Low-Fat Chocolate Brownies

          Last week’s Books and Brownies blog left me craving something chocolatey and as Valentine’s Day is fast approaching I decided to make brownies.   I’m not one to say no to convenience food if it tastes good, being perfectly content to bow to the expertise of Betty Crocker, but my favorite mix had turned out dry the last few times I made it.   I used to take brownies to work for birthdays and my brownies had always been a hit, the secret ingredient being butter not oil – I was raised on a dairy farm where butter ruled.   It was always a treat getting off the school bus if my mother had made a big pan of brownies, chewy, no icing but walnuts in them, usually still warm from the oven, but even back in the sixties she used a mix.   After a family member was diagnosed with gallbladder problems, I switched to a low fat mix which eliminated the added oil/butter, but then it too was discontinued. 


What’s up Betty Crocker?

After wasting more time than I care to admit pouring over low-fat recipes in cookbooks, online and on that food vortex otherwise known as Pinterest, I discovered that both applesauce and strained prunes can be substituted for some of the fat in a recipe.  I settled on one that called for strained prunes, the baby food kind was okay it said.   So I set out for the grocery store which apparently doesn’t even sell baby food anymore as everyone makes their own.   Luckily, the drugstore had an organic line in plastic pouches – they might want to revisit those old glass jars which can be recycled in all kinds of ways.   A pouch held 125ml, exactly the amount I needed, but when I opened it, it tasted so awful, that I decided to use a different recipe with applesauce instead.   The reviews were all good, except for one dissenter, who said don’t bother, waste of ingredients.   Here’s the recipe for Rich and Chewy Low Fat Brownies.   

Brownie ingredients


½ cup cocoa

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ¾ cup white sugar

2 egg whites

¾ cup applesauce unsweetened

  • Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl using a hand mixer. Add egg whites, applesauce and vanilla.
  • Mix all other ingredients in a separate smaller bowl and add to the wet ingredients in the large bowl. Do NOT overmix!
  • Spray 8×8 dish with PAM and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.   Yields 16 brownies.

The lumpy texture was a bit strange, not sure if that was from the applesauce or my failure to read the recipe as I dumped the sugar in with the dry ingredients by mistake.   They baked up alright, a bit denser than my regular brownie mix but the appearance was good, soft in the centre, slightly crusty at the edges and on top. 

The Verdict:   Well they were certainly rich and chewy, but were they good? 

Never having made brownies from scratch before I had nothing to compare them to but they seemed tasteless, kind of like eating cardboard.   Guilty as charged IMO.   The rest of the jury was polite but noncommittal, preferring the slightly safer remark, “They’re okay, but they don’t taste like your regular brownies.”    Several people thought they were cake.  

I did cut back on the sugar by half a cup to 1 1/4 cups as some of the reviewers had suggested as it seemed like a lot of sugar for a small 8X8 pan.    My chocolate powder was the very expensive French imported stuff which possibly made it too rich.   They didn’t seem sweet at all, even smothered in my regular 2 inches of Canada’s favorite icing (see label). 

brownie icing chocolate

They did look pretty on my pink plates though. 


But food is to eat!   I hate it when you’re in a fancy restaurant and you order something outrageously expensive off the dessert trolley because it looks good, and it turns out to be disappointing.   Of course not everyone is a fussy  foodie like I am (except that lone dissenter), but I would not have served these to company.   They were mediocre at best – if I’m going to indulge in a brownie I want it to be great. 

Were they even as healthy as promised?  Here’s the nutrition label:

Serving Size: 1 (812) g

Servings Per Recipe: 1


Calories: 147.9

Calories from Fat 16 g 11 %

Total Fat 1.8 g 2 %

Saturated Fat 0.9 g 4 %

Cholesterol 3.8 mg 1 %

Sodium 118.6 mg 4 %

Total Carbohydrate 31.9 g 10 %

Dietary Fiber 0.8 g 3 %

Sugars 21.9 g 87 %

Protein 1.8 g

Add in the nutrition label from the icing:

Betty Crocker icing label

Add up the 1.8g of fat from the brownie, but you would be lucky to get 16 brownies out of a small pan like that so let’s round that up to 4g, with the 5g of fat from the 2 tablespoons of icing (again a stretch), and you have about 9g. 

