Amazing Black Bean Brownies Recipe

This quirky, yet amazing black bean brownie recipe delivers deliciously dense, bite-sized squares of melt-in-your-mouth fudge-textured brownies.

Amazing Black Bean Brownies

It kills me that I can't take credit for today's black bean brownies. As strange as it sounds (we're talking about brownies packed with pureed black beans), this recipe from a new book by Ania Catalano delivers deliciously dense, bite-sized squares of melt-in-your-mouth fudge-textured brownies. Keep in mind I'm someone who comes across hundreds of brownie recipes a year, it wasn't high on my to-do list to feature yet another brownie recipe. But the quirky ingredient list piqued my curiosity, and in the end the proof was in the pan. Ania mentions that this flourless brownie was the most sought-after recipe at her restaurant and bakery.

Ania's new book is called Baking with Agave Nectar. I was lucky enough to spend some time with a preview copy of it, and even wrote a blurb for the back cover. There are many reasons people are looking to alternative sweeteners. I wrote (and used) agave nectar in Super Natural Cooking for a number of recipes, but you might also try date syrup, coconut nectar, or maple syrup. People looking for sweeteners lower on the glycemic index explore agave nectar, as do many hypoglycemics, diabetics, and people with certain allergies. That being said, don't make the mistake of dismissing it as some sort of "health" or "diet" ingredient. The real reason for chef and home cooks alike to try it (if you haven't already) is because it tastes amazing - it really has its own thing going on. I won't get into all the specifics here, but I encourage you to give it a try. Ania's book is a great starting point for those of you who want to learn to bake with agave nectar in place of the typical white refined sugar called for in so many baking recipes. I also get into many of the specific characteristics of it in the "Use Natural Sweeteners" chapter of SNC with a few recipes that highlight it.

Amazing Black Bean Brownies Recipe

So, like I said - there are some quirky facets to this particular brownie recipe. Black bean brownies, really? Yes! And now I'm totally enamored with the use of the black bean batter, it really worked, not even a hint of beany flavor. Consequently, my head is now spinning with all sorts of thoughts about how I might use other pulses in future baking adventures.

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Amazing Black Bean Brownie Recipe

For those of you who have a hard time tracking down agave nectar (which is becoming much more readily available) substitute honey 1:1 for the agave nectar. Ania's head notes encourage you to keep these brownies in the refrigerator, they will slice much better if refrigerated several hours or preferably overnight. I used instant coffee this time around, but you can find natural coffee substitute at many natural food stores.

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups soft-cooked black beans, drained well (hs: canned is fine)
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ cup (granulated) natural coffee substitute (or instant coffee, for gluten-sensitive)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
4 large eggs
1½ cups light agave nectar

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line an 11- by 18-inch (rimmed) baking pan (hs note: or jellyroll pan) with parchment paper and lightly oil with canola oil spray.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a glass bowl in the microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on high. Stir with a spoon to melt the chocolate completely. Place the beans, 1/2 cup of the walnuts, the vanilla extract, and a couple of spoonfuls of the melted chocolate mixture into the bowl of a food processor. Blend about 2 minutes, or until smooth. The batter should be thick and the beans smooth. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup walnuts, remaining melted chocolate mixture, coffee substitute, and salt. Mix well and set aside.

In a separate bowl, with an electric mixer beat the eggs until light and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the agave nectar and beat well. Set aside.

Add the bean/chocolate mixture to the coffee/chocolate mixture. Stir until blended well.

Add the egg mixture, reserving about 1/2 cup. Mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1/2 cup egg mixture until light and fluffy. Drizzle over the brownie batter. Use a wooden toothpick to pull the egg mixture through the batter, creating a marbled effect. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the brownies are set. Let cool in the pan completely before cutting into squares. (They will be soft until refrigerated.)

Makes 45 (2-inch) brownies.

Reprinted with permission from Baking With Agave Nectar: Over 100 Recipes Using Nature's Ultimate Sweetener by Ania Catalano. (Ten Speed Press 2008)

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Thicken them up with some rice flour or barley flour, and you've got an energy bar! Eating grains with legumes forms a complete protein...the reason in almost every culture on earth, beans and rice or corn is a staple...


Hmmmm. I guess I have to try it on my own to be able to say more. :-) But the recipe is interesting.

