Fudge Brownies (Squeaky Clean)

Those in my close inner circle can count on me for two things: always cooking up something new and healthy, and the ability to eat copious amounts of chocolate. Usually these aren’t happening at the same time. Sure, I have a handful of less-guilty indulgences tagged as “anytime treats” in my  repertoire, but most of the time when a friend asks me for a sinfully good dessert recipe that’s on the healthier side, I find myself drawing a blank. Because most of the time, when I decide to bake something, I go all out with real butter, sugar, and flour – and make sure I have plenty of people to share with. Obviously that was the case with The Rice Krispie Treats I showed you last week.

So what happens if I really want to make something “just because”? Just because it’s a random weeknight and I want something cake-y, chewy and chocolate-y just because it’s good. Not because I’m going to a baby shower or a cookie swap or a dinner party. I’d be remiss not to acknowledge that there are tons of bloggers constantly making incredibly tempting snacks and desserts free of refined sugars and white flours, and full of healthier fats, more nutritious flours, and vitamin-packed fruits and vegetables used in clever ways. (I’m not talking about recipes that are just “less bad” for you because of a couple “healthier” substitutions – I’m talking about sweet treats that actually have nutritional value!) I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a huge folder of these recipes bookmarked. But for whatever reason – lack of time and energy, worrying that the end result won’t be worth the effort and ingredients – I’m rarely motivated to actually try them out myself.

But recently, the stars aligned as I came upon a squeaky clean brownie recipe that I actually had all the ingredients for. Additionally, it was simple enough to throw together that it wouldn’t be a huge waste of time if they didn’t satisfy my chocolate craving. However, I had high hopes of not running into that problem because of one particular ingredient: almond meal.

You might remember my post about the Best Brownies Ever, which I shared in my Passover Prep Series last Spring. You won’t find any grains in these brownies. That’s why they’re great for Passover, or sharing with my gluten-free friends. In my family we all agree that these are far better than any other kosher-for-Passover brownie we’ve tried, and in fact, better than almost all brownies we’ve eaten. The secret is the almond meal. Using finely ground almonds in place of any sort of flour results in a sinfully rich, decadently moist chocolate brownie that is guaranteed to leave you thinking, “Celiac disease or Judaism? Bring it on! I wouldn’t miss a thing.”

Similarly, this brownie recipe that caught my eye contained almond meal, and plenty of cocoa. But that’s where the similarities end. Where the first recipe was packed with butter and sugar, this one is naturally tender and sweet from dates, applesauce, pumpkin, and maple syrup. It originally called for brown rice flour, but because brownies are one of the more forgiving baked goods when it comes to gluten-free ingredients, I substituted a mix of sorghum flour and peanut flour to throw in some extra fiber and protein. Chickpea flour might be another good choice, or whole wheat pastry flour if you aren’t worried about gluten or a few extra grams of carbohydrates.

To answer the most important question: did they truly satisfy my chocolate craving despite being low-fat, sugar-free, gluten-free, and vegan? (yup- they are free of dairy and eggs too, I forgot to mention that!) The answer is a resounding YES. You all know that there are very few things the husband and I consider so rich or sweet that we actually need to slow down to eat them, but that’s how we both felt about these brownies! Not in a bad way, of course. Nuh uh. I mean it in a very good way – so good that I made them two weeks in a row so we could eat them for dessert night after night. They are everything a brownie should be: moist, chewy, and super-duper chocolatey, with the added bonus of supplying good fats, vitamins and minerals, and a couple grams of fiber. Simply put, they make you feel good, long after the taste sensation leaves your mouth. They are the total opposite of what I’ve always wished brownies were not: sugar-high inducing devils with way more fat and calories than seems right to shove into such a small space. Not to say I’ll never eat one of those again, I sure will! But just because I want to treat myself to something sinfully delicious doesn’t mean I can’t do my body good at the same time.

Squeaky Clean Fudge Brownies (Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Vegan)
Adapted from Clean Start: Inspiring You to Eat Clean and Live Well with 100 New Clean Food Recipes, by Terry Walters
Printable Recipe

8 pitted dates (56gm)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup (30gm) sorghum flour*
1/4 cup (30gm) peanut flour*
1/2 cup (60gm) almond meal
1/2 cup (40gm) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (80gm) pumpkin puree
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350ºF and line an 8×8″ baking dish with parchment paper. Place the dates in a bowl and cover with piping hot water. Let sit while you measure out the remaining ingredients.

Weigh the dry ingredients (sorghum flour through salt) into a bowl and whisk together.

