Prior to going vegan, I had always been a boxed brownie gal. Sure, I dabbled in from-scratch brownies and tried a handful of popular recipes, but I never felt that the extra effort amounted to a better brownie than my favorite Ghirardelli boxed mix. And if it ain’t broke, why fix it? That was my thinking.
When I went vegan, it didn’t take long before I figured out how to bake up many of my favorite cake and cookie recipes sans eggs and dairy. In many cases this just meant a simple substitution: flax “eggs” for real ones, Earth Balance sticks for real butter, the occasional addition of a starch to help bind ingredients.
Alas, vegan brownies proved to be a much bigger challenge. It actually took years to find a vegan brownie recipe that really ticked all my boxes. After all, the perfect brownie had to have:
- Robust, deep chocolatey flavor.
- The perfect dense, fudgy, chewy texture.
- Not an ounce of fluff or cakiness.
- That signature shiny, crinkly top that I used to achieve effortlessly with my beloved Ghirardelli boxed mix.
Finding the Perfect Vegan Brownie Recipe
Most of the vegan brownie recipes were simply too cakey. It can be hard to achieve the ideal fudgy and chewy brownie texture without eggs, which typically lend richness (egg yolks) and structure (protein content) to baked goods. Many vegan brownie recipes would compensate for the lack of eggs by adding extra flour, which unfortunately makes the final result more fluffy and cakey, rather than dense and rich.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, some vegan brownie recipes I tried would be overly fudgy and gooey – to the point where they never really set or firmed up at room temperature. Again, the culprit was a lack of structure due to the omission of eggs.
Tip 1: Use Baker’s Chocolate and Cocoa Powder
Vegan brownie recipes that only called for cocoa powder were always too cakey. The key is to use melted baker’s chocolate to make the batter dense and fudgy and to pack in the richest chocolate flavor. Simply melt the chocolate along with the vegan butter in short bursts in the microwave.
Baker’s chocolate is available at almost any supermarket in the baking aisle. Semisweet varieties by Baker’s and Simple Truth Organic are vegan-friendly. Just double-check, because some brands will contain dairy (such as the Semi Sweet Chocolate Baking Bar by Ghirardelli, which contains milk fat). In a pinch you can simply use more of the vegan chocolate chips you will be adding.
Tip 2: Dissolve the Sugar and Bloom the Cocoa Powder
Simply whisk together the granulated sugar with the cocoa powder and some water just off a boil. Dissolving the sugar helps the top layer of the brownies stay extra shiny and crackly.
As a bonus, the hot water will “bloom” the cocoa powder, drawing out more of its flavor. For the curious, here’s an article with more of the science behind this on The Kitchn blog.
If you want to kick it up an extra notch, use some strong hot coffee for this step instead of plain boiling water!
Triple Chocolate Vegan Brownies
- large mixing bowl
- 8×8" or 9×9" baking pan
- baking parchment
- 1/2 cup vegan butter cubed
- 3 oz unsweetened baker’s chocolate chopped
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup nondairy chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking pan with parchment. Use a 9×9″ pan for thinner brownies, or an 8×8″ if you like them thicker. If you don’t have parchment, you can simply grease the pan; the parchment just makes it much easier to lift the brownies out of the pan to cut them.
- Add coarsely-chopped baker’s chocolate to a microwave-safe bowl with cubed vegan butter. Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until completely melted. (Alternatively, you can melt over a water bath.)
- To a large heat-safe mixing bowl, add sugar, cocoa powder, and boiling water. Add in melted chocolate and butter mixture and stir with a whisk until smooth and lump-free.
- Stir in vanilla extract, flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold in chocolate chips.
- Pour batter into prepared baking tray. For 9×9″ pan, bake 23-25 minutes. For 8×8″ pan, bake 28-30 minutes. The edges should pull away from the sides of the pan and the top should look entirely set. It’s okay if they seem just slightly underdone in the center.
- The brownies will be extremely soft when you first take them out of the oven, so I highly recommend letting them cool for at least 30 minutes. By this time they should be firm enough to lift out of the pan using the parchment. Slice and enjoy.
- I find these are even better the next day. They firm up and become nice and fudgy, but the crackly crust stays crisp. Give them 10-15 seconds in the microwave if you want to enjoy the leftovers warm.