Joanna in the kitchen

I have been making a brownie similar to this for years. passed on by a friend who went on a trip in St Lucia to a resort called Le Sport on the Body Holiday.ricki- i had no idea weight watchers used a recip elike ths as well. I bet they are all as good. Goimg to try Heidis version with agave instead of sugar. High Protein Gluten Free, Dairy Free Chocolate Fudge Brownies 1 1/2 c. chocolate or carob semisweet chips 2 c. garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed 4 eggs 1 c. sugar 1/2 tsp baking powder Melt chips. In blender or food processor, combine beans and eggs. Add sugar, baking powder, and chocolate, process until smooth. Pour batter into a 9 in or 8X8 non stick pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve with fresh homemade whipped cream on top. Other beans are just as yummy. Using legumes instead of flour adds fiber and protein. To make brownies more like the ones you had as a kid add a stick of butter, and a teaspoon of vanilla, and ½ cup more of sugar or maple syrup. If using coco powder instead of chocolate use a bit of butter or oil to moisten batter. Coconut oil is a great choice. Raspberries, walnuts or spirulina are also a welcome addition to this recipe.


Elaine Tribole first did black bean brownies in her "Stealth Health" cookbook back in 1999. They were delicious. I can't wait to try this version.


I have been checking this site for a few months now... and only NOW have I felt inclined to respond :)!!! This is so very intriguing... As some people have mentioned, using bean paste in asian desserts is not uncommon. And now that you've posted this... I imagine the texture of a 'pastey' fudgy brownie might be mimiced by that of the bean paste. Looking forward to making these for my very close (gluten-allergic) friend. :) Thanks for this post!! :)


for non-coffee people, you should really try it with the coffee. i hate coffee myself, but coffee really enhances the flavor of the chocolate.


Is there anything you can substitute for the coffee? We're not big coffee-fans, and I was hoping to make these brownies to be just like traditional, chocolatey brownies. Any suggestions? What would happen if I just left out the coffee?


Can you just use canned black beans for this?


What exactly is a 'natural coffee substitute'? Could I just use 1/4 cup of brewed coffee?


wow - i love this idea brilliant! this is bookmarked and if i had some instant coffee in the house i'd get baking right now i think a lot of people are going to try these, heidi... it's a compelling recipe! and i am a total agave fan. lower glycemic index...

Claudia (cook eat FRET)

Heidi - This recipe looks absolutely brilliant, thank you! I can't wait to run home and try these out. What a fabulous and delicious way to use up those leftover black beans! Also, huge kudos on the Anzac cookie recipe - you've done Australia proud (and maybe even one better, if i may!)


I must say my first thought was *gross* - but I am interested in trying these! Heidi - like a few others I am wondering if you can include nutritional information for your recipes. I've become somewhat of a nutritional info junkie. Thanks for the always interesting reading and recipes and photos that tempt!


I'm excited to try these brownies! I'd be curious if anyone knew the nutritional facts on them or had any more info about the health benefits versus regular brownies. (I'm beginning to try and change my diet to focus better on my health and I'm always searching for info!) -Robin

robin (caviar and codfish)

Well, I just put this cookbook on my amazon wishlist. These brownies looks so decadent I can't believe they are made with legumes! I am going to take you word for it that they don't taste beany and give it a try. BTW, I tried your latest split pea recipe with the yogurt. AMAZING. Easy and both husband and I agreed - dinner party worthy. Thanks.


This sounds like a wonderful version of bean brownies. I've tried some vegan versions that have circulated on the web, and last month posted my own white-bean based GF brownie. It's at if anyone is interested. The ones I've tried have all been quite good. Agave nectar is my favorite sweetener, and I use it for most of my baking these days (though not in this recipe, oddly!). So much better than honey!


I tried a black bean brownie recipe in the past. It was so gross, I dumped the whole pan in the garbage. So I am slightly put-off by the idea of trying another one. However, the fact that this one has baker's chocolate instead of cocoa powder does pique my interest...


Black beans? Sounds strange, but looks fantastic! You've done it again!


I think beans are a very underused baking ingredient. My first adventure in bean cooking was trying a recipe for breakfast bean cookies that I found in my local foodie mag. The woman who developed it had devised it when her friend's 12-year-old daughter was receiving chemotherapy, and suffering from loss of appetite. She could be persuaded to eat a cookie, so this woman wanted to develop a cookie that packed as much nutritional punch as possible. Beans can replace a lot of the fat in a recipe, and they are packed with fibre, protein and other goodies. And eating cookies for breakfast is pretty nice!


Peg--Yes, just about every brownie recipe I've ever tried has used at least a cup of butter for a full pan, so I'd call it typical. It seems to add to a brownie's denseness and richness. I'm sure I have the ingredients at home to make a half batch--I'm anxious to try this out and will probably do it as soon as I've gotten the rest of my St. Patty's Day dinner well on its way!


I have no doubt these brownies are delicious and I can't wait to try them. For years I've been making a fantastic black bean chocolate cake, a recipe I discovered in a cookbook entitled Blue Corn and Chocolate, that is hands down one of the best chocolate cake recipes I've encountered.


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