Skinny Brownies

By Tessa Arias
April 21st, 2014
5 from 1 vote
5 from 1 vote

These ultra chocolaty Skinny Brownies are 100% whole wheat and are made with no butter or processed sugar! You'll love this fabulous guilt-free dessert.

Yield: 16 brownies

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook: 25 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

TASTE: There’s a bunch of cocoa powder in this recipe that lends that characteristic chocolaty flavor we all love in a brownie. These have just enough sweetness, you really don’t miss the processed sugar all that much.
TEXTURE: For being whole wheat and butter-free these brownies are surprisingly tender. However, they aren’t quite as rich, fudgy, and chewy as brownies made with a bunch of butter, but that’s to be expected. These are ever so slightly cakey. If you refrigerate them before serving it gives them a more fudgy texture.
EASE: Super quick and easy. These brownies taste best out of the fridge so they just require a little patience while you wait for them to chill.
APPEARANCE: They look just like brownies!
PROS: Healthy, easy, satisfying.
CONS: Nothing will ever replace a traditional brownie, but this recipe is definitely more of an everyday fair.

These ultra chocolaty Skinny Brownies are 100% whole wheat and are made with no butter or processed sugar! You’ll love this fabulous guilt-free dessert.
Skinny Brownies made 100% whole wheat with with no butter or processed sugar!!

Last Friday I posted The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies Part 3 where I delved into ingredient substitution for dietary needs, experimenting with making cookies healthier, whole wheat, vegan, gluten-free, egg-free, or butter-free. The results were fascinating, at least to a baking nerd like me. I used some of the information I learned from those experiments to find and adapt a great “skinny” brownie recipe. Today’s recipe is adapted from Jillian Michaels’ healthy brownie recipe, and I think it’s a winner.

It’s really difficult for me to make healthy adaptions in baking recipes because I’m so familiar with the science of baking that when I take away the ingredients and methods I KNOW will give me a marvelous brownie, I feel like I’m committing a culinary sin. Those ingredients that lend to a marvelous brownie are often not the healthiest, and not something we should be routinely eating. Everything in moderation right? Well with these brownies you don’t have to feel guilty about eating often, because they’re made with whole wheat flour, maple syrup instead of processed sugar, and a combination of applesauce and coconut oil in place of the butter. Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Skinny Brownies made 100% whole wheat with with no butter or processed sugar!!

5 from 1 vote

How to make
Skinny Brownies

Yield: 16 brownies
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Inactive Time 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
These ultra chocolaty Skinny Brownies are 100% whole wheat and are made with no butter or processed sugar! You'll love this fabulous guilt-free dessert.


  • 2/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 tablespoons organic virgin coconut oil
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chunks


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with foil and spray generously with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Place the maple syrup in a deep small microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds, or until warmed. Microwave for 15 seconds longer if using refrigerated maple syrup. Whisk in the cocoa powder and let cool.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In a large bowl whisk the applesauce, coconut oil, egg, and vanilla. Add maple mixture and whisk until smooth. Add the flour mixture and stir just until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chunks.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 25 minutes, a toothpick inserted into the center should come out with moist crumbs still attached. Cool in the pan on a wire rack to room temperature. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes before slicing into 16 squares. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Recipe Notes

Adapted from Jillian Michaels
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Find Tessa on  

Leave a Comment & Rating

Add a Review or Question

*Please select a rating to complete your comment.

Recipe Rating

  1. #
    Emmy — May 1, 2021 at 6:20 pm

    Hi Tessa,
    These look so good and I really want to try these, but I only have Dutch-processed cocoa powder right now. I’ve read your blog post about the two different cocoa powders, which was really helpful, but I’m still unsure if I can switch the two for this recipe. Is it possible for me to use Dutch-processed cocoa instead?

    Thank you so much! 🙂

  2. #
    Jordan — March 31, 2020 at 11:41 am

    Can I use something besides apple sauce? Also can I use half all purpose and half whole wheat. I dont have white whole wheat. Thanks

  3. #
    Sherry — March 7, 2020 at 11:33 am

    I made these today! They are so moist and chocolaty ! Love them! I did substitute honey for maple syrup!!

