Black bean brownies are a special kind of flourless gluten free brownie, and this amazing recipe doesn’t taste like beans at all. Tasting is believing.
What makes these black bean brownies special?
High in protein and fiber, these black bean protein brownies are made entirely with basic pantry ingredients that almost everyone has already. And all the equipment you need is a simple blender (otherwise, you’ll have whole black beans in your brownies!), a bowl and spoon, and a pan to bake it all in.
I think can agree that baking with beans mostly means tasting beans. But it doesn’t have to be that way! I’m about to show you that sometimes you can bake with beans and not taste them. Instead, you’ll just taste … brownies.
The only equipment you need is any blender (both my high-speed blender and my mini, nonfancy blender that I got for free ages ago work perfectly) or food processor. Just remember that the food processor won’t puree the beans quite as smoothly.
The only ingredients are canned black beans, eggs, oil, cocoa powder, brown sugar, vanilla, a touch of baking soda, salt and some brewed coffee (even decaf). That’s all. They’re tender as could be, plus rich and not-too-sweet.
Flourless black bean brownies ingredients
The full recipe is below, but here are a few words about the key ingredients in these brownies that I think are helpful to keep in mind:
- Black beans – The backbone of this recipe, use good quality canned black beans, and be sure to drain and rinse them until the water runs clear, then let the water drip out entirely.
- Eggs – Without flour, eggs are the main binder here. Make sure yours are at room temperature so they don’t make the oil form clumps.
- Oil – A neutral oil is great for baking with cocoa powder, since together they create a chocolate flavor with the proper smooth texture.
- Pure vanilla extract – This helps enhance the chocolate flavors, so don’t skip it!
- Brewed coffee – The depth of flavor in brewed coffee is preferable to hydrated instant coffee granules; decaf is fine, since the coffee is only used to bring out the flavor of the chocolate (you don’t taste the coffee itself)
- Cocoa powder – For the deepest flavor, use Dutch-processed cocoa powder, but since there’s baking soda in the batter, it will neutralize the acid of natural cocoa powder so that’s fine, too.
- Baking soda – To neutralize the acid in natural cocoa powder, and in the brown sugar, and provide a bit of lift.
- Salt – Salt always enhances the other flavors in any dish, in cooking or baking. I bake with kosher salt, since it has larger granules that are much harder to overmeasure than fine table salt.
- Brown sugar – Light brown sugar adds depth of flavor and moisture along with sweetness, of course.
- Chocolate chips – These are entirely optional, but they add extra chocolate flavor and some nice texture to an otherwise very moist, melt-in-your-mouth brownie.
Whipping up flourless black bean brownies
First, you’ll rinse and drain a can of black beans. Be sure you rinse them as well as you can without losing any of the beans. They may break, but we’re going to blend them, so it doesn’t matter.
Then, you can use a food processor or a blender to turn those beans into a puree. I usually use a blender, but generally it’s easier to get every last drop of puree out of the food processor.
A blender will mean a smoother puree. But even if your puree isn’t 100% smooth, you still won’t taste beans in the brownies.
An unfortunate history of bean flour
When I first started baking gluten free, way, way back in 2004 (not a typo), my first “all purpose gluten free flour” was Bette Hagman’s bean flour blend. I blended it myself. It mostly worked, and I made sure that everything I baked had a nice, strong flavor to compete with the garbanzo bean flour.
But my gosh the smell! And the taste, I’m afraid, too. Just … no.
Seriously it scarred me enough that I’m still building up to even trying aquafaba, even though I find it terribly intriguing. Vegan marshmallow fluff has to happen!
These naturally gluten free black bean brownies are truly flourless. But instead of melted chocolate, the base here is the humble can of black beans, which provides structure and tons of fiber without adding any bean flavor.
The same goes for my newest addition, flourless black bean cookies. Just like these brownies, they taste absolutely nothing like black beans. All you taste is rich, fudgy chocolatey goodness.
Now, I love black beans—in my burritos. And, say, on Taco Tuesday. But in my brownies? I was seriously skeptical. But also intrigued!
Do black bean brownies actually taste … like brownies?
