Black bean brownies

Black bean brownies

I am constantly on the lookout for healthy sweet treat alternatives. One of the (few) downsides – if you would call it that – to knowing a thing or two about nutrition is that you don’t want to put anything you find in the supermarket treat isle into your body, because you know how unhealthy it is. I want to pause quickly and just expand on what is unhealthy in my opinion and thus the nutritional stance that Rooted in Dirt takes. When I refer to something as being unhealthy, I do NOT refer to its calorific content. Instead, I refer to the unnatural and unnecessary additives that are bad for your body. It is really important for people to understand that calories and fat (a macronutrient and source of calories) are not bad for you. In fact, you need sufficient calories (AND FAT) to survive and for our purposes to perform optimally as a runner. It is true that too many calories (be it in the form of fat, carbohydrates or even protein) will make you put on weight but it does not mean that calorific foods (which are often nutrient-dense) are unhealthy. I will deal with plant-based nutrition 101 in a later post but for now, you know where I’m coming from so let’s get back to the sweet treats!


I stumbled upon a black bean brownie recipe for the first time in the No Meat Athlete cookbook a while back. I remember thinking that it was a great idea because it was a way in which to combine healthy nutrients from the protein-rich beans with a sweet and satisfying treat. I also knew that it would be particularly healthy (for a brownie) because the black beans would replace at least some quantities of the main ingredients in brownies, which are butter, sugar, flour and eggs. The problem I had with that recipe is that it contained over 2 cups of sugar, so off I went researching.


Quick note on black beans: they are very high in fibre, protein and vitamins. Further, Dr. Michael Greger (a physician specialising in clinical nutrition) includes them on his “daily dozen” list and recommends 3 servings of beans a day! A serving size is ¼ cup of hummus (or other bean dip), ½ cup cooked beans, split peas, lentils and tofu or 1 cup of fresh peas or sprouted lentils. Be sure to check out his website: for quick reference to any nutrition-related information. He draws conclusions only from research presented in peer-reviewed articles from medical journals. What adds to his credibility (in my opinion) is that all of the resources and information found on his website (which is without ads) are free, and all of the proceeds he makes from his published work is donated to charity. I will write a blog post soon on his “daily dozen” for those that are interested. Basically, the more Dr. Greger researched over the years, the more he realised that healthy foods are not necessarily interchangeable and that some contain special nutrients that are not found in adequate amounts elsewhere. So he came up with a checklist of 12 foods (and some habits) to include in your every day. But more on that next time, let’s get back to the brownies!


After just a little digging, I realised that 1) black bean brownies are a thing, and 2) that there are 100’s of recipes online but very few of them are plant-based (i.e. contain no eggs or dairy) – and most of the vegan-friendly ones are packed with sugar. So I did a couple calculations and with a little bit of creativity, these beauties came to life.



Black bean brownies:



1 ½ cups whole wheat flour

1 tin black beans

1 cup roughly chopped cashews

1 cup cocoa powder

1 cup water

50g / half a slab of semi-sweet dark chocolate (70%) broken into little chunks

½ cup coconut sugar *

⅓ cup maple syrup *  

1 heaped tablespoon of instant coffee powder *

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (not essence, extract)

1 teaspoon baking powder

A pinch of salt  



Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

In a big mixing bowl add the flour, cashews, cocoa powder, dark chocolate, coconut sugar, coffee powder, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.

Open the tin of black beans and drain the contents into a colander, rinse the beans well and put them back into the rinsed tin, then fill tin up with water. Pour the contents of the tin into a blender (or food processor) and blend until the beans look like a watery puree. I learned this step from the No Meat Athlete cookbook, credit where due.

Pour the puree on top of the mixed dry ingredients along with the maple syrup, vanilla extract, and the water, and stir until well combined.

Grease a square or rectangular oven dish with coconut oil – I used a (30cm x 20 cm) rectangular dish. Pour the batter into the greased dish and smooth the top with a spatula ensuring the batter is level, remembering to check the corners of the dish.

Bake for 25 minutes.

Once done, remove them from the oven and let them cool completely before cutting into squares.


*you can substitute the coconut sugar for another type if you prefer. Try to choose a sugar that is as unprocessed as possible.

*you can substitute the maple syrup for date syrup, which you can make yourself! I will do a blog post on that for sure.

*if you are a coffee snob and you don’t own instant coffee then you can add a shot of espresso instead but then deduct the quantity of water you use for the shot from the cup of water that the recipe calls for.


These brownies are more spongy and less crumbly than regular brownies so they actually make a really good snack to take with on a run.


I really hope you enjoy! Let me know what you think! 🙂




Greger, M. (2015) How not to die. London.

  • Jeannine Ruffels

    April 27, 2018 at 8:57 am Reply

    Hi Jana, these look so good! I’m keen to give them a try. Could I substitute the whole wheat flour with chick pea or almond flour for a gluten free option?

    • Jana

      May 3, 2018 at 3:31 pm Reply

      Hi Jeannine,

      I don’t see why not. The texture and density may change, especially if using the almond flour, but give it a try and let me know how it goes!

      Kind regards,

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