Brownie Energy Bars With a Secret Ingredient

Every week, we spotlight a different food blogger who’s shaking up the blogosphere with tempting recipes and knockout photography. Below, Emily Stoffel of The Pig & Quill spikes her brownies with black beans with excellent — and protein-filled — results.

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Photo: Emily Stoffel

A few weeks ago, my husband presented me with a challenge: Create an energy snack he could take on road and mountain bike rides that wasn’t full of weird, carb-y fillers or dried milk products. That wasn’t as simple as a fruit-and-nut bar (dammit, but those are going off like rockets right nowww!). That wasn’t extruded from some extrude-y machine-a-majiggy.

My mind went straight to, well, brownies. I know I crave sugary chocolate with ferocity when I’m active. (And cheesy bread and garlicky noodles and salty, soft-boiled eggs. But let’s start with chocolate.)

These little bars are so easy, you guys. You just take a whole cup of good, semi-sweet chocolate chips and bust those up with some oats (gluten-free, if you’re so inclined). Then blitz all that stuff with some cacao, a little coconut oil, a sprinkling of sea salt and a can of beans.

Yep, a can of beans. Black beans, to be exact. Super weird, right? But it kinda makes sense. They’re smooth, protein-rich and they melt right into the chocolate when the whole shebang goes into the oven. 

Now to get everything to stick together. Have you ever used chia seeds? They’re those little neutral-tasting power foods that kinda look like frog eggs when they’re suspended in bottles of kombucha at Whole Foods. (Yum, right?) They’re also super filling, packing a fair amount of good stuff like protein, fiber and omega-3s. Turns out, they’re also a great vegan binder (egg substitute) when ground up and mixed with a little water. Yes, they end up a bit like a boogery science project, but they bring these simple bars together like a charm.

From there, all you gotta do is add a generous handful of roasty toasty ‘stacios to the mix for a little crunch, throw the whole thing in the oven, and call it a day! You’ve got a densely delicious, vegan, non-extruded, no-weird-stuff-except-for-natural-weird-stuff energy bar that my husband has confirmed is tasty — and effective.

Salted Chocolate & Pistachio Energy Bars
Makes 8-10 “bars”

These bars come together with the help of 2 chia “eggs,” which can be used in place of actual eggs in all sorts of vegan baking projects. Just combine 2 tablespoons of ground chia seeds with 6 tablespoons of water (the rule is 1 tablespoons of ground chia to 3 tablespoons of water per egg) and allow to sit 5-10 mins before use. Easy! Also, these can easily be made gluten-free if you make it a point to choose gluten-free oats. And lastly, it’s important to note that these bars are not low-fat, low-sugar, or low-calorie, and they’re not intended to be

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup rolled oats
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 chia “eggs” (see note above)
¼ cup unsweetened cacao powder
1 tablespoon coconut oil (plus extra, for greasing)
4 tablespoon unsweetened fruit juice or water
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup roasted, salted pistachios, plus extra for scattering
Coarse or flaked sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a loaf pan with coconut oil.

Combine chocolate chips and oats in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped, about 10-15 times. Add black beans, chia eggs, cacao, coconut oil and water or fruit juice and pulse until almost smooth, scraping sides down as necessary. Turn out into a large mixing bowl and fold in pistachios. Transfer to loaf pan, spreading mixture evenly. Scatter with small handful of pistachios.

Bake in preheated oven for 60 mins, rotating once at the halfway mark.

Allow loaf to cool completely before loosening with a spatula and turning out onto a cutting surface. Sprinkle with sea salt and cut into 8-10 bars.

Keep bars wrapped in foil in the fridge. Enjoy within one week.

More energy-packed snacks:

The 9 Best Protein Bars That Are Actually Good For You

An Energy Bar Made From… Bison Meat?

The Definitive Ranking of All 19 Clif Bar Flavors