Finally, vegan brownies that have the taste and texture of traditional brownies! I call these the best vegan brownies because after years of recipe trials I finally cracked the code for a vegan brownie recipe that produces soft, fudgy, and chewy brownies with a shiny crackly top.
Searching for The Best Vegan Brownies
Brownies were one of my favorite treats as a kid and for the better part of my adult life, I’ve been searching for a vegan brownie that could compare to my mom’s real brownies made with lots of eggs and butter. The vegan brownie struggle is real, right? I mean, I’m sorry but I don’t really want sweet potatoes or pumpkin, applesauce or black beans in a brownie. Brownies are not meant to be healthy food. No. I want a chocolatey, fudgy, but not too fudgy, chewy, soft brownie with a shiny crackly top. Why is that such a hard ask?
2022 Update: I first shared my original vegan brownie recipe back in 2018 after years of trying to create a vegan brownie recipe that could rival traditional brownies. I wanted to see if I could make vegan fudge brownies that were even more fudgy, a little thicker and could be made without any special equipment. That’s right, these new and improved vegan aquafaba brownies are made in one bowl and only require a bit of hand whisking – no mixer required!
The Secret to Perfect Vegan Brownies is Aquafaba
Vegan brownies always seem to have the texture of cake to me or are overly fudgy and gooey and raw tasting. I just can’t behind those shenanigans. So I’ve been working on this brownie recipe for years. Years. I couldn’t get vegan brownies right, by my standards anyway, and then something amazing happened. You know that innocuous gloppy liquid left behind from a can of chickpeas? Yeah, that. Well if you haven’t heard yet, it’s pretty much a vegan lifesaver. It’s called aquafaba, which literally means bean water. It is thick and gelatinous and behaves like egg whites in recipes. Last spring I made vegan meringue from aquafaba. You can make all kinds of vegan-friendly foods using aquafaba, from macarons to mayo to butter. It’s amazing stuff. There’s even a Facebook group dedicated aquafaba recipes, which is a great resource for all things aquafaba.
Aquafaba also turned out to be the missing ingredient for my dream vegan brownies. It is the secret ingredient to achieve that elusive shiny crackly brownie top that most vegan brownie recipes are lacking. There is no need to whip the aquafaba and sugar first before adding the other wet ingredients, but it is important to whisk the wet mixture for a full 2 minutes to get a shiny top layer on the brownies.
Are these really the BEST vegan brownies? I try not to name my recipes “best” or “ultimate” that often but these really are the best I’ve ever had, so yeah, I went there. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Try them yourself this weekend and let me know what you think!
When I started developing a vegan brownie recipe I wanted it to be as close to the traditional brownies I grew up eating. These aren’t healthy brownies, they are made with sugar, vegan butter, chocolate, and flour, and aquafaba is used to replace the eggs.
Cocoa: This recipe uses both Dutch-process cocoa powder and natural cocoa powder in these brownies. Natural cocoa powder has a more intense chocolate flavor, often fruity and acidic with reddish color while Dutch-process cocoa powder, which is alkalized, adds a rich dark chocolate color and earthy flavor. In baking, natural cocoa powder, which is acidic, is often paired with baking soda, which is alkaline, as a leavening agent and Dutch-processed cocoa powder, which had been alkalized, is paired with baking powder. Because the amount of baking powder is so low in this recipe you can use just Dutch-process cocoa or just natural cocoa instead of combining them if you wish.
Sugar: Along with granulated sugar, this recipe uses brown sugar to help give the brownies a fudgy interior. Brown sugar is made with granulated sugar mixed with molasses which is hydrophilic and hygroscopic, meaning it attracts and holds onto moisture. These properties help give the brownies a soft and fudgy interior. Light brown sugar or dark brown sugar also called muscavado sugar can be used in this recipe.
Vegan Butter: There are many vegan butter alternatives on the market now. I often use Country Crock Plant Butter these days. I used to used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks and both options will work well in this recipe. There are also cultured and European style vegan butters such as Miyoko’s Creamery that will work perfectly in this recipe. Oil such as coconut oil or olive oil will not work the same as butter and will result in a very oily brownie, so I only recommend vegan butter for this.
Flavorings: Vanilla extract brings out the flavor of baked goods, especially anything chocolate flavored like these vegan brownies. Don’t skip the vanilla! Vanilla extract can be replaced with vanilla paste or the seeds scraped from a vanilla bean. Espresso powder is optional but it brings out the flavor of the chocolate. I like to keep little packets of instant espresso powder on hand in my pantry for using in my chocolate flavored bakes.
Mix-Ins and Toppings: I love mixing chopped walnuts into the batter and sprinkling them on top of the brownies. For extra chocolate flavor mix in mini chocolate chips. I’ve included my recipe of vegan espresso chocolate ganache in the recipe card below to use as a decadent topping.
How To Make Vegan Aquafaba Brownies
Step 1: Make the Brownie Batter
To make the batter start by melting the vegan butter over low heat. Meanwhile chop the dark chocolate if using a bar or measure out dark chocolate chips or pieces. Add the chocolate to the hot melted butter and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
At this point stir in any mix-ins like chopped walnuts or mini chocolate chips and save some for the top.
Step 2: Bake the Brownies
Spread the vegan brownie batter into your prepared pan with a rubber spatula. If you added mix-ins sprinkle the top of the brownie batter with the mix-ins you saved.
