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Cocoa Powder Brownies

Quick and easy, these Cocoa Powder Brownies taste just like your favorite boxed brownie mix. They’re made with pantry staples and ready in 45 minutes!

A stack of three cocoa powder brownies on a napkin

Easy Homemade Brownie Recipe

Raise your hand if sometimes you reach for a box of brownies instead of making them from scratch. I know that I definitely have – sometimes it’s just so much easier! Now I just make these Cocoa Powder Brownies instead!

I created this recipe with the intention for it to be quicker and easier to make, and to mimic a boxed brownie mix. In a boxed brownie mix, you’d typically add oil, water and eggs. This recipe is the same, but instead of water, I added some milk for richness.

While most homemade brownie recipes do not usually have a leveling agent, I intentionally added one to this recipe. The baking soda prevents the brownies from being overly dense and fudgy, though they’re definitely not cakey either. It’s the perfect middle ground! (And some boxed brownie mixes, like our favorite Ghirardelli Double Chocolate, also contain baking soda.)

Three homemade brownies stacked on each other

What’s the Difference Between These and Fudgy Brownies?

I’ve shared a handful of brownie recipes in the past, most of them variations on my fudgy brownies recipe. So what makes this recipe different?

  • This recipe is quicker and easier to prepare with less dishes
  • These are thinner, less dense and a litte less rich
  • There’s no melted chocolate in this batter. The melted chocolate makes for a heavier, denser and fudgier brownie
  • These chewy but still fudgy brownies are my version of our favorite boxed brownie mix.
  • This recipe used oil instead of butter, which keeps them moist
Three homemade brownies, the top one with a bite missing

Key Ingredients

Here are the main ingredients you’ll need for these homemade brownies. Scroll down to the recipe card to see the exact measurements and full ingredient list.

  • Granulated sugar
  • Oil – Vegetable oil helps keep the brownies moist. I don’t recommend substituting melted butter.
  • Milk – Adds a richness to the brownies.
  • All-purpose flour
  • Cocoa powder – It’s important to use natural, unsweetened cocoa powder. See notes below.
  • Baking soda – A touch of baking soda provides just enough air pockets in these brownies to mimic a boxed brownie mix.
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips – Add that rich, chocolatey goodness.
  • Flakey sea salt – Optional but I love the salty-sweet combo.
Ingredients for Cocoa Powder Brownies with text overlay

A Note On The Cocoa Powder

The key to making these brownies is to use natural cocoa powder, NOT dutch processed cocoa powder. (Learn more about the difference between the two here.) The reason for this is the baking soda in the recipe.

Baking soda requires an acidic ingredient to activate it in a recipe. Otherwise, you end up with a flat dessert and a metallic aftertaste. In the case of this brownie recipe, natural cocoa powder is the acidic ingredient.

If you use dutch processed cocoa, which is made from beans that have been treated with potassium carbonate, the baking soda will not activate and these brownies will not only not rise, they will have a not-so-pleasant aftertaste.

How to Make Cocoa Powder Brownies

This may be the easiest brownie recipe out there – it comes together in just a few quick steps!

Step 1: Combine the wet ingredients. Beat the granulated sugar with the oil, milk, and vanilla extract. Add the egg. Take care not to overbeat the eggs, beat just until combined.

Step 2: Add the dry ingredients. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add to the batter until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Bake. Transfer the batter to the greased baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Add some extra chocolate chips on top. Bake then cool before cutting.

8-inch baking pan filled with brownie batter

How to Tell When Brownies Are Done

Brownies, unlike cake, should be pulled when they are slightly underdone, as they will finish off baking as they cool. You often hear, insert until the toothpick comes out clean, but that’s not the case with brownies.

You are looking for a toothpick that is still slightly damp, with some crumbs sticking. It should not be gooey or wet.

For me, I pull my brownies around 25-27 minutes, I like them to be really fudgy once they cool. If you prefer a drier, less fudgy brownie, maybe you would go for 30 minutes. In my opinion, at 35 minutes, these brownies are overdone and would be much drier.

It’s important to note I use a metal baking dish, not glass. Glass baking dishes do not conduct heat as quickly as metal pans, and therefore it extends the baking time.

4 toothpicks that have been dipped in brownie batter, with text overlay

Can I Make These in a Different Sized Pan?

I recommend an 8-inch square pan for the perfect thickness, but if you only have a 9-inch pan, that will work too. The brownies will just be much thinner and you’ll need to reduce the baking time by a few minutes.

This recipe can easily be doubled for a 9×13 inch pan.

Overhead view of a brownie with sea salt

Tips for Success

Here are a few tips for making the best cocoa powder brownies – which may be different from what you would do for regular brownies.

  • Don’t overbeat the batter once the egg has been added. Typically a well-beaten egg will help to create the meringue or flakey layer you traditionally find on the top of brownies. However, since this has baking soda, overbeating the eggs will cause the brownies to puff up too much in the centers and then sink as they cool. You’ll still get a thin crisp layer on top that cracks when you cut it.
  • How to easily cut brownies. For clean-cut brownies, wash and dry the knife after each cut.
  • Can I Use Butter Instead of Oil? While butter is an acceptable substitute for oil in brownies, I found that with the melted butter, these brownies came our drier than the oil version.
  • Don’t overbake. A toothpick inserted in the middle should still come out damp, though not gooey or wet.
  • Add sea salt. I love a touch of flakey sea salt on top to finish these off. It helps cut the sweetness and salty sweet is my favorite combo.

Serving Suggestions

I don’t believe there’s a wrong way to enjoy a brownie…but I will say that since these aren’t quite as dense and rich as fudgy brownies, they are perfect for making an ice cream sundae! Just add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, some chocolate syrup, and a maraschino cherry. Yum!