Yes! When I set to work, I knew we weren’t going to make black bean brownies that were actually fudgy. The fudgy texture of our classic flourless brownies comes from all the chopped and melted chocolate in that recipe, and there isn’t any melted chocolate in this brownie batter.
I assumed I’d do some recipe testing, and ultimately declare the entire concept of making brownies with black beans to be a disaster. I love it when I’m wrong like this.
These brownies aren’t fudgy, but they’re not cake-like in the traditional sense. The look cakey, but they’re actually really smooth in texture. They quite literally melt in your mouth, and become almost pudding-like in consistency.
How about the brownie taste?
You do not taste the beans in these brownies; all you’ll detect is that chocolate flavor. The vanilla extract, cocoa powder, and a bit of brewed coffee take care of that (no, you don’t taste the coffee either—just the chocolate!).
And these brownies still deliver a lot of fiber without any downside. This also means you can make moist and rich gluten free brownies—without any specialized flours or other ingredients.
Tips for making the best black bean brownies
Use a blender for the smoothest texture
You can blend the drained and rinsed can of beans in a food processor if that’s all you have, but a blender will make the smoothest black bean puree. That means the smoothest brownie texture.
Choosing a pan for these healthy black bean brownies
Since these brownies are so tender and have no real flour replacement, they’re a bit more fragile—so I like to make them in an 8-inch square pan for that extra thickness. You can also use a 9-inch square pan, too, and just bake for less time. Be sure you’re using a light-colored metal pan or your brownies may burn before they bake all the way through!
Don’t overbake for fudgy black bean brownies (but be sure to bake fully)
For a firmer, more cake-like brownie, you can bake your brownies for a few minutes less. They’ll be really fudgy, though, so stick the cooled tin of brownies in the freezer or refrigerator for a few minutes for clean slicing.
Let the bean brownies cool completely for clean slicing
No matter how long you bake your black bean brownies, they’ll need to be cool, or your knife will drag through and pick up pieces of brownie along the way. For the cleanest slice, place the cooled pan of brownies in the freezer for 10 minutes before slicing—and clean your knife after each cut.
Serving black bean gluten free brownies
Since the taste is rich chocolate, just like you’d expect, you really can serve them any way you would a classic gf brownie. Here are a few serving suggestions, but of course they’re perfect on their own:
- Top with a scoop of marshmallow ice cream for the ultimate smooth and creamy addition
- A dollop of whipped cream and a few fresh berries make a beautiful presentation
- Drizzle some warm peanut butter on top for a peanut butter-chocolate treat
How to store gluten free black bean brownies
The texture and taste of these brownies do really well in the freezer. Place them in a single layer on a lined baking sheet, and be careful with them as you load them into the freezer, though, since it’s hard to avoid breaking off some moist crumbs.
They never actually freeze solid, so you don’t even really need to defrost them unless you prefer them at room temperature.
Black bean brownies: Substitutions
Dairy free black bean brownies
These brownies are already dairy-free when the recipe is made exactly as written. Just be sure to use dairy-free chocolate chips and you’ll be all set.
Egg free black bean brownies
If you can’t have eggs, I recommend using my recipe vegan black bean brownies using boiled flax gel in place of eggs. They make a fudgier brownie, instead of a cakier one like this recipe, but they’re fully vegan and quite a nice, chocolatey recipe that’s lower in sugar and fat than this recipe.
Can you make black bean brownies sugar free?
I am fairly certain that these brownies would work with coconut palm sugar in place of brown sugar, although I haven’t tried it. For a sugar-free replacement, try Swerve brown sugar replacement or Lankato brand brown sugar replacement.
Alternative sugars tend to leave baked goods a bit dryer than normal. I recommend adding an extra tablespoon or two of brewed coffee to get the batter to the proper consistency.
Choosing an oil for flourless black bean brownies
A neutral-tasting oil is all that you need here, so you have lots of options. I usually use grapeseed or canola oil, since I always have those in my pantry. You can also try peanut oil, but nothing with more than a very subtle flavor, like avocado oil. Avoid olive oil, since we don’t want a competing flavor.
