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Vegan brownies can be a bit tricky. They generally end up being extremely fudgy or sometimes too dense. This is due to the lack of eggs that help the batter to rise.
Most vegan brownie recipes call for flaxseed meal or a flax egg. The flaxseed meal expands when mixed with water and acts as a binder in the brownie. I am not that fond of the dense texture of a flax egg. I am even less fond of gelatin eggs in baking, as they can be unpredictable. I decided to search for a recipe that did not include vegan “eggs”.
This recipe for tahini vegan brownies was originally inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s non-vegan version that includes halva in the ingredient list. The halva intrigued me. Halva is a confection that is popular in the Middle East, especially in Israel and Turkey. It is made with sesame tahini, sweeteners, and nuts. I researched further and found out that halva is often used in baked goods.
With even more research, I discovered a few different tahini brownie recipes that call for halva as an ingredient. This was a whole new universe for me. I finally settled on a version of Amy Chaplin’s vegan brownie recipe. Amy Chaplin is an Australian vegetarian chef and whole foods cookbook author who has worked at many great restaurants around the world.
You can find halva online or at most Middle Eastern and Arabic markets. You do need to be mindful of the ingredients in pre-made halva. Sometimes it will contain egg whites or honey. There are plenty of vegan options available. You can also make your own halva. It is pretty simple.
While the main events in these brownies are the chocolate and the creamy tahini, there are some other unique and wholesome ingredients, such as dates, olive oil, whole grain flour, coconut palm sugar, and Marcona almonds. Marcona almonds are nutty, naturally oily, and just a tad sweet tasting. These almonds are rich and a special treat. We’ll discuss substitutions later in the post so that you have options.
- 4 ounces pitted dates 2/3 cup packed
- 2 cups boiling water
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for oiling the pan
- 1-1/2 cups teff or spelt flour
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1-1/2 tsps baking powder
- 3/4 cup + 2 TBS unsweetened almond milk
- 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
- 1/2 cup sesame tahini paste
- 1 TBS pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 4 ounces vegan bittersweet chocolate chips or chopped bittersweet bar
- 3 ounces vegan halva shaved or crumbled, +/- 2/3 cup
- 4 tsps white sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup Marcona almonds finely chopped
- 1 tsp flaky sea salt
- Assemble all the ingredients.
- Bring a pot of 2 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Turn off the burner and place the dates in the pot of water. Allow them to soak until softened, approximately 20 minutes. Then, drain them in a colander.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Line a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish with parchment paper. Brush the paper lightly with olive oil and set aside.
- Into a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder. Stir to combine. Set this aside while you prepare the wet ingredients.
- In the bowl of a food processor, add the dates, almond milk, maple syrup, coconut sugar, tahini, vanilla, fine sea salt, and 3/4 cup olive oil. Process until smooth and creamy.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the mixing bowl with the flour and cocoa powder. Whisk together until well combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and halva with a wooden spoon.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and spread it out into an even layer using a silicone or rubber spatula. Sprinkle the batter evenly with sesame seeds, then top with the chopped almonds.
- Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the flaky sea salt. Allow the brownies to cool completely. Then, refrigerate until cold and firm before cutting.
- Cut into squares and either eat cold or allow them to come to room temperature before serving. These brownies are great topped with a scoop of coconut milk ice cream.
Notes & Tips
Because we are using unsweetened cocoa, you might find this recipe to be a little more bitter than you like. Go ahead and taste the batter (no raw eggs to worry about) and add a little more coconut sugar if you desire.
The finished brownies are creamy and fudgy. It is really important to cool and then chill the cooked brownies before slicing so they don’t fall apart and release from the baking dish easily.
I realize the somewhat exotic ingredients in this brownie recipe might not be things you have in your pantry. Here are some ideas for substitutions:
- Almond, walnut, or untoasted sesame oil for extra virgin olive oil
- Whole wheat pastry flour, all-purpose flour, or gluten-free flour blend for teff or spelt flour
- Oat or hemp milk for almond milk
- Turbinado (raw) sugar or brown sugar for coconut palm sugar
- Almond or cashew butter for tahini
- Macadamia nuts or toasted regular almonds for Marcona almonds
If you can’t find halva, it is really easy to make your own. Here is a recipe link for homemade halva with just 5 ingredients. You can swap out almonds for the pistachios in the recipe. Or, just eliminate the nuts.