Sweetened mostly with dates, these vegan zucchini brownies are low in sugar and fat, but the decadent chocolate-peanut frosting makes them taste rich and fudgy.
Even when your blog is called “FatFree Vegan Kitchen,” some occasions just demand to be celebrated with chocolate and peanut butter. My family has been through some challenging times recently, so when we see an opportunity to celebrate, we seize it. Today is my beloved husband’s birthday, and he requested Barbequed Ribz for dinner tonight and let me decide what to make for dessert. I’ve had a craving for chocolate lately, so I chose to make up a batch of chewy, chocolately brownies with a little green zucchini twist.
But before I get to the recipe, I have some news about this little guy, and another reason to celebrate:
Loki is home! Unless you follow me on Facebook, you probably didn’t know he was missing because for four days I was too busy looking for him to worry about cooking or posting to my blog.
About two weeks ago, I woke up and noticed immediately that Loki didn’t run to greet me like he always does. We searched the house from top to bottom (I even looked in the dryer and the refrigerator) and he wasn’t here. The only explanation we could come up with was that he must have gotten out the night before, and no one had noticed.
We began calling him and searching the yard. When we couldn’t find him, we went around to our neighbors and asked them to look in their yards. When he still didn’t turn up, I really became panicked. I spent most of that first day outside, walking the streets calling him. I called Animal Control, emailed animal shelters (including the one that had rescued him), and contacted his vet.
That night and the three that followed, I could barely sleep for getting up and checking the back porch to see if he’d come home. I put up signs around the neighborhood, which promptly got rained down, looked in every tree, put his food and litter box in the carport, and eventually lost my voice from calling him. On his fourth day missing, Saturday, my daughter E and I laminated posters, posted them on the nearby streets, and put fliers in people’s mailboxes offering a reward. We were distraught and beginning to lose hope of seeing Loki again.
On Sunday morning, I was awakened by E running into my room shouting, “Loki is back! He was on the back porch when I got up!” I jumped from bed and went to check him out. He was a little hungry and a little jumpy, but as soon as I sat down, he was back in his place on my lap. Except for some sticky substance on his rabies tag, he was clean and unharmed. My best guess is that either he was trapped in someone’s shed or garage or someone, perhaps some kids, had taken him in, despite his ID tag. Whatever happened, we’re so relieved to have him back, and he seems happy to be home and less inclined to run out the door. (For more of Loki, check out these posts.)
Vegan Zucchini Brownies with a Healthy Twist
So we have a lot to celebrate. And these brownies are a way to do it without overdoing it. I used dates to sweeten them, so the basic brownie is very low in sugar and virtually fat free. But you can dress them up–a lot–by adding walnuts and a simple chocolate-peanut butter frosting that I learned from my friend Nava Atlas’s book Vegan Express.
And if you’re worried about tasting the zucchini, don’t. It adds moisture and, possibly, a dash of green, but the flavor is undetectable. Just ask my daughter E, who begged me not to add zucchini to the entire batch of brownies and then had to concede that she couldn’t taste it. And that she loved them.
Date-Sweetened Vegan Zucchini Brownies with Chocolate-Peanut Butter Frosting
- 1/2 cup pitted and chopped medjool dates
- 3/4 cup hot water
- 1/3 cup applesauce
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup vegan sugar, xylitol, stevia baking blend, or sweetener of choice (see note)
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup finely shredded zucchini (about 1/2 medium zucchini shredded in food processor)
- 1/4 cup walnut pieces optional
- 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
- 3 tablespoons almond milk or other non-dairy milk
- 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter or other nut butter
- Place the dates in a small bowl and pour the hot water over them. Allow to soak until the dates are soft, about 1/2 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare an 8×8-inch baking dish by lining it with parchment paper or oiling lightly.
- Put the dates and the soaking water in the blender with the applesauce and vanilla. Blend at high speed until completely smooth. Set aside.
- Combine the flour, cocoa, sugar or substitute, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the zucchini and walnuts, if using. Add the blended date mixture and stir until all the flour is moistened. The batter will be thick. Spoon it into the prepared pan and smooth over the top.