  4. #
    Ashlee — March 3, 2020 at 4:57 am

    I absolutely loved this recipe! I added 1/6 of slivered almonds which gave a bit it crunch and texture to an otherwise very soft, decadent brownie and together it was the best brownie (so what healthier too) that I’ve ever made.
    – Moral of the story add 1/6 cup of slivered almonds and it’ll be the best skinny brownie you’ll have made

  5. #
    Shireen — September 15, 2019 at 10:50 am

    ANY idea what the calorie count is?

  6. #
    Christina — July 27, 2017 at 6:32 am

    Thank you for being so honest. I totally agree. My nutrition coach has given me some substitution suggestions. Even something as simple as replacing half of the all purpose flour with white whole wheat flour makes a slight difference in the taste. Since I had such great results with your other brownie recipe, I will for sure be trying this one!

  7. #
    Ashley — July 30, 2016 at 3:45 am

    Just wanna say this is probably my favorite healthy brownie recipe. I have them in the oven right now for the third or fourth time. This time I doubled it because it’s for a bridal shower, but kept the sweetener the same (I try to limit sweetener as much as possible). The reason I thought I could get away with doing that is because I swirled some homemade date syrup on top and sprinkled sea salt in for a “salted caramel” style brownie. I’m anxious to see how they turn out!! The batter was certainly tastey when I licked the bowl 🙂

    • #
      Tessa — July 31, 2016 at 9:32 am

      So glad to hear that, Ashley! Let us know how the date syrup works 🙂

  8. #
    Janice — March 31, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    Hi! I was looking for a cakey brownie recipe and seems yours is just the right one!
    may i ask:
    1) can i use all purpose flour instead of whole wheat?
    2) what can i use to substitute the applesauce?
    3) what can i use to substitute organic virgin coconut oil?
    thanks a lot!

    • #
      Tessa — March 31, 2016 at 5:24 pm

      Hi Janice! I’m sorry to say that three substitutions in one recipe would likely yield very different results. Yes, you can definitely use all purpose instead of whole wheat flour. Beyond that I would recommend sticking with the recipe as I’ve written it. You may find my Ultimate Brownie Guide useful:

  9. #
    Ashley — December 28, 2015 at 8:43 am

    If I wanted put butter back in these instead of the applesauce/coconut oil combo, do you know how much butter I should use?

  10. #
    Janine Bloom — April 5, 2015 at 4:23 am

    I made these a few days ago and they are absolutely delicious!!! When my kids tried them they fell in love with them! And they couldn’t tell that they made without sugar and with whole grain flour!!! I love it so much… that I am making a double batch this morning for Easter with the family!!!

    • #
      Tessa — April 7, 2015 at 8:33 am

      Wonderful!! Hope you had a happy Easter.

  11. #
    Baby June — April 22, 2014 at 4:46 am

    Mmmm, these looks good. If they’re healthy they’re suitable for breakfast right? 🙂

  12. #
    Jaclyn — April 21, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    I need these in my life! I’ve definitely got to try these out!

  13. #
    fitfoodiele — April 21, 2014 at 10:47 am

    i can totally relate- when you start to subtract and/or sub ingredients things can get tricky. i like to keep things on the healthy side in my kitchen too but i LOOOOOVE dessert so i am totally trying your recipe! thanks for sharing.

  14. #
    Gaby — April 21, 2014 at 7:00 am

    Love that you added maple syrup, sounds wonderful!

  15. #
    Diane @ Vintage Zest — April 21, 2014 at 5:03 am

    Definitely pinning and keeping these on the back burner… Oh wait, I have all the ingredients in the pantry right now, so it’s on the list for today’s dessert! 🙂

  16. #
    Taylor @ Food Faith Fitness — April 21, 2014 at 3:44 am

    I love how honest you are with the “nothing will ever replace a traditional brownie” I hate when people claim skinny desserts are the best, as we know they aren’t 😉 But these definitely look like they would satisfy a chocolate craving while keeping me in my skinny jeans! Pinned!

Join the Handle the Heat Community

Cookie Customization Chart
Do you want a more delicious life?
Instead of digging through cookbooks and magazines and searching the internet for amazing recipes, subscribe to Handle the Heat to receive new recipe posts delivered straight to your email inbox. You’ll get all the latest recipes, videos, kitchen tips and tricks AND my *free* Cookie Customization Guide (because I am the Cookie Queen)!
As Seen On....
NPR People Time Glamour Readers Digest The Huffington Post BuzzFeed