Salted Peanut Butter Cup Brownies (Brownie Mix Shortcut)

The same says it all: salty sweet rich and decadent brownies swirled with luscious peanut butter and topped with peanut butter cups and crunchy sea salt. These salted peanut butter cup brownie mix brownies are tastebud heaven.

I made these a few weeks ago for Vegan Bites (which airs Thursday evenings on @spoonuniveristy Instagram stories) and wasn’t planning to put them on the blog, but the response to the episode was so positive I decided despite only having mediocre phone pics they deserved a place on kbaked.com.

You’ve probably noticed based on the title of the post that these brownies are made with a box mix. Now you may be saying “that’s cheating” or that “true bakers never use mixes.” To which I say your opinion is fair, however, I’ve come to find times and places for box mixes and like to keep them on hand for such occasions. They’re especially nice when you need to whip something up and find your baking pantry bare.

Making a cake for a special occasion is not, in my opinion, the place for a mix, but these brownies definitely are. All you have to do to make these is grab a box of brownie mix, some peanut butter cups, sea salt, oil/vegan butter, and an egg substitute, and you’re on your way to peanut butter cup brownie mix magic in a matter of minutes.

Now let’s talk brownie mix. Some are better than others. Look for an ingredient list that contains things you’d add at home and doesn’t contain too many things you wouldn’t (like DATEM and mono- and do-triglycerides, etc). I like Trader Joe’s, Annie’s, and Cherrybrook Kitchen mixes. Also check the ingredient list for animal ingredients. You’ll find many are accidentally vegan, making your life a wee bit easier.

You’re going to cook the brownie mix according to the package with a few modifications, swapping animal products for non-animal products. While many mixes call for oil, should yours call for butter, simply swap in vegan butter (like Earthbalance).

Now on to the milk. Should your box’s recipe call for milk, simply add your favorite unsweetened non-dairy milk. I would go for the unsweetened, since box mixes tend to be far sweet enough already.

Lastly, the egg. This is the trickiest to swap but you can handle it. For quick breads, cookies, and muffins, swapping each egg with 1/4 cup applesauce or a flax or chia egg works fabulously. If you don’t mind a subtle banana taste, 1/2 a small ripe mashed banana will also work. For brownies, replacing an egg with a chia or flax eggs or 1/4 cup puréed silken tofu or canned pumpkin will do the trick. Cakes are a bit trickier and sometimes with delicate crumb, aquafaba is best, but know that chia and flax eggs will do just fine.

To make a chia or flax egg, simply combine 1 tablespoon flax or chia seeds + 3 tablespoons water in a small bowl and allow to thicken for at least 10 minutes. Fabulous.

Now back to brownies: despite this long and winding post these truly couldn’t be easier. Make the brownies according to the mix instructions with swaps mentioned above, swirl in 1/4 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter, and bake according to time listed on the package.

When there’s a minute or two left in the bake time, chop up vegan peanut butter cups (like Justin’s dark chocolate) and when you pull the brownies out of the oven to cool, sprinkle the cups over the top of the hot brownies. You’ll notice the cups will start to melt slightly; this is perfect. Sprinkle with flakey sea salt to finish, allow to cool, and enjoy, preferably crumbled atop your favorite non-dairy ice cream (I’m partial to Van Leeuwen or So Delicious Cashew Milk – particularly their Caramel Cashew Cluster ice cream myself).

I hope you make these or that this recipe has inspired you to use that box of brownie mix in your pantry that has been sitting there lonely for months.

Salted Peanut Butter Cup Brownies (Brownie Mix Shortcut)

Level: Easy
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Bake Time: 20-30 minutes
serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 1 box egg and dairy free brownie mix (just check labels, many brands are vegan)
  • oil / water that the mix calls for -1/4 cup apple sauce, silken tofu, mashed sweet potato or 1 tablespoon chia + 2 tablespoons water per egg called for on box.
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (optional)
  • 10-12 nondairy peanut butter cups (optional, I like Justin’s dark chocolate)
  • 1-2 tablespoons flakey sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven and prepare mix per box instructions, subbing your egg replacement for eggs.
  2. Pour into well-greased pan.
  3. Swirl in peanut butter evenly throughout batter.
  4. Bake per time called for on box.
  5. Remove from oven. Immediately too with sea salt + chopped pb cups.
  6. Enjoy! 🤗

Walnut Butter Brownies with Cherries

The other day I took a first attempt at the brownies that #broketheinternet: The Black Bean Brownie. I made mine Almond Joy-ish. They were good, but I still prefer my brownies bean-less. That said, they were still nommy, I scratched something off my enormous baking bucket list, and now I’m on a brownie kick. Giddy up.

