Cocoa Bean Brownies

cocoa bean brownies

cocoa bean brownies

photo by vsimon who devoured them right after the picture

Maybe you read that right and thought, oh, cocoa bean bits in brownies, cool. But it really is cocoa and beans. You would never know if I had not told you.

Some years ago, I saw a recipe in USA Weekend magazine by Jean Carper for Chocolate Valentine Cake. Gluten free, and made with garbanzo beans. No wacky gluten free ingredients, nothing hard to find, or expensive.

It was a hit. But I took a good recipe and made it even better. Same great taste, texture and moistness, now it is a little simpler.

Quick and easy

Jean’s original recipe called for melted chocolate. Why not just use cocoa, oil, sugar, and skip the melting step? Five minutes prep start to finish. It works like a charm and is easier, cheaper, and more nutritious than a mix.

The amounts of ingredients have been adjusted a bit because the beans come in smaller cans now. And I have made this maybe a hundred times. With many kinds of beans. Kidney, black, white, garbanzo, whatever is in the pantry. It truly does not matter. Do buy unseasoned beans though. No bacon, no spice, ick, not in brownies.


I have switched to dark brown sugar because it has some antioxidants. The cocoa and the beans have much more though.

Beans, and cocoa too, are also good sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals. What is not to love here?

You can substitute your own cooked beans too. Use 1 ½ cups in place of the canned beans.

Cocoa Bean Brownies (or Flourless Chocolate Cake)

yield: 16 brownies

A thin batter puffs during baking, and then deflates a little.

Very chocolaty, very yummy.

ingredients metric measures
1/2 cup pure cocoa, not cocoa drink mix 50 gm
1/3 cup canola oil 160 ml
1-15 oz can beans, drained 425 gm
1 cup dark brown sugar 180 gm
3 eggs 150 gm
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 2 gm

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. How simple is that?

Oil an 8×8 inch pan. Or 9×9.

Pour batter into pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until brownies are just set.

Cool, cut and enjoy!

For a chocolate cake and a fancier presentation, use a round cake pan. Cut into wedges and serve with raspberry or strawberry sauce.

Antioxidants in Sweeteners

as slow as molasses

as slow as molasses photo by technicool

Are you avoiding white sugar because it is just empty calories? And using agave, honey, or date sugar because they are less refined and have more nutrition?

You might be surprised by a scientific study named Total Antioxidant Content of Alternatives to Refined Sugar, printed in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association January 2009. It tested the antioxidant levels of many sweeteners.

What was tested?

agave nectar (light, amber and raw)
blue agave nectar
brown rice syrup
brown rice malt syrup (not gluten free)
barley malt syrup (not gluten free)
corn syrup (light)
date sugar
maple syrup (100% pure)
molasses (dark and black strap)
sugar (white, light brown, dark brown, turbinado, raw cane)

How where they tested?

Sweeteners where purchased from major retailers, health food stores, and online distributors. From one to 53 samples were tested for each sweetener. Honey had the most samples, representing mostly refined clover honey as it is most available.

Results- a few surprises!

In order of antioxidant levels, high to low.

Sweetener Relative amount of antioxidants
date sugar xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx                       
molasses, blackstrap xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
molasses, dark xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
barley malt syrup xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (not gluten free)
brown rice malt syrup xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (not gluten free)
sugar, dark brown xxxxx
100% maple syrup xxxx
sugar, light brown xxx
sugar, raw cane xx
honey xx
sugar, turbinado x                                                                                     
agave nectar
corn syrup, light  
sugar, white                                                                             

Notes: White sugar, corn syrup, and agave nectar had almost no antioxidants. 

These are composite results. The study did show some variability of antioxidant levels between samples of the same type of some sweeteners.

My graph is a crude representation of the results.

How does this compare with other foods?

broccoli, raw xxx
milk chocolate candy xxxxxxxxx
red wine (merlot) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
blueberries xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
walnuts xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Note: Common serving sizes where compared.

Walnuts where way off this chart. One ounce of walnuts have about twice the antioxidants of one ounce of date sugar.

Can we switcheroo?

It is not possible to use some high antioxidant sweeteners measure for measure in place of white sugar in many recipes. A cup or more of black strap molasses in a cake will not be good. Date sugar is delicious, but will change the flavor, color and texture in recipes with lots of sugar. It is also expensive and not readily available. Some recipes successfully use these sweeteners though.

It is pretty easy to substitute dark brown sugar for white in many recipes. Did you know that brown sugar is simply refined white sugar mixed with molasses? The darker the sugar, the more molasses.

Stir 1 tablespoon molasses into 1 cup of white sugar to make dark brown sugar.

Using averages, the researchers concluded that substituting high antioxidant sweeteners for white sugar can increase the antioxidants consumed as much as having a serving of blueberries. That is because we eat so much sugar.

To much sugar

The average American eats 31 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Yikes!! While it is useful to use high antioxidant sweeteners, it is also important to simply use less sugar. And according to this study, using agave is not much better than white sugar.

Not tested yet

I like sorghum syrup and have used palm sugar too. They were not tested, so I do not know the antioxidant levels of these sweeteners. If anyone has this information, please share.

palm sugar1

palm sugar photo by vsimon

The study authors are Katherine M. Phillips, PhD; Monica H. Carlsen, MSc; Rune Blomhoff, PhD.