Almost-healthy brownies

This morning, before I even got out of bed (don’t judge), I emailed my mom asking for the brownie recipe I grew up with.

I knew they weren’t healthy.

I knew I wanted to make them over.

My mom told me that the recipe was her paternal grandmother’s, a woman I never got to meet. I know there is a place for family traditions, but I also know no ancestor would be too upset with me for trying to make a recipe healthy — especially if it was still delicious.

The recipe my mom replied with was based on white flour and white sugar. I knew I could do better.

almost healthy brownieBrownies weren’t a special-occasion-only treat, necessarily. Not that we had them all the time — we just made them when we had time, and that’s what made them special. My mom, my little sister, and me together in the kitchen.

Nowadays, I’m not much for baking. I just don’t love sweets the way some people (e.g., my boyfriend) do. And if I’m gonna eat dessert, well, I want it to be a piece of cake with a ridiculous amount of frosting that I’ll regret 20 minutes after I finish it (I’m not perfect).

My mom was never one to add nuts to brownies, though I’m not sure why. Probably because they just simply weren’t in the house. And now my little sister is the one who does the baking, not me.

But today I was inspired.

split brownie

So you can have dessert, and a real-food dessert at that. I’m not saying this is actually healthy, but it is leaps and bounds above any store-bought treat you could find. But still, hopefully Scott will eat the majority of these once he gets home.

I used hazelnuts because I bought some last week. Have you ever eaten a raw hazelnut? They kinda taste like….not something you want to eat. A little mealy, not much flavor. But when you toast these babies….magic happens.


Just toss half a cup into a pan over medium-low heat. Shake frequently for 7-10 minutes, until the skins darken and they become fragrant. Move immediately into a small bowl to cool. You can rub the skins off or not. I gently rubbed off (between my fingers) the ones that would easily come off without worrying about the rest. Actually, the skin is where many of the nutrients are, so you don’t want to get rid of all of them!

To make over this recipe, I used half butter (traditional) and half coconut oil (healthier). Is there a more beautiful sight?


Any basic baking recipe calls for mixing the wet ingredients and the dry, then combining. For the dry, I added Omega-3 and fiber-loaded chia seeds (my current obsession — I add them to everything) and used Sucanat instead of refined white sugar.

brownies drySucanat is simply the full sugar cane, ground up with the water evaporated. It is still full of calories, but it at least contains a small amount of protein and all the minerals of the original plant, and it won’t through your blood sugar all out of whack. I combined this with organic, 100% pure maple syrup, which I thought was a nice foil to the cocoa.

Sucanat is brown because it is a whole, natural product.

Sucanat is brown because it is a whole, natural product.

The final product was not quite as sweet as my mom’s brownies, and that’s okay with me. If you taste the batter and think it needs more sweetener, go for it. You’re the one eating them! But the texture and the aroma that filled the house were spot-on. I made them into little muffins for portion control reasons. But I couldn’t eat just one. But I didn’t have to feel too guilty about it, either.

When is Scott gonna be home, anyway??

plated brownies

Hazelnut Brownies

Printable recipe

Prep: 20 minutes     Cook: 15 minutes


  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup Sucanat
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup (half a stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup 100% pure maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup raw, unsalted hazelnuts (optional), toasted
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix together all the dry ingredients into a large bowl.
  3. Mix all wet ingredients into a small bowl.
  4. Slowly combine dry and wet ingredients a little at a time.
  5. Distribute evenly into a greased muffin pan. Alternatively, pour into a greased 9×9 pan.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes (for muffins) until a toothpick inserted into several muffins comes out clean. Alternatively, bake for 25-30 minutes in a 9×9 dish.
  7. Muffins can be eaten as soon as they are cool enough to not burn your tongue off. If you made them in a pan, SUCKER! You have to let cool for 15 minutes before cutting.


  1. Sometimes I lay in bed thinking about what I want to bake for the day too. I consider anyone that doesn’t to be abnormal. HA! These brownies look great.

  2. […] processed foods for sure, but it’s all about balance. Yes, I packed healthy snacks (leftover almost-healthy brownies, nuts, and homemade energy bars), but I also had a side of Mac n cheese with dinner. I’m […]

  3. […] wheat for white in your recipes (start with a third, maybe), working up to 100%. This works for dessert too! In fact, I took some whole-wheat chocolate chip cookies camping and even the guy who refuses to […]

  4. […] dessert you’ll need some brownies. Maybe cut them into football shapes — I won’t tell what you do with the […]

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