten-free brownies with coconut-date swirl.
Or for those looking for a raw version, here are two
Whether you just want to avoid turning on the oven on a hot day, or you’re eating a more raw-food-based diet, here are two recipes to add to your list. Guy Turland of Bondi Harvest has created a fantastic (and pretty enough for gifting!) vegan raw choc hemp seed brownie, while Teresa Cutter has a super-simple seven-ingredient raw chocolate brownie where everything goes into a food processor, then into the fridge for a couple of hours to set.
Try these delicious brownies that substitute plain flour for rye flour, bringing a nutty flavour and a delicious chocolate bitterness.
These are inspired by “turtles”, a popular American candy invented in the 1930s. A chewy mess of caramel, pecans and chocolate, they've lent their famous flavour-profile to a whole host of cookie spin-offs. Peanuts stand in admirably for pecans. Peanut butter in the mix makes them even more rich – but if you want to really go whole hog, add a cup of chopped dark chocolate to the dough as well.
Culinary legend has it that the chocolate brownie was invented by the Palmer House Hotel as a dessert for ladies attending the 1893 World Fair in Chicago. The original recipe featured walnuts and an apricot glaze, and this version is still served at the hotel to this day. Red miso adds an intriguingly salty note to this adored American classic.