raw brownies

This past week, Tim and I did sort of a cleanse, wherein we ate mostly raw: fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, nuts, seeds, raw dairy, dried fruit. We added homemade chicken soup, nettle and Tulsi teas and, at a maximum of once a day, roasted vegetables, but otherwise it was, for the first time in our lives, an experience in raw eating.

ingredients for brownie base

It was interesting.

ground up brownie layer

First of all, it wasn’t hard, at least not in the way typical cleanses are. I wasn’t starving, I didn’t get major detox reactions, there was no need to summon all my willpower not to eat a cookie. A couple times, one of us would say to the other, doesn’t a taco sound good?, but, for the most part, we felt like there was so much we still could eat: a bowl of juicy grapefruit; fresh pomegranate arils sprinkled with flax seeds and coconut; caprese salad (tomatoes, raw mozzarella, fresh basil), morning smoothies, giant green salads (and you know how I like those), frozen fruit mixed with nuts in raw milk, homemade pecan nut butter on celery sticks—all along with our soup and roasted vegetables, so, as you can imagine, we were quite full and satisfied.

prepared loaf pan

Also, it was really, well, cleansing, just as we hoped it would be. The week made us feel good—really good—from our skin to our digestion to our energy levels. After the holidays, I had been fighting a little bit of a sore throat/cold/infection, the first one since I changed my diet in 2009. This cleanse week killed it, knocked it right out of me.

chocolate avocado frosting

But there’s one more thing, too, a thing that’s been especially fascinating and something I didn’t expect or plan for: this week has started to open my eyes to the world of raw eating. It’s something. You know, there are raw restaurants, raw blogs (like my new favorite g0lubka), raw cookbooks. And it’s not like you just eat an apple and a carrot and call it a day, either: there are crazy inventive raw recipes for things like raw donuts, raw cookies and chocolate avocado pudding, for example.

pan of raw brownies

I mean, have you ever had a raw brownie?

This was an idea that had never before occurred, let alone appealed, to me.

sliced raw brownies

And I know they say, when you take yourself away from something for a little while, say from sugar, for example, you change your tastes. So I know it’s possible that these brownies won’t seem sweet enough to the average palate or chocolatey enough compared to the typical brownie.

raw chocolate brownie

But to me, they were amazing, enough to make me wonder why I’ve trained my brain to think I need things sweeter than they have to be. I loved them. I made them twice. And both times, when I saw the simple combination of dates, walnuts and cocoa powder make a brownie and the ability of half an avocado with honey, cocoa powder, vanilla and cinnamon, along with just a pinch of salt, to create a velvety chocolate frosting, I marveled. It’s the same feeling I’ve had looking at a piece of segmented grapefruit or the inside of a pomegranate: what amazing foods we’ve been given. It’s good to celebrate them.



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Raw Brownies + Chocolate Avocado Frosting
Lightly Adapted from Not Quite Nigella
Makes one loaf pan of brownies or, 10 little brownie bites

Just as a bit of bonus info, this recipe, being that it utilizes all whole foods, is filled with all kinds of nutritional benefits. Walnuts are high in Omega-3s, known to control inflammation. Dates are not only an excellent source of fiber but also B vitamins. There are rich antioxidants in cocoa powder and honey, and the avocado is one of those really amazing sources of good monounsaturated fat, shown to be easily burned by the body for energy.

Ingredients:
for brownie layer
1 cup walnuts
1 cup medjool dates, pitted
1/3 cup cocoa powder

for frosting
1/2 avocado
3 to 5 tablespoons raw honey (you can adjust to taste)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
a hefty dash of cinnamon
a tiny pinch of salt

Directions:
1. Make the brownie layer: Line a loaf pan with parchment paper, with extra paper hanging off the sides so you can lift it out when the brownies are done. Combine walnuts, dates and 1/3 cup of cocoa powder in a food processor and blend until the mixture looks like clumpy dirt or potting soil. Pat this mixture into a compact layer in the bottom of your lined loaf pan.

2. Make the frosting*: Combine avocado, honey, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, vanilla, cinnamon and salt in a food processor and blend until smooth. Spread mixture over the brownie layer in the loaf pan, creating an even layer on top.

3. Freeze the loaf pan for 30 minutes to an hour. Remove parchment from loaf pan, lifting the brownies out in one big piece. Slice and serve. Note the brownies will be slightly crumbly, so they are best eaten with a spoon or fork.

