Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Black Bean Brownies: No flour, No butter, Just Chocolate Fudgy Goodness by Cleo Coyle

These chocolate brownies nearly qualify as magic. There is no white flour in the recipe. The structure comes from nutritious black beans, which add fiber and protein, but you won't taste the beans. You'll taste only the delicious fudgy chocolate. My previous recipe for Black Bean Brownies started with a brownie mix (to see that recipe, click here). Today's "from scratch" version is still easy, yet it's healthier and tastier. 

Quick Tips

The batter for these brownies can be whizzed up in a food processor or a blender/processor. That's what you see in my photos, an Oster Fusion blender. I'm not sure a regular blender would be able to handle this, but if you have a very powerful blender, it might work. Either way, here are my quick tips for getting the best out of this recipe...

(1) The better quality your chocolate, the better your brownies. 

(2) Chopped, block chocolate is the way to go. Chocolate chips just won't give you the same brownie, which is why I strongly suggest not attempting to make this recipe with chocolate chips. You can, however, tart the brownies up by stirring in chips and/or toasted, chopped nuts just before baking.

(3) Be careful when melting the chocolate. Once chocolate is burned, there's no saving it, and the burned taste will be in your brownies. So be sure to follow the directions in the recipe.

(4) As for the black beans, they should be "low sodium" (or no salt), and be sure you rinse the beans well before draining. I suggest soaking them for a minute in cold water and then draining well, just to be sure they're cleaned and ready for processing. 

(5) Finally, don't over-bake the brownies. I think all brownie recipes are better if they're slightly under-baked. This one is no exception. 

Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

My Coffeehouse Mystery readers may recognize these brownies from A Brew to a Kill. They're a bonus recipe from the book. 

To view the book's recipe section, click here.  

To download this recipe in a PDF document that you can print, save, or share, click here

Makes one 9x9-inch square pan of brownies 


8 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped (do not use chips)

2 tablespoons canola oil (or vegetable or corn oil) 

¼ cup brewed coffee or espresso 

   (deepens chocolate flavor, you won’t taste it)

1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans
   (low sodium or no salt),
rinsed, soaked, drained 

4 large eggs, lightly beaten with fork

½ cup light brown sugar, packed

½ cup white, granulated sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon table salt or finely ground sea salt 
     (if using coarse salt, increase this amount to ¼ teaspoon) 

1 teaspoon baking powder

Optional additions:

½ cup toasted and chopped nuts (such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts)

¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips


Step 1 – Prep oven and pan: First preheat your oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Create a sling with parchment paper (see my photo) and lightly coat the paper and sides of the pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

Step 2 - Melt the chocolate: Place the chopped chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl. Pour the canola oil into the mixture. IMPORTANT: Chocolate burns very easily and once that scorched taste is in your chocolate, your brownies are ruined. To prevent burning, heat the oil and chocolate in 20- to 30-second increments in your microwave. Stir between each session until everything is melted and smooth. Once melted, set aside. (I like to place the bowl on top of my pre-heating oven to keep the chocolate warm.) 

Step 3 – Prep the beans: Drain the canned beans, place them in a bowl and cover them with water. Allow them to soak for a minute, then drain them well. 

Step 4 – Make the batter: Combine the beans, coffee, and eggs in a food processor or blender/processor (the machine in my photos is an Oster Fusion, a cross between a processor and blender and not a regular blender). Process until smooth. The mixture will look like a chocolate milk shake. Add the brown and white sugars, vanilla extract, salt, and baking powder. Finally add the melted chocolate and mix well until smooth. (If adding optional chopped nuts and/or chocolate chips, stir them in now with a large spoon.)

Step 5 – Bake: Pour the batter into your prepared 9x9-inch square pan and bake for around 20 to 25 minutes, depending on your oven. I’m of the opinion that you should not over-bake brownies, including these. When the top surface is set (spongy but firm to the touch and no longer liquid) and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with no wet batter clinging to it, the brownies are ready. Allow the hot pan to cool for a few minutes, then run a knife on the un-papered edges to loosen any sticky bits and gently lift the parchment paper handles, transferring the brownie cake to a wire rack. Allow the brownies to cool a bit (and set) before cutting into large or small squares and…

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle 

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Friend me on facebook here
Follow me on twitter here.
Visit my online coffeehouse here.


The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the
12 titles includes the added bonus of recipes.  


The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name
Alice Kimberly

To learn more, click here.


  1. I have made these or at least a version of them. THey are good but I do notice a slight "bean" taste.

    Would I made these again, yes... at least for my husband and I.

  2. "tart them up" Great choice of words, but then you are a writer!
    I've seen various recipes for black bean brownies and been interested enough to copy the recipe. But now, knowing your expertise in cooking/baking, these are on the TO DO list. Basically, this is a chocolate bean souffle Thanks

    @BusyMom-perhaps the trick is the soaking and careful rinsing to avoid the "bean" taste

    1. Libby - LOL, I was typing up my reply to Shawn while you were posting, and we have the same solution. I've made this recipe many times to get the version you see here, and I did find that if the beans were not properly soaked/rinsed and I did not pureee the heck out of them, the bean taste came through. But those steps are easy to do and if the recipe is followed, the brownies are good!

      I find they really shine when they're cooled off. So I line a plastic container with wax paper and store them in the fridge. With a cup of coffee, they're a great (more healthy) solution for curbing the appetite. (I'm finding when I cut white flour down in my diet, I feel better, and this is one of my "eat this/not that" solutions!)

