These vegan black bean brownies are rich, fudgy and chocolatey but not too sweet. They’re also made with applesauce, less sugar, and not a lot of fat.
Vegan and lower carb?
My original recipe for black bean brownies (one of the most popular recipes on this entire website!) relies heavily on two eggs in the batter for much of the structure that isn’t being provided by any sort of flour. Black beans provide a “base,” but not really much structure.
Those brownies are a true family favorite, and I generally feel pretty good about serving them to my family. I’d say they’re healthy-ish. They don’t have a ton of fat (just 1/4 cup of oil), and black beans are high in fiber and protein. And since they’re even a “zero SmartPoint” food on Weight Watchers, that means that a recipe for black bean brownies should be able to be made Weight Watchers-friendly, too.
Since I’ve been posting more low carb recipes, I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from both readers on Weight Watchers, those with diabetes–and just readers in general who appreciate a good-for-you food that still tastes great.
So instead of just making these vegan black bean brownies with a new-to-me egg replacement, I also made them lower sugar and lower fat so they’re actually Weight Watchers-friendly. Cut into 9 portions, each brownie is 6 SmartPoints; cut into 12 portions, the value is 5 SmartPoints. If I were you, I’d go with the larger brownie for 1 measly extra point. 🙃
I had expected the recipe to be lower in carbohydrates in general, but found that black beans aren’t as low in carbs as I had expected. Since they do have quite a lot of fiber, though, the net carbs are relatively low.
Boiled flax (or chia!) “eggs”
I have long said that I really don’t care for “flax eggs” as an egg-replacer since flax seeds have a really strong flavor (which, in fact, they do). Instead, I have tended to recommend a “chia egg” slurry, which is just 1 tablespoon of ground chia seeds + 1 tablespoon of lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel. It’s okay, but it’s definitely not great as egg-replacer.
But ever since one sweet reader (hi, Judy!) brought “boiled flax gel” to my attention as a better alternative egg replacement, I’ve been super curious. The idea is to boil whole flax seeds to separate their gelatinous portion (ew?) from the rest of the seed, and use just the gel in baking.
The link above contains the recipe that I used to make the boiled flax gel, and it goes into great detail about the entire subject. The author discusses the pros and cons of using a flax seed slurry in place of eggs in baking and the pros and cons of using boiled flax gel. He then explains exactly how to make the gel.
Although I generally prefer the more neutral color and taste of chia seeds to flax seeds, in my experimentation I found that it was much more difficult to separate the chia gel from the chia seeds after boiling than it was to separate the flax gel from the flax seeds.
I recommend at least beginning with golden flax seeds for a sure-thing. And be sure only to boil until the mixture becomes gelatinous (which I found took closer to 7 minutes at a true low boil), or again separating the gel from the seeds will become very difficult.
When baking with boiled flax gel, I have found that you really do need to rebalance the moisture in the recipe. In my limited experience, flax gel provides more moisture than eggs do without adding as much structure. That means more flax gel is necessary, the resulting batter will need to be baked longer—and the baked goods will be fudgier and less cake-like.
Other ingredients and substitutions
Dairy-Free/Egg-Free: It’s a vegan recipe, so it’s already dairy-free and egg-free! 🎉
Egg-full but still lower sugar: How about this one? If you want to make my original recipe for black bean brownies with eggs but just lower carb and more Weight-Watchers friendly, you can make the following adjustments to the original recipe. Each of 9 brownies will have a 4 SmartPoints value:
To the two eggs already in the recipe, add one egg yolk.Reduce the oil to 2 tablespoons (28 g) from 1/4 cup (56 g).Add 1/3 cup (84 g) smooth unsweetened applesauce to the recipe.Reduce the light brown sugar to 1/2 cup (109 g) from 3/4 cup (264 g).Eliminate the chocolate chips.
Sugar/sugar-free: You can’t replace the light brown sugar with a liquid sugar, but you should probably be able to replace it with coconut palm sugar. For a sugar-free replacement, try Swerve brown sugar replacement. Swerve tends to leave baked goods a bit dryer than normal, so I’d recommend adding some more moisture in the form of brewed coffee to get the batter to the proper consistency before baking.
Chocolate-free: Hahaha just kidding. Sometimes, it’s easy to get carried away with substitutions, like expecting a recipe for brownies to be made, well, not brown/chocolate. I have, however, been working on a recipe for flourless blonde brownies made with white beans as a base, but it’s crazy hard. Stay tuned!
Watch this 1-minute how-to video
Just push play ▶ on the video below, and watch me make these brownies. Then make your own!
Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: >40 minutes Yield: 9 to 12 brownies
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed well
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (60 g) boiled “flax gel egg replacement”
3 tablespoons (42 g) neutral oil (like grapeseed, canola or vegetable)
1/2 cup (109 g) packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (65 g) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-processed, your choice)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons (48 g) smooth unsweetened applesauce, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons strong brewed coffee (can use decaf or just more vanilla extract)
2 ounces dark dairy-free chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350°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, “flax gel eggs,” and oil, and blend or process until smooth. In a large bowl, place the brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt, 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, plus the applesauce, vanilla, and coffee. 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 evenly 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 and bake until the top springs back when pressed gently with a finger (35 to 40 minutes). 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. Place the pan in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes (or the freezer for about 10 minutes). Remove from the pan and slice into 9 or 12 squares with a sharp knife.