- Bake for about 25 minutes, or until brownies are no longer liquid in the middle and edges are firm but not drying out. Allow to cool.
- You can eat them plain or add the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Frosting:
- Combine the chocolate chips, non-dairy milk, and nut butter in a small microwaveable bowl or the top of a double boiler. If microwaving, cook on high for 30 seconds, stir, and repeat microwaving and stirring for 10-second intervals, until frosting is smooth. In double boiler, cook and stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Frost brownies immediately. Allow to stand about 20 minutes to firm up before cutting into 16 servings. Enjoy!
Nutritional info is approximate.
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Shikha @ Shikha la modeJuly 28, 2014 at 5:26 pm
Love things with dates in them!
CathyJuly 28, 2014 at 5:45 pm
I love sweetening with dates too. I wonder if 3/4 of a cup of dates would do instead of adding a 1/4 cup of sugar? Thank you Susan for this great recipe. I am so, so glad that Loki is back home.
AndreaJuly 28, 2014 at 5:43 pm
So happy you have been reunited with your beloved furry pal!!!! And these look delicious. Can’t wait to make!
tinksJuly 28, 2014 at 5:53 pm
So glad your kitty came home. They can be such a worry but worth it in the end.
The brownies look delish.
moonwatcherJuly 28, 2014 at 5:59 pm
WOW, Susan–these look really luscious and I bet they’re just delicious. When I can turn the oven on again, i may have to experiment with a gluten free carob version. Happy Birthday to your DH and lots of pets to Loki upon his safe return. What a relief! And I love that E ended up loving the zucchini filled brownies!!
NadegeJuly 28, 2014 at 6:03 pm
I generally don’t care for brownies, but these really look delicious.
I am so glad Loki came back home safely. It was a nice birthday present for your husband.
TessJuly 28, 2014 at 6:35 pm
Wonderful to hear Loki is home again, a beautiful cat.
The brownies look delicious.
johanna @ Green Gourmet GiraffeJuly 28, 2014 at 7:04 pm
Those brownies look superb and might well be just what I need to use up some medjool dates. The definitely look fit for a celebration to welcome loki back and give some birthday cheer – though I suspect the best present for your husband is having loki turn up – 4 days is a lot of stress – I love having our cat but sometimes she is out so late that I get really worried – often wish for a cat cam to be able to see where she goes. Am sure there is lots of snuggling with loki – enjoy
Millie l Add A LittleJuly 28, 2014 at 7:29 pm
This looks so delicious!!
KarenJuly 28, 2014 at 8:01 pm
I would use coconut sugar 🙂
Sally RosloffJuly 28, 2014 at 9:32 pm
July 28 is my birthday too! I’ve been craving something chocolate too, but am full from dinner out and it’s getting late so I may try making these tomorrow. But, I am allergic to zucchini of all things! Any suggestion for replacing it? If not, I’ll make one of your other desserts instead…
CLEvJuly 28, 2014 at 10:31 pm
I thought I was the only one who CAN’t eat zucchini! (I get stomach cramps.) We have two local restaurants with vegan entrees but alas, they are loaded with zucchini.
Sally RosloffJuly 29, 2014 at 11:03 am
I know, right? People don’t believe it but it’s good to hear of others who have this problem so I know I’m not making it up! I get terrible, double-over in pain stomach cramps and more…makes eating out more difficult for sure!
EileenAugust 3, 2014 at 9:24 am
I have the same issue with spinach and raw garlic!
Eating out is like playing roulette!
And explaining the consequences is mortifying 🙁
So I just say I am allergic, that usually gets their attention!
LindaJuly 28, 2014 at 9:55 pm
So happy you got your kitty back. I know what you went through and it is, well just so happy for happy endings. My cat ran out from me very quickly and got hit by a car and then ran and disappeared for a few days. Every hour on the hour I called for her and then one morning she was on the stairs to our home and seemed to be in shock. She was OK the vet said. She was through a lot. These darned critters steal our hearts, that’s for sure !!
