There are two desserts out there that I almost never tire of and could always find room for: soft, chewy, traditional chocolate chip cookies, and fudge brownies. I don’t often allow myself to eat these sweets, but when I do I find that they always hit the spot.
I started bookmarking and reading a lot of recipes for healthy brownies over the past year. Some recipes make small substitutions, like swapping out oil for applesauce or using honey in place of sugar. Some recipes use seemingly odd ingredients like avocado or black beans. Today, I bring you a healthy, chocolatey, moist brownie that doesn’t include any avocado, no bananas, no applesauce, no dates, and absolutely no beans of any kind.
So what is the secret ingredient? you may be wondering. It is… (drumroll)…
Okay, before you turn your nose up in disgust and stop reading, hear me out for a minute. Prunes have a reputation for being a food only old ladies or babies eat because of their high fiber content, and a lot of people assume they’re foul-tasting and not something they’d enjoy. To me, a prune tastes like a cross between a raisin and a dried cherry and I think a lot of people would actually like them if they tried them out. And if people can stick things like black beans or avocados in their dessert recipes, surely we can handle a dried fruit in a brownie recipe.
Recently I was thinking to myself that prunes would go well with chocolate, like a chocolate covered raisin, or how chocolate Larabars use pureed dates with cocoa powder that end up tasting similar to fudge brownies. I found this recipe for Fudgy Guilt-Free Brownies on Oatmeal with a Fork and the ingredient list was pretty much exactly what I was looking for.
This brownie recipe includes pureed prunes instead of oil, less than a half cup of your favorite natural sweetener, ground oats instead of white flour, and only 1 (optional!) tablespoon or butter or coconut oil in the whole recipe. They are moist, chewy, super chocolatey, and have more of a cake texture. I almost considered calling it cake instead of brownies, but at the same time they’re so flavorful that they don’t need icing or frosting. I have always considered myself to be a fudge brownie kind of person, but these brownies are just darn good.
Here’s where the recipe gets a little weirder. You can certainly puree the prunes yourself with a bit of water or even juice, but to get the best texture for these brownies, it’s recommended to use baby food prunes. I can hear your stomach churning and your skepticism growing, but think about it: baby food prunes are really just prunes that have been professionally pureed and any skin or tough parts are strained out. They have a silky texture and will blend right into your brownies without anyone noticing. The brownies do have a slightly fruity flavor, but I find that it goes well with the recipe. They were even approved by my picky-eater roommate Kathleen, and Dan, who prefers traditional recipes without weird ingredients.
So as you browse the baby food aisle at your grocery store, without children of your own or children who are grown, you may wonder what you’re doing with your life, as I did. But just trust me. These brownies are good.
Healthy Secret-Ingredient Brownies
adapted slightly from Fudgy Guilt-Free Brownies on Oatmeal with a Fork
makes 16 2-inch brownies
- 3/4 cup oats, measured and then ground into flour (any type of flour will work here)
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp cococa powder (I used half dark chocolate/dutch and half regular)
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp sweetener of your choice (sugar in the raw, coconut sugar, or regular ol’ white sugar)*
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup pureed prunes (2 5-oz containers of baby food works perfectly)
- 1 egg, whisked (or 1 Tbsp ground chia or flax seeds for vegan)
- 1.5 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
- 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp butter or coconut oil, melted (optional)
- 1/3 cup chopped dark or semi-sweet chocolate
*If using stevia or other concentrated sweetener, be sure to follow baking directions on the package as a little goes a long way.
- Preheat oven to 350ºF and spray an 8×8″ baking dish thoroughly with cooking spray.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine all of your dry ingredients: oat flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Whisk well and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine wet ingredients: pureed prunes, egg, honey, vanilla extract, oil/butter, and whisk. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until combined. Fold in chopped chocolate.
- Pour into your greased baking dish and bake for 17 – 18 minutes (18 was perfect for mine), or until a toothpick inserted into brownies comes out clean. Let cool before serving, and enjoy with a glass of milk or ice cream!
Note: Because these brownies are so moist and slightly sticky, they may require extra care when slicing them. Chilling them before cutting will make for neater brownies, but I was too anxious to do so, which is why my brownies are rather messy looking.