Refined-Sugar-Free Turtle Brownies (GF)

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Stack of Fudgy Rich gluten-free vegan Black Bean Turtle Brownies

I remember the first time I tried a black bean brownie (circa 2012).

My eyes almost crossed I was so perplexed. I immediately thought, “Oh my goodness, this can’t be real.”

A brownie made with wholesome ingredients that tastes like the real thing? Sounds too good to be true, but believe me, it’s not.

Since sharing my original recipe on the blog, I’ve revamped the ingredients to ensure it’s completely naturally sweetened (!!!), while remaining entirely vegan and gluten free. Plus, I threw in a few add-ins for a fun flavor twist.

In other words, get your black beans, kids. We’re makin’ brownies (and we’re not telling anyone what’s in them).

Three photos of the food processor showing the progression of adding ingredients to make Turtle Brownies

This recipe is simple, requiring just a food processor to make! Yep, it all comes together in one “bowl,” making cleanup a breeze.

To make these “turtle” brownies, I added date caramel, pecans, and chocolate chips. The coconut was just for fun, because obviously, delicious.

The result was a fudgy on the inside, tender on the outside, chocolate- and pecan- studded brownie that passes for the real thing. Try not immediately eating three – I dare you.

Muffin tin filled with naturally-sweetened gluten-free vegan Black Bean Brownies

I think you guys will LOVE these brownies! They’re:

Studded with ooey-gooey toppings
& Insanely delicious

Make these for a party and I can almost guarantee no one will realize they’re made with black beans. They also freeze well, making them a great dessert to have around during the week – just pop one out and let it thaw. Top with coconut whipped cream or vanilla bean coconut ice cream if you’re feeling fancy. You can’t go wrong either way.

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a picture #minimalistbaker on Instagram! We’d love to see what you come up with. Cheers!

Platter of gluten-free vegan Black Bean Brownies for a delicious desert

Refined-Sugar-Free Turtle Brownies (GF)

Fudgy black bean brownies made in a food processor. Entirely naturally sweetened, swirled with date caramel and pecans. A sneaky vegan, gluten-free dessert.
Author Minimalist Baker
Stack of Fudgy Vegan Turtle Brownies made with black beans
4.85 from 60 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 11 (brownies)
Course Dessert
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Vegan
Freezer Friendly 1 month
Does it keep? 3-4 Days


  • 1 15-oz can black beans (well rinsed + drained // 1 15-oz can yields ~ 1 1/2 cups drained)
  • 2 Tbsp flaxseed meal (to make flax eggs)
  • 5 Tbsp water (to make flax eggs)
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil (melted // or sub other oil of choice)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt (plus more for topping)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup chopped raw pecans (plus more for topping)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut (plus more for topping)
  • 1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips (I like Trader Joe’s brand // plus more for topping)
  • 1/4 cup date caramel*


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C), and lightly grease a 12-slot standard size muffin pan (not mini). Make sure you’ve rinsed and thoroughly drained your black beans at this point.
  • Prepare flax eggs by combining flaxseed meal and water in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse a couple times and then let rest for a few minutes.
  • Add remaining ingredients (besides pecans, date caramel, coconut and chocolate chips) and puree – about 1-2 minutes – scraping down sides as needed. You want it pretty smooth.
  • Add pecans, coconut and chocolate chips and pulse to combine
  • Add the batter to the prepared muffin tin (mine only filled 11) and smooth the tops with a spoon or your finger. Then add 1 tsp date caramel to each brownie and carefully swirl with a toothpick or knife.
  • Top with remaining coconut, pecans, and chocolate chips. Then bake for 25-30 minutes or until the tops are dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the tin. I found mine took about 29 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let cool for 20-30 minutes before removing from pan. They will be tender, so gently run a knife around the sides, and then lift out with a fork.
  • The insides are meant to be fudgy, so don’t be concerned if they seem too moist. Enjoy with additional date caramel (optional, if desired). They would also be delicious with Coconut Whipped Cream, or Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream!
  • Store completely cooled leftovers in an airtight container for up to a few days. Will keep in the freezer up to 1 month.


*If you’d rather not make date caramel (tutorial here), simply substitute finely minced dates.
*Recipe very closely adapted from my Vegan Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownies.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with all toppings.

