Healthy gluten-free black bean brownie

What are the odds that my 2.5 year old has no interest in desserts, cookies, or anything sweet (other than your odd spoonful of coconut milk ice cream).   On the other hand, both Keith and I have a sweet tooth.  I’m not sure who she takes after, but I hope my little one’s disinterest in sweets isn’t just a phase.  Regardless of her preferences, I try not to label any foods as ‘bad’ or as ‘treats’, because kids will start to show a preference for those ‘treats’ that we withhold.  Every week or two I experiment with putting a healthy spin on desserts that are toddler and ‘picky eater’ friendly.  And when it’s my husband’s birthday, I have no qualms about bringing a little sweetness into our lives.  Like this Black Bean Brownie “Birthday Cake”!

Healthy black bean brownie

This year I decided to get creative with a protein-packed Black Bean Birthday ‘Cake’, which ultimately became this dense (and not esthetically pleasing) ‘Brownie’.  It’s a sad looking cake in these photos, but remember, I’m a Nutritionist not a Food Stylist 😉   This is where I ask you not to judge a book by its cover.  But I do recommend grabbing a BIG glass of coconut milk to sip while sinking your teeth into this.

Black Bean Brownie ‘Birthday Cake’ (dairy-free, gluten-free, grain-free)

The recipe was inspired by a Chocolate Chili Cookie over at My New Roots, one of my favourite vegan bloggers.  The reviews suggested that this had more of a cake-like consistency, so I decided to be the guinea pig and attempt a cake.  The verdict:  it doesn’t look like a cake, nor does it taste like one, but it still satisfied the sweet tooth.

The Coconut Milk Frosting was adapted from Flax and Honey and is a must to complement the density of this dessert.  We cut the maple syrup in half but give it a taste and add more to your liking.  I also halved the entire recipe and it was more than enough for this cake/brownie.

Servings:  9 squares (approx. depending on how big or little you cut them)
  • 1 ½ cups black beans (soaked if not canned)
  • 3 Tbsp. coconut oil (or ghee)
  • 1/3 cup cacao powder
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup (or honey)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a 9×9 cake pan with parchment paper.
  2. Blend drained and well-rinsed beans, coconut oil, cacao, and salt in a food processor.
  3. Add in maple syrup and eggs.
  4. Spoon batter into cake pan and bake for approx. 20-25 minutes.  When the edges start to brown poke the middle with a toothpick or fork to determine if fully baked.
  5. Cool and top with Coconut Cream Frosting.

Enjoy a nutrient-dense treat

As you or your little one are savouring this black bean brownie, I wanted to share what each piece contains:

  • 6 grams of protein
  • 7 grams of sugar (the average brownie can contain upwards of 30 grams!)
  • 3 grams of fiber (black beans have special substances that keep the digestive system and colon healthy)
  • phytonutrients which give black beans their rich dark colour (anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects)

Black Bean Birthday Brownie (6)

Why soak dried beans?

Legumes, grains, nuts and seeds contain something called phytic acid.  This enzyme inhibitor plays a protective role in plant foods to prevent germination, but when consumed by humans it binds to key minerals such as iron, zinc and calcium preventing their absorption.  As we know, these minerals (and many others) are important for our little ones, especially our picky eaters.  Iron and zinc deficiencies are linked to appetite suppression so we want to make sure we maximize every opportunity to get these nutrients into their bodies.  Soaking plant foods, including beans is more effective at reducing the phytic acid content versus cooking the beans alone.   If using dried beans, soak for 18 hours in warm water.

Before we dug into my homemade brownie, we gathered for an impromptu family photo.  Naomi looks angry.  Sienna is blowing out the candle prematurely. And I am unshowered post workout.   Good thing my husband has it together to make up for his girls. xo

Black Bean Birthday Brownie (7)