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So less than a week since then, I have another biggg yummy batch of brownies at my disposal. This batch was inspired by two things: 1) The December Recipe Redux Challenge. 2) My favorite brownie combo of all times (chocolate + cherry + walnuts).

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This month The Recipe Redux turns 42 months old. Congrats ! So their challenge was to “Grab a book and Cook,” meaning grab the closest cookbook, open to page 42 or 142 and redux the recipe. Pretty fun, huh?! Well, while searching for ornaments from the depths of my basement, I came across some of my grandma’s ancient cookbooks. I was also lucky enough to uncover some of her notebooks full of her own recipes, which are so invaluable I could cry. She was a brilliant innovator, cook, and creator, with ideas and food hunches far beyond her time. More on this in another post. Anyways, I picked up and was immediately amused by her yellowing, original Betty Crocker Cookbook. Oh my gosh, it has all the classic, unhealthy butter old-school desserts you could ever want as well as some comments that would probably offend most working women of this generation. When I hit page page 42, a recipe for “Cocoa Brownies with Walnuts” stared me back in the face.

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I have to admit I was thrilled to have an excuse to make another batch of brownies. Making them the other day really reminded me how much I love them. The brownies in the Betty Crocker Recipe were full of butter, sugar, eggs, milk, and refined white flour. Mine are a bit revamped and given a modern, semi-sophisticated twist by using walnut butter as a fat, which I made by pureeing walnuts into a nut butter in my food processor to avoid spending $14 on a jar of walnut butter. #win #DIY.

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The walnut butter provides healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats, as well as all the Omega’s you could ever want or need from a brownie. You know how much I love those #MUFAs and #PUFAs baby. I also reduced all the eggs/excess sugar/refined flour in the original recipe, replacing white flour with oat flour, and lowering the sugar without loosing flavor. Melting Baker’s chocolate is the KEY to delicious brownies, and adds a ton of flavor and a delicious fudginess that simply can’t be beat, so I added that to the original recipe, kept the cocoa powder (because as I discuss here, it’s practically a superfood), and added chocolate chips for more chocolate goodness and texture, and more walnuts and dried cherries, for flavor, texture, and simply because chocolate + cherry = one of my all-time favorite combinations.

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The end result was a fudgy, delicious, gluten-free and vegan brownie that could satisfy any chocolate craving in a single square, but won’t leave you feeling icky or gross. I really ended up loving the walnut butter as the fat, as it gave it a nice, nutty flavor that made the brownies intriguing to the palate, and feel super grown-up and fancy without tasting like it was trying too hard.

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These wonderful chocolate nuggets are perfect for the holidays, or really anyday. Because Katy Perry says you should make it like your birthday *~*everyday*~* and I have to say I totally agree with her. My mantra as of late has been “be as nice to yourself as you would to your friend.” So #treatyoself with yummy, healthy food every day, and do things that make you happy. Today for me this means, brownies, hot chocolate, my pups, and watching Throwdown with Bobby Flay on YouTube. Hope your day is as awesome as mine. Happy holidays and happy eating!

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Prep Time: 30 minutes

Bake Time: 30 minutes

Level: Easy

makes on 9″ square pan of brownies, roughly 12 servings 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup walnuts, divided into 1 1/4 cup to make butter and additional 1/4 cup to mix in
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4-6 ounces Baker’s chocolate (depending on desired chocolate-y-ness)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds or flax seeds
  • 1 cup oat flour or other flour (I make oat flour by processing one cup rolled oats in a food processor until a powder forms)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place 1 1/4 cup walnuts and a tablespoon of water in a food processor or blender and puree until a thick nut butter forms. When it looks like peanut butter, it’s done. Transfer to a large bowl and add brown sugar. Mix well.

