This post is sponsored by Imperial Sugar! I’ve used Imperial Sugar for years and I am thrilled to be partnering with them. Thank you for supporting the partners that keep the bake offs coming!
Finding the best vegan brownie recipe on the internet comes with great benefits–no need to buy eggs (with their increasing prices!) or dairy. But at what cost? Could we find a vegan recipe that’s just as easy–or easier–than its conventional counterparts? Would we need to buy a million obscure ingredients to find success? After comparing more than 50 vegan brownie recipes on the internet, I selected 9 popular recipes to answer all these questions and more. Read on to find my favorite vegan brownie recipe.
- 47 total tasters
- All 9 recipes were baked fresh the day of and served at room temperature
- All tasters ranked each brownie on a scale from 0-10 for flavor, texture, and overall as a whole
- All brownies were baked in a parchment-lined glass pan
- Gold Medal bleached all-purpose flour
- Bob’s Red Mill superfine almond flour
- Bob’s Red Mill oat flour
- Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks
- Simple Truth Organic refined coconut oil
- Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips
- Ghiradelli non-dairy dark chocolate baking chunks
- Ghiradelli Majestic cocoa powder (Dutch process)
- Simple Truth Organic light brown sugar
- Kirkland maple syrup
- Sunbutter sunflower butter
- Navitas Organics cacao butter
- Now Foods soy milk powder
- Amber dry malt extract
- Bob’s Red Mill baking powder and baking soda
- Kirkland vanilla extract
- Diamond kosher salt
- Imperial granulated and brown sugar
PARTNER NOTE: I’m delighted to be partnering with Imperial Sugar on this bake off as I’ve consistently used their consistent, high-quality pure cane sugar products throughout my bake offs. Imperial Sugar is non-GMO verified, allergen free and gluten-free!
For more sweet inspiration, you can visit Imperial Sugar to find more than 4,000 expert-tested recipes, free downloadable vintage cookbooks, sugar scrubs and bath products at the Sugar Spa, and lots of helpful guides on their blog. You can also check out their Pinterest, You Tube, Instagram for even more recipe inspiration!
How I Selected the Recipes
Back in the day, I was very into vegan baking. There is more than one avocado brownie or black bean brownie in my past (in fact, I still stand by this black bean cake). While my original interest in vegan baking was rooted in “healthy baking,” that was not at all a consideration for this batch of vegan recipes. This bake off was a singular quest to find a vegan brownie that can stand up next to a regular brownie.
With that in mind, I included a mix of recipes that included different egg substitutes (flax, egg replacer, aquafaba or no egg replacement), types of chocolate (cocoa only vs. with melted chocolate), techniques (adding a sugar syrup) and more. Here’s a summary of the different recipes and what made them special:
|Minimalist Baker||Cocoa-based, flax egg|
|Nora Cooks||Cocoa-based, flax egg|
|Rainbow Plant Life||Aquafaba|
|Short & Sotma||Aquafaba (reduced + agar flakes)|
|Loopy Whisk||Aquafaba + sugar syrup|
|Jessica in the Kitchen||Egg replacer, coconut oil, almond flour|
|Butternut Bakery||Oat flour, maple syrup, Sunbutter, coconut oil, flax eggs|
|Top With Cinnamon||Sourdough discard, cornstarch, almond flour, aquafaba|
|Serious Eats||Organic powdered sugar, soy milk powder, dry malt extract|
Vegan Baking FAQ
Many commercial chocolate chips include dairy ingredients like whey, milk fat or milk solids. However, there are a growing number of vegan or dairy-free chocolate chip brands as well as “accidentally” vegan (i.e. they’re not specifically branded vegan, but happen to be so) brands available. A few popular vegan chocolate chip brands include Enjoy Life, Trader Joe’s, Guittard, and Sunspire dairy-free chips. I found my non-dairy Ghiradelli chocolate chunks at a restaurant supply store and would highly recommend them if you can find them! For a complete list, check this article out.
Refined coconut oil is best for a neutral, non-coconutty flavor. Virgin or extra virgin will still impart coconut flavor–look for “refined” to ensure no coconut flavor. Use unrefined coconut oil if you don’t mind more coconut flavor.
