cacao brownies with sweet potato

Flourless Cacao Brownies with Sweet Potato

If you love chocolate half as much as I do, and you’re someone who prefers gooey, fudgy brownies over the cakey texture, you’ll absolutely love these flourless cacao brownies with sweet potato!

These brownies aren’t just rich and melt-in-your-mouth good – they’re also loaded with micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and antioxidants) from superfoods like cacao powder and sweet potato.

What is cacao?

Cacao, short for the plant’s Latin name Theobroma cacao, comes from the same plant that chocolate (and cocoa powder) come from.

The seed pods which contain the edible cacao (which gets groud into powder) are about the size of a football, and they grow on tropical trees in southern America. Cacao is now cultivated in multiple areas of the world.

Cacao powder (also often called “raw cacao powder”) can be used in place of cocoa powder in recipes. It’s a staple in my pantry, for good reason!

If you like to bake, you’re someone who loves chocolate, and you strive to get more nutritional bang for your buck whenever possible, for a few extra dollars, switching over to cacao powder (in place of cocoa powder) is well worth the investment.

Cacao powder

Cacao vs. cocoa powder

It’s true – “cacao” and “cocoa” look and taste very similar, they only vary by one letter (from a spelling standpoint), and they come from the same plant Cacao theobromus.  But still, there are a few key differences worth noting!

Cocoa powder is what most people are familiar with.  Cocoa is what you’ll see used in maintream brownie mixes, chocolate candy, hot cocoa packets, and most dishes containing chocolate of any kind.  Cocoa is essentially cacao which has gone through more processing and refining.

  • The processing of cacao strips away most of the micronutrients. which means the mineral and antioxidant profile of cocoa powder doesn’t even come close to that of cacao!

Cacao powder, on the other hand, is expoentially higher in antioxidants and minerals like potassium, iron, magnesium, copper, and phosphorous which have been shown to help improve mood, sleep, blood pressure, PMS, energy levels and bone health.

I’ve also found as a self-proclaimed “foodie” that cacao tastes bolder, richer and more chocolatey (it that’s a thing) compared to cocoa which I find is a bit more diluted in flavor.

Those are the reasons why I use cacao instead of cocoa in all of my recipes, whenever possible!  But technically, this recipe will still work if you only have cocoa powder on-hand.

Nativas cacao powder

Where can you find cacao powder?

You can find cacao powder in the natural aisle of most regular supermarkets, or it’s also available in the supplement section as well as sometimes in the baking section at other markets like Whole Foods, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, or a natural food store near you.

What the heck is coconut manna?

Coconut manna is essentially coconut meat that has been dried and ground into a coconut butter, similar to the way that nuts are made into nut butter or peanuts into peanut butter.  During the process of making coconut manna, the coconut oil actually floats to the top and gets mostly extracted before packing the coconut butter / coconut manna into the jar.

Why I use coconut manna in this recipe

Coconut manna is very fudgy and dense, so from a confectionary standpoint it gives these cacao brownies an extra uniquely fudge-like texture and experience!

It’s also less earthy-tasting compared to nut butter, and coconut manna is allergy-friendly for those with a nut allergy and peanut allergy (unless you’re allergic to coconut).

Does it taste like coconut?

While coconunt manna on its own does have a bit of a coconut taste, in this recipe I’ve found there is no residual coconut flavor at all!

Where to find coconut manna

Unlike like cacao powder, coocnut manna is not available at most regular supermarkets. You will usually need to get it from a Whole Foods, Sprouts, or natural food store near you.  You can also order coconut manna online via Thrive Market or Amazon.

Can you swap it for something else?

I’ve never made this cacao brownie recipe without coconut manna but you are welcome to give it a whirl with either a nut butter, peanut butter or seed butter of your choosing.

If you do give it a try, feel free to let me know how it goes! 😉

Why sweet potatoes?

Aside from making a wonderful base in this recipe instead of flour, sweet potatoes are loaded with micronutrients! The nutritional goodness packed in sweet potatoes includes but isn’t limited to:

  • Beta-carotene (it’s the anti-oxidant which helps prevent aging and dis-ease, and it’s what gives sweet potatoes their orange pigment… also the pre-cursor to fat-soluble Vitamin A)
  • Vitamin C
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Pantothenic acid
  • Vitamin B6
  • Biotin
  • Potassium
  • Fiber

Sliced sweet potato

Our body uses all of the above nutrients from both cacao and sweet potatoes on a cellular level, impacting how we think and feel (for better or worse) all the time.  Imagine the wonders of difference it would make in your quality of life if you got more of those nutrients, more often.  And the best part is it’s at no cost – you still get to love what you eat.  It makes a great difference in how we feel when we are truly nourished at this level!