Nutrition (1 of 11 servings)

Serving: 1 brownies Calories: 178 Carbohydrates: 24.2 g Protein: 3.9 g Fat: 9.6 g Saturated Fat: 5.7 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 166 mg Fiber: 4.6 g Sugar: 13.3 g

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My Rating:

  1. Ana says

    Unfortuanately the brownies were not pleasing at all. Although the chocolate taste was intense, the black bean texture was too present and it did not resemble a brownie :(

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Oh no! We’re so sorry you didn’t enjoy the texture, Ana. They’re usually a reader favorite! Is it possible you made any modifications?

  2. Jasmina says

    Uh, such an indulgent treat! I got a comment “finally a dessert that curbs the sweet tooth cravings without being overly sweet”, which I think is the best compliment!
    Few adjustments – a scoop of vanilla flavored protein powder instead of pure vanilla+part of sugar, hazelnuts instead of pecans and “basic” salted caramel just because I had leftovers from another dessert.
    Thank you, as always, for amazing inspo and fabulous bulletproof recipes.
    Ps. Nobody believed me when I said it took me 10mins to do these! :D

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re SO glad you enjoy our recipes, Jasmina! Thank you so much for your kind words and lovely review! xoxo

  3. Ly says

    Can you use the flaxseed as a whole and not fully “grounded” if that makes sense with the water? Or do you actually have to grind it finely?

  4. Carla Abbott says

    My 12 yo was diagnosed with a gluten, dairy and cane sugar sensitivity last week. She LOVES brownies and was convinced her “life is over” and she is going to “starve”.

    I made these brownies for her today, and she is in LOVE.

    Thank you soooooo much.

  5. Liz says

    I was a little nervous about this because Ice never used dates before, but I was worried for nothing. The recipe was easy to follow and used most ingredients I already have (it’s awesome when I don’t have to buy a bunch of things I’ll never use again). I did substitute regular eggs instead of flax eggs. They still cooked and came out perfect. Can’t wait to try more recipes.

    • Patricia says

      Thank you!for posting this. I wanted to make the substitution of applesauce for oil but wasn’t sure how it would affect the outcome. Taking these to our church supper club.
      Happy Baking!!!

  6. Karen Nesbitt says

    Hi Dana, I am going to try making these today and just want to confirm the ingredients. There is not any form of flour in the list of ingredients. Is that correct? I know they are supposed to be GF so I wondered if there was supposed to be GF Flour of some sort in there too that may have been missed in your ingredient list.

  7. Janet says

    These were amazing and you would never know that black beans were the main ingredient. I have already shared the recipe with several people. Happy Holidays!

  8. Jennifer Hergeth says

    SO good! I made them yesterday and tried them without date caramel, with date caramel and with peanut butter instead. And both (pb and date) tasted DELICIOUS <3 ist made a big difference compared to the plain version!

  9. Georgette says

    This recipe asks for two batches of flax eggs.
    Could you please confirm what is considered to be two batches?

  10. nelda says

    These are so good ! i accidentally mixed the date caramel into the brownie mix but it still tasted amazing. Thank you!

  11. Naomi says

    Would canned kidney-beans do the trick? Black beans are much rarer (and more expensive) where I live.

  12. Susan says

    I’m sorry to say that these were not as delicious as I was hoping. I followed all directions and the beans were an obvious taste/texture even after making the batter smooth. A bunch of people agreed. They were chalky and did not satisfy a brownie craving

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re sorry to hear that these didn’t do it for you, Susan! Better luck with the next recipe :D

    • Kayla Pilato says

      Low quality cocoa powder gives a chalky taste. I can only purchase mine on amazon. Store bought has all been terrible

  13. Brielle says

    What if I was to use a mini muffin pan? What would be different? The temperature to cook them? The time? If anyone has done it or knows, let me know :)

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Others cooked theirs in mini muffin tins for 20 minutes and found that they were done and this point. Let us know if you give it a whirl, Brielle!

  14. Lucy says

    I couldn’t wait until these were cooked to post this, to be honest they nearly didn’t even make it into the oven. They taste like a delicious chocolate mousse! I could have happily eaten the whole lot raw. I have make do with licking all the utensils, and popped them into the oven.

    Thanks Dana for another fab recipe!

  15. Lucy says

    I couldm’t wait until these were cooked to post this, to be honest they nearly didn’t even make it into the oven. They taste like a delicious chocolate mousse! I could have happily eaten the whole lot raw. I have make do with licking all the utensils, and popped them into the oven.

    Thanks Dana for another fab recipe!