Are black bean brownies gluten free?
Some are! Some black bean brownie recipes are made using black beans in place of some ingredients, but include flour and most other classic brownie ingredients. This recipe is truly flourless, so it’s safely and naturally gluten free.
Are black bean brownies healthier than regular brownies?
Yes! I’ve included (estimated) nutritional information in the recipe card below, so you can see how much fiber and protein you’ll find in these brownies—and how little fat compared to a classic brownie recipe. They still have sugar, though, and oil, so they’re not truly health food.
Why should I put black beans in brownies?
These brownies, made with black beans instead of any sort of flour, are useful in a few different ways! They’re naturally gluten free without the need for an alternative gluten free flour blend, which means that they’re not only less expensive but more accessible, making them perfect if you’re a beginning gluten free baker. Plus, they’re healthier than “regular” brownies.
Can I add chopped walnuts to this recipe for black bean brownies?
Sure! Try replacing some (optional) chocolate chips in the recipe with chopped walnuts. Resist the urge to pack these brownies with mix-ins, though, because they’ll probably sink to the bottom.
Can I make these easy black bean brownies without coffee?
Sure! The brewed coffee is only added to enhance the chocolate flavor from the cocoa powder, and you don’t taste it. You can use decaf coffee, or just replace the liquid with any sort of milk, or even water. The chocolate taste will be a little bit more subtle.
Can I make black bean brownies with brownie mix?
Yes! I’ve actually done that using our homemade gf brownie mix! It’s not as healthy, but still delicious!
Can I use fresh beans in this black bean brownie recipe?
You can use dried black beans that you’ve cooked fully at home, but only if you cooked them in plain water alone. If they’re made with stock, stick with the plain black beans from a can.
Can I use different beans for this gluten free black bean brownies recipe?
I’ve only made this particular recipe specifically with drained and rinsed cooked black beans, but I have a really similar recipe for flourless blondies made with white beans.
How can you tell that these black bean chocolate brownies are done baking?
The cake tester/toothpick test isn’t reliable in this recipe, since it will come out nearly wet even when the brownies are done baking. Continue to bake your brownies until the top is set and it springs back when pressed gently in the center with your forefinger. And when you shake the pan gently from side to side, it doesn’t jiggle at all.
If you’re not sure that your brownies are done baking, lower the oven temperature to 300°F and continue to bake for another 3 to 5 minutes.
The Best Black Bean Brownies Recipe (Flourless and Gluten Free)
Flourless Black Bean Brownies Recipe | Naturally Gluten Free
- Blender or food processor
- 1 standard can black beans drained and rinsed well
- 2 eggs at room temperature
- ¼ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed, canola or vegetable)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons strong brewed coffee (decaf is fine)
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-processed, your choice)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
- 3 ounces semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips optional
- Preheat your oven to 325°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Grease the paper with cooking oil spray, and set the pan aside.
- In a blender or food processor, place the drained and rinsed beans, eggs, oil, vanilla and coffee, and blend or process until smooth.
- In a large bowl, place the cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and brown sugar, and whisk to combine well, breaking up any lumps in the brown sugar.
- Create a well in the center of the cocoa powder mixture and add the pureed bean mixture. Mix until well-combined.
- Add about half of the (optional) chocolate chips to the batter and mix to combine. The mixture will be thickly pourable.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining (optional) chocolate chips even on top of the batter, and press down gently to help the chips adhere.
- Place the baking pan in the center of the preheated oven. Bake until the top springs back when pressed gently with a finger (about 25 minutes).
- Continue to bake your brownies until the top is set, and it springs back when pressed gently in the center with your forefinger. And when you shake the pan gently from side to side, it doesn't jiggle at all.
- For cakier brownies, lower the oven temperature to 300°F and continue to bake for another 3 to 5 minutes or until the center is really stable.
- Remove the pan from the oven, place it on a wire rack (still in the pan) and allow to cool until no longer hot to the touch.
- Remove from the pan and slice into squares with a sharp knife. For cleaner slicing, place the bars still in the cooled pan in the freezer for 10 minutes before removing from the pan and slicing.
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