Susie HewerJuly 29, 2014 at 3:11 am
First of all I’m so happy that Loki has returned to his family. I know how worrying it can be as one of our cats once went missing for 7 days and it was dreadful (he’d been locked in a shed or garage somewhere).
I often pop over to your blog to read your recipes but am always worried about the size of amounts when a ‘cup’ is specified (I’m in the UK) as I’ve read that the size of this measure varies for the USA and Australia. Please can you give me some guidance?
Susan VoisinJuly 30, 2014 at 9:36 am
Susie, I’m really not good at making the US to UK conversions–I used to try to include them in my recipes, but I was never sure I was getting it right. Here’s a page with dry and liquid charts that might help: http://whatscookingamerica.net/Q-A/BritishEquiv.htm
Helen in the UKAugust 3, 2014 at 6:14 pm
Hi, I’m also in the UK and find these two websites useful for converting ingredients
Hope this helps
VickiJuly 29, 2014 at 6:44 am
If you increased the dates instar of using sugar would you use the Dame amount of water?
Would maple syrup work?
Any suggestions for making them gluten free?
Susan VoisinJuly 30, 2014 at 9:31 am
Yes, I would keep the water the same while increasing the dates as much as possible. Even with 1/4 cup sugar or stevia blend, these were not very sweet, so just be prepared for that. Someone in the comments below made them gluten-free by just using a gluten-free baking blend instead of flour.
nancyJuly 29, 2014 at 7:51 am
The brownies look ‘fab’ but what’s even better is your kitty is home. My first cat was an indoor/outdoor kitty. I’d let him out in the morning per instructions of my boyfriend and bring him in at night. Darkness is when he said they can get into trouble. Well that point didn’t hold up. He got hit by a car and survived. Was attacked by ‘something’ and a big abscess formed and off to the vet again. In the dead of the winter we think he got accidentally got locked in someone shed for over 2 weeks. One day he appeared. Skinny but overall in good condition. We moved from that apartment to a house several town away. It was an early September morning i let him out only to hear him scream and never saw him again. Coyotes got him. I vowed to have a strictly indoor kitty. Couldn’t go through all the pain again. GLAD HE IS HOME!!!
Susan VoisinJuly 30, 2014 at 9:30 am
Oh how awful! I’m so glad that there are no coyotes here. I worry about dogs, but fortunately very few ever roam our area. I think Loki has learned his lesson because he’s making fewer attempts to go outside.
laloofahJuly 29, 2014 at 9:16 am
So relieved for you, and for Loki, that he returned unscathed to you! I’ve had a dog go missing during a hike (only to find him happily napping in our garage after searching and shouting myself hoarse for two hours!), so know a little bit what it’s like – I doubt I’d have slept a wink or cooked a single morsel too! You’ve had quite enough stress this spring/summer, am hoping August is delightfully fun – or at least boring! 🙂
These look delicious! My dad’s large Maine garden produced copious amounts of zucchini and it was my job to come up with recipes for it. So it was as a teen that I discovered its use in baking, beyond zucchini bread. I especially love it in chocolate cake and chocolate muffins, but this will be my first experience with it in chocolate brownies! I too wonder if there is a downside to sweetening this entirely with dates, but plan to use sucanat as my sugar since it goes so perfectly with chocolate.
Give Loki a hug from me and tell him not to ever put you through that again! It’s E’s job to give you gray hairs, not Loki’s. 😉
ruthJuly 29, 2014 at 12:39 pm
Wonderful news about Loki’s return. I fully understand the stomach churning anxiety for a beloved pet’s safety. And the need for chocolate!
I just made these with a standard, shop bought, gluten free flour mix. They turned out great and I will definitely make them again. The only thing I might change is to try a little more peanut butter in the topping, just because I like the flavour. Thank you!
Susan VoisinJuly 30, 2014 at 9:27 am
I’m so glad they turned out well gluten-free. Thanks for letting me know!
Debra DrewJuly 29, 2014 at 12:48 pm
So glad your Loki is back! Don’t know what we’d do if Bopsie Doodle ever took off.
