Healthier Brownies With A Secret Ingredient

October 21, 2010   48 Comments

Snack Girl is not someone who thinks you should alter the almighty brownie treat. Why take something so indulgent and delicious and change it?

Healthy Brownies: Black Beans and Mix

But, after listening to Bill Clinton talk about his weight loss, I have been thinking about decreasing the amount of saturated fat in my diet. Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States (see:National Institute of Health) and I want to live a LONG time.

Also, my friend Lynn at The Actor's Diet suggested a magic ingredient to add to packaged brownie mix and I just HAD to try it. The ingredient, a can of undrained pureed black beans, sounded SO disgusting.

Why would you add black beans instead of oil and an egg?

First, let's look at calories. For 1/3 cup canola oil and one egg (which is what you add to my favorite brownie mix) you are looking at 705 calories vs. 315 for the can of black beans. But the comparison shouldn't stop there, because the black beans have ZERO saturated fat - while the egg and oil combination has 6.7 grams (for the entire brownie mix).

Also, with black beans you will be adding fiber. Black beans have 24% of your daily value of fiber in 1/2 cup.

How does it taste? It is kinda amazing because I didn't tell people about the beans and they loved the brownies. Why? The mix alone has sugar, chocolate, and chocolate chips! My favorite mix is Ghirardelli Chocolate - Double Chocolate Brownie Mix (thanks, Laura!). How could you mess it up? Honestly, you can't taste the beans.

My brownies turned out a bit more like cake than I like. I like really chewy brownies. Maybe if I cook them less next time they will come closer to the consistency that works for me.

Also, I used a new pan that Nordic Ware sent me for making brownies (see below). There are a couple of great things about this pan (except the price - $22). The brownies pop right out and it is easy to clean.

The best part of the pan was that it was an INSTANT portion. My brownies were 165 calories each! versus 190 calories with the oil and egg.

Have any of you seen the brownies at your local cafe? I bet they are three times the size (and I KNOW they didn't use a can of black beans :)

165 calories is still a treat, but you can feel better knowing you cut down your saturated fat and increased your fiber with this great substitution.


Healthier Brownies Recipe

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(Makes 16 brownies)

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1 15.5 ounce can black beans
1 package brownie mix (20 ounces)


Blend UNDRAINED black beans in food processor or blender until smooth. Mix in with brownie mix and bake following package directions.

For the nutrition calculation, I used Ghiradelli Ultimate Fudge Brownie mix as my sample mix. I believe it is representative of these mixes.

Nutrition Facts

One brownie is 154 calories, 4.2 g fat, 30 g carbohydrates, 17 g sugar, 2.5 g protein, 2.3 g fiber, 103 mg sodium, 4 Points+

Points values are calculated by Snack Girl and are provided for information only. See all Snack Girl Recipes

Anyone else alter baking mixes? Please share your ideas.

This product was received for review consideration. No other compensation was provided.

Nordic Ware Cast Aluminum Mini-Scone Pan

Nordic Ware Cast Aluminum Mini-Scone Pan

$47.50 ($47.50 / Count)   $40.00 ($40.00 / Count) Buy on

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I have posted a recipe for

Low Fat Black Bean Brownies

on my blog this morning!

Please check it out!

on October 21, 2010

Last week I made brownies using:

a box of chocolate cake mix

1 can (15oz) of pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)

and 1-2 cups of chocolate chips.

Bake in a 13 x 9 pan for about 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

If you cut into 24 pieces the brownies only have 59 calories!!!

Similar to your recipe mine weren't as chewy as I like. However, they were really yummy. Next time I make them I might use brownie mix to see if there's any difference.

on October 21, 2010

Kate and Carly - Thanks SO much for sharing! Lisa

on October 21, 2010

Good Morning, this is a novel idea. I have made applesauce brownies before and I have heard of but not tried the same with a can of pure pumpkin a' la Hungry Girl. I will have to try the beans and see what my son and husband think. They love brownies and that Nordic Ware pan looks really cute! I like the idea too of portion sizes that are manageable.

on October 21, 2010

I've tried a boxed brownie mix with a can of pure pumpkin baked according to the box directions. It turns our really fudgy!

on October 21, 2010

Low sugar Devils food cake mix, 1 can of regular pumpkin and fiber one cereal! Yum! We've done the same with spice cakes, vanilla cakes etc. If you use an electric mixer they turn out fluffy like a cake and if you hand mix they turn out more chewy like a brownie

on October 21, 2010

funny... I have had that pan for years but have never used it. It never occurred to me to use it for brownies! I'll have to try the black bean trick... love that!

on October 21, 2010

I have a special ingredient I use in my brownies too but it's not

on October 21, 2010

Boxed brownies are my secret indulgence. You bet I will be trying this out!

on October 21, 2010

If you use the low fat brownie mix they are only 1 point on the Weight Watcher chart.

on October 21, 2010

very interesting! and i love that pan and how it can control/determine portion size. i'd love a post on your favorite kitchen tools, ways to pack snacks (i love the stuff at…), and more!

on October 21, 2010

Thanks everyone for the great tips! I have been wanting to try the black beans for awhile and now also love the idea of pumpkin. Will definitely need to try both! Also a fan of red devils food cake...birthday coming up soon so will have to try that too! :-) Thanks for sharing.

on October 21, 2010

Just in case your interested here's a 53 cal black bean brownie recipe from Rocco Dispirito! :-)

This is the one I have been wanting to try and will let everyone know how it goes! If anyone has tried it please let me know if you like it and if you have any tips! :-) Thanks again!

on October 21, 2010

OK, here is my two cents with a recipe that I have used several times. I use rice syrup instead of artifical sweetners. Like I have said before, I am lucky...this type of sweet is not my weakness...but tangle Swedish Fish in front of my nose and OH MY!

