Cocoa Brownies, Lightened Up

It’s Friday, so how about you enjoy a treat?

 Healthy Cocoa Brownies

I have no shame about my love of baked goods, especially homemade ones. I’m never going to be one of those “I don’t eat sugar” people. It’s like how in the month before our wedding I tried to give up beer. I’m not an all-or-nothing person when it comes to food; I don’t like feeling deprived, but I don’t like that sluggish feeling of overindulgence.  I enjoy beer, sweets, chocolate, and other goodies in moderation, because where’s the fun if you can’t have brownies?

Before we get to the recipe for these cocoa brownies, let’s talk about brownies in general first. There are two camps of people when it comes to brownies: those who prefer fudgy and dense brownies and those who favor cake-like brownies. While I am a fan of both, I honestly really like cake-like brownies, probably because I just really like cake in general. There’s something wonderful about a how a delicate brownie crumbles and practically melts in your mouth. Okay, there’s something messy about that also, but I never said I wrote a blog on how to keep an immaculate kitchen. Those who have seen our tiny apartment kitchen know that this is true. 

I do my best, but sometimes there’s more to life than scrubbing the stovetop for an hour.

 Healthy Cocoa Brownies

Anyway, I find that brownies made using cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate produces the most cake-like texture. Baking chocolate is best for fudgy brownies. Honestly, cocoa brownies also involves less mess since you’re not melting chocolate on the stove before adding it to the mixer. I like less mess because, well, see my comments about about my dislike for scrubbing my impossible-to-clean stovetop. 

I have to admit to you now that these brownies have been slightly adapted from this Smitten Kitchen recipe and this Alton Brown recipe to create a healthier sweet treat. My concern here wasn’t just lessening the amount of fat present. Ryan and I prefer more brownies that are less sugary-sweet and have a more pronounced cocoa taste. The answer to that is slightly decreasing the amount of sugar used. I also used a bit of whole wheat flour in these. The combination of the lessened amount of sugar, the whole wheat flour, and the cocoa powder created a rich, almost espresso-esque chocolate flavor that is so delicious you’ll go back for seconds.

 Healthy Cocoa Brownies

Let’s consider these healthy cocoa brownies how you would consider red wine and coffee. If you’re a fan of the more rich and almost-savory Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec, you’ll like these brownies, but you may not be a fan if you reach for softer and fruitier red wines like Merlot. Likewise, if you drink your coffee black or with only a touch of cream, these are the brownies for you; but if you prefer sweet lattes or add sugar to your drip coffee, you may find these brownies not sweet enough. You can try adding an extra ¼ cup of sugar to the batter if you prefer a sweeter brownie.

 One baking tip I want to offer for these is that you combine the ingredients well to form the batter. I frequently caution you to avoid over-mixing when making pancakes, cakes, or muffins, but with these cocoa brownies you want to mix well so that the cocoa powder is thoroughly moistened and evenly distribute; otherwise you could end up with chalky brownies.

Healthy Cocoa Brownies

Healthy Cocoa Brownies

Laura Norris
Servings 16


  • 5 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoon natural unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips


  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  • Melt the butter and let cool.
  • Using the whisk attachment of a mixer, beat at a medium speed until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat to combine.
  • Add the butter, applesauce, vanilla, flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt to the egg-sugar mixture and mix until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Pour the batter into a greased 8-inch square pan and bake for 45 minutes. The brownies are done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
If you want, you can top these cocoa brownies with a dusting of powdered sugar or some chocolate frosting. Ryan and I both enjoyed them plain, although after a few days they got very crumbly and some frosting may have worked well to hold them together at this point.


Question of the Day?

Do you prefer cake-like or fudgy brownies?
What’s your favorite trick for lightening up a dessert recipe?

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2 Responses

  1. I like an somewhat fudgey-somewhat cakey brownie! Definitely a fan of semisweet chocolate blended with cocoa for any brownie. It needs to be rich and delicious, but not overpoweringly sweet. Have you tried pumpkin cheesecake brownies? It’s like a cheesecake marble brownie, but with pumpkin. Sooooo yummy! I’ll have to find the recipe again cuz I think I lost it 😛 but when I do, I’ll share it with you!

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