Just wanted to thank you for all the amazing plant-based recipes. They are a true gold mine and continued inspiration, especially for those times when I want to just chuck it all and eat a steak! (not really!)
Susan VoisinJuly 30, 2014 at 9:26 am
LoriJuly 29, 2014 at 12:48 pm
I am so glad Loki is home!!! Many years ago my cat (Homer) went missing for 12 days & came home on Mother’s Day. He was very weak but glad to be home. One of our other cats (Tinkler) had pushed him out the screened window! I know just how sick you felt & I celebrate with you on Loki’s return! We had to reinforce all of our window screens with hardware fabric. We installed either hardware fabric or window grilles on the next 2 houses! Thankfully, this house has a different kind of window & our cat can’t fall out, or get pushed out by another naughty cat! Oh, & thanks for the brownie recipe. It looks great!!
Marta @ What should I eat for breakfast todayJuly 29, 2014 at 12:53 pm
Can you imagine finding happy Loki in a refrigerator eating something delicious, it would be a story to tell for years. I am glad he’s back. I have two cats and I don’t want to even imagine how sad it would be if one of them was missing. And best wishes for your husband!
Susan VoisinJuly 30, 2014 at 9:26 am
He’s been known to jump into the fridge when it’s open, so it was a slight possibility. More scary, though, was that he’s tried to get into the freezer. Fortunately, my freezer is packed, so there was little chance he’d gotten in there. I looked anyway.
SiobhanJuly 30, 2014 at 5:02 am
Wow! I just made them for my diabetic father – I left out the sugar – and they were amazing. I can’t believe they are so healthy! I made the frosting from more date puree, peanut butter and cocoa powder. Mmm…I may just have to eat the whole tray!
Susan VoisinJuly 30, 2014 at 9:24 am
I’m so glad you liked them!
ruthAugust 3, 2014 at 11:12 am
That’s a great tip for the frosting. I don’t usually keep chocolate in the house but always have dates, cocoa and carob.
Anna_PMorgan.July 30, 2014 at 6:21 am
There is this commonness between me and chocolates i.e. the undying love 🙂 I think the guy who claimed that we cannot buy happiness probably never had a delightful piece of chocolates. Show him this recipe and he will better understand. Thanks for sharing this visual delight, I so want to have it right now. Brownies are lovable because they conceal the healthy secrets of chocolates!
LucyJuly 30, 2014 at 9:16 am
These look awesome (as do so many of your cakes! Does a brownie qualify a cake…? Cakey things, then.) May I ask a silly question – I’ve scoured your site for any mention of the apple sauce you use and haven’t succeeded in turning anything up. I live in the troublesome UK, and I suspect that our apple sauce might be a wholly different thing to the standard in the US.
Mainly I think my question is, is apple puree going to hit the mark? Or does it need to be cut with, as I’ve spotted in recipes for homemade apple sauce, lemon juice/cinnamon/sugar?
Any advice you can give appreciated!
Susan VoisinJuly 30, 2014 at 9:24 am
Hi Lucy, a brownie is somewhere between a cookie (biscuit) and a cake. It’s supposed to be a little crunchy on the outside and chewy/fudgy on the inside.
Apple sauce is apples that are cooked and then pureed. Lemon juice may be added to keep them from turning brown. The kind I buy has no sugar or cinnamon added.
Pat MeadowsJuly 30, 2014 at 1:33 pm
To Lucy – My husband is a Brit, I’m a Yank, we live in the States.
Applesauce is the same in both countries. We have another thing called ‘apple butter’ which doesn’t appear to exist in the UK. It is different, being more concentrated, dark brown in color, and sweeter.
But when someone here says ‘applesauce’ – they mean the same thing as when someone in UK says it!
cynthiaJuly 30, 2014 at 3:30 pm
so happy to hear loki is back…
VickiJuly 31, 2014 at 8:23 am
The brownies were awesome! I made them gluten free by substituting 1 cup sorghum flour and a 1/2 tsp. of xanthan gum for the wheat flour. They were moist and wonderful! Definitely a hit in my family!
ruthAugust 3, 2014 at 11:15 am
That’s good to know, I’ll try that next time instead of the shop bought mix I used. Did you need to use more liquid with the sorghum?
fern reedAugust 3, 2014 at 9:17 am
I have 3 cats that are in door cats only!!!