I’ve only tried the Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks, which I used for this test given their consistency and wide availability. However, I’ve heard great reviews of Miyoko’s vegan butter and there are plenty of vegan butter round ups online.
You have several options! Of the recipes I tested, three recipes used flax, one used Bob’s Red Mill’s egg replacer product, and Bravetart uses a soy milk powder as an emulsifier. Meanwhile, other recipes don’t use an explicit egg replacer–it’s not always necessary to replace the binding properties of an egg.
Most commercial sugar is not considered vegan due to a processing method that uses bone char during the filtering process. Because my main goal of testing plant-based recipes was to see if I could closely imitate conventional recipes, I wasn’t strict about using vegan sugar unless the recipe explicitly called for it. However, if you want to stick to vegan ingredients, look for organic sugar (USDA-certified organic sugar won’t use bone char).
As always, please take these results with a grain of salt since the data comes from a limited pool of tasters. Baker’s error can always occur and I try to point out when I know for sure that it did!
I truly do think all of these recipes would be amazing if eaten standalone, so I encourage you to read through each of these recipe descriptions to find the one that’s right for you! (If you’re wondering my favorites, I always list them at the end of the post.)
- Egg replacer:
- Aquafaba: Aquafaba is the liquid that surrounds canned chickpeas and is a surprisingly great egg substitute. In this bake off, all the recipes that called for aquafaba (Top With Cinnamon, Rainbow Plant Life, Short & Sotma) call for aquafaba in whipped form as a meringue into which melted chocolate is mixed. These recipes generally did very well as I think the aquafaba meringue contributes to a really fluffy, silky texture. It is a slightly more labor-intensive technique, but I think worth it if you have the time.
- Flaxseed: While flax eggs (a combination of ground flax and water mixed together until gelled) are quite common in vegan baking, I’ve had bad experiences in the past with tasting the flax or detecting particles of flax in the baked good. I do think brownies are a better application for flax eggs because the cocoa generally dominates the flavor, but you’ll generally be able to detect a subtle graininess in the texture. Interestingly, while I could detect the flax more strongly in Minimalist Baker and Butternut Bakery, it was almost imperceptible in the Nora Cooks recipe because the chocolate was so prominent.
- Egg replacer: Only one recipe (Jessica in the Kitchen) used Bob’s Red Mill’s egg replacer. The replacement is made up of potato starch, tapioca flour, baking soda and psyllium husk. Although there were many confounding factors in Jessica’s recipe, the egg replacer felt superior to flax because there was no gritty texture from the flax.
- Cocoa vs. chocolate: Brownies made with melted chocolate will typically be richer than those made with cocoa powder due to the higher cocoa butter content. However, using a high-fat cocoa powder like Ghiradelli actually helped make the brownies made with only cocoa (Minimalist Baker, Jessica in the Kitchen and Butternut Bakery) quite rich. I can’t guarantee you’ll achieve the same results with a less rich cocoa powder, but the results of using Ghiradelli in a cocoa-only brownie were fairly promising.
- Fat: The main fats used in these brownies were vegan butter, vegetable oil, refined coconut oil and nut butter (Sunbutter). To be honest, I couldn’t tell a textural difference between the vegan butter and oils. However, the brownies made with vegan butter tended to do better in the taste test, which indicates the flavor is typically going to be better with vegan butter vs. a vegetable oil. Although nut butter adds great richness and fat, the flavor of the Sunbutter was easily detectable. I’d be wary of using nut butter in a brownie recipe going forward unless I wanted that specific flavor.
- Flour: Most recipes used all-purpose flour (yielding very standard results) but the recipes using almond flour definitely had a slightly grittier texture. Top With Cinnamon was the only recipe to use sourdough discard and while I don’t think this affected the texture greatly, some tasters noted a fermented flavor to these brownies.
- How to get a glossy top: Per King Arthur, some say the key to getting glossy-topped brownies is dissolving the sugar fully. This hypothesis seems born out in all the brownies with glossy tops: Loopy Whisk (uses a sugar syrup), Top With Cinnamon, Rainbow Plant Life, Short & Sotma (all use an aquafaba meringue with sugar whipped in) and Serious Eats (uses boiling water to help melt the sugar).
