Healthy Vegan Red Velvet Brownies

by Kris on February 3, 2012

I have bad luck with red velvet cake. Last time I made it, I accidentally cooked it on broil which ended in a leathery soup. Not a good thing, unless you are a special effects person trying to create very realistic blood. Seriously, if you don’t believe me, give it a try!

I have learned a thing or two since last valentines day so I decided to revisit my cake nemesis. Although, I’ve also been trying to eat healthy. Cake in the house when you’re trying to stay fit is never a good situation. It usually ends with me sitting on the kitchen floor in my gym clothes stuffing handfuls of cake in my mouth. It’s not a pretty sight.

A few months ago I saw several recipes pop up online for healthy black bean brownies and chickpea blondies. This got me thinking about other possibilities. I figured if you could make beans taste like dessert, and disguise vegetables in baked goods, why can’t I make red velvet brownies with red kidney beans and beets?

I experimented quite a bit with this recipe and I’m very pleased with the results. The beans made the brownies rich, chewy and moist while the beets added that perfect crimson colour of red velvet cake. (Much better than using red food colouring, which can have negative health affects).

Now, when it came to ice my fudgy treat, I knew an ordinary icing wouldn’t do. What’s the point of making a healthy brownie if you drown it in unhealthy fat? I threw together a vegan cream cheese icing using tofu and cashews which turned out much better than I anticipated. Since I did add a moderate amount of sugar to the icing, I only drizzled the brownies with it.  Then ate the rest with a spoon.

These red velvet brownies are not only healthy, they’re low fat, a great source of fibre, high in protein, vegan, and gluten free!  They would be a perfect valentines treat for anyone’s sweetheart.

Healthy Vegan Red Velvet Brownies

  • 1 cup red kidney beans
  • ½ cup cooked beets
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 4 tbsp apple sauce
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup ground flax (I put ¼ cup of flax seeds in a clean coffee grinder and pulsed until smooth.)
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.

Spray an 8×8 inch pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a food processor, puree kidney beans and beets. Transfer to a large bowl.

Add remaining ingredients and mix by hand until smooth and fully combined.

Fold batter into the greased pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, turning the pan halfway through.

When the brownies are done, test them with a toothpick. You want some batter to cling to the toothpick. Do not over bake.

Let cool completely. Refrigerate for one hour.

Cut into squares or use cookie cutters to make heart shapes.

Vegan Cream Cheese Icing
¼ Cup raw cashew pieces
3 Tbps. Soy milk
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. maple syrup or agave nectar
1 Cup firm tofu, crumbled
¼ Tsp. salt
½ Cup margarine
2 Tsp. vanilla extract
3 Cups vegan friendly icing sugar

In a food processor, combine cashews, soy milk, lemon juice, vanilla extract, salt and maple syrup. Pulse several minutes until it is a smooth, creamy texture. Add tofu crumbles and continue to pulse until thick and smooth.

Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Add margarine and icing sugar. With an electric mixer, blend until combined and thickened.

Refrigerate at least one hour before icing brownies.

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Audrey February 3, 2012 at 11:48 am

These look awesome! I’m going to have to try these.


munchinwithmunchkin February 3, 2012 at 1:15 pm



Caye/Mom February 3, 2012 at 2:03 pm

There was a recipe for red velvet cake in the newspaper which used beets for the red color, I think the recipe called for 2 cups of pureed beets. If I can find it, I’ll mail it to you.


munchinwithmunchkin February 3, 2012 at 2:13 pm

If you can find it, I’d love to take a look at it. Thanks!


Marie F February 3, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Oooh man these look great! I’m off to the kitchen to make them now! Just crossing my fingers that I have some kidney beans.
Out of curiosity, do you have the nutritional info for these?
Thanks for the recipe!


munchinwithmunchkin February 3, 2012 at 4:52 pm

For one brownie its about 150 calories, 7 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, and cholesterol free


stephsapron February 3, 2012 at 6:43 pm

I was looking for a good gluten-free recipe for Valentine’s Day, and this is perfect. My boyfriend loves beans AND beets! Can’t wait to make it, thank you!


munchinwithmunchkin February 8, 2012 at 4:44 pm

If he loves beans and beets, he should really enjoy these! (although I usually don’t say what’s in them until after someone has taken a bite, I love the look on their faces when I tell them what’s in them!)