* 4 eggs (or substitute with 1 cup of Eggbeaters)

* 1 tsp. vanilla extract

* 2 Tbsp. low fat cooking oil

* 15 oz. can black beans

* 3 Tbsp. baking cocoa

* 1/2 cup Splenda (or other sweetener)*

* 1 tsp. baking powder

1. Grease an 8"x8" square dish with a light cooking oil spray. Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).

2. Drain and rinse the can of black beans.

3. In a food processor, beat the eggs lightly and add the vanilla extract and the cooking oil. Combine on low speed until blended.

4. Add the baking powder and the Splenda or other sweetener, and continue to mix on low speed.

5. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and the baking powder and stir until well blended.

6. Add the black beans to the food processor and run it on a medium to high speed, until the beans are thoroughly pulverized.

7. Add the cocoa and baking powder mixture to the food processor and run on low speed until fully blended.

When the mixture is runny, with very few lumps of beans, pour it into the baking dish. Place in the center of the oven and bake for 35-40. The brownies will be ready when a toothpick inserted into the middle, comes out clean.

*Sweetener Substitutes: maple syrup (substitute 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons liquid for each cup of brown rice syrup) OR molasses (substitute 1/2 cup for each cup of brown rice syrup) OR barley malt syrup (substitute 3/4 cup for each cup of brown rice syrup) OR honey (substitute 3/4 C honey plus 2 tablespoons liquid for every cup of brown rice syrup)

on October 21, 2010

I love low cal desserts so just had to share one more that I can't wait to try! :-) It's a recipe from Chef Curtis Stone. He shared it on the “Biggest Loser” - he taught the contestants to make a 100-calorie cupcake. He achieved this low cal cupcake by using ingredients such as egg whites, Greek yogurt and whole wheat flour.

He also listed two types of frostings (Banana or Raspberry) although if you are feeling creative you can substitute the banana/raspberries with your favorite fruit to create your own healthy frosting! Hope you enjoy!

on October 21, 2010

"The ingredient, a can of undrained pureed black beans, sounded SO disgusting." Hehehe! I thought the same time I first used beans in baking. But black beans and chickpeas are both AWESOME in baking. Between canned beans and applesauce, it's pretty rare that I ever use added fats in the form of oil or butter in my baking.

on October 21, 2010

I tried these with my 4 kids and they liked them. They were all eaten by the 2nd day. I didn't tell them at first. Then I told them I put a secret ingredient in them and played a game of, "who can guess the secret ingredient?". I was going to pay them $1 if they got it right. Of course, they never guessed blackbeans. I bought a can of pumpkin the other day to try it, because It sounded even better. I have to admit, I didn't love the brownies like a normal batch. That was great though, because I COULD finally resist eating the whole pan. Generally, I go back for more over and over. The kids liked them more than I did.

on October 21, 2010

I use applesauce instead of oil and Eggbeaters instead of eggs.

on October 21, 2010


on October 25, 2010

Whoa. This just blew my brain. I can't wait to try it!

on October 26, 2010

I made them for my boyfriend and he COULD NOT taste the difference! ha The ladies at work said that they tasted homemade instead of the box. :o)

on October 28, 2010

Hi, I tried the pumpkin and the black beans before. DIdn't really like either one. Beans gave it a slight flavor and not a great pumpkin fan. However, I am wondering about using some yogurt to substitute with the applesauce. Or even sweet potato or butternut squash. A bit of a lighter flavor. I did a cake recipe with yogurt/banana/applesauce (no butter) and it turned out great. I did use the eggs though. It made 72 mini muffins and came to 32 calories each.

on November 4, 2010

A vegan friend of mine suggested pureed prune baby food. I've never been brave enough to try it, but thought it was worth sharing with this adventuresome crowd!

on November 24, 2010

I LOVE black bean brownies! I used the No Pudge Fudge brownie mix, which is all natural, and they come out super fudge. In the future, I'll be making my own. My local grocery store has canned organic black beans for $1. I couldn't taste the beans at all! You definitely want to make sure you puree the beans well, you don't want to end up with chunks of beans in there! :)

on December 15, 2010

I made these for the girls at work and tricked them all! None of them guessed the brownies had black beans in them, we really enjoyed this!

on January 31, 2011

I made these tonight and they are amazing. My husband wasn't sure about the beans, but he also thought they were great. We ate them warm with banana ice cream on top. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Thanks for the great recipe.

