Before I set out to make this recipe, I debated back and forth whether I wanted the caramel baked into the brownies or slathered on afterwards. But I’m such a sucker for that crackly brownie top that I couldn’t bear covering it up! So I baked the the caramel right into the brownies by spooning it between two layers of batter. And OMG I made the right choice! These brownies are ooey gooey at room temperature and, when refrigerated, taste just like fudge.
The caramel I use for this recipe is called a dry caramel, because it starts out in the saucepan with just sugar. I used an easy chewy caramel recipe from Cupcake Jemma (the second caramel in the video), swapping out a couple of ingredients to make it vegan. This caramel tastes amazing, whips up pretty quickly, and since you’ll be baking it into the brownies, I’d say it’s pretty stress-free.
The brownie recipe itself is pretty standard – feel free to mix more walnuts or pecans right into the batter for even more nutty goodness. You’ll pour half of your batter into a prepared baking dish, spoon caramel over the batter, and then top the caramel with the remaining brownie batter. Easy! Top the brownies with nuts, extra chocolate bits, or even salt.
A few of the ingredients I love for this recipe:
Coconut cream mimics the heavy cream that’s standard for a caramel recipe. You won’t taste it at all in this vegan caramel. It’s the perfect plant-based substitute!
Cane sugar (I used unrefined) gives the caramel that classic flavor. I’ve made caramel with coconut sugar, but the flavor is very different. I recommend using cane sugar for this recipe.
Coconut sugar helps sweeten the brownie batter. It’s my go-to sweetener for baked goods since it’s unrefined and low glycemic index.
Dutch process cocoa adds a richer chocolate flavor. And these brownies are rich. Since there are no leavening agents in this recipe, feel free to use regular cocoa powder instead.
Instant coffee helps deepen the chocolate flavor, lending to the brownies richness. This ingredient is totally optional, but I like to add it in.
Eggs help give these brownies lift and create that tried and true brownie texture.
Arrowroot starch replaces flour/grain in this recipe and helps keep these brownies moist and fudgy.
- 1 1/2 cups sugar (I used Zulka unrefined cane sugar)
- 200mil canned coconut cream
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 6 Tbsp vegan butter (I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
- 1 1/2 cups dairy-free chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, solid
- 2 tsp instant coffee granules (optional)
- 6 Tbsp dutch-process cocoa (natural cocoa works, too)
- 3 large eggs, room temp
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- 4 1/2 Tbsp arrowroot starch (or corn starch)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2-1 cup pecan halves
- Prepare your caramel: measure out all of your ingredients. Then, in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, add your sugar and turn the heat to medium. Push the sugar around with a wooden spoon until all the sugar is melted and turns to a nice amber color.
- Remove melted sugar from the heat and gradually stir in the coconut cream - your mixture will bubble up, so be careful! Stir in the vegan butter until melted. Move saucepan back to the heat and bring mixture to a boil. Use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature. Boil just until mixture reaches 240°F-245°F (soft-ball stage). Remove from heat and pour into a heat-proof bowl.
- Prepare your brownies: preheat your oven to 325°F and prepare an 8x8" baking dish with non-stick spray. Then, line the bottom + all four sides with parchment paper. I like to cut two long, strips that criss-cross along the bottom, and then I fold the excess paper over the sides to help me pull the brownies out later. Also, bring your eggs to room temperature by placing them in a glass of warm water for ~10 minutes.
- In a microwave-safe bowl, add the chocolate chips and coconut oil. Microwave in spurts of 20 seconds, stirring well between each one, until chocolate is totally melted. Whisk in the instant coffee granules and cocoa powder; set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the eggs and coconut sugar. Whisk on medium-high speed until mixture is thick, fluffy, and light in color. When you lift your whisk, the batter "ribbons" should take 2-3 seconds to disappear.
- Fold the chocolate mixture into the whisked eggs + sugar - it may take a minute for them to combine. Add in the arrowroot starch and salt and gently mix until totally combined. Mix in the chopped pecans.
- Pour half of the batter into your prepared baking dish. Then spoon some of the thickened caramel over the batter, leaving ~1/2" at the edges (I used about 3/4 cup and had leftover caramel). Cover caramel with the remaining batter. Smooth out the top with a spatula and top with pecan halves.
- Bake at 325°F for 25-35 minutes or until brownies no longer jiggle. You can also use a toothpick to check for doneness. For optimal fudginess, you want a bit of batter on the toothpick.
- Allow brownies to cool totally at room temperature. For a firmer caramel, refrigerate the brownies and slice just before serving (they will taste extra fudgy when cold!). For a more melty caramel (like what's picture below), you can slice up your brownies in the pan as soon as they're cool. Store leftovers at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
You can use either dutch-process (like Hershey's Special Dark) or natural cocoa powder.
The caramel recipe can be halved if you wish to avoid having leftover caramel!
Caramel recipe loosely adapted from Cupcake Jemma