Place the applesauce, pumpkin, maple syrup, and vanilla extract to the bowl of a food processor. Drain the dates and add these as well. Process until smooth, about 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Pour the dry ingredients into the food processor bowl and process to combine, stopping to scrape down the sides of the work bowl if necessary. Scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish, smoothing into an even layer with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 27-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Cool thoroughly before slicing.

Nutritional Info
Servings Per Recipe: 9
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 139.4
Total Fat: 4.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 180.6 mg
Total Carbs: 23.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.3 g
Protein: 4.0 g

*1/4 cup rice flour, all-purpose flour, or whole wheat pastry flour may be substituted for either the sorghum or peanut flour (or use 1/2 cup to replace both) if you don’t need a gluten-free recipe. I do not have a gluten-intolerance, but I sometimes like to bake with different kinds of flours anyway, because they are usually higher in fiber and less processed.

Update, 2/1/2011: As soon as I made these, I couldn’t wait to share them with Amy for her Slightly Indulgent Tuesday Feature on Simply Sugar and Gluten Free. This is a wonderful feature that Amy does, and it’s always a source of inspiration for me.
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57 Responses to “Fudge Brownies (Squeaky Clean)”

  1. 1

    Dawn Hutchins — January 31, 2011 @ 3:08 pm Reply

    That's my kind of dessert!

  2. 2

    Roxan — January 31, 2011 @ 3:54 pm Reply

    One time I made vegan brownies and my husband gobbled them up until I told him they were vegan – and then he refused to eat any more. I think I'll make these and not tell him how healthy they are! They look amazing and fudgey… I HAVE to make them.

  3. 3

    branny — February 1, 2011 @ 12:21 pm Reply

    Ugh, I was just searching two local grocery store for dates and they are no where to be found in this non-town. This looks great! Wish I could make them.

  4. 4

    Cara — February 2, 2011 @ 12:17 pm Reply

    Hey bean, I think they'd be a great way to indulge when you're done (without doing too much damage!)

  5. 5

    shannon — February 3, 2011 @ 5:22 pm Reply

    ooh, now this is something i should make for those days that i want something… just cause :) will definitely be trying these soon!

  6. 6

    Dawn Hutchins — March 28, 2011 @ 8:38 pm Reply

    That's my kind of dessert!

  7. 7

    Roxan — March 28, 2011 @ 8:38 pm Reply

    One time I made vegan brownies and my husband gobbled them up until I told him they were vegan – and then he refused to eat any more. I think I'll make these and not tell him how healthy they are! They look amazing and fudgey… I HAVE to make them.

  8. 8

    Kaytorade — March 28, 2011 @ 8:38 pm Reply

    There is certainly nothing healthy looking about these brownies. They look sinful! Which is the opposite of most of my friends who look more innocent than they are.

  9. 9

    Joanne — March 28, 2011 @ 8:38 pm Reply

    Leave it to you to make a brownie recipe that actually looks to me to be way better than a butter-infested one. Amazing.

  10. 10

    Joanne — March 28, 2011 @ 8:38 pm Reply

    Leave it to you to make a brownie recipe that actually looks to me to be way better than a butter-infested one. Amazing.

  11. 11

    Alissa — March 28, 2011 @ 8:38 pm Reply

    Yum! They sound really tasty ♥

  12. 12

    Alissa — March 28, 2011 @ 8:38 pm Reply

    Yum! They sound really tasty ♥

  13. 13

    Cara — March 28, 2011 @ 8:38 pm Reply

    yes, you do have to make them – and let me know what you think!

  14. 14

    Cara — March 28, 2011 @ 8:38 pm Reply

    Thanks Alissa! Glad you stopped by!

  15. 15

    Shanon — March 28, 2011 @ 8:38 pm Reply

    very impressive!!! my husband is one of you chocolate people. i will surprise him with these healthy brownies sometime. i think it is almond meal that is often in flourless chocolate cake? although, that cake is still horribly bad for you because it has like a dozen eggs and four sticks of butter to make up for all the gluten missing. ps: about the type of tempeh i use…i am not not really too experienced. i have only tried one…"west soy". and it was just randomly the one i chose at whole foods (although, there weren't that many other plain options). i do like it tho!

  16. 16

    Glutenfreegidget — March 28, 2011 @ 8:38 pm Reply

    You just inspired me to tweak my Black Magic Brownies!

  17. 17

    Glutenfreegidget — March 28, 2011 @ 8:38 pm Reply

    You just inspired me to tweak my Black Magic Brownies!

  18. 18

    Melissa — March 28, 2011 @ 8:38 pm Reply

    This is interesting – my mom used to make a chocolate brownie with pureed dates baby food! These seem similar, but much more decadent.

