But I promise you, these are legit.

There’s not one ingredient in this recipe that I’m sorry about. With around 8 grams of protein per serving (not including frosting), these refined-sugar-free, chocolatey, and super fudgy brownies will crush your sweet cravings while packing a protein/antioxidant punch.

The super dense chocolate flavor comes from cacao, which, if you’re not familiar, is essentially cocoa’s superfood twin. Cacao and cocoa are notably different, but they both have the same origin: cacao beans. Post-harvest, cocoa is processed at a much higher temperature, which makes it sweeter, but affects the cacao bean’s molecular level in a way that degrades the nutrient content. Cacao, on the other hand, is typically raw or minimally processed, which allows it to stay classified as a superfood.

Here’s a further breakdown of the benefits of cacao:

  • Cacao is full of antioxidants, particularly phenolic phytochemicals and flavanoids, which protect your cells from free radicals and oxidative damage (read: anti-aging benefits!)
  • Cacao contains high levels of magnesium, which is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in our bodies (especially for muscle and nerve function and keeping your heart rhythm steady).
  • Cacao is also rich in iron, which acts as an oxygen carrier for your body to improve your muscle and brain function and regulate body temperature.
  • Cacao is loaded with fiber, which not only makes you feel fuller, but is crucial for healthy digestion.
  • Surprisingly, cacao is also a great source of monounsaturated fat, cholesterol-free saturated fat, calcium, potassium, natural carbohydrates, and *drumroll* protein!

Other ingredients that add to the nutrient profile of these brownies include pumpkin puree, raw almond butter, and maca. The pumpkin acts as a healthy egg and oil replacement, providing a fudgy texture while contributing potassium, vitamin C, and fiber. The raw almond butter has a similar effect chemistry-wise, but gives the brownies a boost of vitamin E and satiating omega-3 fats. Lastly, maca, which acts as a secret ingredient in a lot of my recipes, gives these brownies an adaptogenic edge to support adrenal function, hormone regulation, positive mood, and more.

Topping off this recipe (quite literally) is the peanut butter cacao avocado frosting.

I know what you’re thinking – avocado seems like the *weirdest* base ingredient for frosting, but hear me out.

When combined with the right flavors, avocado essentially loses its taste. Here the flavor is cancelled out by the cacao, peanut butter, vanilla extract, and maple syrup, allowing the avocado to do what it was *partially* meant to do – provide a super rich and creamy texture.

However, texture aside, the purpose of the avocado frosting is to incorporate additional healthy fats and fiber to satisfy your appetite and cravings. Unlike traditional frosting, which often gives us a sugar high that leaves us wanting more, this frosting is refined-sugar-free and packed with positive health benefits so you can be extra with your brownies without feeling guilt.

Now, who’s ready for the recipe?

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes | Baking Time: 20-25 minutes | Chill Time: 1 hour +

Total Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes + | Makes: 9-12 brownies

Ingredients:

Brownies

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup raw almond butter *
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut sugar
  • 2 tsp. maca powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup cacao powder
  • 4 Tbsp. Vega Clean chocolate protein powder (or another vegan chocolate protein powder of your choice)
  • Coconut oil (for greasing the pan)
  • PB Fit (optional, for garnish)

Peanut Butter Cacao Avocado Frosting

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/3 cup cacao powder
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. raw peanut butter
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. maca powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8-inch pan with coconut oil.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, almond butter, and maple syrup. Once combined, whisk in the coconut sugar, maca powder, cinnamon, sea salt, and vanilla.
  3. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the cacao powder and chocolate protein powder.
  4. Transfer the brownie mixture to your prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow the brownies to cool to room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator for an hour. Note: The brownies will seem undercooked when you first take them out of the oven, but as they cool they will firm up!
  6. While your brownies are cooling, make the avocado cacao frosting by adding the avocado, cacao powder, maple syrup, coconut sugar, almond butter, vanilla extract, maca powder, and cinnamon to a food processor or blender. Blend all ingredients until smooth and store in the refrigerator until the brownies are ready to be frosted.
  7. Once the brownies have cooled in the refrigerator for one hour, frost them evenly with the avocado cacao frosting. Alternatively, you can spread your favorite nut butter on top or eat the brownies unfrosted. Cut into 9-12 squares and serve, or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. If desired, sprinkle with PB Fit or other toppings for garnish.

* Note: Other nut butters, like cashew or peanut, can substituted for the almond butter in this recipe with varying taste results.