This raw chocolate brownie recipe is so simple to make, using only 5 ingredients and one bowl (or food processor). The combination of sweet dates and creamy nuts give a texture similar to traditional brownies, and most wouldn’t even be able to tell that it is completely raw. It is also naturally gluten-free and dairy free.
Health Benefits of Cacao
Cacao is a source of phytonutrients called polyphenols, including epicatechin and catechin, which are known to have beneficial effects on mood and cardiac (heart) health.
In a small randomized controlled trial, outcomes showed that participants who consumed cacao polyphenols had a significantly increased self-rated calmness and contentedness relative to placebo (1). Another randomized controlled trial showed that supplementation of cocoa flavanols had a positive effect on visible facial wrinkles and skin elasticity (2). Some evidence suggests cardiovascular benefits from cacao for those who have a pre-existing cardiovascular disease (3), and a blood pressure lowering effect which is thought to be associated with the formation of endothelial nitric oxide which promotes vasodilation (4).
The beneficial antioxidant polyphenols are found in cacao powder, dark unprocessed chocolate, cocoa beverages, as well as in processed chocolate products but in smaller amounts. The more unprocessed a product is, the higher the antioxidant content. The flavonoid content of some chocolate food is shown below:
Type of Chocolate and Flavonoid Content in mg/30g
- Baking chocolate, unsweetened square (1 square) – 61.91
- Cacao beans – 103.4
- Candies, chocolate, dark, 45-59% cocoa solids – 32.61
- Candies, bars, chips, milk chocolate plain (45 mL or 3 tbsp) – 4.51
- Cocoa, dry powder, unsweetened (75 mL or 5 tbsp) – 81.45
- Cocoa, dry powder, unsweetened, Dutch* process (75 mL or 5 tbsp) – N/A
*Regular cocoa is quite strong and it is somewhat bitter. Its natural acidity makes it preferable for use in baking. Dutch cocoa has undergone alkalization to reduce its natural bitterness and its smooth, rich and mellow flavour is useful for hot cocoa and other chocolate drinks.
Environmental Considerations of Chocolate
The consideration of food-miles, the distance a food has travelled to reach our plates, considers our carbon footprint, is a factor in cacao (chocolate), as well as dates, cashews, and almonds which are all used in this recipe. Though, it has been demonstrated that those who consume smaller amounts of domesticated animal protein don’t need to consider the carbon cost of food miles and transportation of food in comparison to those who have a higher animal protein intake. Harvard University reports that following a more plant-based approach to eating is more effective at reducing our carbon footprint than counting food-miles (7).
Additionally, focusing only on carbon footprints can leave us naïve to other important issues surrounding cacao including farmer rights and other fair trade issues. Recognizing the value of purchasing Fair Trade allows us to vote with our dollar for fair wages and rights for the people who produce our food. Purchasing Fair Trade Cacao ensures fair wages for farmers, and producers generally follow organic farming practices which will have additional sustainability benefits.
How To Make This Raw Chocolate Brownie
This recipe works best in a quality food processor or Vitamix. If you are not confident in the quality of your food processor, try doing it in smaller batches and make sure to process the nuts prior to adding the other ingredients (but do not ground nuts into a flour, leave some chunks). You may find you need to do the mixture in a few smaller batches.
For the caramel icing use, a store-bought cashew butter or make your own using soaked cashews, and don’t forget the pinch of salt which really extends that caramel flavour. With my Vitamix, I need to double the cashew butter recipe for the right volume of mixture to blend properly (1 cup of cashews). Use the additional cashew butter to make another portion of caramel icing to have with a sliced apple for a tasty sweet treat, or keep the cashew butter as is and use as you would any other nut butter.
Raw Chocolate Brownie with Caramel Icing
- 1 cup walnuts raw
- 1 cup almonds raw
- 1 cup dates pitted
- 1/4 cup cacao powder unprocessed / Fair Trade
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch sea salt
- 1/4 cup water
Caramel Icing (optional)
- 1/2 cup cashew butter (see below for homemade recipe)
- 1/2 cup dates pitted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch sea salt
- First season a small baking dish (about 12 x 12) with coconut oil or line with parchment paper. Process the walnuts and almonds in a food processor until they are roughly chopped. Do not process into a fine flour.
- Add the dates, cacao, vanilla and sea salt. Process until ingredients are well mixed, then add ¼ cup of water, or enough to make the mixture stick together. The mixture should look well blended with no large chunks of nuts. Add more water if needed, 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Once blended press the mixture into the prepared baking dish and let the brownie sit in the fridge for at least one hour.
- If you want to make the optional, but highly recommended, caramel icing place all of the icing ingredients into the food processor and mix until well combined. Once well blended, remove the brownie from the fridge and layer the icing on top of the brownie mixture before placing back in the fridge to set.
- Once set, cut into 3-inch squares, or 16 serves and enjoy!
Flavour variation: Add 1 tsp of cinnamon to the mixture. Nutrition Information based on one square with caramel icing.
References for Raw Chocolate Brownies
3) Sansone R, Rodriguez-Mateos A, Heuel J, et al. Cocoa flavanol intake improves endothelial function and Framingham Risk Score in healthy men and women: a randomized, controlled, double-masked trial: the Flaviola Health Study (2015). British Journal of Nutrition.