You'll Never Guess The Secret Ingredient In These Delicious Brownies

Hint: it's a lot healthier than butter or sugar.

When we think of black beans, a few things come to mind: delicious vegan dinners, a healthy throw-together lunch, even tacos or loaded nachos. But gooey chocolatey brownies? That’s insane.
That’s what we thought too, until we met Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley of Hemsley + Hemsley. The UK-based foodies use black beans in their desserts to replace the not-so healthy stuff (and up the fibre content in the process). And you can’t even taste them.
Below, they’ve shared their black bean brownie recipe which just so happens to be free from gluten and dairy (if you opt for coconut oil). Plus, if you’re allergic to nuts, they suggest replacing the walnuts with cranberries.
While they’re pretty healthy as far as brownies go, to make them even healthier, the Hemsley sisters recommend playing around with the sweetness. “Less maple syrup is better for you and gives a slightly more crumbly texture. If you have a sweet tooth, start with the 180ml and gradually decrease whenever you make them so that your tastebuds can adjust. You can also use a few drops of stevia to reduce the amount of maple syrup you use while still enjoying a sweet taste.”

Hemsley + Hemsley’s Black Bean Brownies

Makes approx. 12


2 x 400g tins of cooked black beans or 500g home-cooked beans (dried weight 200g)
230 g butter or coconut oil at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
4 eggs
85 g cacao powder
150–180 ml maple syrup
11⁄2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coffee extract or use extra vanilla extract
Sea salt
130 g chopped walnuts (preferably ‘crispy’ activated)
A few drops of stevia, to sweeten (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to fan 170°C/Gas mark 5. Grease the inside of a 39 x 27 cm china or glass baking dish. Rinse the black beans and leave to drain. Melt the butter or coconut oil in a saucepan over a gentle heat, then set it aside.
  2. Place the drained beans, eggs, cacao powder, 150ml of the maple syrup, the vanilla extract and coffee extract, if using, into a food processor with a pinch of salt. Pulse a few times, then blend until smooth.
  3. Add the melted butter or coconut oil very slowly so as not to cook the eggs, while the machine is running. Taste the batter, adding more maple syrup or a few drops of stevia if needs be, then stir in most of the chopped walnuts, reserving a handful.
  4. Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared dish and gently tap the baking dish on a kitchen counter to even out the mixture. Sprinkle the remaining walnuts on top and bake for 40–45 minutes, until the brownie feels firm but springy and its surface is cracked.
  5. Leave to cool completely before cutting into squares. Refrigerating the brownies makes them wonderfully fudge.

+ Tips and Tricks... For a mocha-flavoured variation that’s caffeine free, use 150ml of maple syrup and 75g of carob instead of cacao powder. Carob is sweeter than cacao and not bitter so you don’t need as much maple syrup.

Want more delicious recipes from Hemsley + Hemsley? Pick up one of their beautiful, best-selling cookbooks, The Art Of Eating Well and Good + Simple. If it’s desserts with hidden vegetables you’re after, try these. 

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