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Healthy dessert recipes

How do you hide black beans in brownies, chia seeds in pudding or avocado in truffles? Beat them into submission with a food processor.

Yes, after a week of experimenting with desserts that look decadent on the outside but harbor secret, healthful ingredients, I've discovered that a food processor is the nutrition-conscious baker's best friend. And the more powerful, the better.These desserts are all sweetened naturally and are not only filled with secret, healthy ingredients, but sometimes made more delicious because of those ingredients.

Fudgy vegan brownies

Secret ingredient: Black beans These vegan, gluten-free
Photo Credit: MCT / Alison Sherwood

Secret ingredient: Black beans

These vegan, gluten-free brownies are dense and fudgy.

2½ tablespoons flaxseed meal
6 tablespoons water
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heaping ½ cup granulated sugar or raw sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
Optional toppings: Chopped nuts, mini chocolate chips, coconut flakes, unsalted pumpkin seeds


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Lightly grease a standard-size muffin pan.

3. Pulse flaxseed meal and water in bowl of a food processor; let rest about 2 minutes.

4. Add remaining ingredients and blend about 3 minutes, scraping down sides as needed, until mixture is smooth. Batter should be slightly less thick than chocolate frosting; if it appears too thick, add a tablespoon of water and blend again.

5. Evenly distribute batter into the muffin cups and smooth the tops with a spoon. Sprinkle with desired toppings.

6. Bake in preheated oven 20 to 26 minutes, or until tops are dry and edges start to pull away from the sides.

7. Remove from oven and let cool 30 minutes before removing from pan. They will be tender, so remove gently with a fork. Store in an airtight container up to 3 days. Refrigerate to keep longer. Makes 12 brownies.

(Recipe from

Cherry vanilla 'ice cream'

Secret ingredient: Bananas This ice cream isn't
Photo Credit: MCT / Alison Sherwood

Secret ingredient: Bananas

This ice cream isn't ice cream at all. In fact, in its simplest form, it's just bananas. But add in a few frozen cherries and some vanilla, or any number of ingredients (cocoa powder, coconut flakes, peanut butter, instant coffee) and you've got an all-natural alternative to frozen yogurt with no added sugar.

2 bananas, peeled, sliced and frozen
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
5 frozen, pitted cherries


1. Place bananas in a food processor and blend until a smooth, thick paste forms.

2. Add cherries and vanilla and blend again until smooth. Serve immediately for a soft-serve consistency or store in an airtight container in the freezer until serving time for more ice cream-like scoops. Makes 2 servings.

Coconut whipped cream

Secret ingredient: Coconut milk This is a
Photo Credit: MCT / Alison Sherwood

Secret ingredient: Coconut milk

This is a good option for those with a dairy intolerance, looking to cut down a bit on fat or who just love the flavor of coconut.

1 (16-ounce) can coconut milk (full-fat, not light)
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1. Chill the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight or for several hours.

2. Remove can from fridge and do not shake. Flip can upside down and open immediately. Pour off the translucent liquid and reserve, if desired, for another use (it works great in a smoothie).

3. Scoop the thick cream remaining in the can into a mixing bowl, add the powdered sugar and whip using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment until stiff peaks form.

Peanut butter cookie dough bites

Secret ingredient: Chickpeas These cookie bites are
Photo Credit: MCT / Alison Sherwood

Secret ingredient: Chickpeas

These cookie bites are gooey and perfect right out of the oven -- you'd never know they're essentially just nuts, beans and chocolate chips.

1¼ cups canned chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons natural peanut or almond butter, room temperature (see note)
¼ cup honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips in a food processor and process until very smooth, scraping sides as needed. Stir in chocolate chips. Mixture will be very thick and sticky.

3. Form dough into 1-inch balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press down lightly on the balls so they become small mounds.

4. Bake in preheated oven 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheet 10 minutes. The dough balls will still be very soft and will not set like normal cookies. They're best when served warm. Makes about 2 dozen cookies. Note: Check the ingredients list and be sure to use nut butter that does not have added sugar. If it also does not have salt, add a pinch to the recipe.

(Recipe adapted from

Almost-instant chocolate pudding

Secret ingredient: Chia seeds Chia seeds turn

Secret ingredient: Chia seeds

Chia seeds turn gelatinous when chilled in liquid, making them a healthy, vegan substitute for egg yolks and cornstarch typically found in homemade pudding. Most recipes for chia pudding (or traditional pudding, for that matter) involve chilling the pudding for several hours or overnight, but if you keep a batch of almond milk ice cubes in your freezer, this recipe lets you enjoy healthy chocolate pudding almost instantly.

1½ cups unsweetened almond milk (divided)
¼ cup chia seeds
5 pitted Medjool dates or 10 pitted California dates
2 to 3½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of fine-grain sea salt


1. Pour ¾ cup of the almond milk into an ice cube tray and freeze until solid.

2. To make the pudding, add the almond milk ice cubes, the remaining ¾ cup almond milk and the rest of the ingredients to a high-power blender. Blend on the highest speed until smooth. Serve immediately or chill in the fridge, where it will thicken up even more. Makes 2 servings.

(Recipe is adapted from

Chocolate truffles

Secret ingredient: Avocado These truffles get their
Photo Credit: MCT / Alison Sherwood

Secret ingredient: Avocado

These truffles get their creamy texture from avocado, making them as decadent as chocolates made with heavy cream, but much less caloric. And don't worry, the avocado flavor is masked by the chocolate.

1 medium ripe avocado
10 ounces dark chocolate chips
¼ cup cacao nibs, optional
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder


1. Cut avocado and scoop out flesh. Use a fork, an electric hand mixer or a food processor to mash the avocado until there are no more chunks.

2. Melt the chocolate chips by microwaving in 10- to 20-second intervals, stirring after each, until completely melted.

3. Scoop avocado mixture into the bowl with melted chocolate and mix until well blended. Stir in cacao nibs, if desired. Refrigerate 1 hour.

4. Scoop out 1 tablespoon of the mixture and roll into a ball using your palms. Repeat with rest of mixture. Put cocoa powder in a shallow bowl and roll balls in the cocoa powder until they're completely covered.

5. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 3 days, but note that they taste best when served fresh or at room temperature. Makes about 20 truffles.

(Recipe adapted from


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