Thanks to the rise of health-conscious consumers and the tight grip of a health craze that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, healthy substitutions in cooking and baking are now considered commonplace. More and more recipes are encouraging cooks to swap that oil for applesauce, do away with sour cream and go for greek yogurt, or add in mashed bananas and subtract butter — and these instructions have yielded two results: healthier end products and an obsession with healthifying even the most decadent indulgences.
Buckle up your seat belt, because we’re about to highlight some of the most popular substitutions in baking that you may have a hard time swallowing (no pun intended), or may be more than happy to try yourself. The developers of these recipes believe that you can have your cake and eat it too, and you won’t even recognize that your desserts feature some of the vegetables that you can’t even look at raw. Go ahead and give these six recipes a try.
1. Black Bean Brownies
Since we’ve already let the cat out of the bag that one of our highlighted recipes contains black beans, we’ll kick off our list with these Black Bean Brownies: the dessert that healthy eaters love to love, and picky dessert eaters may try to hate. But will they? That is the real question. Chocolate Covered Katie has an extremely popular recipe for black bean brownies that she vows can convert any bean hater, and considering she argues the bean taste is undetectable, you may not even have to tell your eaters what they’re really consuming. Katie says on her blog, “These black bean brownies are healthy brownies that DO NOT taste healthy, and I can say that with assurance, as they’ve been tested on three different groups of people used to “normal” desserts.” Do you believe her? Try for yourself.
- 1½ cups black beans
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder — dutch or regular
- ½ cup quick oats
- ¼ teaspoons salt
- ⅓ cup pure maple syrup or agave
- 2 NuNaturals Stevia packs or 2 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ cup coconut or vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ cup to ⅔ cup chocolate chips
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine all ingredients except chips in a good food processor, and blend until completely smooth. Really blend well. Stir in the chips, then pour into a greased 8-by-8 pan. Cook the black bean brownies 15-18 minutes, then let cool at least 10 minutes before trying to cut. Makes 9 to 12 brownies.
2. Flourless Chocolate Chip Blondies With Sea Salt
What about those who aren’t brownie fans? If you don’t think you could convert them with the aforementioned black bean brownies, what about a blondie, the brownie’s cousin? This next recipe features another ingredient you can find in a can, but this time, it’s chickpeas that play the starring role. Though this legume is most famous for its use in hummus, more and more chefs are now putting it into their baked goods in the place of flour, and they promise you can’t even tell the difference.
Here’s a recipe for Flourless Chocolate Chip Blondies from Ambitious Kitchen. Not only are the blondies labeled healthy, they’re also vegan and gluten-free, and the easy recipe illuminates that you don’t even necessarily have to be an “ambitious” baker to perfect them.
- Cooking Spray
- 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- ½ cup all natural almond butter or peanut butter
- ⅓ cup pure maple syrup or agave nectar (or honey)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ⅓ cup vegan (or regular) chocolate chips plus 2 tablespoons
- sea salt, for sprinkling
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and spray 8-by-8 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a food processor, add all ingredients except chocolate chips and process until batter is smooth. Fold in ⅓ cup of chocolate chips. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan then sprinkle 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips on top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and edges are a tiny bit brown. Cool pan for 20 minutes on wire rack. Sprinkle with sea salt then cut into squares. Makes 16 blondies.
3. Avocado Chocolate Chip Cookies
This next recipe also has chocolate chips, but this time, we’re talking cookies, rather than brownies. Oh, and we’re talking a different unusual ingredient. This time, we’re swapping those chickpeas for avocado. That’s right — one of the most trendy fruits these days has now even found its way into one of our favorite desserts. More and more people are now putting avocados in their smoothies, salads, and sandwiches — but their cookies? That’s a new one.
Despite any skepticism though, food blogger Gaby Dalkin stands by her decision to put avocado in her recipe for cookies that can be found in her new cookbook, Absolutely Avocados. Dalkin promises that you can’t taste the avocado and they only help the cookies yield a more fluffy result, and she could be right. Women’s Health featured the recipe on their website back in October.
