Vegan Sugar-Free Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies: A Recipe Fail

One day, I lost a bet to Tony and had to make him a batch of brownies. Still high on an alkaline/raw/plant-based food book binge, I thought: Yes, I will make him brownies. But they will be vegan, sugar-free brownies and he will love them and become alkaline and all will be right in the world.

One of my favorite things in the world to do is take a not-so-healthy recipe and make it HEALTHIER. Oh, this calls for agave nectar*? I think. Well, guess who’s using date paste instead. Or, I don’t need oil and eggs if I have pumpkin puree! I do this with the best intentions: I love chocolate and have a huge sweet tooth. But not super sweet things, if that makes sense. Rich is more important to me than sweet. Think dark chocolate and all things dense and fudgey. So really, I bake and cook for myself and my palate. As far as I’m concerned, I’m a culinary genius.

With this in mind, I set off to bake Pumpkin Cheesecake Swirl Brownies, adapted from this brilliant recipe by the lovely and entertaining baking blog, Sally’s Baking Addiction.

*Edit: Let me be clear that it was I that butchered Sally’s otherwise delicious, ingenious brownie recipe with my tweaks and substitutions. I highly recommend her all recipes–she’s talented and fabulous!

Instead of vanilla yogurt, I used unsweetened soygurt, subbed out the milk for coconut milk, the cream cheese for Tofutti Better Than Cream cheese, and–this move was probably my undoing–swapped the sugar for a pureed banana and a few drops of stevia. I was a trip to the store away from using egg substitute, but was feeling lazy.

Still harmless-looking in the Vitamix.

I added stevia to taste before pouring into a greased pan, and honestly, it tasted pretty good to me at this point.

Then I whipped up the pumpkin-spice-vegan cream concoction and this was truly delicious. Then I plopped it into the batter, all random-like.

Then, swirling and carob chips (of course) were in order.

It’s all downhill from here.


What came out of the oven looked promising enough. Tony has this look: a sort of tight-mouthed look of disgust smeared with a smile in hopes of covering up the repulsion. He has varying degrees of this look, and I’ve encountered the entire spectrum after presenting him with many a green smoothie, raw soup, and gluten-free what-have-you. If it’s really bad, he’ll wear this look as he chews open-mouthed, kind of like he’s trying to avoid what he’s eating from actually touching his tongue. This is what happened with the brownies.

To me, they weren’t THAT bad. They weren’t sweet, but they were dense and cocoa-like. I actually kind of liked them. For like a breakfast bar type thing if I was in a hurry.

I brought the rest of the batch to the yoga studio, where they were split in half and no one had seconds. If yogis won’t touch it, you’re screwed.

Lesson learned: I would’ve gone back and used raw sugar or honey or something. But really, baked goods are a treat and you don’t eat them every day. So indulge and follow the damn recipe. As Tony said, “They’re brownies; you should’ve just used sugar.”

Checkmate, sir. Will do.**

I still owe him a batch of brownies. Real ones.

*Agave nectar is NOT a health food. It is just as processed as high fructose corn syrup and actually, kind of worse for you.

**Palm sugar though, maybe.


3 thoughts on “Vegan Sugar-Free Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies: A Recipe Fail

    1. It was my own fault with all the substitutions! I’m planning to whip up a batch following your recipe exactly, and I’m sure they’ll be incredible, just like the rest of your recipes I’ve made! Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

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