  19. 19

    Melissa — March 28, 2011 @ 8:38 pm Reply

    This is interesting – my mom used to make a chocolate brownie with pureed dates baby food! These seem similar, but much more decadent.

  20. 20

    Cara — March 28, 2011 @ 8:38 pm Reply

    I'm curious about these brownies of yours!

  21. 21

    Chuck — March 28, 2011 @ 8:50 pm Reply

    These look great! Topped with peanut butter of course, right? : )

  22. 22

    Harriette Halepis — March 28, 2011 @ 8:50 pm Reply

    Is it possible to use coconut flour?

  23. 23

    Cara — March 28, 2011 @ 8:50 pm Reply

    Good question, Harriette. Honestly I'm not sure – coconut flour is an ingredient I haven't worked with yet so I don't really know how it functions compared to other gluten free flours. If you try it, please let me know!

  24. 24

    Cara — March 28, 2011 @ 8:50 pm Reply

    Hey bean, I think they'd be a great way to indulge when you're done (without doing too much damage!)

  25. 25

    janet — March 28, 2011 @ 8:50 pm Reply

    A completely guilt-free dessert. Love it! :)

  26. 26

    shannon — March 28, 2011 @ 8:50 pm Reply

    ooh, now this is something i should make for those days that i want something… just cause :) will definitely be trying these soon!

  27. 27

    Onefitfoodie — March 28, 2011 @ 8:50 pm Reply

    YUM! looks so good!!!

  28. 28

    Onefitfoodie — March 28, 2011 @ 8:50 pm Reply

    YUM! looks so good!!!

  29. 29

    jules — March 28, 2011 @ 8:50 pm Reply

    oh my…these sound delicious! AND i'm all over that baked cranberry oatmeal pudding. i can't wait to dig into some of your recipes. fabulous goodies!

  30. 30

    Branny — March 28, 2011 @ 8:51 pm Reply

    Ugh, I was just searching two local grocery store for dates and they are no where to be found in this non-town. This looks great! Wish I could make them.

  31. 31

    megan @ whatmegansmaking — March 28, 2011 @ 8:51 pm Reply

    ooh these look so good for also being healthy!

  32. 32

    Cara — March 28, 2011 @ 8:51 pm Reply

    Thanks Megan, they absolutely are!

  33. 33

    beanplant — March 28, 2011 @ 8:51 pm Reply

    These look fantastic! Can you believe I've never made brownies before? I'm definitely bookmarking these for when I am off my current fast!

  34. 34

    Barbara — March 28, 2011 @ 8:51 pm Reply

    That's an amazing list of ingredients, Cara. They turned out dark and lovely looking. Bet the dates added depth too.

  35. 35

    grace — March 28, 2011 @ 8:52 pm Reply

    my goodness! by the looks of these fantastically fudgy brownies, i never would've guessed all the healthy-shmealthy stuff involved! wowza, i'm impressed. :)

  36. 36

    Roxan — March 29, 2011 @ 2:05 am Reply

    One time I made vegan brownies and my husband gobbled them up until I told him they were vegan – and then he refused to eat any more. I think I'll make these and not tell him how healthy they are! They look amazing and fudgey… I HAVE to make them.

  37. 37

    grace — April 5, 2011 @ 1:18 am Reply

    my goodness! by the looks of these fantastically fudgy brownies, i never would've guessed all the healthy-shmealthy stuff involved! wowza, i'm impressed. :)

  38. 38

    beanplant — April 5, 2011 @ 1:18 am Reply

    These look fantastic! Can you believe I've never made brownies before? I'm definitely bookmarking these for when I am off my current fast!

  39. 39

    Branny — April 5, 2011 @ 1:18 am Reply

    Ugh, I was just searching two local grocery store for dates and they are no where to be found in this non-town. This looks great! Wish I could make them.

  40. 40

    Onefitfoodie — April 5, 2011 @ 1:18 am Reply

    YUM! looks so good!!!

  41. 41

    Cara — April 5, 2011 @ 1:18 am Reply

    Thanks Alissa! Glad you stopped by!

  42. 42

    Joanne — April 5, 2011 @ 1:18 am Reply

    Leave it to you to make a brownie recipe that actually looks to me to be way better than a butter-infested one. Amazing.

  43. 43

    Kaytorade — April 5, 2011 @ 1:18 am Reply

    There is certainly nothing healthy looking about these brownies. They look sinful! Which is the opposite of most of my friends who look more innocent than they are.

