So, how are these keto brownies sweet and delicious like a traditional dessert without including copious amounts of carbs, which we’ve established are a major keto no-no? It’s all about strategic ingredient swaps.
First, let’s talk about the flour. Traditional brownie recipes call for wheat flour (often bleached white flour, which is devoid of most beneficial nutrients). Our favorite keto brownies, on the other hand, are made with blanched almond flour. Popular among health-conscious eaters of all varieties (not just keto dieters), almond flour is also high in monounsaturated fats, which help promote overall health and reduce the risk of heart disease, along with antioxidant vitamin E and the essential minerals magnesium and potassium.
Something to keep in mind when you’re at the grocery store: While almond flour is closely related to almond meal, they aren’t exactly the same thing. The difference is that almond meal can be made with whole almonds, while almond flour is only made from ground blanched almonds. Almond flour will have a finer texture, and substituting almond meal for flour in the recipe could affect the texture and consistency of the finished keto brownies.
To achieve the perfect texture, this keto brownie recipe also calls for coconut flour, which comes with a variety of benefits. For one, it contains lauric acid, a healthy saturated fat that plays a pivotal role in maintaining a healthy immune system. It’s also a great source of both protein and fiber, the latter of which contributes to healthy digestion and good gut health. “Lots of fiber” might not sound like the sexiest benefit, but a lack of fiber is a major reason many people notice a weight loss plateau on the keto diet, says Dr. Pedre.
“Dietary fiber keeps you full longer and contains prebiotic nutrients that support a healthy gut flora, creating a win-win for weight loss,” Dr. Pedre explains. “Getting insufficient dietary fiber (yes, I’m talking to you, all-meat carnivore or cave-man diet folks) adversely shifts your healthy gut flora, which will increase inflammation, insulin resistance, fat deposition around the middle, and weight gain. Leafy green and cruciferous vegetables, avocado, coconut, and berries make great fiber-rich, keto-friendly foods.”
As with all keto desserts, these brownies contain a good dose of fat, too. But in lieu of melted butter, this recipe features avocado oil, which results in perfectly gooey brownies and delivers a variety of nutrients in the process. Avocado oil is a rich source of healthy fats, especially anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. This oil is also full of carotenoids, the most significant of which is lutein, an antioxidant that provides a protective effect to the skin, helping prevent UV-radiation-induced skin damage.
To achieve that classic sweet taste while maintaining their low-carb status, this keto brownie recipe swaps out granulated sugar for erythritol, a natural sugar alcohol that contains just 3 calories per gram and serves as a sugar alternative. “Along with stevia, these sugar alcohols are still decent options for people looking for natural sugar-free options,” William Cole, D.C., IFMCP, functional medicine expert, told mbg. Sugar alcohols are considered safer than artificial sweeteners like sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (Equal and NutraSweet), and saccharin (Sweet N’ Low), all of which may “actually change the bacterial makeup of your microbiome,” said Cole. “This can be a trigger for autoimmune problems, diabetes, and metabolic disorders.”
It’s important to note, however, that sugar alcohols aren’t a great option for everyone. They are known to have a laxative effect if consumed in high quantities and can cause major flare-ups of digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and SIBO. Since your body does not completely absorb sugar alcohols, they’re left to ferment in the large intestine, which can cause gas and bloating. The short version: If you suffer from one of these digestive conditions, you may want to avoid this (and most) keto dessert recipes.