These healthy brownies are SO fudgy, moist, and delicious! They’re low in added sugar, and high in fiber, protein, healthy fats, and are gluten free, grain free, flourless, dairy free, and paleo. They also have some hidden zucchini and loads of nutritional benefits, without sacrificing on the taste and texture you love.
When I first started making healthy desserts, brownies were one of the first things I tried. And I can’t tell you how many recipes I followed to the T but ended up completely flopping.
It was so frustrating to look for healthy brownie recipes because they were either too healthy and tasted bad, or they tasted good but were still loaded with sugar.
I can’t even count how many times I’ve attempted to make the healthiest brownies that taste amazing. But there is a reason that this is only the second brownie recipe I have on this site (and the first is long overdue for picture updates😬, but here is the recipe because it’s 100% worth making).
I won’t post a recipe unless I am sure it’s the best it can be. Because the last thing I want is for you to waste your ingredients and time for a recipe that’s only okay. So although this recipe took a million tries to perfect, I know it’ll be worth it if you enjoy them.
I have grown to be very picky when it comes to brownies, and I am NOT one of those people who says dense brownies are “fudgy.” It’s just not the same thing at all. So although we are not making cakey brownies, these are certainly not dense and have a little bit of air to them.
So anyway (sorry for the rambling), I am very pleased to say that these are some of the best brownies I’ve ever had (healthy or not, and my family agrees)! And we are not sacrificing taste or nutritional benefits, because both are equally important to me (this website is called nutritious delights for a reason!😂).
This recipe is high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, PLUS it has some sneaky zucchini in it! Only 2 tablespoons of added sugar (which is also natural and unrefined), but still has the perfect amount of sweetness thanks to one of my favorite ingredients ever (and no, we don’t use artificial sweeteners here). And if you have dietary restrictions, this recipe is gluten free, grain free, dairy free, and paleo!
I’m so excited to share with you all my favorite tips and tricks to make the best healthy, fudgy brownies you could eat.
Replacing the Sugar
The first thing we need to cover is the sugar, because it’s the hardest thing to healthify in any dessert (at least in my opinion). When I was a newbie at healthy desserts and didn’t quite understand the chemistry of baking, I would reduce the sugar and somehow expect it to taste the same. Of course it didn’t.
I am a firm believer that you can’t reduce without expecting a difference in taste/texture. This also applies to the fat, which I’ll explain in a bit. Just because there is less added sugar does not mean we are cutting out sweetness. And like I mentioned before, I never use sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners, or zero-calorie sweeteners (I would much rather use whole food ingredients).
The solution to all your problems is medjool dates! Okay, maybe not all your problems but they are pretty amazing🤷♀️. Medjool dates are one of my favorite ingredients, and they are my favorite sweetener for baked goods. Dates are different from any other sweetener, because they aren’t considered added sugar by the FDA—probably because they’re not, they’re fruits!
Medjool dates are called nature’s candy for a reason; they have a super sweet, caramel-like flavor that (in my opinion) tastes even better than sugar. And please note that there is a big difference between medjool dates and regular dates—do not substitute!
You will have to soak your dates in boiling water, even if they are soft. Soaking makes them even softer and easier to blend so there are no chunks.
While dates bring a wonderful sweet flavor, we can’t add too much without affecting the texture drastically. This is where the coconut sugar comes in.
Coconut sugar is an unrefined, natural sweetener with a lower glycemic index than regular sugar. It works the same as any granulated sweetener, but it’s made from coconuts! It is considered added sugar, but you’ll only need 2 tablespoons.
If you don’t have any, feel free to substitute with cane, brown, or any granulated sugar. I haven’t tried liquid sweeteners like maple syrup or honey and can’t guarantee it will work, but you can try if you don’t have anything else.
How to Make Brownies Fudgy
Now we need to talk about the moisture, and what makes the brownies fudgy. You’ve probably seen hundreds of varieties, from black beans to sweet potato, but I have to say almond butter is by far my favorite.
Almond butter is already fudgy by itself, and is really key to the texture because of all the fat. But unlike butter, most of the fat is unsaturated, and it also comes with extra fiber and protein—it is made from nuts after all!