Spectra February 4, 2012 at 7:14 am

So it’s cooked or canned red kidney beans? I use bean flours, so that ingredient could go either way…

Makes me eager to give this a try – it looks easy enough – Thanks.


munchinwithmunchkin February 4, 2012 at 9:51 am

I used cooked red kidney beans but you could use canned too. If you try it with bean flour, I’d be interested to know how it turned out.


Genevieve February 5, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Wow, these are such unique and healthy brownies! I’ve made chickpea blondies before that turned out great, but this is the first recipe I’ve seen that uses kidney beans… I also love finding new ways of using beets in recipes!


munchinwithmunchkin February 8, 2012 at 4:46 pm

I’ve also made chickpea blondies before which is how I got the idea for these. Love filling my sweets with unexpected vegetables!


kalamckala February 7, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Whoa, sounds super interesting! I have always wanted to make a brownie recipe that called for beans. I’ve added this to my bookmarks. So future reference…maybe even Valentine’s Day reference…?


munchinwithmunchkin February 8, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Thanks! They’d definitely be a fun treat for Valentines. :)


Shayna February 8, 2012 at 10:39 am

Can you sub another sweetener? Like maple syrup or honey (obv that would not be vegan) I am staying away from refined sugar.


munchinwithmunchkin February 8, 2012 at 11:12 am

I’m unsure about honey or syrup as it may make the texture of the brownies too soft. If you are trying to stay away from refined sugar, you could try using raw or Turbinado sugar.


midnitechef February 8, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Do you have to use almond extract? Could this be left out? (allergy)


munchinwithmunchkin February 8, 2012 at 4:48 pm

You could leave the almond extract out. I’d maybe just add more vanilla


Javelin Warrior February 10, 2012 at 8:15 am

Your red velvet brownies are incredible! And I’m so happy to see there’s no red food dye – love that you used beets! I have featured this post in today’s Friday Food Fetish roundup. Let me know if you have any objections and thanks for the inspiration


munchinwithmunchkin February 10, 2012 at 11:01 am

Thanks for featuring me! Glad you enjoyed the brownies :)


ITL February 11, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Hello there,

These look AMAZING!! I’ve been looking for red velvet brownies all day and yours look the best!
I was just wondering if there is anything else you can use instead of the flax seeds (since I don’t have them on hand…)

Thanks in advance!
– I


munchinwithmunchkin February 11, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Thanks! You could use any sort of flour instead of the ground flax seeds.


Brisha February 12, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Can you substitute milled flax seed for ground flax? I keep finding all these recipes but they all call for ground flax seed, but I have a huge bag of the milled kind! Thanks for the recipe, I’m making them tomorrow!


Caitlin February 28, 2012 at 10:19 am

wow- a brownie with beans AND beets in them! you are a wonder woman!


Kris February 28, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Thanks! Wonder woman I am not, a woman who needed to clean out her fridge? definitely. :)


Lauren March 4, 2012 at 12:15 pm

I made these today, and they are delicious! But mine turned out dark brown instead of red. I used regular cocoa (not dutch-processed) and dark red kidney beans (not the red-beans-and-rice kind)… Were your beets canned or fresh, and if fresh, how did you cook them? I used fresh and roasted them. These are great, but I’d love if they were actually red like yours, so let me know if you have any ideas of what I may have done wrong – thanks!


Kris March 4, 2012 at 4:31 pm

I’m glad you enjoyed them, but sorry they didn’t turn out red! I used dutch processed cocoa but I don’t think that would do it. I’m thinking it could have been the beets. I steamed mine and they were very fresh right from the farmers market. I’ve read that when beets get older, they lose some of their colour. Maybe that was the culprit?


JP Richards March 9, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Amazing photography! Great blog.


Akira May 21, 2012 at 11:32 pm

I have been planning on making these for awhile and I finally tried tonight. I was so excited, I cut a tiny bit before they were cool..and they tasted AWFUL! I reread the recipe and realized I forgot to add the brown sugar, haha! Don’t make the same mistake I did! Luckily I made more beets then I needed, so I’m trying this again tomorrow.


