What Makes A Good Brownie Recipe

March 13th 073

I’ve gotten a name for posting brownie recipes. I don’t think I post them that often, but there are plenty of worse things to be called than “Brownie blogger” so I’ll take it. I do love brownies(I don’t know who wouldn’t). And I’ve made them often enough to know a good brownie recipe from a bad one when I see it.

But first I should probably clarify what I mean by “good”, because with something like brownies that can be very subjective. A good brownie to me is dense and fudgy with a dark and complex flavor—not too sweet—, and not at all cakey. If I wanted something cakey I’d bake a cake. A good recipe could set even a novice baker up to making the best brownies of their life.


A good brownie recipe should have melted chocolate in the batter. If a recipe only has cocoa powder but no melted chocolate, just keep looking. It’s not going to be as fudgy or dark a flavor without the cocoa butter.

A good brownie recipe should have butter. Real butter. Now, no offense to vegans because I love vegan baking, too. But butter really makes all the difference in the flavor of brownies. I’d stay clear of a recipe that uses all oil, margarine, or even applesauce or yogurt. It’s dessert; it’s not meant to be healthy.


The quality of your chocolate/butter matter. One of the simplest things you can do to elevate any brownie recipe is use really good chocolate. Chocolate chips may work in cookies, but they aren’t really right for melting into brownie batter. A high quality baking chocolate is going to have a much better texture and flavor. I would recommend using whatever you would eat on its own(I say that as someone who regularly eats chocolate chips from the bag but let’s pretend I don’t). Some good brands I’d recommend that would make really impressive brownies are Scharffen Berger, Callebaut, and Valrhona. There are plenty others, too.

The butter also matters and is something often overlooked. A European butter or butter made from grass-fed cows has a much stronger flavor than something like Land O Lakes that comes through in the finished recipe. I suggest Kerrygold or Smor.


The flour matters. Brownies made with whole wheat flour are going to be tougher and cakier than ones made with cake flour, which is more refined. If you insist on a whole grain flour, look for pastry flour for something a little lighter. Better yet, skip the gluten altogether and bake gluten-free with almond flour, which doesn’t act as a binder and so won’t make your brownies tough. Avoid starchy gluten-free flours like coconut flour or garbanzo bean flour that will also make the brownies tough.

January 19th 050

The little touches matter. Most brownie recipes will be improved with a little vanilla extract, some instant coffee granules, and a pinch of salt. Even if the recipe doesn’t call for any of those, don’t be shy to add them in and boost the flavor; you should always keep these on hand when baking with chocolate. And just because they’re brownies doesn’t mean they couldn’t use a frosting or ganache.

Did I forget anything? What makes your favorite brownie recipe the best brownie recipe?

On a completely separate note, this is the last weekend to vote in the Nutty About Yogurt contest hosted by Stonyfield Farm and Peanut Butter & Co. If you haven’t voted yet, I would really appreciate your vote for my muffin recipe. And you’ll be entered to win a Stonyfield and Peanut Butter & Co. prize pack, too.

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19 Responses to What Makes A Good Brownie Recipe
  1. tami
    February 12, 2012 | 11:09 am

    your triple chocolate brownies are one of the best recipes i have gotten off all the food (porn) blogs I read! i just made them the other night!

  2. Victoria (District Chocoholic)
    February 12, 2012 | 1:26 pm

    1-3 pretty much sums it up.

  3. Liz @ Tip Top Shape
    February 12, 2012 | 1:27 pm

    Ina Garten said in her show, too, that adding instant coffee is the secret to really chocolate-y tasting brownies. I don’t make brownies often, so I haven’t actually tested it out, but I’d trust that. I also like when they’re studded with chocolate chips.

  4. Amber K
    February 12, 2012 | 2:39 pm

    I’m actually quite particular to using applesauce in my baked goods. I originally did it years ago to be “healthy” in my baking, but I found that I love the texture and taste better when I use it. I have never thought to make brownies with melted chocolate though. I apparently haven’t lived!

  5. Prathiba @ Vehemently Vegan
    February 12, 2012 | 3:18 pm

    I think you are spot on with your brownie rules. I must say that I have never come across an amazing vegan brownie. They are always a little too dry/cake-y for my taste.

    And adding coffee to chocolate goodies makes all the difference. It really enhances the chocolate flavor. LOVE IT.

    (P.S. First time commenting! I have been reading for a few months though. Love your pictures!)

  6. Jessica @ Healthy Dairyland
    February 12, 2012 | 9:55 pm

    Amen to real butter!!

  7. lynn @ the actor's diet
    February 13, 2012 | 12:14 am

    i’m really not picky when it comes to brownies. if it’s warm and has ice cream on top, i’m in heaven!

  8. Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers
    February 13, 2012 | 1:17 pm

    Your right real butter and good chocolate!!!

  9. 91% Chocolate Lover
    February 13, 2012 | 3:40 pm

    I know this isn’t really related, but I wanted to make your baked banana quinoa, and I wasn’t sure how much egg to use. 2 eggs seems likes a lot, and I only have extra large. Do you think only 1 egg would work?

    • Wannabe Chef
      February 13, 2012 | 3:42 pm

      Yes, 1 egg would work

      • 91% Chocolate Lover
        February 13, 2012 | 10:40 pm


  10. Russell van Kraayenburg
    February 13, 2012 | 7:57 pm

    I love posts like this! It looks like I’ve been doing it right so far. Someone once told me adding melted butter vs. softened or solid butter makes a difference too. I don’t know if this is true; I haven’t made enough brownies to know. I’ll let you tell me.

    How dark of a chocolate do you like to use in your brownies?

    PS Good luck with the contest!

    • Wannabe Chef
      February 13, 2012 | 8:06 pm

      It depends on the recipe, but usually nothing darker than 55-65% chocolate. If it’s a dessert, I need it to be sickeningly sweet.

  11. Sana
    February 13, 2012 | 8:00 pm

    I voted for you. Now will you be my best friend?

    • Wannabe Chef
      February 13, 2012 | 8:05 pm

      Fine, as long as I don’t have to put on pants.

  12. Pure2raw twins
    February 13, 2012 | 11:32 pm

    love rich chewy brownies. we normally make raw brownies, but next time we make need to try almond flour.

  13. christina
    February 14, 2012 | 12:16 am

    i LOVE this post. i agree w/ everything you’ve said. now i want a whole pan of brownies. can i come over?

  14. Baker Street
    February 14, 2012 | 2:23 am

    Lovely post! Thanks for sharing!

  15. Sarah
    February 14, 2012 | 10:13 am

    Agreed on all points! My current food obsession is adding dried sour cherries to brownies – they add a fantastic tangy hit that counters the sweetness. Yum…