Bake them at 350˚F/175˚C for about 20-25 minutes until the top is shiny and crackly and a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs.
Step 3: Cool and Slice
Store brownies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3-4 days. To freeze brownies, first freeze them on a sheet pan until then are frozen solid then store them in an airtight freezer bag for up to 6 months. Thaw to room temperature before serving.
Tips for the Best Vegan Brownies
Weigh the ingredients
I always recommend using a kitchen scale to weigh ingredients when baking. It is the most accurate way to bake and ensures that you will get the correct results from any recipe.
Sift the dry ingredients
Since these brownies are made in just one bowl by hand, sifting the dry ingredients together into the bowl ensure there are no lumps of cocoa powder or leavener and makes it easier to combine the dry and wet mixtures evenly.
It can be especially hard to judge the doneness of brownies because they are gooey and fudgy. If you overbake them they can dry out and become more like cake in texture. You can tell when they are ready when the top is shiny and the edges are slightly puffed up and a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs. All ovens are different so test them at 20 minutes especially if you want extra fudgy brownies. In my oven, they are ready at about 22 minutes.
Use a Thermometer
Because all ovens are different it is always a good idea to use an oven thermometer so you know the true temperature of your oven. They are inexpensive and widely available.
Aquafaba is the leftover and reduced cooking liquid from chickpeas or the reserved liquid from canned chickpeas. It is thick and gelatinous. Read more about and learn how to make your own aquafaba from scratch.
Yes, to make a gluten-free version of this vegan brownie recipe simply swap the all-purpose flour with an equal amount of 1-1 gluten-free flour like Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour.
Yes, these can be frozen after they are baked. Once they are cooled and sliced, flash freeze the brownies on a sheet pan then transfer them to freezer-safe bags. They will keep frozen for about 6 months. Thaw to room temperature to enjoy.
Try adding dried fruit like dark cherries or raspberries. I would add ½ cup of mix-ins to this recipe and save some to sprinkle on the top of the brownies. This brownie base is also great for swirling in vegan cheesecake filling or peanut butter into the batter before its baked.
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- 113 g vegan butter 8 tablespoons
- 56 g dark chocolate 2 oz.
- 100 g aquafaba 7 tablespoons
- 134 g granulated sugar 2/3 cup
- 68 g light brown sugar 1/3 cup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder optional
- 140 g all-purpose flour 1 cup
- 25 g Dutch-process cocoa powder 3 tablespoons
- 25 g natural cocoa powder 3 tablespoons
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts divided
- 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Dark Chocolate Espresso Ganache
- 1/4 cup coconut milk full fat
- 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- Preheat oven to 350˚F/175˚C. Grease an 8-inch square pan with vegan butter or spray then line the pan with parchment paper to come up all sides of the pan with a bit of overhang. Then grease the top of the parchment paper as well.
- Melt the butter in a small pan on the stovetop or in the microwave. Meanwhile, chop the dark chocolate into small pieces using a chocolate bar. Once the butter is melted stir in the chocolate pieces off heat until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth for about 30 seconds.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together vigorously the aquafaba, sugars, brown sugar, melted butter/chocolate mixture, vanilla extract, and espresso powder for a full two minutes. This step may also be done with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer.
- Place a fine-mesh strainer over the bowl and sift the flour, cocoa powders, salt, and baking powder into the wet mixture. Stir with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated into a thick sticky batter. If adding any mix-ins such as mini chocolate chips or nuts to the batter fold them in at this point. Add only half of the nuts and reserve the other half to sprinkle on top.
- Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it out with a rubber spatula.
- Bake the brownies for 20-25 minutes until the edges puff up slightly and the top is shiny and a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs.
- Cool the brownies in the pan on a cooling rack. Once they are cool to room temperature lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper overhangs. Slice them into 9 squares, wiping the knife off with a damp paper towel between each cut for clean cuts.
- To make dark chocolate espresso ganache heat coconut milk, vanilla, and instant espresso in a small pan just before the mixture boils. Do not let it boil. Remove from heat and whisk in dark chocolate chips or pieces. Keep whisking until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is silky smooth. Let ganache cool at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Use the ganache in 1 of 2 different methods: either pour and spread ganache over uncut brownies in the pan and allow it to set before cutting or drizzle ganache over uncut or cut brownies (as shown in pictures).
- Aquafaba is the leftover and reduced cooking liquid from chickpeas or the reserved liquid from canned chickpeas. It is thick and gelatinous. Read more about and learn how to make aquafaba from scratch.
- The nutritional facts listed are for 1 plain brownie.
- I used County Crock Plant Butter sticks in this recipe.
- Dark brown sugar may be used in place of light brown sugar.
- I like to use both Dutch-process cocoa powder and natural cocoa powder in these brownies. Natural cocoa powder has a more intense chocolate flavor, often fruity and acidic, and reddish color while Dutch-process cocoa powder, which is alkalized, adds a rich dark chocolate color and earthy flavor. Because the amount of baking powder is so low in this recipe you can use just Dutch-process cocoa or just natural cocoa instead of combining them.
- It can be hard to judge when brownies are done baking. All ovens are different and can be finicky and have hot spots so it is best to use an oven thermometer to set the temperature accurately. In my oven, they were perfect at 22 minutes. Overbaked brownies will be dry and cakey instead of fudgy in the center.