Kris May 21, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Oh no! I bet they would be pretty awful without sugar! Hopefully the second batch is more successful!


Danielle June 18, 2012 at 7:09 am

30 minutes till they’re ready! Next time I’m making a double batch, so I can eat half the batter :)


Sabrina July 19, 2012 at 9:23 pm


I am looking forward to trying out this recipe. I was wondering how you measured out e beets? I understand you cook them first, but did you weigh them before adding them to the food processor? Or just stuff a 1/2 cup measuring cup?

I have never cooked beets before so this may seem like a stupid question or it may become obvious after I cook them, sorry!


Sabrina July 19, 2012 at 9:24 pm

the* beets


Enn July 25, 2012 at 3:36 pm

I just made this today….with a few minor modifications. WOW! So rich and chewy!

It tastes even better than it looks (which is pretty dang good) and it’s completely guilt free, which I love.

I substituted coconut sugar for the brown sugar and used a thinned coconut sugar in place of icing sugar to bring down the overall glycemic index a bit. I also used coconut oil instead of margarine for the icing….but that was just because I didn’t have any margarine on hand. Despite the modifications, which I was worried would ruin it, this was by far one of the best vegan desserts I’ve had in a long time.

I am doubling the batch and bringing it to a potluck this Sunday. I can’t wait to surprise them with the recipe!



Peter July 27, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Hey there lovely! I hope you’re having a fine weekend:) And greetings from Canada!

I was simply inspired to make this recipe you came up with ( and im sure to keep it in my Chef’s notebook for people with Gluten interlorances and Vegans!), So many thanks to you! I’d hate to shed some “tragedy”, but today i went out grocery shopping with my Dad, and I was so excited to make the brownies today, which i did. I got home and started assembling everything together, and i cooked the beets, pured them with the Canned red beans, and combined everything. When I added the flax seeds, cocoa powder (i used premium cocoa), the apple sauce, etc etc. and I put it in my springform pan. I baked it for 30-40 mins, more like 40 mins just to be on the safer side, and when the timer was up, i pulled them out, and was mortified to find that the top was somewhat dark brown in colour, and when i put a skewer to test if it was done, it still felt liquidy, and i gently shook the pan sideways to see if it was going to run, and it was sorta jiggly like. So I put it in the freezer to cool it off a little, and then i put it back in in the oven, and still, it was the same results, So now its in the fridge. I’m not sure if when you said “some of the batter should be clinging on the skewer” meant that the skewer should appear to have batter clinging on to it when you pull it out. But I’m going to hope, everything will be cool in the morning when i cut it up. I also somewhat tasted a bit of it, and it tasted REALLY strong, like red beans O_O. I know how you feel about your first time red velvet cake mishap! but I wont let it throw me down in the dumps. I wanted to ask if you had any suggestions as to what i can do now, or for next time. and what I can make with it now?

I know this is alot to read, but I would really like some answers. Im going to a picnic tomorrow, and if they come out good in the end, ill be happy. I want to thankyou in advance for any answer you may have!

Take care, and have a wonderful day!



Jenn September 30, 2012 at 6:46 pm

I made these using canned beets and canned beans. I only used 3 T applesauce to compensate for the extra liquid from the canned beets. I also mixed the dry ingredients together before adding wet just as a personal preference. When my brownies were done I used some leftover vanilla frosting melted down with a little almond extract added to it. I think they were amazing! They came out really fudgey and good but not as red like in the pictures. I served them to my friends at a party and they all seemed to like them as much as I did. I made them yesterday and have already had more pieces than I remember!


tmobilek89 October 8, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Hi! I tried the red velvet cake but it was disaster. Next time I’ll try this recipe and I think it’ll be much better. The picture looks so yummy :)


amy February 9, 2013 at 11:39 am

I substituted 3 eggs instead of flax seed. They fell apart! Doh! Was I supposed to use a flour substitute? THey are moist and taste awesome though. I thought flaxseed was an egg substitute, was I wrong? Please help, I would like to try them again.


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