This raw chocolate brownie recipe is one of the simplest dessert recipes in my repertoire, using only 5 ingredients and one bowl (or food processor). The combination of sweet dates and creamy nuts give a texture similar to traditional brownies, and most wouldn’t even be able to tell that it is completely raw! With only whole-food ingredients, the use of cacao powder bumps up the antioxidant properties which have been associated with many health benefits (see below). Aside from the simplicity of the recipe and the healthy ingredients, what really sets these Raw Chocolate Brownies apart from others is the optional, but highly recommended completely raw caramel icing.
“Cacao is less heat processed and therefore retains many more beneficial antioxidants in comparison to processed coco powder.”
This is a revamp of one of the first recipes on my blog. Since starting this blog I have made the move from Australia and Canada. I have since found that macadamia butter, which was used for the caramel icing, is pretty much non-existent in Canada. I have substituted cashew butter instead, which can be found next to the peanut butter is many grocery and health food stores. I prefer to make my own cashew butter, which I find the easiest to make of all the nut butters because cashews are softer and quickly form into a creamy consistency. For those who have a good quality food processor (I use a Vitamix) I have included instructions on how to make your own cashew butter in the recipe notes below.
Health Benefits of Cacao
We have all heard that ‘chocolate is good for you,’ but many don’t know why. Cacao, which is the ground up powder of the cocoa bean, is a source of phytonutrients called polyphenols, including epicatechin and catechin, which are known to have beneficial effects on mood, cardiac health and a cosmetic use.
In a small randomized-controlled trial, outcomes showed that participants who consumed cacao polyphenols had a significantly increased self-rated calmness and contentedness relative to placebo (1). Another randomized-controlled trial showed that supplementation of cocoa flavanols had a positive effect on visible facial wrinkles and skin elasticity (2). Some evidence suggests cardiovascular benefit from cacao for those who have pre-existing cardiovascular disease (3), and a blood pressure lowering effect which is thought to be associated with the formation of endothelial nitric oxide which promotes vasodilation (4).
Which Is The Healthiest Type of Chocolate?
The beneficial antioxidant polyphenols are found in cacao powder, dark unprocessed chocolate, cocoa beverages, as well as in processed chocolate products but in smaller amounts. The more unprocessed a product is, the higher the antioxidant content. The flavonoid content of some chocolate food is shown below:
Type of Chocolate and Flavonoid Content in mg/30g
- Baking chocolate, unsweetened square (1 square) – 61.91
- Cacao beans – 103.4
- Candies, chocolate, dark, 45-59% cocoa solids – 32.61
- Candies, bars, chips, milk chocolate plain (45 mL or 3 tbsp) – 4.51
- Cocoa, dry powder, unsweetened (75 mL or 5 tbsp) – 81.45
- Cocoa, dry powder, unsweetened, Dutch* process (75 mL or 5 tbsp) – N/A
*Regular cocoa is quite strong and it is somewhat bitter. Its natural acidity makes it preferable for use in baking. Dutch cocoa has undergone alkalization to reduce its natural bitterness and its smooth, rich and mellow flavour is useful for hot cocoa and other chocolate drinks.
The Sustainability of Chocolate
Food-miles, which addresses the distance a food has traveled to reach our plates and relates this to our carbon footprint, is important to consider when purchasing cacao, as well as dates, cashews, and almonds which are all used in this recipe. Though, it has been demonstrated that those who have a smaller intake of animal protein may not need to worry so much as the carbon cost of food miles and transporting food which is small in comparison to the carbon costs of production of animal protein (see post Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet). Harvard University reports that following a more plant-based approach to eating is more effective at reducing our carbon footprint than counting food-miles (7).
Focusing only on carbon footprints can leave us naïve to other important issues surrounding cacao including farmer rights and other fair trade issues. Recognizing the value of purchasing Fair Trade is imperative, and as global citizens it is our responsibility to vote with our dollar for fair wages and rights for the people that produce our food. Purchasing Fair Trade Cacao ensures fair wages for farmers, and producers generally follow organic farming practices which will have additional sustainability benefits (for more information see my post Have A Heart – Fair Trade Chocolate).
How To Make This Raw Chocolate Brownie
This recipe works best in a top quality food processor or Vitamix. If you are not confident in the quality of your food-processor, try doing it in smaller batches and make sure to process the nuts prior to adding the other ingredients (but do not ground nuts into a flour, leave some chunks). You may find you need to do the mixture in a few smaller batches.
For the caramel icing use a store bought cashew butter or make your own using soaked cashews, and don’t forget the pinch of salt which really extends that caramel flavour. With my Vitamix, I need to double the cashew butter recipe for the right volume of mixture to blend properly (1 cup of cashews). Use the additional cashew butter to make another portion of caramel icing to have it with a sliced apple for a tasty sweet treat, or keep the cashew butter as is and use as you would any other nut butter.
Raw Chocolate Brownie with Caramel Icing
This brownie recipe is so good that nobody will be able to tell its 100% raw. It makes a great, healthy alternative to store-bought chocolate, or baked goods which can contain refined grains empty of nutrients. The optional, but highly recommended raw caramel icing is reliant on that pinch of salt for that caramel flavour. Best served cold, but it will be hard to not eat the brownie straight from the bowl.
- 1 cup walnuts raw
- 1 cup almonds raw
- 1 cup dates pitted
- 1/4 cup cacao powder unprocessed / Fair Trade
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch sea salt
- 1/4 cup water
Caramel Icing (optional)
- 1/2 cup cashew butter (see below for homemade recipe)
- 1/2 cup dates pitted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch sea salt
First season a small baking dish (about 12 x 12) with coconut oil or line with parchment paper. Process the walnuts and almonds in a food processor until they are roughly chopped. Do not process into a fine flour.
Add the dates, cacao, vanilla and sea salt. Process until ingredients are well mixed, then add ¼ cup of water, or enough to make the mixture stick together. The mixture should look well blended with no large chunks of nuts. Add more water if needed, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Once blended press the mixture into the prepared baking dish and let the brownie sit in the fridge for at least one hour.
If you want to make the optional, but highly recommended, caramel icing place all of the icing ingredients into the food processor and mix until well combined. Once well blended, remove the brownie from the fridge and layer the icing on top of the brownie mixture before placing back in the fridge to set.
Once set, cut into 3-inch squares, or 16 serves and enjoy!
How to make cashew butter: Soak the cashews in water for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Drain the cashews and place in a high-quality food processor or Vitamix (I use a Vitamix). Blend until a smooth butter forms, scraping down the sides as needed. I find that I need to make double the recipe (1 cup of cashews) for the blade to efficiently blend all the cashews. Save remaining cashew butter and eat as you would any nut butter.
Nut variation: Try peacans instead of walnuts or almonds.
Flavour variation: Add 1 tsp of cinnamon to the mixture.
Nutritional Information for Raw Chocolate Brownies
Per 1 square with caramel icing
Total Fat: 11.9g
References for Raw Chocolate Brownies
3) Sansone R, Rodriguez-Mateos A, Heuel J, et al. Cocoa flavanol intake improves endothelial function and Framingham Risk Score in healthy men and women: a randomized, controlled, double-masked trial: the Flaviola Health Study (2015). British Journal of Nutrition.