We have a lot of friends on a variety of restrictive diets right now, and as someone who loves to entertain, I wanted to make sure I had a treat that everyone could eat. But first and foremost, it had to be something everyone would actually want to eat.
I began scheming up a super fudgy, no-frills brownie that could be gluten-free, egg-free, and dairy-free — and still leave us all reaching for more. Mission accomplished.
Use Coconut Oil Instead of Butter
First, I like using coconut oil when baking with chocolate because the flavors compliment each other so well, but you could use any oil you’d like here: a neutral-flavored oil like canola or safflower oil would be just fine. The coconut oil, however, isn’t terribly pronounced.
Use “Flax Eggs” as an Egg Replacer
Second, a “flax egg” gives you the benefit of eggs in baked goods—acting as an emulsifier and helping give your baked good some structure—without actually using an egg. It’s a great go-to for much of the vegan baking I do at home.
If flax eggs are new to you, never fear: simply stir together 1 tablespoon of flax meal and 1 1/2 tablespoons of water. Don’t worry. There won’t be any overly earthy flavors or oils imparted to your baked goods; it’s likely no one will ever know you used a substitute!
Use a Gluten-Free Flour with Xanthan Gum
In this recipe, I use a gluten-free flour blend that contains xanthan gum (I prefer Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten Free Baking Flour Blend). The xanthan gum acts as a binder in baking recipes, helping give structure to your gluten free baked goods.
Check the ingredients in your flour blend, and if it doesn’t contain xanthan gum (or another binding ingredient like guar gum or psyllium husks), I recommend adding 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum to ensure success.
Finding Vegan, Allergy-Friendly Chocolate
When it comes to the chocolate, this recipe uses both cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate. Most cocoa powders will be naturally vegan; they rarely contain any dairy or egg-based ingredients, but it never hurts to double check. I always keep Trader Joe’s unsweetened cocoa powder in stock at home and used it for these brownies.
As for bittersweet chocolate, you’ll definitely need to read the labels here since bar chocolate often has added dairy. (A quick note: If you see “cocoa butter” on your label, that’s not dairy butter. It’s dairy free!)
I used Pascha Organic 70% chocolate, which is vegan and also free of many allergens like nuts, eggs, dairy, wheat, and gluten. If you have kiddos or friends with very serious allergies, you can feel safe that the chocolate wasn’t produced near any such ingredients. Added bonus: it just tastes delicious—pure and dark, but not at all bitter.
Making the Brownies
When it comes to method, if you’ve made brownies from scratch before, this will look familiar, although there are a few things to note. Often, brownie recipes will tell you to stick a toothpick in the center and make sure it comes out clean before pulling them from the oven. That trick doesn’t work here.
These brownies are darn fudgy and they’ll feel quite soft to the touch throughout the entire baking process, so just set a timer and trust me on this one. The tops will be slightly bubbly and will feel wet to the touch when the brownies are ready, although the sides will start to pull away from the pan ever so slightly.
Let the Brownies Cool!
Last but not least, note that these brownies are much easier to slice if you allow them to cool for two hours, so plan accordingly. It can feel like a long time to wait, but I promise it’s worth it: You’re about to meet your new favorite brownie.