- 1 Hass avocado (4½ ounces)
- ⅜ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1½ cups dark brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1¾ cups semisweet chocolate chips
Directions: Cut the avocado in half lengthwise. Remove the pit from the avocado and discard. Remove the avocado from the skin and place the avocado flesh in a large bowl along with the butter and brown sugar. Cream together the avocado, butter, and sugar for 3 minutes until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder and slowly combine, making sure not to over mix the batter. Add the oats and chocolate chips and combine. Refrigerate the batter for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a 2-tablespoon scoop, scoop the batter onto a clean surface and, using wet hands, roll the dough into 12 balls. Flatten the cookies with the palm of your hand to create 2½-inch disks. Arrange the 12 disks on the baking sheet. Transfer the sheet to the top rack of the oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes until the cookies are slightly golden brown on the edges but still soft in the middle. Remove from the oven and let rest on the baking sheet for at least 3 minutes before transferring the cookies to cooling racks. Repeat the process for remaining dough. You will bake 3 baking sheets total.
4. Chocolate Fudge Cake With Tofu
Kaitlyn Cooks wants you to get over your fear of tofu by throwing it in your next chocolate cake. No, we’re not kidding.
Tofu in desserts might seem unappetizing, to put it lightly, but surprisingly enough, even some of the most traditional chefs use the component secretly in their recipe because it typically yields a dense, creamy texture, and can be hidden quite well. Kaitlyn from Kaitlyn Cooks credits the tofu for making her dessert “dense, fudgy, and rich,” and who knows, maybe she’s right. Next time you have some adventurous eaters on your hands, bake up this chocolate fudge cake with tofu. Not only is there tofu in this recipe, there also is applesauce and jam thrown into the mix, and Kaitlyn vows that each (generous) serving only comes to about 300 calories, significantly less than traditional chocolate desserts.
- ¾ cup of cocoa powder
- 1 cup of All Purpose flour
- 1 teaspoons baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 3 ounces of silken tofu, about ¼ of the package
- 1 cup of jam
- ⅔ cup of applesauce
- ¼ cup of soy milk
- 2 tablespoons of canola oil
- 1 tablespoons of vanilla extract
- ½ cup of chocolate chips
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the cocoa, flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Add the tofu, jam, applesauce, soy milk, canola and vanilla to your food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir together. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour into a prepared 9 inch cake pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Cool on a rack and refrigerate.
5. Sweet Potato Pudding
Next up: another vegetable-inspired dessert. This vegetable, however, is more sweet than savory, and has found its way into a number of decadent dishes. Sweet Potato Pudding is the next dessert we’re highlighting, and we’re arguing that sweet potato-inspired dishes can be enjoyed all year around, not just during the holidays.
This recipe, published by Health.com, yields only 200 recipes a serving, and as you’ve heard time and time again, sweet potatoes are considered superfoods and contain contain vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D, iron, potassium, and magnesium. They are also high in carotenoids like beta carotene, which can help improve eyesight, defend against cancer, and fight signs of aging. So, what are you waiting for? Even your pickiest eaters are likely to enjoy this dish, and hey, compared to the other recipes on this list, this one is arguably the easiest one to swallow.
- Cooking spray
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup honey, divided
- ¼ cup 1 percent low-fat milk
- 1 slice whole wheat bread, crusts removed
- 2 cups mashed baked peeled sweet potato
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
- 2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
- ¼ cup plain low-fat Greek-style yogurt
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat a 1½-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Combine eggs, 3 tablespoons honey, milk, and bread in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer until smooth. Add sweet potato, vanilla, cinnamon, and allspice; beat until smooth. Pour into prepared baking dish. Scatter pecans and ginger over top. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes until pudding is set and slightly puffy (it will sink slightly as the pudding cools). While pudding bakes, combine yogurt and remaining 1 tablespoon honey; stir until smooth. Divide pudding among 4 bowls, and top evenly with yogurt mixture.
6. Chocolate Beet Cake
We’re going out with a bang with beets, because, tis the season. That’s right, these velvety red vegetables are in season, and if you can’t get your kids to eat them for dinner, maybe you can try them for dessert. Chocolate beet cakes have been around for a while now, and most recipe developers claim that the beet flavor in cake is undetectable, and the beets only serve to make the dessert very moist. The highlighted Taste of Home recipe for Chocolate Beet Cake yields a cake with a serving size that comes to 211 calories, and don’t worry, the dessert isn’t red or pink.
- 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 cup butter, softened, divided
- 1½ cups packed dark brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups pureed cooked beets
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Confectioners’ sugar
Directions: In a microwave, melt chocolate and ¼ cup butter; stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, cream the remaining butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. In a small bowl, combine the chocolate mixture, beets and vanilla. Beat into creamed mixture (mixture will appear separated). Combine flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture. Pour into a greased and floured 10-inch fluted tube pan. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Yield: 16 to 20 servings.