Now compare that to Betty Crocker’s new product, Fudge Brownie in a Mug with fudge topping:

Mug cake brownie

Nutrition Label:

Mug cake nutrition list

You add some water and nuke it in the microwave for one minute.  One pouch with fudge topping also gives you 9 g of fat, and about the same number of calories as the low fat recipe, but better taste, in fact it was so rich tasting I could only eat half of it.   Is there such a thing as too chocolatey?   I know death by double chocolate is all the rage but I much prefer regular milk chocolate over the often bitter darker stuff.   Plus unless you’re baking for a family who ever eats just one brownie?  The mug box has built-in portion control –  not sure how they came up with 3 portions, why not 2 or 4, but maybe the extra one is to stash away for an emergency on days you need chocolate.   So why not let Betty do all the work?   Now it’s back to the pastry board for a better Valentine’s Day dessert…stay tuned.    (950 words)  

PS.  Do you have a favorite brownie recipe or mix?  




30 thoughts on “Low-Fat Chocolate Brownies

  1. Ally Bean says:

    I’ve used Duncan Hines brownie mix. I substituted cold black coffee for the water and made them according to the cake-like directions. For boxed brownies they weren’t bad, but I make them once every few years so I may not be the best source when it comes to brownies.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lindasschaub says:

    I’d be disappointed after smelling the brownies and all your hard work and they didn’t taste so good. Well, I can’t contribute to the discussion on my own behalf, but my mom used Betty Crocker brownie mix later in life because the package we got (which was not a box, but a stand up pouch – see link) made a smaller batch.
    The brownie pan (8 X 8) was the right size that she could put a tray of peanut butter cookies, also from a Betty Crocker pouch, in at the same temperature alongside it. She did that for years and back in the day she made both from scratch. I thought they were both good and my mom never iced her brownies, just put walnut pieces in them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Actually I didn’t even notice the smell like I usually do when I’m using a mix? Maybe a bit when I came in from my walk. I remember seeing those Betty Crocker pouches, but not recently though. I do sometimes use a Robin Hood pouch which just makes 6 chocolate chip cookies and it’s okay. I’ll have to look for them in a bigger grocery store.

      Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Nothing smells the house like brownies – I do miss that smell and the taste. When my mom stopped baking from scratch the last few years, she sometimes used the Jiffy mixes (they are based here in Michigan) and made cornbread cakes, cornbread twists and brownies with their mixes. Yes, see if they have them and it makes a smaller batch to try for the first time. That’s been around 11 years since my mom used that product so it may have changed too and she may have added something to make it taste better too.


  3. J P says:

    Low fat brownies have never been tried at our house. We are another box-mix family, either Duncan Hines or Ghiradelli, and walnut oil gives them a great flavor. We don’t do the icing either. A long time ago we had a scratch recipe that used cocoa powder and I recall it as being pretty good, but it is one of those recipe cards that has settled down to the bottom of the little box where they all live.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      I don’t know Denise – I think I would google for a better recipe. I did put some butter in them, maybe half of what I normally would 1/4 cup. I think it was the applesauce, and maybe you need the egg yolk to get it fluffier. I think there must be better recipes out there. Also, maybe I should have cut back on the french cocoa, as the recipe was designed for grocery store cocoas. I think I’d check out something else if I made them from scratch again – and not something with prunes either!


  4. Jo Shafer says:

    Betty Crocker was always my “go-to” for boxed mixes as the most reliable. I’ve never heard of “Brownie in a Mug” but that sounds absolutely delightful. But, if it’s too dark and on the bitter side, then no thanks. I prefer a milk chocolate. These days we find really good brownies from Safeway’s bakery, sometimes Rosauers, thick and cake-like with a heavy milk chocolate icing. I keep these in the refrigerator to maintain a firm texture. Yummmmmmmmmm

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      I found the Brownie in a Mug too rich, but they also have a chocolate cake one and I think there might have been a caramel one too. They were on sale for $3 so I thought I would try it out.


    • Joni says:

      Sure! Gmail it to me please, when you have time. I’ve had several other offers too – it’s good to have a collection of recipes to try from people who have actually used them, instead of randomly googling. I’m game to try them from scratch again with a regular recipe. My sympathies on the chocolate allergy. I’m not a chocaholic like some people, but I do sometimes have cravings for it.


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