*As an FYI, I didn’t wash out the food processor between the brownie and frosting layers. No need.

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 65 Comments

  1. MaryAnn

    This sounds really good. And I’ve been curious about raw eating for awhile. Maybe I should actually do some research about it :-) Also, I’m not much into avocados so I’ve been thinking about ways to ‘hide’ them so I get the nutritional benefits of eating them. Might have to give these a try some time very soon!

      1. Gingee

        I just made it. The frosting is amazing. I did use Stevia instead of honey (not a big honey fan), and I added a drizzle of coconut oil to the “brownie” to help the ingredients stick a bit more. Can’t wait for the finished product to be out of the fridgeQ

  2. Lan

    ok. so i have made raw avocado chocolate pudding before, i enjoyed the slight sweetness from the honey and just barest hint of an avocado aftertaste. unfortunately, my darling love did not enjoy it. as a result, using avocados in desserts were halted. i am not sold on dates, however, i have been very interested lately in the raw diet, not just for cleansing the system, but being more aware of consuming natural foods as they were intended.

    1. Shannalee

      yeah, me too. I like finding value in foods I didn’t really think about before—it’s kind of exciting! and regarding dates: I don’t love them by themselves, but they are an awesome way to add sweetness without traditional sugars. I think LARA bars are what really swung me on the dates team.

  3. Joanna

    We love chocolate avocado pudding! But let’s face it: I just about love chocolate anything. I’m so making a mini-batch of these tonight or tomorrow. Did you two make cashew cream? Best. Frosting. Ever.

    And that’s about all I know about cool raw food tricks.

  4. leela

    this raw brownie looks insanely good and i loved hearing about your week of healthful raw eating.
    limitations can be really interesting huh?

    happy new year my dear!!

    cheers.

  5. Rachanee Scott

    Hi Shannalee. What an exciting post AND recipe!!! Im excited to try it. Myself and two oldest daughters started eating raw I think last June. We love chocolate and avocados smoothies! We were eating raw Monday-Fridays and “normal” on Saturday and Sunday’s. But Sadly, got away from it since Thanksgiving. But, we are back on track! Even my 8 and 5 year olds are no strangers to green smoothies. The kids surprised me for Christmas with a Vita mixer!!!! But it seems more like a “family gift” now, lol. We love it!
    One of my favorite food blogs (besides yours) is mynewroots.blogspot.com her writing style reminds me of you a little.

    1. Shannalee

      You’re kidding, Rachanee! I had no idea! Love that you ladies are doing raw—any great recipes to pass along? : ) And YAY about the Vitamix. I love love love mine and use it all the time! That’s great!

  6. Athena

    Those brownies sound terrific. And a raw food cleanse sounds better than the juice and herbal tea fasting I’ve done in the past, where all I could do was talk about food, heh. I think I’ll definitely try out the brownie recipe soon. :)

  7. Jolynn

    I can’t wait to try this! But I looked for dates in the produce section of our local “grocery store” (ahem, Walmart) this morning and couldn’t find them. The closest I could find were dried dates in the dried-fruit section. I’m guessing they wouldn’t work? I’m checking at a better grocery store for the real thing this evening. Fingers crossed.

    1. Shannalee

      Joylynn, Actually, I used dried dates straight from the bulk section at Whole Foods for this recipe. I’ve never had fresh dates, in fact. Usually when recipes call for dates, I assume it’s OK to used the dried version since that’s so much more common. The one thing I would say is to make sure they’re pure dates, as a lot of packaged versions will add sulfites or chemicals.

  8. Alicia

    It’s so funny that you posted this recipe because I just recently went to a raw vegan café in Lockport and my friend and I talked to the owner foreverrr about it. I could never do it completely, but I am fascinated with the food. She gave us brownies that were very similar to this, only made with pecans instead of walnuts and no frosting. They were sooooooo good though, I couldn’t believe it!

    1. Shannalee

      Wow, I am so impressed there’s a raw vegan cafe in Lockport (!?). Nashville has none that I know of. : ( And I totally agree with your perspective on it—it’s fascinating and there are some strong benefits, but I would never choose to go all raw for all time. Love that you just so happened to have raw brownies recently, right in time for this, ha! : ) Miss you!

