Fudgy Chocolate Brownies (The First Mess Cookbook)

posted by Melissa Huggins March 13, 2017 4 Comments

These Vegan Fudgy Chocolate Brownies are super chocolatey, nutty, and delicious. Made without oil or gluten.

You guys…I seriously have the best recipe for Chocolate Brownies EVER! It’s straight out of Laura Wright’s new cookbook, The First Messand I have permission to share it with you today.

I’ve been following Laura’s blog (The First Mess) for many years now, and I was SO excited to hear her recipes would be making it to print. I’m a HUGE cookbook collector, and I couldn’t wait to have her delicious creations in my kitchen collection.

There were so many recipes to choose from, but I just had to share this fabulous dessert. I just can’t say no to chocolate…can you? My Snickers Cream Pie and these Peanut Butter Cups get me every time.

Laura has a style all her own

Her recipes have a seasonal, farm-to-table approach, with a simple, yet stylish edge, and include a variety of flavor, texture and color. Everything she makes is plant-based, but will appeal to any carnivore out there. Her creations are satisfying to the palate, and the tummy.

Laura has a genuine, down-to-earth vibe, and it really shows through in her writing. She’s a great storyteller, and her blog is enjoyable to read. A recipe is so much more fun to make, when there’s a little story behind it.

She also has quite the eye for food photography, and each photo compliments her writing perfectly. Her photos have a charming, rustic appeal, and have a way of drawing you in. Sometimes professional food photography can make a recipe look intimidating, but Laura’s photographs have an approachable feel to them.

My first impression

I kinda knew I would love her book, so my expectations were already high. The day the book arrived, I excitedly opened the package, and I was immediately impressed with the beautiful hardcover surface. To no surprise, the cover photo was a gorgeous shot of fresh-picked greens from Laura’s home garden.

The first thing I do when I get a cookbook, is flip through the pages to look at the food photos. I was so happy to see a photograph for every, single, recipe in the book. Each one with its unique story and vibe, but with Laura’s photographic touch. Oh, and there are 125 recipes to choose from.

Also, each recipe is clearly marked with symbols that offer clarity on dietary restrictions, which include: gluten-free, nut-free, oil-free, no added sugar, and cane sugar-free.

What’s inside

The book begins with Laura’s Introduction. You’ll learn why she has a deep love and respect for local food, family, hard work, and small business communities. It really shines a light on her work today.

The book continues with, How to Stock Your Pantry for Success. Laura lists simple ingredients to keep on hand for making her recipes successfully. It’s broken down into seven subsections: Healthy Fats and Oils, Acidity, Natural sweeteners, Protein, Whole Grains, Baking Necessaries and Flavor Savers.

Next up, Kitchen Equipment for Eating Well. This section explains the basic equipment that you’ll need to make her recipes. It’s broken down into 3 categories: Necessary, Nice to Have, and Deluxe Equipment. There’s no need for super expensive, and fancy equipment to make a fabulous home cooked meal.

125 delicious recipes are broken down into 7 categories:

– Mornings and Breakfasts
– Soups and Stews
– Salads and Dressings
– Hearty Mains and Big Plates
– Vegetables and a Couple of Grains
– Energizing Drinks and Small Bites
– Desserts and Small Treats

About these brownies

Like I was saying earlier, these are the best damn brownies EVER! I knew whatever recipe I made would be a winner, but holy cow, these Fudgy Chocolate Brownies, really live up to their title!

They have a rich, dark-chocolatey flavor, with a moist & fudgy center, and a crispy outer crust. They aren’t overly sweet, and I love the addition of chopped nuts.

Gluten-free and Oil-free

The recipe calls for applesauce instead of oil, which makes them super moist and velvety. There’s just a tiny bit of coconut flour used to keep them gluten-free, too. Coconut flour can be really tricky in baking, but it worked wonderful in these brownies. To make them rich & fudgy, Laura adds melted chocolate and nut/seed butter to the mix.


