Magic Vegan Brownies
THIS IS IT. Stop searching, this is the vegan brownie recipe you’ve been waiting for. Forgive the daft title, but this is the absolute closest you’re going to get to a regular brownie containing butter and eggs. Like magic, in fact! I have always harboured a real passion for brownies but I am also leaning more and more towards veganism, so I had a bee in my bonnet about getting this recipe right. The butter is easily replaced by Stork (the block kind, in foil, or buttery Earth Balance in the US). Eggs, however, are unbelievably difficult to replicate in brownies. Cakes? Super easy. Cookies? Even easier. Even meringues are easily created using miraculous aquafaba (chickpea water) now. But brownies – mmm, brownies! – are in a league of their own. Because you want a slight fudginess that’s somewhere between a cake and a cookie. You want that lovely crackly, speckled, paper-thin top. Qualities that are hard to achieve without eggs.
I’m not kidding when I say this post has been two years in the making – two years of countless experiments with stuff like yogurt, commercial egg replacers, flaxseed and chia ‘eggs’, non-dairy milk, vegan mayo, gram flour, applesauce and aquafaba, in the endless quest to create The Perfect Vegan Brownie That Actually Tastes Like A Brownie. Two years and many kilograms of dark chocolate and vats of melted non-dairy butter (which works much better than oil) much of which sadly ended up in the bin. Two years of faffing around with funny-smelling healthy vegetable-based brownies (Sweet potato? Done that. Also beetroot, avocado, black beans and bananas. No, no, no, NO. There’s a time and a place for bananas, and it’s definitely not in brownies.) The answer is firm tofu. Not the silken sort (trust me, I’ve tried). Just firm, or even extra firm, tofu. It’s not only a fabulous source of protein, it also tastes of absolutely nothing – which works perfectly here. You don’t know it’s there, it just does its egg-like thing. I tend to make my own tofu these days, but you can buy a plain organic block in the chiller cabinet in most supermarkets for not a lot of money. The realisation happened like this; lately I’ve been using extra firm tofu to make vegan quiche. The results are fantastic – the tofu, when blitzed until smooth and combined with the other ingredients, puffs up and behaves in the oven much as you’d expect eggs to. It’s a straight swap, weight for weight, with eggs. As it cools, it firms again and provides structure to the finished bake. It really is that simple. Curiosity got the better of me and I tried using firm tofu in brownies. Magic.
There are squillions of vegan brownie recipes out there and they all claim to be the best. I’m not really one to boast, but I am totally claiming the crown here. There is no better vegan brownie recipe in my opinion! Assuming of course you want a non-dairy, egg-free brownie recipe that tastes like proper, normal brownies. These aren’t ‘healthy’, nor are they supposed to be. They are full of fat and sugar. Mmm, fat and sugar! Everything in moderation and all that. There are plenty of recipes out there for fat-free sweet potato ‘brownies’ if that’s what you’re after. This isn’t it. This is just a proper good brownie.
150g Stork, melted (use block Stork, not tub). Use buttery Earth Balance in the US
120g firm tofu, squeezed (see notes)
3 tbsp aquafaba (see notes above) or non-dairy milk
150g dairy-free dark chocolate, melted
225g caster sugar
1 tsp natural vanilla paste or extract
90g plain flour
1 level tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp espresso powder (optional, see notes)
50g dairy-free dark chocolate, chopped ( or use chocolate chips)
Stir in 50g-100g of any of the following: nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts or pecans are brilliant in brownies), extra chocolate chips or chopped chocolate, or fruit such as raspberries. Stir in any additions just before pouring the batter into the brownie tin. Reserve a handful to press into the mixture before baking.
Grease and line a 9″x9″ brownie tin and preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4. Blend or process the tofu with the melted Stork and aquafaba (or milk) until smooth, then add the melted chocolate and blend again. Transfer to a stand mixer (or a mixing bowl). Mix in the sugar. Separately, combine the flour, cocoa, salt and espresso powder. Add this gradually to the tofu mix and beat everything together thoroughly.
Add the chocolate chips and any other bits you’d like, such as walnuts for a classic brownie. Experiment to find your favourite combinations! (Hazelnuts and raspberries taste amazing – see the last pic below).
Spoon the mixture into your prepared tin and add a final handful of chocolate chips, or press in some nuts or raspberries or whatever it is you’re using. This is mainly for aesthetic reasons, but also to ensure even distribution of the goods. Sometimes I absent-mindedly scoff the reserved bits as I’m preparing the brownies and there’s nothing left. What can I say, we’ve all done it. Place the tin in the centre of the oven and bake for around 25 minutes. The top will have a brownie-like finish but underneath the middle will wobble quite a bit. That’s fine, these babies firm up as they cool. If the batter is still totally liquid-like, place them back in the oven for an extra few minutes. It’s a tough call but ultimately the dastardly brownie timing-decision lies in your hands. Practice makes perfect! Also, no eggs means a perfectly safe result no matter what – even in their raw state, as my daughter happily demonstrates below.
Remove from the tin as soon as you’re able to handle it and allow to cool thoroughly before slicing. If you can stand the wait (I generally can’t) then try chilling the slab in the fridge before slicing, as you’ll be able to slice it fairly cleanly into 12 squares. Bring back to room temperature before serving. I heartily recommend pairing them up with a bowl of Swedish Glace for maximum noms. These will keep for a couple of days. Ha, ha! Good luck with that.
- You’ll need to remove the excess water from the tofu before using. You can press it if you like, or just cup it in your hands and squeeze it gently over a colander in the sink. You don’t need to worry about removing every last drop, just the bulk of it.
- A food processor or blender is useful here as you need to blend the tofu until smooth with other ingredients.
- I always add a tiny bit of espresso powder to brownies. It doesn’t add a coffee flavour, it just adds a bit of oomph and depth to the chocolate flavour. Leave it out if you don’t have any.
- Aquafaba is the drained juice from a can of (unsalted) chickpeas. This viscous, gloopy liquid adds additional strength to bakes, but you can replace it here with non-dairy milk if you don’t have any to hand.
- I use a 9″x9″ square tin for all my brownies and the baking time reflects that. You could get away with using an 8″x8″ tin, but the brownies will be thicker and will need to be baked for longer.