Why natural sweeteners?

This recipe uses nutrient-dense sweeteners, coconut palm sugar and real maple syrup which I’ve found can be more beneficial from a gut health standpoint and even from a microutrient standpoint.

And if you’ve seen my other dessert recipes, you have have noticed I consistently opt for more nutrient-dense natural sweeteners whenever possible!  This is because it’s made a huge difference on my personal healing journey.   I notice HUGE differences in how I feel energetically (not to mention less physiological food cravings) when I make my own treats versus just consuming their commercal counterparts.

  • But please note:  this doesn’t mean I don’t still occasionally have desserts made with “normal” sugar when I’m out and I want something sweet!  Deprivation is not good, and it’s counter-intuitive if you’re trying to have a healthier relationship with food.  Moderation and balance are key!  Finding your “sweet spot” on the Sugar Spectrum is something we dive into more in my Kitchen Alchemy online course, as well as the Complete Gut Repair Roadmap.

Without further ado, onto the recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cooked sweet potato or butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup softened coconut manna (or coconut butter) – NOT coconut oil!
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup real maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips or Hu Gems
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Optional: ½ teaspoon baking powder

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease a square 8×8 pan or round cake pan with butter or coconut oil.
  3. In a food processor or blender: combine all ingredients EXCEPT chocolate chips.  Blend for several minutes until batter is smooth and fudgy – no lumps!
  4. Transfer to bowl and stir in chocolate chips; optional: save some for topping.
  5. Bake at 350 F for about 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven, until brownies pass the “toothpick test”.

Makes about 9 to 12 flat, dense, fudgy, very chocolatey brownies.

Cool for at least 30 minutes in the fridge before slicing and serving.

Cover and store in the fridge for up to 5 days, or the freezer for up to a month (I can’t imagine these brownies sticking around for long enough in my household, but to each their own!).

OPTIONAL:  Double the recipe and bake in normal brownie pan for about 30-35 minutes (I haven’t tried this yet, since I didn’t keep enough ingredients on-hand to do so).

OPTIONAL:  Swap the coconut manna for peanut butter (I also haven’t done this so I can’t tell you how it would turn out).

OPTIONAL:  Don’t have cacao powder?  Use cocoa powder!  Don’t have coconut palm sugar?  Use brown sugar!  Don’t have real maple syrup?  Use agave or raw honey or another liquid sweetener of your choice.  Again, I haven’t tried these alternatives but who says you can’t get creative?

cacao brownies with sweet potato

Fudgy Cacao Brownies with Sweet Potato

Jenna Volpe, RDN, LD, CLT
From the rich cacao powder to the fudgy coconut manna to the dense sweet potato base, this recipe puts the "fudgy" in fudgy brownies!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 12 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup cooked sweet potato or butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup softened coconut manna or coconut butter – NOT coconut oil!
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup real maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips or Hu Gems
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder optional

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Grease a square 8x8 pan or round cake pan with butter or coconut oil.
  • In a food processor or blender: combine all ingredients EXCEPT chocolate chips. Blend for several minutes until batter is smooth and fudgy – no lumps!
  • Transfer to bowl and stir in chocolate chips; optional: save some for topping.
  • Bake at 350 F for about 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven, until brownies pass the “toothpick test”.
  • Makes about 9 to 12 flat, dense, fudgy, very chocolatey brownies.
  • Cool for at least 30 minutes in the fridge before slicing and serving.
  • Cover and store in the fridge for up to 5 days, or the freezer for up to a month (I can’t imagine these brownies sticking around for long enough in my household, but to each their own!).

Notes

OPTIONAL: Double the recipe and bake in normal brownie pan for about 30-35 minutes (I haven’t tried this yet, since I didn’t keep enough ingredients on-hand to do so).
OPTIONAL: Swap the coconut manna for peanut butter (I also haven’t done this so I can’t tell you how it would turn out).

Substitutions/modifications: 

I haven’t tried these alternatives but who says you can’t get creative?
  • Don’t have cacao powder? Use cocoa powder!
  • Don’t have coconut palm sugar? Use brown sugar!
  • Don’t have real maple syrup? Use agave or raw honey or another liquid sweetener of your choice.
Keyword cacao, cacao brownies, cacao recipes, flourless, sweet potato brownies
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

More resources and next steps

If you loved this flourless cacao brownie reicpe, you may also enjoy some of my other cacao recipes:

Please also feel free to pin it or share it with your fellow chocolate-loving family / friends!

XO – Jenna

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