Food & Wine

Paleo brownies start new year indulgently

Photos Courtesy of Blanche Shaheen
Blanche Shaheen’s brownies use “secret” ingredients such as protein powder and pumpkin. She suggests adding fruit and yogurt to make a sundae.

I have grown frustrated with throwing so-called healthy brownies into the trash. Fibrous black-bean brownies; funky, reddish, beet brownies; mealy garbanzo-bean brownies; and even greenish spinach brownies have all met their demise after one bite.

The mantra in nutritious recipe forums goes like this: If you grind up a vegetable long enough and add some sugar, cocoa and whole-grain flour, you are all set for a no-guilt brownie.

But let’s face it – “no guilt” also can mean no flavor.

Stubborn as I am, I set out to make the most satisfying and moist brownie using healthful ingredients, a treat that could even con my kids. Adults might try to lie to themselves to get these disguised vegetable bricks down, but children have no filter, and no problem pushing pseudo-desserts away.

I have simple criteria for the perfect brownies. They have to be low in sugar, with a decent dose of protein and healthy fats for that rich mouthfeel. Of course, they also have to taste delicious enough for my children to inhale them like the real thing.

After weeks of experimentation, I finally discovered my dream brownies – Blanche’s Paleo Brownies – and I’m excited to share the recipe with you.

The “flour” is a mix of cocoa powder, organic chocolate protein powder and a touch of coconut flour. Do not use whey protein powders, as they have been stripped of all fat and can make a tough brownie. I use an organic vegan pea protein powder that contains some healthy fat.

For the wet ingredients, I use an egg, but to make the recipe vegan, you can use a flax egg, which consists of 2 1/2 teaspoons of water to 1 teaspoon of ground flax. Pureed pumpkin works like magic in baked goods, providing a hint of sweetness with a moist texture.

For added sweetness, I use a combination of maple syrup (which also has antioxidants) and sugar-free pancake syrup. Look for a syrup that uses maltitol (or sugar alcohol) rather than aspartame or sucralose. A good dose of nut or seed butter really makes a massive difference in giving these brownies a rich and chocolaty flavor.

Freeze whatever you don’t eat and reheat them when your chocolate craving strikes. I love these brownies smeared with even more nut butter, or crumbled over Greek yogurt as a light meal replacement when I crave something sweet. Best of all, when my children ask for dessert (which is nearly every day), they eat these enthusiastically and even ask for seconds.

Blanche Shaheen is a food blogger and journalist who lives in Los Altos. For additional pointers, subscribe to Shaheen’s cooking tutorial channel at more of her recipes, visit

Blanche’s Paleo Brownies

• 1 large egg

• 4 tablespoons nut butter (can use almond, cashew or even sunflower seed butter)

• 2 tablespoons maple syrup

• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 3/4 cup canned or pureed pumpkin

• 1/4 cup sugar-free pancake syrup (I like brands that use maltitol only, like Joseph’s Syrup)

• 2 scoops chocolate vegan protein powder (not whey, as brownies will be too dry)

• 1/4 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened

• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

• 2 tablespoons coconut flour

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 F.

In large bowl, whisk egg well.

Whisk in next five ingredients (nut butter through sugar-free syrup) until well blended.

Combine dry ingredients.

Fold wet and dry ingredients together gently until just incorporated.

Spray or oil 8- or 9-inch brownie pan. Pour brownie batter into pan and bake 15-17 minutes for gooey brownies or 20 minutes for cake-like brownies.

Makes 8 servings.

Schools »

Read More

Sports »

Read More

People »

Read More

Special Sections »

Special Sections
Read More

Photos of Los Altos

Browse and buy photos