Analysis of the Best Vegan Brownie Recipes
Loopy Whisk: a deeply fudgy brownie with a glossy top and a slightly flat flavor
Kat’s recipe wins for the simplest ingredient list–just 6 ingredients (not including water). With a high proportion of dark chocolate, this recipe stood out for its use of a sugar syrup! Kat notes that the syrup serves to replace the egg and sugar mixture in a conventional brownie recipe to provide a shiny top and fudgy texture. These were relatively easy to make, though they do require using at least two different bowls/pots.
Loopy Whisk is one of several brownies that has an absolutely gorgeous glossy top and a deeply dark interior. These were thick, fudgy and moist but a tiny bit muddy or pasty in texture (texture kind of sticks to your teeth). The flavor feels very chocolate-y, but somehow a bit one note, lacking the richness of others. While this is an amazing recipe to make if you have limited ingredients, there is definitely a lack of flavor.
- Great texture: fudgy middle with a crunchy top. There’s something in the mixture that’s overwhelming the chocolate flavor, and overall it’s a bit too oily.
- Too earthy tasting but the texture is great
- Too sweet. Feels like a chocolate substitute and not cocoa. Needed something like salt or coffee or something bitter to cut it. A little too soft and fudgy.
- I had a strong aversion to the flavor from the first bite – maybe just not enough sweetness to offset the bitter flavors, but also just doesn’t taste much like chocolate or even cocoa. Texture was good, felt very “traditional” brownie with a little bit of cakeyness.
- Kind of umami in a weird way, like mushrooms, can taste whatever oil was used to make this. Structurally sound – cakey and fudgey in texture, but not sweet enough.
Serious Eats: a silky, fudgy, melt-in-your-mouth brownie with a deeply chocolate-y flavor peppered with light bitter notes
The premise of Stella’s recipe was slightly different from the rest: a dry brownie mix to which you can simply add boiling water and vanilla before baking. Accordingly, the mix called for some unusual ingredients like cocoa butter, soy milk powder and dry malt extract that, to be honest, were a pain to source. (Dry malt extract is typically found at home brewing stores, though it can also be found online.) Everything gets blended together in a food processor until very fine (a good food processor is a necessity for this recipe), and then the dry mix can be stored until ready to use. While the dry mix was a pain to source, these were an absolute breeze to make once the mix was complete!
These brownies also had a gorgeous crinkly, papery glossy top with a sensuously fudgy, softly chewy texture. The espresso and salt both feel quite prominent, making the chocolate taste almost a little too dark and bitter. Meltingly soft when warm, the texture changes to chewier and fudgier once cool. Some tasters didn’t love how sticky the texture of these were and found the dark chocolate flavor a little too bitter. But if you love an intensely dark and fudgy brownie, this one is for you!
- Good chocolate flavor and salt level. Chewy, Fudgy texture. I liked this one!
- Texture is almost identical to fudge and the flavor is rich with something a bit familiar but I can’t place – could be coffee? straight cocoa powder without as much sugar? I didn’t like the flavor at first bite, so I scored it lower and then after another bite, I liked it more so I increased my score
- Unique dark crackly top- extra chewy- nice complex bittersweet chocolate flavor- some kind of unique flavor coming through but not sure what it is
- The texture was near perfect for this one, but it had an unpleasant bitter aftertaste, similar to #6. Not sweet enough
- Texture is like play-doh — sticks to your teeth. Flavor is weirdly salty and a little sour.
Butternut Bakery: a thick, moist and cakey brownie with nutty undertones
Jenna’s recipe used among the most unconventional ingredients with oat flour, Sunbutter, coconut oil, maple syrup and flaxseed. While I tried to avoid recipes used with nut butters to keep recipes consistent, I was enticed by the incredible photos and Jenna’s high performance in past bake offs–I was curious to see how the texture and flavor of these would compare. With a mix of cocoa and melted chocolate, these promised a ton of chocolate flavor.