Or just enjoy with a glass of milk. (Bonus points if the brownie is warm.)

How to Store & Freeze

These homemade brownies will last for up to 3 days when stored on the counter in an airtight container. If you want them for a few extra days, store them in the fridge where they’ll last for up to 5 days.

To freeze the brownies, I recommend wrapping each one individually in plastic wrap. You can thaw in the fridge, on the counter, or pop them in the microwave for 15-30 seconds for warm brownies.

Overhead view of three cocoa powder brownies, one with a bite missing

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A stack of three cocoa powder brownies on a napkin

Cocoa Powder Brownies

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 4.8 from 68 reviews
  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 12 brownies
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Quick and easy, these Cocoa Powder Brownies taste just like your favorite boxed brownie mix. They’re made with pantry staples and ready in 35 minutes!


Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups (238g) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (78ml) vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup (59ml) milk
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup (40g) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cups (168g) semi-sweet chocolate chips, plus additional for garnish
  • Flakey Sea Salt garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease an 8-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine with the granulated sugar with the oil, milk and vanilla extract and beat together until well combined.
  3. Next add the egg beat just until combined, about 30 seconds or so.
  4. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and stir to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.
  5. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and sprinkle another handful of chocolate chips over top. Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center will be damp but not gooey or wet. Remove from the oven and allow to cool prior to cutting.


Notes

  • Baking times: several people have reported longer baking time. Refer back to the blog post section with the toothpick test to determine about how long the brownies should cook for. Use a metal baking pan and ensure the oven is properly preheated. To bake in a 9-inch pan, reduce the baking time by a few minutes.
  • Storing: Brownies are best for 3 days when stored on the counter in an airtight container, or up to 5 days in the refrigerator. 
  • Freezing: I recommend wrapping each one individually in plastic wrap. You can thaw in the fridge, on the counter, or pop frozen brownies in the microwave for 15-30 seconds to warm.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 259
  • Sugar: 29.2 g
  • Sodium: 35.5 mg
  • Fat: 11 g
  • Carbohydrates: 40.2 g
  • Fiber: 2.6 g
  • Protein: 3.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 15.6 mg

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157 thoughts on “Cocoa Powder Brownies”

  1. I made them and loved the taste but I wasn’t happy with the cakey texture. I like my brownies to be dense and fudgy.






    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Hmm, I wouldn’t call these brownies cakey, so it sounds like something was off. For a true dense and fudge-like brownie, I would recommend this Fudgy Brownie instead.

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      It makes it easier to remove them from the pan, and I like to do that to slice them. It also prevents them from sticking. You could certainly grease the pan instead

  2. I found this recipe on Pinterest and since I didn’t have my usual box brownies I decided to give these from scratch a try. Safe to say I will continue to use this recipe because its amazing. I used a 9×9 pan and left it for 20 min, no more than that, and they were perfect!






  3. These are delicious! Always gone as soon as I make them. Definitely my go to recipe for brownies. I’m making them tonight with peanut butter chips .. yum 😋






  4. Made these last week !! I ate 90% of the pan myself 🫣 I used coconut oil instead of oil and expreesso instead of milk !!






  5. Hi! If I double this , would a 9×13 work? 😇 I tried these by the way and they’re amazing and perfect!

  6. These brownies are phenomenal. I even used olive oil because I was out of any other, which made me nervous. But they came out great! Super gooey and chewy with a slight crust to the edges. My hubby loves brownies but doesn’t like things too sweet, the cocoa powder really adds a nice depth without make them too sugary. Our favorite recipe (and have tried tons) and now our go-to!!






  7. My family and I love this recipe! We had fun making it, and REALLY enjoyed eating it. Excited to try more recipes from you, thank you!






  8. These are my new favorite brownies! I’ve made them twice in the past week. They are perfectly fudgy without the use of melted chocolate or anything – just cocoa powder. It doesn’t get easier than that. I opt to use coconut oil for the oil and they are the perfect brownies!






  9. Thses were amazing! They tasted great definitely making them again! I love to bake and these were super easy to make and they took about 35 minutes in my oven






  10. Amazing!! Fudgy, cooked perfect in 27 minutes in a glass baking pan, came out lovely! Added milk chocolate chips & dark chocolate chips!






  11. I am a brownie lover. I love to bake! These turned out perfect… cooked in about 29 min in my oven. Only thing … the flavor was that of a box brownie. Nothing special. I know to each their own but this was one I had hoped would be good because of how easy to mix up. I did t change anything.
    They are not what. Thought. Not the best. Thanks for taking the time to put it out tho.

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Thanks for your review. I personally think they’re better than a box but yes, to each their own.

  12. Avatar photo
    Isla Tortorice

    Loved this recipe so much 10/10
    Also I put sliced strawberries with chocolate drizzle on top






  13. I made these. They look great but do not have the shiny crispy look on top that I like in brownies. Did I do something to cause this?

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Did they look similar to mine or not at all? These do not give off the same “shine” that you might find with a boxed mix. Mine is a little duller. But it is still flakey and crackly when cut. Typically a well-beaten egg will help to create the meringue or flakey layer you traditionally find on the top of brownies. However with this recipe, since there is some baking soda, you don’t want to overbeat the egg which will cause the brownies to rise more and then sink when cooled.

  14. Very yummy!! I love box brownies and usually can tell if they are homemade (they just don’t taste great) but these taste like box brownies. Yay! My husband loved them too!






  15. These have to be the best brownies I’ve ever made. I was worried that I didn’t use a wide enough dish to allow them to cook through well but the recipe is so perfect that they came out great even in my small round dish. Thanks for sharing your recipe, i’ll be using it moving forward!






    1. This was fast to put together and although they took a little extra time to bake,they were oh so yummy.