on February 12, 2011

Lisa how many points plus would a piece be?

on February 12, 2011

I use this variation of the(Dannon)Lowfat recipe that Duncan Hines once put on their pkg but I have not seen since. I like the dark choc/fudgy ones. Use 2 egg whites & 1/3 c low or fat-free yogurt-raspberry is awesome! No oil or water, will be very thick. Bake 9x9 for 32-34mins at 350

on April 4, 2011

Just put these in the oven in a mini muffin pan. It looks like it should make about 34 of them. Thank you, thank you! My kiddos will love the sweet (healthy) treat in their lunches this week!

on April 10, 2011

really....for 35 calorie difference you used black beans?!

on May 12, 2011

The black beans sound perfect for an addition. Also, I have made, many times, a chocolate cake using only canned pumpkin (15 0z) puree, and one devil's food chocolate cake mix.

Also, a good spice cake is one package of spice cake mix, and I like to add 1 tsp. cinnamon and some grates of fresh nutmeg and/or all spice,a pinch of clove. Add 15 oz. canned pumpkin and bake. Yummy.

on July 20, 2011

I ventured out and tried this black bean brownie idea. I felt like Rachel from Friends when she made the main dish/dessert recipe (the pages of the cooking book stuck together). Although it's not for me (the process of mixing pureed black beans and brownie mix just doesn't sit right with me...yet) my husband, mother and daughter LOVED it! Because of the darker color, my 5-year old decided theses are extra chocolaty! If I can figure out a way to make them less cake-like, this could become our new brownie recipe.

on August 16, 2011

If you haven't tried this recipe - drop what you're doing....go the store, buy the two ingredients and rush home. IT'S DELISH! I've made this several times and no one has guessed that there are BB in it. I've found if i undercook them just a little bit, it's more dense which is how i like my brownies. A-W-E-S-O-M-E-N-E-S-S!!!

on September 6, 2011

Everything looks great.

on September 21, 2011

I use one box of sugar free chocolate cake mix and on can of pumpkin. Mix together. It will be thick. Don't put water of milk. Bake in muffin tin and it's love love this. You can add nuts, raisins or dry cranberries.

on February 1, 2012

Ok, my family LOVED these brownies, and were none the wiser. I also refuse to tell them they are healthy.

Anywhoo, I was wondering if the same could be done with a Red Velvet Cake mix. Can I simply substute chickpeas for all the other ingredients????

Any feedback would be appreciated.

on February 11, 2012

I made these black bean brownies yesterday and was amazed at how good they were. Out did my expectations. Even my husband who hates beans really liked them(didn't tell him until after he ate one). I was brave enough to serve it to a good friend also who now wants the recipe. It's a KEEPER! Thankyou.

on March 16, 2012

1 box cake mix or brownie mix your choice

2/3 a can of diet soda your choice of flavor

on May 2, 2012

Best brownies ever... should be a lower cal version done this way.

Make 1 pkg. (The small box) Jello Instant Chocolate Fudge pudding. (You can use lowfat or skim milk to skinny it up even further... ) Add one package of chocolate cake mix. Stir in 2 cups of chocolate chips.( If you like a little cinnamon with your chocolate you can add that too.) Pour into a greased (PAM) 10x15" pan and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar, cut and enjoy. Makes a big batch.

on May 2, 2012

I did drain and rinse my black beans, placed them back in the can and filled w/ water. Then continued the recipe as stated. Felt better about rinsing all the thick liquid off. They are delish!!!

on May 8, 2012

These were delicious! My husband and six year old loved them too! I baked my brownies for 20 minutes instead of the recommended 24-26 minutes, and they were a lot "fudgier".

on June 22, 2012

Yum! What a tasty treat with low fat! I'll be sure to make this a substitute for real brownies and other high fat desserts.

on July 27, 2012

I rinse the black beans thoroughly and then place them back in the can and top with water. The key step is to puree the black beans in a blender or food processor. The first time I made them I didn't do this and my husband accused me of leaving eggshell in the mix.....

on October 9, 2012

I'm sorry. I just made these. All I can taste is chocolate black bean. I tried really hard to like it. Don't think I can handle it.

on February 3, 2013

Do you know how many weight watcher points this would be?

on May 15, 2013

Hmmmm, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the cause of music making, as in "beans, beans, the musical fruit..." the "gunk" in the can of beans? I heard that's why you're supposed to rinse them well. Has anyone had that issue after eating these brownies? That's all I'd need: yummy, addicting food that makes me pass gas all day long.

on June 19, 2013

I am making these for dessert tonight. How many WW pts would you guess?

on April 26, 2015

My son's 5th grade teacher is Vegan. I made these for his entire class with a few extra for her to take home. His whole class was amazed that the brownies contained black beans.

To make the brownies Vegan, just read the brownie mix label. If it has no milk products then it's Vegan.

Also, add the brownie mix SLOWLY, a bit at a time. I found that adding the whole box at one time makes the brownies taste funny.

on September 9, 2015

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