I did not plan for this to happen, but I ate quite a few brownies before shooting the photos. I was merely just going to taste one, and BAM!…a few more disappeared. I usually have more self control, especially when I have a shot set up, but the fudgy goodness took over. OOPS!

At that point, Nick and Grant (a.k.a. the gremlins) caught on to the brownie eating, and came into the kitchen for their cut. I usually tell them they have to wait until after the shoot, but how could I say no, when said brownie was in hand, and mouth was full? I was caught red handed, and I was out of excuses.

Well, I solved the problem, and I made another batch right away, and couldn’t have been happier about it. The gremlins were very happy, too.

I hope you enjoyed my review of The First Mess. I cannot recommend this cookbook enough. You’ll get a dose fresh-tasting, flavorful, and wholesome recipes that everyone will love. Whether you are embarking on a plant-based journey, or are well on your way, this book will help inspire you, and guide you through the kitchen with ease. You can find Laura’s book in most bookstores, or you can find in on Amazon, here.

Fudgy Nut and Seed Butter Brownies

Serves 10-15

Fudgy Nut and Seed Butter Brownies

This may be my crowning achievement as far as desserts go, and I’ve tested it about a hundred times just to make sure. No added oil, no added refined sugar, no grains, loaded with chocolate, and they’re vegan of course. These brownies are dense and fudgy, and taste great with a variety of nut or seed butters. I like to do a half almond/half hazelnut butter variation that mimics that popular chocolate hazelnut spread in flavor and richness. ~Laura Wright

*Reprinted from The First Mess Cookbook by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2017, Laura Wright

10 minPrep Time

30 minCook Time

40 minTotal Time

Save Recipe


¾ cup smooth nut or seed butter (I like roasted almond, hazelnut, or sunflower butter)
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons coconut flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup vegan chocolate chunks OR chopped chocolate from a 70% dark, dairy-free chocolate bar, divided
3 tablespoons whole nuts or seeds, rough-chopped (I like almonds, hazelnuts, or sunflower seeds)


  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square pan with a piece of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Set aside.
  2. 2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the nut or seed butter, maple syrup, applesauce, and vanilla.
  3. 3. To the nut butter mixture, add the cocoa powder, coconut flour, baking soda, and sea salt. Whisk to combine, ensuring that there are no dry lumps of cocoa in the batter.
  4. 4. In a double boiler, melt half of the chocolate chunks. Vigorously stir the melted chocolate into the brownie batter until fully incorporated.
  5. 5. Scrape the brownie batter into the prepared baking pan. Smooth the batter out evenly with a spatula, pushing it into the edges and corners of the pan.
  6. 6. Scatter the reserved chocolate chunks and rough-chopped nuts over the top. Slide the pan into the oven, and bake the brownies until the top is slightly firm and appears dry and lightly cracked, about 27 to 30 minutes.
  7. 7. Cool the brownies completely in the pan set on a wire rack. Then, cover the brownies and place them in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. This step is crucial. The brownies will not cut neatly unless they get adequate cooling time.
  8. 8. I recommend running a chef’s knife under hot water and drying it off right before slicing the brownies.
Recipe Type: Vegan | Oil-Free | Gluten-Free


*If you don't have a double boiler you can microwave the chocolate for about a minute.



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Sarah | Well and Full March 21, 2017 at 5:50 pm
I have Laura's cookbook and I've made these brownies twice already!! They're so good!! :D
Melissa Huggins April 4, 2017 at 10:04 am
Hi Sarah, thank you for stopping by. I'm loving her book so much. So many great recipes that are easy to follow :)
Nick April 17, 2017 at 6:23 pm
Wow, this recipe looks amazing! I love how "messy" the tops of the brownies look, I'm sure it gives them a gorgeous texture 😍
Melissa Huggins April 22, 2017 at 6:41 pm
Hi Nick, Thank you for stopping by! The topping is my favorite part. :)

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