These thick and dark brownies were also very soft but the most cakey while still being meltingly smooth and almost gooey, almost verging on pasty. You can definitely taste the Sunbutter when compared to the rest of the brownies but I think the nutty undertones would be more subtle if eaten standalone. While rich, this didn’t feel overly decadent–it’s a brownie I could eat more of. Given its mix of unconventional ingredients against brownies made with all-purpose flour, sugar and vegan butter, I think this held up quite well.
- Really rich and dark chocolatey. The mini chocolate chips on top are a nice touch. Definitely a cakey vs gooey brownie. Subtle coconut (?) flavor, maybe uses coconut sugar?
- Feels soft when you pick it up but the texture is kind of like a peanut butter energy bar. Slightly gooey but mostly cakey. Has a good amount of chocolate flavor but there’s something else in it that is slightly strange (sunflower?)
- Very soft brownie-more like a pudding cake. Can really taste nut butter, not my favorite. Unique touch with the mini chips but I miss the crackly crust.
- More cake like, almost nutty like it had some peanut butter. Almost tastes healthy. Didn’t taste very chocolatey despite the mini chocolate chips on top.
- Grainy, more wet-cake texture. More typical of what I’d expect from a vegan brownie. It has a dark chocolate flavor, less sweet than others.
Top With Cinnamon: a richly chocolate-y brownie with subtle fermented notes and a slightly crumblier texture
I’ve been eying Izy’s recipe for years! Her recipe uses a base of sourdough starter (don’t worry, if you don’t have any, I list some subs below) along with cornstarch to help with emulsification, almond flour for richness and structure, and an aquafaba meringue. Vegan butter in addition to cocoa and melted chocolate promised a super rich brownie. Because you whip the aquafaba for a good amount of time and fold in the melted chocolate + butter separately, this does take a decent amount of work.
In contrast to similar looking recipes like Serious Eats/Loopy Whisk, this felt like it had slightly more structure and slightly more chew (vs. straight melt-in-your-mouth fudge), but was slightly crumblier. It still maintains a super silky texture underneath a beautifully glossy top with a moist, rich crumb that turns fudgy, soft and slightly cakey when cool. While I loved this brownie unreservedly, I think some took points off for a flavor that had slightly fermented notes (from the sourdough starter) in contrast to the clearer chocolate flavor of some others.
- This tasted exactly like the ideal boxed brownie, just the right amount of sweetness, chocolate, and chewiness.
- This tastes the most quintessentially “brownie”, a nice balance of fudgy and cakey with a good flavor. Not too overwhelmingly chocolate, just the right amount.
- Tallest of the bunch, has a little bit of the crusty top that a brownie should have, looks cakey. Fluffy texture, cakey, not very gooey, but then it kind of melts into something more dense. Chocolate flavor is very good.
- Initially cakey texture that almost disintegrates in my mouth when I eat it. A nice compromise between cakey and fudgy consistency. I just want a richer chocolate flavor.
- There’s a funk flavor that means well but is too strong. Flavor feels almost fruity? Not a fan of the cakey texture
Minimalist Baker: a gooey-centered, crisp-edged, slightly cakey brownie that’s a breeze to make!
This was probably the simplest recipe I tested with just melted vegan butter, cocoa powder and flax eggs. No chocolate needed (though I did include the optional chocolate chips)! Made in one bowl and mixed by hand, these were a breeze to make. For this test, I tripled the recipe and baked the brownies in a 9×13 pan.
Although I wouldn’t describe any of these brownies as cakey, this erred ever-so-slightly on the cakey end of the spectrum (along with Butternut Bakery) with a slight chew. For not containing any melted chocolate, these had an impressively dark, rich appearance with a moist, gooey center and crisp edges. In comparison to other recipes, you can detect a slight flax flavor if you’re looking for it (but I doubt the average person would notice if these were made standalone). These definitely felt less decadent than other brownies–more of an everyday brownie that’s no less delightful.
- The best one!! The perfect amount of sweetness. No bitterness and the texture was on point.
- Very dark looking; mild bittersweet chocolate flavor; tasted like classic brownie
- Crunchier bottom but also gooey on the top, not too sweet but also not weird tasting, just lacking a bit in depth of flavor. Texture is quite oily
- Tastes like cocoa without much sweetness. Texture is too crumby for my taste. Looks dark with none of the richness I expected to come with its looks.
- Pretty bland but not in a bad way, personally I don’t think it’s sweet enough, had a crust, somewhat crumbly inside/coarse crumb, good chocolate flavor; probably what I would consider an average brownie
Jessica in the Kitchen: a bittersweet Oreo-esque, deeply salty, slightly gritty brownie with nutty notes
Jessica’s brownies were one of several gluten-free/vegan recipes. Made with almond flour, Bob’s Red Mill egg replacer and cocoa powder, these were nearly as easy to make as Minimalist Baker. I like that she gives the option to use coconut oil or any neutral oil as I typically have vegetable oil on hand (though I did use coconut oil for the test).
These came out of the oven looking just as neat and rich as the pictures (as opposed to the over-the-top gooey decadence of some other brownies). I feel like these were an understated delight! They’re slightly chewy and very moist with a rich, nutty, salty profile. The slight grittiness and deeply dark cocoa flavor of these reminded me of Oreos. While these were quite oily and came out of the oven with oil bubbling up on the edges (hinting at less emulsification), the flavor of these was one of my favorites.
- This is an amazing brownie. Great texture, almost like a rich sponge. Tastes like an Oreo
- Actually amazing texture and great salty flavor but appearance pulls down score
- It has a strong coconut(?) flavor which I don’t mind, and it’s not overly gooey. I really liked this one.
- Texture is definitely a miss (too flat, too oily) but flavor is really interesting and unique. Maybe nuts or seeds as a substitute? Not traditional straight-chocolate flavor but enjoyable.
- Very greasy (the bottom is dripping grease). Not very interesting visually, doesn’t have the crusty top. The bottom is hard/tacky and its not really gooey like a brownie should be, kind of dense. Chocolate flavor is there but has some slight strangeness to it.
Nora Cooks: a dark, balanced brownie overflowing with chocolate
Nora’s recipe was similar to Minimalist Baker (using melted vegan butter, flax eggs and cocoa), but her recipe used a much higher ratio of cocoa and sugar. Nora also calls for chocolate chips (rather than listing them as optional), a move I fully support. I was curious to see how the recipes from these two leading vegan blogs were compare.
There’s no doubt that these brownies were FULL of chocolate flavor–to be honest, it was hard to separate the flavor of the brownie itself from the many chocolate chips crowding the space. These will definitely take on the flavor of whatever chocolate chip you choose to use, surrounded by dough that is rich and dark and moist with slightly chewy edges. If I had to nitpick, you don’t get a glossy sheen to the top, but flavor is what counts!
- Shockingly good, great texture, nice and gooey, rich flavor, not too sweet. After going through all the brownies again, this was by far my favorite.
- I liked the texture the chcolate chips give. This felt pretty dark, chocolate-y rich and a little bitter, which is how I like my brownies.
- So gooey and sticky, tastes like the Ghirardelli brownie mix before you bake it (not in a bad way), really good chocolate flavor. Love the extra crunch, love the chocolate chunks, kept wanting to eat more – tied with [Rainbow Plant Life] as my favorite! Super moist and didn’t have a lot of structure, but flavor and texture beats that!
- Good chocolate flavor but a bit gooier and sticker than I’d prefer. I wish it had a little more structure
- VERY fudgy, dangerously close to a pudding in the center with crunchy edges, kind of unpleasantly gooey. Weird aftertaste.
Short and Sotma: an uber-silky, fudgy, deeply chocolate-y brownie with a crunchy lid of meringue
I had nearly solidifed my list of vegan brownie contenders when I saw a suggestion on Instagram to include Short and Sotma. When I discovered she had already done her own vegan brownie bake off, I almost canceled the bake off right then–she’d already done an amazing job! But when I saw her ultimate vegan brownie recipe based on her research, I knew I had to try it. Annie borrows techniques from her favorite recipes that she’s tested (a whipped aquafaba from Rainbow Plant Life and Top With Cinnamon, a combo of melted chocolate and cocoa for optimal flavor) and tweaks them. Principally, she reduces aquafaba and adds agar flakes to create an even more stable meringue before adding in the melted chocolate and dry ingredients.
My batch turned out shockingly thick compared to Annie’s very thin brownies in the photos. I did make a double batch baked in a 9×13, and they bubbled over in the oven. (I think a single batch could easily be made in a 9×13 pan, and might possibly turn out more like Annie’s photos in thickness). Underneath a thin crispy lid of meringue, these brownies were silky smooth and breath-takingly chocolate-y with a strong level of salt. I could see some people complaining that these are too oily, but I prefer to see them as perfectly rich and decadent. There is virtually no chew here–these are all silk and soft fudge.
- Wow. Beautiful brownie. Gorgeous crust, sophisticated complexity. Some umami, not too sweet. Can still get a bit of bittersweet which is perfect. Perfect chewy cakey balance. Top contender in the brownie pageant.
- This was somehow fudgy but not dense! Amazing texture considering it was a corner piece. Platonic ideal of a brownie.
- Slightly salty, right balance of sweet and chocolate. Fluffy/crackly top. My favorite
- Solid runner up – another brownie that doesn’t taste vegan and is heavy on the chocolate (cocoa specifically) flavor. The texture is definitely for people who like gooey brownies, not much cakey here. The crackle on the top was almost enough to put it in my top spot, but I tasted again alongside [Rainbow Plant Life] and confirmed this one is my second favorite.
- Bitter and gooey, sweet aftertaste, too moist, waaaay too sweet
Rainbow Plant Life: thick and decadent with a balanced, ultra-chocolatey flavor and glossy top
Nisha’s recipe also uses aquafaba along with a mix of chocolate and cocoa powder, vegan butter and espresso powder. This recipe is a bit labor-intensive to make as it requires whipping the aquafaba into a meringue, adding melted chocolate and butter and sifting in the dry ingredients. (Still, slightly less work than Short & Sotma as you don’t have to reduce the aquafaba.)
Like several others, this had a glorious glossy top that covered a satisfyingly hefty brownie. The flavor was beautifully bittersweet with a full, balanced flavor from the espresso and salt without being overly bitter. When warm, the interior texture is irresistibly silky like Short & Sotma but with a tiny bit more chew around the edges. It settles into a chewier, fudgier texture as it cools–an absolute work of art! I doubt most people could tell this is vegan. I would easily make this again.
- Definitely favorite of the bunch. Absolutely perfect combination of texture (gooey, but still holds its structure, with a little cakey-ness) and flavor. This is actually the first brownie that doesn’t taste “vegan”, I would believe this is a regular brownie.
- Has a really nice toasty and nutty flavor, can taste the chocolate, nice salt accents within to balance it out, great, ideal fudgy texture. Also love the chocolate pieces scattered throughout – would say this is most like a normal brownie out of all, tied with [Nora Cooks] for favorite
- Looks very much like a normal brownie, nice shiny crusty top and it was a pleasant shade of dark brown. Edges were pleasantly crispy and the inside is the right amount of gooey. Texture is maintained even as you chew. Flavor is very chocolate-y with a hint of coffee.
- My favorite. I’d take this over most non-vegan brownies. Good smell, good balance of crackle top and soft middle.
- The big glob of chocolate in each bite made this brownie. I’d like it more if it traded some sweetness for cocoa richness, but this was still great.
- A bit on the sweet side, great texture, bitter aftertaste (but not terrible)
Recommendations for the Best Vegan Brownies
Erika’s picks: Rainbow Plant Life, In the Kitchen with Jessica, Short & Sotma
Crowd favorite: Rainbow Plant Life
Lowest effort, highest payoff: Minimalist Baker
Best chewy brownie: In the Kitchen with Jessica, Minimalist Baker
Best fudgy brownie: Nora Cooks, Rainbow Plant Life
Best silky brownie: Short & Sotma, Serious Eats, Top With Cinnamon Loopy Whisk
Best cakey brownie: Butternut Bakery
Simplest ingredient list: Loopy Whisk