2. Cut Baker’s chocolate in a small microwave safe bowl and melt in the microwave by heating in 30 second increments, mixing between each increment, roughly 1-2 minutes total, until smooth and melted. Set aside and allow to cool to cool slightly.

3. Place almond milk and chia seeds or flax in a cup and allow to thicken, at least 10 minutes.

4. In a large bowl, combine oat flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder. Whisk together well.

5. Once chocolate has cooled slightly (lukewarm is fine), pour into the walnut butter and brown sugar mix and mix well until chocolate is well combine. Add flour/cocoa mixture to the bowl and slowly add the almond milk mixture. Mix gently until well combine into a batter.

6. Add chocolate chips, dried cherries, and additional 1/4 cup walnuts. Pour into a lightly oiled or parchment lined 9″ baking pan.  Top with even more walnuts if you’re as walnut crazy as I am.

7. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted and removed in the center of the pan. EAT.

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For more Page 42 challenge posts from fellow members of The Recipe Redux, click around below !

Almond Joy Black Bean Brownies [vegan + gluten free]

Black bean brownies have been going viral on the blogosphere for quite a while. It seems like every time I turn around I see them re-pinned or re-blogged or re-attempted or talked about by a foodie friends. And for the last year or so, I have been curious. Skeptical, but curious nonetheless.

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Last night my curiosity finally got the better of me and I finally set out to give them a whirl. Here are my thoughts: you really can’t taste the black beans. Like at all. I was very skeptical that they’d have a strong bean-y flavor. They don’t.

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Texture wise they’re my ideal brownie: FUDGY. I’m team-fudgy when it comes to brownie. Not team cake-y. This is a personal preference. Taste wise they’re pretty darn chocolately I must say. The coconut oil adds a nice mild coconut undertone to the chocolate, but you can use vegetable oil if you’d like.

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I added almonds and coconut and decided they were Almond Joy themed but truly this was a result of what was on hand in the house (per usual).Also I adore nuts and chocolate and coconut together, but you can twist and turn these babies with whatever mix-ins you desire. Dried fruit would be lovely too. I also added dark chocolate chips. Don’t skip this. They’re basically essential. #texture #morechocolate

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The secret, in my humble opinion, to black bean brownies, is patience. I KNOW. The worst. Especially when you’re me and you’re hungry and/or things smell good and they’re chocolate-related. But trust me. Wait until these are fully chilled to enjoy. In fact, they taste best frozen. And they taste best if let sit overnight. This gives the chocolate flavor a chance to develop and really sink in and take over. The longer they #chill the chocolatelier they are. So I’d highly recommend cooling or even freezing these babies for maximum enjoyment.

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So here is my first attempt at/experience with black bean brownies. They’re better than I expected, for sure. But personally I do tend to enjoy black bean-less brownies over black bean brownies, but I’m happy I tried to make these, as they certainly are delicious, healthy, full of fiber, and were fun and super easy and fast to make, and most importantly they’ve put me on a brownie kick, and I’m now fully amped to share a bunch of my favorite brownie recipes ever on kbaked.com. Stay tuned, stay full of gas, and stay chocolatey. 😉

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Stay tuned, stay full of gas, and stay chocolatey. 😉 xoxo, kbakes.

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Prep Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 25-30 minutes

Level: Easy

Yield: one 9″ square pan of brownies, about 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 15-ounce can black beans (approx 1 1/2 cups), drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce or 1/2 mashed banana
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds, plus more for top (optional, but highly recommended)
  • 1/4 cup coconut shreds (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In a food processor or blender combine all ingredients besides chocolate chips, almonds, and coconut shreds. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and fold in chocolate chips, almonds, and coconut shreds.

3. Grease or line a 9″ square baking tray with parchment paper. Pour batter into the baking tray and smooth it around with a spatula. Pop into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick placed in the center of the brownies comes out clean upon removal.

4. Allow to cool completely before you even attempt to slice them (I know, I know, it’s basically torture). I recommend letting them cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, and slicing them and storing them in the freezer and enjoy :-). #fudgy

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