Don’t you love it when you create a tempting and decadent dessert that’s actually quite healthy? That’s the case with these gorgeous vegan brownie cupcakes! I will say, it took me many, many tries to perfect this recipe, so I’m damn proud of how it turned out.
Brownies are hard, y’all! I did not realize the pains that people go through to make chocolate things. I’m team vanilla (sorry, not sorry) so I don’t make a lot of chocolate confections, and turns out now I’m years behind everyone else in realizing the nuances of the chocolate baking world. It’s a delicate process, man! I made many many many attempts at these cupcakes this week, and even as I wrote this paragraph, I was sitting on the kitchen floor in front of my oven keeping a watchful eye on the current batch. The life of a food blogger. I did the trial and error for you, so make sure you read my notes at the bottom so you have a smoother time than I did.
Quinnoa Is a Super Food
Why is quinoa one of the top superfoods? Quinoa and chia seeds are some of the only plant based foods that contain all nine essential amino acids, meaning that as a vegan, quinoa should definitely be on your radar. We need essential amino acids to help us repair cells and grow.
Quinoa is gluten free. It’s more of a seed than a grain. It’s also packed with protein and fiber, so it keeps you feeling fuller longer, and can reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol. Plus, quinoa is low on the glycemic index, meaning it’ll slow your body’s absorption of sugars, so your blood sugar doesn’t spike. No sugar crashes here.
Finally, it’s loaded, like really loaded, with antioxidants, which reduce your risk of diseases like diabetes and some cancers because it fights free radicals. Those free radicals also contribute to the aging process, so eat your quinoa and stay young forever, folks.
Brownie Cupcake Ingredients:
For this recipe, you will need:
quinoa – gives texture and provides health benefits
applesauce or oil – creates moisture in the brownie cupcakes
dates or sugar – provides a natural sweetener that is low on the glycemic index
flax seeds or vegan egg replacer – binds the batter together
vanilla extract – provides flavor
cocoa powder – gives you that rich, chocolate flavor
corn starch – absorbs some liquid so the brownie cupcakes are able to bake evenly. Can be replaced with flour.
coconut oil – provides needed fat to bind the
baking soda – helps the batter rise so you don’t have flat brownies
Put 1/2 cups raw quinoa in a pot, and boil with 4 cups of water for twenty minutes and let cool. Do not refrigerate, as cold ingredients do not blend as easily into the batter.
The Date Syrup:
To make date syrup, blend 1 cup of pitted dates with 1 cup of warm water, and set 3/4 of it aside for the batter. You may omit the dates if you do not have them available, and sub in an equal amount of maple syrup or 1/2 cup sugar.
Making the brownie batter:
Prepare 2 flax eggs by adding 2 tablespoons of ground flax meal to a small cup with 1/4 cup of water. Let this sit for at least 5 minutes until it forms a gelatinous semi-solid texture. You’ll know it’s ready when you turn the cup sideways and the blob moves as one cohesive unit. This will replace the eggs and bind your batter together.
Preheat oven to 350°. Once the quinoa is cool and drained, add to a food processor or blender with the date syrup and applesauce. The applesauce replaces oil, but if you do not have it handy, you may use vegetable or olive oil in a 1:1 replacement ratio. You don’t need to use a food processor or blender if you like the texture of the quinoa in your cupcakes. I used it to create more of a smoother texture, but the whole thing can be done in a bowl with a wooden spoon.
Blend in flax eggs, coconut oil, and vanilla extract.Remove the blade from your food processor or transfer to a mixing bowl for batter to be mixed by hand. Add in cocoa powder, corn starch, monk fruit sweetener (or sub regular sugar), sea salt, and baking soda and then mix gently with a wooden spoon.
Spoon mixture into cupcake molds, filling almost full. Bake at 350° for 22 minutes or until a skewer poked into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
The Peanut Butter Sweet Potato Frosting:
While cupcakes are baking, peel 2-3 small sweet potatoes, cut into 1″ chunks, and microwave for 3 minutes. Let cool. I tried this with the peel on first, because there are so many nutrients in a sweet potato’s peel, but it wound up getting stuck in my frosting piping tip. If you’re using a butter knife to spread the frosting on, feel free to leave the peels on and puree.
Remove cupcakes from oven and let cool.
Blend sweet potatoes with powdered sugar, vanilla, and peanut butter. Add in a few drops of nondairy milk at a time until the frosting is smooth and you’ve reached your desired consistency. Pipe or spread onto cupcake tops using a butter knife.
I tried this recipe with aquafaba, and it didn’t hold the batter together. Flax eggs are sturdier and are your best bet. You can of course use egg replacer too; I like Bob’s Red Mill. More ‘eggs’ will give you cakier brownies, less eggs equals fudgier brownies, so feel free to play around with the amount of flax egg you incorporate.
Mixing your chocolate cupcake batter:
Once you add in the cocoa powder, DO NOT MIX BROWNIES IN A FOOD PROCESSOR OR BLENDER OR THEY WILL LOOK LIKE THE HOT MESSES PICTURED TO THE RIGHT. This is because if you beat brownies, rather than mix with a spoon, the air bubbles that get trapped under the flour and cause the brownies to rise, will be beaten out and you will be left with sad, pathetic caved in brownies and there is no way to recover them. I did use my brownie goo for a yummy trifle, which I will be posting soon, but that was not my intention. Learn from my mistakes.
It took me doing this at least five times before I realized what I was doing. I had a running joke that I could bake everything except for brownies, and turns out this was why.
Ingredient Temperature Matters
Don’t use cold ingredients when baking – they don’t work as well because they won’t combine in the batter. If you’re brownies are failing, maybe check the temperature of your ingredients.
Use oil or melted vegan butter in place of applesauce if you prefer.
Swap sugar for date syrup, but use 2 tbsp less corn starch, since the date syrup naturally moistens the cupcake batter.
If you don’t mind that the cupcakes won’t be gluten free, you can replace corn starch with flour.
These would be amaaaaazing with a vegan cream cheese frosting if you’re feeling so inclined.
Brownie bites are always a hit too, so you could bake these in mini muffin tins (only bake for 8-10 minutes if using a smaller portion of brownie batter).
Serve these as part of a dessert board for a birthday party using other goodies like cinnamon buns, and chocolate chip cookies.
Social Media & Recipe Recommendations:
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