  9. Zo @ Two Spoons

    I’ve made a chocolate date slice before and it was waaaay too sweet, but I love the idea of grinding a buttload of walnut in and I love the look of these. The texture looks far more brownie-ish :) Thanks for sharing – this looks great to make in summer or on days when you don’t want to bake, regardless of whether you’re on a raw food stint or not!

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  11. meeso

    I’m just NOW finding this??? I have been on a Daniel fast for three weeks and this would have been PERFECT for my sweet cravings! Nonetheless, this is going into some kind of “Future Daniel Fast” bookmark so I don’t suffer like I did ever again! Really great recipe!

    1. Shannalee

      Meeso, One of my brother-in-laws was just telling me about the Daniel Fast. It sounds similar to our raw week! You don’t have to wait until another one to make this recipe, though. : ) Try it soon!

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  19. kathleen

    Read your comments with great interest. Did a similar sounding cleanse with a wonderful nutritionist about two months ago and it has changed my life. At 65, I experienced the energy surge you mentioned, as well as a digestive turnaround and a wonderful mood lift. I, too, was surprised that for the first time in my life of struggling with diet, I did NOT feel deprived. Yes, I missed that sugar hit or that beef hit once in a while, but it gradually faded away. I learned to find alternates for my typical cravings. I came to love nuts (soaked and dehydrated) and dates (in my smoothies or in energy balls). My taste buds adjusted.

    Just today I was given a piece of Decadent Chocolate Bundt Cake from The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook. The cake was dense and very chocolatey, and the avocado chocolate dressing on it must have been similar to that which you have here. It was not quite chocolate icing, but after a while, I felt that the taste was actually quite creamy, rich and acceptable. I did not taste the avocado. I think it is a wonderful substitute for the awful sugar+butter which so many of us grow up loving and craving as a “treat”.

    I sure love the changes this way of eating has made in my life and my body. I am afraid that I have bored my family with my enthusiasm, but even they appreciate the very visible changes. Unfortunately I have not yet gotten any “takers” within the family. However, I do wish you a continued enjoyable journey into raw or nearly raw eating!!

    So…this “cleanse” process has become a way of life for me, probably on a 90-10 basis. (I am not willing to become a food fascist….I still love meeting non vegan friends for lunch and I happily restrict myself to non creamy veggie soups and appetizers or salads!) The increase in energy and mood lift continues. I never ever thought I could make such a drastic dietary change at this stage in my life, but I, too, found that it was stunningly easy after a week or so.

    I apologize if this is too long. I’ve never posted before and I am not sure of the protocol. I was just excited to share my similar story with you!

    1. Shannalee

      Hi Kathleen, Thank you so much for your note — I love excited, hope-filled comments like yours! It’s so wonderful to hear the way you’re body’s responded to a change in diet and the way it’s felt easy for you. Our tastebuds do indeed adjust; I know just what you mean. Blessings to you!

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  21. Lynn

    I just went to the raw vegan cafe in Lockport today…which is why I am now searching for
    the recipe for these brownies… I think your recipe sounds like it would be the same as the ones I had today. They were awesome!!!!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Kristin, There’s no perfect substitute. However, the thing you’re trying to reproduce is a dried, sweet fruit, so the options for testing are endless. Dried raisins, cherries, apricots… all will give a different flavor, but they’re worth testing out! Good luck!

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  25. margey

    so this is a pretty old post, but i’m hoping you see this anyway. what pattern is that pretty little plate? it looks like royal copenhagen full lace, but without the blue pattern on it. it’s so cute, i just had to ask. yes, i have an obsession with pretty china.

      1. Shanna Mallon

        Margey, We’re back home and I checked the plate and, bad news, no info! I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help, but the bottom is totally blank. I know we found it at a thrift store back in 2011 (it was one of the plates we used at our wedding banquet), but that’s all I know.

  26. Carolyn

    Wow, I just love avocados, and wasn’t even searching for brownie recipes… wow, this is so cool! I have been really reading food labels to try to avoid all the bad stuff out there, so I had completely resigned myself to the fact that I would never eat another brownie without feeling guilty of all the sugar + chemicals that make them so yummy… now, I will definitely have to try this to satisfy my brownie craving!

    Thanks!

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  29. Lauren

    These were really good, they really cut my sweet cravings. Although the texture wasn’t anything like brownies it was pretty amazing for no sugar, dairy, or flour.

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