I am so very glad your cat came home and I know how wonderful that is for you
I use dates to sweeten things too!!!
Thanks for your recipe!!
EileenAugust 3, 2014 at 9:32 am
Thanks for the recipe Susan! I made them for my husband two nights ago and he loved them! I had to substitute figs for the dates since that is all I had on hand, and they were still delicious 🙂 . I paired them with your amazing zucchini basil soup and fresh corn on the cob for a delicious summer meal. Thanks so much!
AnnieAugust 3, 2014 at 11:15 am
OMG look at the frosting, so irresistible. Gotta try this recipe asap!!!
PearlAugust 3, 2014 at 12:28 pm
yay, glad to hear Loki came back.
Shari StarkeyAugust 3, 2014 at 1:01 pm
This recipe is FANTASTIC! My family loved it. I made this with the frosting, but next time I will use less chocolate chips, and not add the extra sugar (I was worried the kiddo’s wouldn’t eat them if it wasn’t sweet enough). This is a permanent addition to the recipe box! Thank you!
EmAugust 3, 2014 at 1:52 pm
So happy to hear Loki is back home although I am one of the ones that did not know he was gone. These look wonderful! I am doing the 6 week challenge (yes again) tomorrow but maybe these could be for when I finish. And- not only do we both have lawyers for husbands but mine is a Leo too! August 8 he will be 50. I married a younger man. :-). Happy Birthday to your DH!
pennyAugust 4, 2014 at 12:08 am
hi Susan–a long time ago I read u were on a diet tell me–what did u do to lose your weight please>?–and what are u doing to keep it off?–I cant seem to get my head wrapped around anything to follow it I have a problem I love sweets –am a emotional eater—any help u can give me I would appreciate/
I had loss 50 lbs when I first became a vegan in 2004 kept it off for 7 yrs then got back in to bad habits sweets and ice cream diary—–moved -my husband got a termamile illness–now checking him for lung cancer—
thanks my email address is here –waiting for your answer.
AlexAugust 4, 2014 at 5:11 pm
These are really good, and they’ll definitely be a repeated-use recipe, but for those curious, it’s really more like chocolate zucchini bread than brownies. They are great though, highly recommend.
VitopureAugust 7, 2014 at 5:51 am
what an amazing frosting! The BEST!
JillAugust 7, 2014 at 10:16 pm
Definitely trying this one. I always appreciate your very clear and step-wise instructions. And yay kitty!
KathyAugust 12, 2014 at 11:10 pm
This recipe is the ultimate brownie recipe – for taste, moisture AND it’s healthy!
PJ CannonAugust 13, 2014 at 10:44 am
These were absolutely delicious and very moist. I replaced the applesauce with Ener-G egg replacer.
HelenAugust 13, 2014 at 3:24 pm
I made these for my birthday and they were delish! Even my non-vegan family and friends loved them. They were much better the day they were made than the day after. Still yummy though. Love this site!
Natalie @ OurPassionForFoodAugust 13, 2014 at 4:08 pm
Omg. These look amazing. I managed to find medjool dates for $2.99/lb here (SoCal) and have been waiting for a recipe to use them with. This may just be it! And a perfect ‘treat’ for my 3 year old niece and nephew too! 😀
Kay MAugust 14, 2014 at 9:57 pm
This was soooo good!! And I love how simple and easy and relatively
‘healthy” it was. The second time I made it I had no zucchini so I subbed it with one small banana blended in with the wet ingredients. It was even more fudgy and just the right amount of sweet (I only used the 1/4 cup of baking stevia). This will be my go to last minute dessert for company from now on! Thank you Susan!!
Amybeth HurstAugust 18, 2014 at 12:04 pm
Yum! This sounds delicious! Amybeth Hurst