  44. 44

    Cara — April 5, 2011 @ 1:18 am Reply

    Hey bean, I think they'd be a great way to indulge when you're done (without doing too much damage!)

  45. 45

    Roxan — April 5, 2011 @ 1:18 am Reply

    One time I made vegan brownies and my husband gobbled them up until I told him they were vegan – and then he refused to eat any more. I think I'll make these and not tell him how healthy they are! They look amazing and fudgey… I HAVE to make them.

  46. 46

    Lisa — April 7, 2011 @ 7:34 pm Reply

    Hey I'm accumulating ingredients for this recipe and actually stumped the health food store when I asked about the peanut flour. Is there something else I can use that is gluten free? I don't think I have a gluten intolerance, just a fat intolerance. :) Thanks! Your blog is a huge inspiration to someone who needs to eat better.

  47. 47

    Cara — April 7, 2011 @ 7:39 pm Reply

    Hi Lisa, thanks for your kind words! I don't have a ton of experience with gluten free flours, but I think it would be fine to substitue extra sorghum flour if you already bought that. If not, all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour should be fine too (if you don't need it to be gluten-free.) One time I was out of sorghum and used chickpea flour, and while the texture was still great, they had a slight taste of hummus! I love hummus and I love brownies, but not necessarily together. So that's the only thing I know of that I wouldn't recommend. Happy baking, hope you like the brownies!

  48. 48

    Anita — April 26, 2011 @ 12:56 pm Reply

    Thanks for sharing this recipe. I live in Australia and we don't get pumpkin puree here and I'm too lazy to make it from scratch so I made a few modifications to this recipe but it didn't turn out that great. I used quinoa flour instead of sorghum and peanut flour, processed chickpeas instead of pumpkin puree and added 1tsp instant coffee and 100g frozen raspberries. The raspberries made it go soggy just in the part near them. It was also hard to make a clean cut without heaps sticking to the knife.Is the 350 degrees meant to be farenheit?Thanks again for sharing. I think I need to try again without the changes.

  49. 49

    Cara — April 26, 2011 @ 1:01 pm Reply

    Hi Anita, I'm sorry it didn't turn out so well for you. I think that sweet potato puree or banana puree would be a better substitute for the pumpkin. I have never worked with quinoa flour so I can't comment on that. I can imagine that frozen berries would add a lot of extra moisture! Yes, the 350º is in farenheit. Hope you have better luck next time!

  50. 50

    Jenica — February 21, 2012 @ 9:04 am Reply

    I just found this recipe and made them over the weekend. Yum! I used coconut flour in place of sourgum. I also swapped the maple syrup for a bit of liquid dark chocolate stevia and added the date soaking water for more moisture (lacking from no maple syrup and the absorbent coconut flour). I undercooked them a little, so they didn’t rise very much, but that actually made them even more fudge-like. Two thumbs up from my husband too!

    • 50.1

      Cara — February 21, 2012 @ 9:14 am

      I love your substitutions – thanks for sharing! Glad you liked them :)

  51. Pingback: Top Five Everyday Superfoods | Fit-A-Licious

  52. 51

    Sadie — July 21, 2012 @ 12:19 pm Reply

    These look incredibly fudgy! I can’t wait to try them, but I’ll use whole wheat pastry flour instead of the sorghum and peanut flours.

  53. 52

    Kristin — July 23, 2012 @ 3:00 pm Reply

    lOVE these brownies! Do you think there’s any way I could ‘tweak’ this into a birthday cake or cupcakes for my son’s 2nd birthday???

    • 52.1

      Cara — July 23, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

      If I were to try that, I would probably increase the leaveners a bit to get some more rise. Good luck!

  54. 53

    Charlotte Henley Babb — January 8, 2013 @ 8:37 pm Reply

    I’m wondering if I could replace all the sugars (applesauce, dates, maple syrup) with stevia. I’m not concerned with using eggs (not kosher or vegan) but I don’t want to add sugar carbs. I was thinking sweet potato rather than pumpkin.

    I know the brownies would not be nearly as sweet, but do you think they might be edible? Some bean/brownie recipes I’ve tried were not edible.

    This is a good recipe for a cheat day, but I’d like to try something that I could eat on other days that has chocolate.

    • 53.1

      Cara — January 8, 2013 @ 10:00 pm

      Hi Charlotte! That is a tricky question. The ingredients you would be trying to replace – applesauce, dates and maple syrup – also provide much of the bulk and texture for the recipe. So while stevia could make up in sweetness, I don’t know what could provide that volume and texture. I think that a brownie recipe sweetened entirely by stevia would be a new project, starting from scratch, not necessarily adapted from this one. But let me know if you try something!

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