  3. Thanks Shawn (BusyMom) - I find these delicious as part of my coffee-break routine (on days I'm trying to cut down on white flour and bread in my diet), and I'm happy to report that even my husband liked them--and, yes, Marc is quite vocal when he doesn't like a recipe, so I know it's a good one.

    My best advice for avoiding the bean taste (in this recipe and the "boxed brownie mix" version) is to make absolutely sure you rinse the beans well, soak them for a minute, drain them and then puree the heck out of them. A food processor really is a must for the recipe.

    As with many recipes, if this one is followed well -- i.e., good quality, chopped block chocolate is used and melted with care (and no scorching); the beans are soaked for one minute and drained well; a food processor is used that properly purees the beans; and the brownies are not over-baked -- the results are wonderfully chocolaty.

    Thanks for dropping by, Shawn
    and I hope you and your loved ones
    have a happy and healthy new year!

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  4. So you really have to make sure the beans are soaked through to remove the bean taste? Interesting. I use garbanzo flour for lots of baking now that I'm gluten-free. I would imagine this recipe would work with those, as well, don't you think? Very interesting!!!

    Thanks, Cleo.

    ~Avery / Daryl

    1. Hi, Avery - On handling the beans...they're canned beans, cooked already. The soaking step is done simply to clean them (not to saturate them), which is why it's so fast and easy. Just rinse them, place them in a bowl, cover them with cold water 1 minute, drain, and you're done. Black bean brownies are nothing new, of course, there are plenty of recipes floating around out there. This is just the way I do it. I've never baked with garbanzo flour, but I'm sure there's a great brownie recipe out there for that, too! I like the black beans because they're a super-food, packed with fiber, protein, vitamins. So it's a chocolate indulgence I can eat and feel less guilty about!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  5. Black bean brownies? Why not? I love black beans in anything else - I'm sure I'll love them in these fudgy brownies too. I've made brownies with potato starch instead of flour (good), and I fully expect these to be much more flavorful and better-textured. Can't wait to add these to my regular lineup.

    1. Thanks, Laine! I hope you enjoy the recipe. More on exactly why I enjoy it below (complex carbs and better regulation of blood sugar/appetite, etc.)...

      Cheers and have a happy and healthy new year!
      ~ Cleo

  6. I love black beans, and I have used garbanzo bean flour in sweets before, so I guess I shouldn't be quite as surprised as I am. They don't taste a little bit like black beans?

    ~ Krista

    1. No bean taste. And I'm glad of that because I'm trying to cut down on refined carbs and create dishes with some complex carbs in them to help better regulate my appetite and blood sugar throughout the day. It all adds up to making me feel better. And the ingredients add up to a good and good tasting snack.

      The chopped chocolate (which melts much better than chips), the brown sugar, coffee, and vanilla all work together to flavor the brownies in a delightful way. If made correctly (as I mentioned above), the result is a nice little chocolate coffee break snack--one that you can feel less guilty about eating, even on a daily basis (at least I do)!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  7. This sounds brilliant, Cleo! I've made garbanzo bean chocolate cakes before, but this one really sound magically delicious (not that I'm surprised--if there's anybody I knew could make a perfect brownie recipe, it's you!). I can't wait to whip up a batch!

    1. Thanks, Wendy ~ I remember your mentioning the garbanzo bean cake. Same idea here, using a food processor to puree the heck out of a mess o' beans as a way to put a more complex carb than flour in a sweet treat. If you make it, I certainly hope you'll eat with joy...

      Thx for dropping by today. It's always a pleasure to see you in the Kitchen!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  8. I'm slipping. I'm getting ready to try the recipe (there is no try, only do) and I noticed you don't mention when to add the vanilla extract. Obviously, any time after the beans are pureed will do, I imagine.
    I'll report back later with the taste test results!

    1. Yes! Add the vanilla extract with the brown and white sugars, salt, and baking powder. Thanks, Libby!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

    2. There was a delay in my baking--I discovered the last can of black beans had gone into chili last week. So, off to the store yesterday and then right to baking.
      They are amazing! Wonderfully moist. In fact the crumbs act like melted chocolate when I try to scoop them up with a finger--they smear.
      No taste of beans, just moist yumminess.
      I think next time I may add some powdered espresso to kick up the chocolate a smidge and perhaps trade some semi-sweet chocolate with bittersweet. (I love my chocolate!)
      It reminds me a bit of a reine de saba cake (queen of sheba), minus the ganache icing! Hm, maybe some ground nuts...?

    3. Libby - I'm so happy that you like this recipe as much as I do and are assuring others of what my husband and I have found--that there is no black bean taste, only delicious, fudgy chocolate, which is what makes it feel like magic to us.

      You had a note about the cooking time (that it took longer for you), and that's fine -- I do always stipulate in recipes that cook times depend on one's individual oven, which is why I also try to describe what to look for in order to determine whether something is done or not. (FYI - Writing recipes for the general public can be tricky, and I'm always worried about ovens out there that bake hot, which is why I like to give a range of cook times as well as a description of what to look for in "doneness" on the recipe. Frankly, I'd rather a cook check on his or her recipe *before* it's done rather than after it's over-cooked or even burned, if you see what I mean!)

      On the reine de saba - I'm with you! This is (likewise) a dense, chocolate concoction, and I think the addition of rum and ground toasted almonds would make these brownies even more amazing; I hope other bakers out there will have fun experimenting with this basic recipe.

      Finally - stay tuned because I have an addition to this recipe that will send it right out of this world. (Coming up next Tuesday!)

      Cheers and thanks again for testing the recipe and dropping back to give us your thoughts,

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter