As a kid, having dessert for breakfast was the dream. As an adult... Well, it’s still the dream, but we know better about the consequences of eating a ton of sugar first thing in the morning. In an episode of Alt-Baking Bootcamp, Sashah Handal, a baker, nutrition coach, and fitness trainer, demonstrates how to make a nutrient-rich version of a classic treat you can add to your list of healthy dessert recipes to try: peanut butter sweet potato brownies. Better yet, she says that you can eat it for your morning meal. (Count us in.)
“You have all the good fats, all the protein, all the good carbs so it makes for a really perfect grab-and-go snack... or even a brownie for breakfast,” Handal says of the recipe, adding that it hits all your macronutrients.
Wait, is there really such a thing as healthy brownies?
Typically, brownies call for both granulated and powdered sugar, plus refined flour and other ingredients that, while delicious, can cause your blood sugar to spike and crash. Not exactly the best way to start your day.
In Handal’s version, the base is made from a nutrient-dense ingredient that you already know and love but may be surprised to find in a brownie recipe—sweet potato. That’s right, a root veggie is the main ingredient in these brownies.
“Now before you shy away from the fact that it’s made out of sweet potatoes, don’t worry,” Handal says. “You’re not going to taste them at all and the delicious starchiness of the sweet potato actually lends to the most moist and amazing brownie.” Who would’ve thought?
What are the benefits of including sweet potatoes in your brownies?
Not only does a sweet potato base make for a gooey, dense brownie, it also packs in the nutrients that you otherwise wouldn’t get in a sweet treat. Plus, sweet potatoes are versatile, so you can include them in other recipes, too. Think: purple sweet potato pie bars, sweet potato cookies, and healthy sweet potato blondies… and the list goes on.
1. It’s a good source of vitamin A
Sweet potatoes are a major anti-inflammatory agent and strong source of vitamin A, which helps you maintain a strong immune system. “[The vitamin A content] is the major difference between sweet potatoes and white potatoes,” registered dietitian Christy Brissette, MS, RD, previously told Well+Good. Vitamin A is also linked to protecting the skin against UV damage and preventing and treating acne.
2. It contains vitamin C and vitamin B6
In addition to vitamin A, sweet potatoes are also a great source of vitamin C and vitamin B6. “Vitamin C is an antioxidant that supports immune health and collagen production,” says celebrity chef and nutritionist Serena Poon, adding that “vitamin B6 is important for metabolism and immune function.”
3. It’s high in potassium
Sweet potatoes are also packed with potassium—in fact, they actually have more of this heart-healthy nutrient than bananas. (One serving of sweet potatoes has roughly 950 milligrams, while a banana has 422 milligrams.) “You would never know that the base is sweet potato, and you would also never know that it’s so good for you,” Handal says.
4. It’s loaded with healthy carbs and fiber
These delicious brownies are also loaded with healthy carbs to keep you full all day long, Handal says. Plus, they’re rich in fiber, which Poon says “can help offset the impacts of some of the other sugary components, as eating soluble fiber can help regulate blood sugar levels.”
Another core ingredient in the recipe is peanut butter, which pairs perfectly with sweet potato as vitamin A is fat-soluble. Peanuts are loaded with plant-based protein and antioxidants, too.
Perhaps the best part about this peanut butter sweet potato brownie recipe is that you only need to use one bowl for the recipe, so cleanup is a breeze. Press play on the video to see the full sweet potato brownie recipe in action, and find the ingredients and instructions below.
Peanut butter sweet potato brownie recipe
3/4 cup sweet potato puree (make sure to process for a smooth batter)
1 cup crunchy or creamy peanut butter
2/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup oat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Add sweet potato puree, peanut butter, and maple syrup to a mixing bowl, and mix well with a handheld or stand mixer (or use a whisk) until fully combined and emulsified.
2. Add the oat flour, baking soda, and cocoa powder to the bowl and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula so all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated.
3. Scoop brownie batter into an 8-by-8-inch baking pan lined with parchment paper and spread evenly into all corners of the pan. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating in the oven halfway through. Allow brownies to completely cool before cutting into squares.
How to modify the sweet potato brownie recipe
There are many ways to tweak the recipe to adjust it to your liking (or the ingredients you have on hand).
1. Swap out the sweet potatoes
Poon says you can swap the sweet potatoes for any form of puréed root vegetable such as pumpkin or parsnip by either baking them and then placing them in a food processor or using a canned version, preferably one that is organic and BPA- and sugar-free.
2. Consider using an alternative flour
Oat flour isn’t the only thing you can use to make the recipe. Poon says almond flour could be a great option as it provides more protein and fiber, though it’s worth experimenting with other options too. “Each type of flour will add a different flavor, texture, and nutrient profile,” she says.
3. Play with cooking time and mixing strategies
Poon suggests playing with the cooking time and mixing strategies to make fluffier or gooier brownies. “For instance, if you whisk and fold your ingredients, you might achieve a different, and perhaps preferable, consistency,” she says. “The trick is to play with your favorite recipe to create the ideal blend of health, consistency, and flavor that works for you.”
4. Use more (or less) of certain ingredients to make a cakey or fudgy brownie
Poon says using more flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, or butter if you want cakey brownies with a fluffier consistency. Those who prefer fudgier brownies might want to use less flour and wetter ingredients, such as melted chocolate and oil to create that fudgy consistency.
5. Experiment with add-ins
There are many ingredients you can add to your brownies to give them more oomph. (Vegan sweet potato brownies with avocado frosting, anyone?) For example, you can add nuts, dried fruit, or chocolate chips. Handal’s faves include walnuts or a tahini swirl.
Nuts, in general, make a great addition to brownies. “They add not only flavor and texture, but also antioxidants, nutrients and fiber,” Poon says. And don’t sleep on seeds. “Seeds, such as pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds, add a unique touch, plus health benefits like magnesium, fiber, and antioxidants.”
If you want to get really creative, Poon also suggests adding beans to a brownie recipe. “Legumes increase fiber content and will give your brownies a more down-to-earth flavor than your average sugary brownie,” she says. Spices can also spice (sorry, had to) up a brownie recipe—think cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger, Poon says.
Frequently asked questions
What sugar is best for brownies?
There are many sugar options to use in brownies, and Handal says that all sugars are processed the same once they’re ingested. So it comes down to personal preference. In particular, Poon prefers coconut sugar in brownie recipes. “Coconut sugar contains more nutrients, is a bit lower on the glycemic index, and is less processed than refined sugar, making it a slightly better option for health as long as it’s used in moderation,” she says. You can also opt to sweeten brownies with brown sugar, which Handal says, “typically adds a more rich caramel flavor when added to baked goods.” And, Poon adds that brown sugar will also give brownies a fudgier feel because it contains molasses which when cooked down makes them a bit gooier.
What makes brownies soft?
There are various things that can affect how soft brownies come out of the oven. “Anything from using different ingredients to different ratios of ingredients to baking time can change the consistency of your brownies,” Poon says. Her advice: “Decide on your preferred consistency and then begin to adjust the amount of wet and dry ingredients and cooking time accordingly. Brownie consistency is highly subjective so play with your recipe until you find the perfect recipe for your taste.”
Is it better to bake brownies in glass or metal?
Both work well but there are pros and cons to each. Handal prefers baking brownies in glass because “metal conducts heat quicker than glass and thus needs more attention when baking. Glass allows for better heat distribution.” Poon, on the other hand, opts to bake brownies in a metal pan because it cools faster, which helps give brownies an ideal consistency.
Is it safe to cook sweet potatoes in the microwave?
While Handal prefers to boil sweet potatoes over microwaving them, Poon says it can be done, though she advises moderate use as there are some concerns about the health impacts of cooking in a microwave. Plus, she adds that cooking in a microwave also impacts the texture. So ideally, either boil or bake your sweet potatoes in the oven when possible.
If you must cook them in the microwave (like when you’re running short on time, for instance), Poon recommends placing the sweet potatoes in a microwave-safe dish, poking holes throughout the vegetable with a fork or knife, and then cooking it on high in the microwave on a rotating place for about five minutes.
How do you know when brownies are ready?
The short answer: It depends on your desired consistency. Generally, Poon says they’re ready when the top begins to harden and the edges start pulling away from the pan. You can also do the toothpick test by placing one in the center of the brownies. “Cakey brownies will leave almost no signs behind on a toothpick stuck through the center, whereas a fudgy brownie will leave behind more wet chocolate,” she says.
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