Almond butter makes up the majority of the fudginess, but there is one other crucial ingredient: avocado oil. I’ve tried making oil free brownies, and they’re okay. But definitely not the same texture you’re used to.
Like I said before, you can’t just reduce, you have to replace. So instead of canola or vegetable oil (which are highly processed and genetically modified), we’re using avocado oil! It has the same nutritional profile as olive oil (healthy unsaturated fats, omega-3s) but with a pretty neutral taste—you won’t notice it’s there. 🙂
That being said, it’s okay if you don’t have any on hand. You can swap with light-tasting olive oil—regular will have a noticeable taste. You could probably try sunflower or melted coconut oil too, but I haven’t tried and can’t guarantee it.
And finally, the zucchini. A lot of people put zucchini in their desserts, saying it adds moisture, which is true. Just not exactly the way that you think. It’s basically like adding water—it’ll make it wetter and very slightly diluted. If you’re fine with that, I’m not saying it’s a problem, but I have a way around it.
After grating, squeeze most of the juice out. Not all, because a little moisture is good, but it should be much smaller in size when you’re done.
What About Flour?
So what about the flour? Well, there is none! I’ve tried brownies with whole wheat, oat, and almond flour but I have to say leaving it out entirely will give you the best result.
Since all-purpose flour is very refined, it’s absorbed into the batter super easily. However, the same can’t be said for the coarser, higher fiber flours I just mentioned.
Of course, you can’t just skip flour in any recipe and expect it to work, but this recipe has other binding ingredients to replace it. The almond butter and dates are the main binding ingredients as well as 2 others: eggs and flaxseed meal.
Eggs are in most brownie recipes to begin with, so not a huge shocker there. But the way you incorporate is slightly different, and why I don’t recommend using flax or chia eggs.
Not only do the eggs act as a binder, they also add some air to the batter—not to make it fluffy, but just so that they’re not dense. If you can’t eat eggs, you can try a vegan egg substitute and it’ll probably work, it’ll just be slightly denser.
For the flaxseed meal, you only need 2 tablespoons. It’s probably not necessary, but I love to throw a bit in everything for it’s amazing health benefits: fiber, protein, healthy fats, omega-3s.
The cocoa powder also acts as a binder, and has a similar texture to all purpose flour. Plus, you get a bunch of chocolate flavor!
Now the only ingredients I haven’t talked about are baking powder, salt, vanilla, and chocolate. They don’t really fit into a category, but are SO important.
Salt and vanilla kind of go together, because they are both flavor enhancers. Do not skip these. You won’t taste either, but they are essential for flavorful brownies.
Baking powder does not make the brownies fluffy or cakey, it prevents them from becoming dense. This is why we use baking powder instead of baking soda, because the latter will create too many air bubbles. The amount may seem like more than you’re used to, but I promise you need all of it.
And finally, the chocolate chips! I use dairy free ones, but you can use any kind if that’s not a concern. I also used a mix of mini and morsels, but you can use any kind, or even chunks! You can also reduce or increase the amount to your preference.
I really hope you like this recipe! If you decide to make it, be sure to post a picture/story (or dm me!) and tag me @nutritiousdelights on Instagram--I'd love to see it!💗
More recipes you might love:
Healthy Zucchini Almond Butter Brownies (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Paleo)
- ¾ cup natural almond butter or any nut butter
- 2 cups soaked medjool dates pitted
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup avocado oil or light-tasting olive oil
- 2 tablespoons finely ground flaxseed meal
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup cocoa powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons coconut sugar can sub any granulated sweetener
- ½ cup vegan chocolate chips
- 1 ½ cup grated zucchini or 1 medium
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a 9”x 9” baking dish with parchment paper and lightly grease. Squeeze most of the liquid from the zucchini, but don’t completely dry it out. Set both aside.
- In a large food processor, blend the dates with almond butter for a few minutes, until completely smooth. Add the egg and process on high for about a minute. If your food processor is too small, you can transfer to a bowl and use a whisk, but otherwise, add the rest of the ingredients except zucchini and chocolate and blend until smooth.
- Fold in the zucchini and chocolate chips with a spatula (do not pulse) and tranfer to the prepared pan. Bake for about 30 minutes (depending on your oven). Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.