  16. Rachael says

    After making theses I know I won’t be searching for any new brownie recipes! These were the changes I made: reduced coconut sugar to 3 teaspoons, and used 1 tablespoon avocado oil and 1 tablespoon soymilk instead of 3 T of oil. I enjoyed how the slight bitterness of the batter complemented the sweetness of the chocolate chips. Thank you for this recipe! :)

    • Sara says

      I am so interested in making these since I am vegan and also can’t have gluten. My only concern is: could I replace the sugar with stevia-monk fruit blend? If so, what would be the measurement?

      • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

        Hi Sara, we haven’t tried that, so weren’t not sure. We’d suggest looking at the substitution recommendations for that brand of stevia-monk fruit for guidance. Let us know if you try it!

  17. Jackie Holmes says

    Oh my days! I made this on the weekend for a friend that was coming over for lunch – let’s just say I shall be making them ALL THE TIME NOW! New favourite recipe alert! :) If I put on 20kgs, I know who to blame….

  18. Kathryn Tawdros says

    LOVE these!! Wanted to know if it would be ok to use liquid sweetner instead of the coconut sugar and I’m not vegan so how many eggs are the flax eggs replacing, 1 or 2? Thanks so much in advance!! :)

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Kathryn! You can replace regular eggs for flax eggs at a 1:1 ratio, so 2 in this case! As for using liquid sweeteners in place of coconut sugar, that should work! Let us know how it goes!

  19. Anne Woods says

    I bought a can of sweetened black bean paste from an Asian market by mistake. I used it and skip sugar and oil. Came out beautifully. I love your website.

  20. Deanna Freidenberg says

    My family and I absolutely love these brownies. I substituted 1/2 cup date syrup for the coconut sugar and maple syrup, since date sugars are the most healthy and nutritious according to Dr. Greger of “How Not to Die”. I didn’t have any coconut, so I left that off. I made the brownies in an 8×8 pan, baked for 25 min. Like everyone else, no one could tell that the brownies had black beans. A really amazing healthy delicious recipe. Thank you!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We recommend using a food processor, but if you give it a try in your vitamix, report back on how it goes. Good luck!

  21. Crystal says

    Wow! I’m not usually one for black bean-based desserts, but these turned out wonderfully. The brownies are fudgy and decadent, while also having the benefit of being guilt-free! I didn’t add coconut, although I did top each brownie with a square of dark chocolate and additional date caramel before going into the oven. I made a batch of 12 and thought about bringing them into work…. but after a taste, I think I’ll just have to do that next time ;)

  22. oceanile says

    I am a HUGE fan of black bean brownies and was looking for an eggless one to take to the bake sale so kids with allergies at the school carnival can eat them too. This looks perfect! I will have to substitute the nuts with some crunchy seeds or cacao nibs or something and can(t wait to leave a review.

    I know people cringe on the idea of cakes made of beans… I’m half Japanese and it totally makes sense because a lot of the sweets in Japan are traditionally made from sweetened adzuki bean paste. I’ve even found them in supermarket brand cookies, reading through the list of ingredients on Fujiya’s “country ma’am” cookies! So do not fear the bean, it’s tried and true. The recent ones are just a re-discovery of the west ;)

  23. Victoria says

    These brownies were… AMAZING. I chose to start simple and only add chocolate chips (no date sauce, coconut, or pecans) and they were so incredible, I was unreasonably excited about them for far too long a period of time. THANK YOU for birthing this recipe into the world– as someone with a new gluten, cow’s milk, and egg allergy– this is life! PS- husband has none of those allergies and was amazed and delighted.

  24. Aline says

    It sounds delicious, but…. Could I use hazelnuts instead of pecans?
    (i want to make two types of cakes for my birthday and the other recipe also has pecans in it)

  25. Mel Holt says

    I’ve made these a couple of times and plan to make an extra batch to keep in the freezer. The first time I made them I strictly followed the recipe, and they were absolutely delicious!!! But today I tried cutting back on the sugar a bit – I used the suggested amount of coconut sugar but used only 1 Tbs of maple syrup, and added 1 Tbs unsweetened apple sauce and 1 heaping Tbs of date caramel to the food processor mixing it into the batter. I couldn’t tell a difference by cutting back on the sugar – they were just as yummy as the original! I also subbed walnuts for the pecans. This is a new favorite, and I’ve shared the original recipe with several friends. Thank you Dana for sharing your gift of vegan culinary creativity with all of us! So grateful!