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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 have been searching for a good homemade brownie recipe and now I’ve found it! Great taste, perfect chewy texture with the beloved crusty edges and flaky top. This will be my go-to recipe from now on.






  2. I just read through the recipe for the first time, and haven’t made them yet. I can’t wait to give them a try! I tend to like nuts in my brownies, so I will prob do that; and I always add a couple TBS of coffee to my brownie box mix and it makes a difference. Do you think I should try going 1/2 & 1/2 with the milk?






    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Hi Karen- yes. You can make them with half coffee and half milk or just go all coffee if that’s what you’d like. If you have espresso powder that is an option too, just add some of the powdered espresso into the brownie batter. Sounds amazing!

  3. Best recipe ever. I added walnuts amd my granddaughters ate all of them in 2 days. I barely had time to cut them . Thank you for this recipe






  4. So simple to make and so delicious!!!! I never use boxed brownie mix anymore, all I use is this recipe now!






  5. The BEST brownie recipe I’ve ever made!! I made it for my family a couple of times and it was a hit (multiple people came and asked for the recipe to make it themselves)! They are AMAZING!!!






  6. Made a batch of these brownies today and they turned out amazing! Thank you for sharing! I was wondering if this could be turned into a dry mix to keep in a large container? That way, all you’d have to do is measure out the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients and bake?






    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Hi Catie, I am so glad you love this recipe. To make a bulk batch, you’d have to play with the proportions to ensure you are getting the correct amount of dry ingredients.

  7. I’ve made this exactly as written SO many times! Today, I quadrupled the recipe and baked them in individual 3.5″ x 3.5″ tins for 18 minutes. Perfection!






  8. Avatar photo
    Audrey Picklesimer

    Tried and true delicious recipe! Making my 2nd batch in 2 days. Family wiped them out in one evening & we are a family of 3 lol. Made exactly as recipe called for & turned out fantastic.






  9. I made this brownies a couple days ago and my family loved it! I added an extra egg and an egg yolk and it still came out delicious. I love this recipe and will definitely be making again.






  10. WOW! Delicious! So much better than box brownies! I agree with Quinn, best brownies I ever made! Thanks for sharing your recipe!






  11. I’m making these brownies for the second time for memorial day! i recommend putting butterscotch chocolate chips on it! ❤️






  12. These brownies were Delicious 😋. I will definitely be making them again! 🥰. Thank you for sharing your recipe.






  13. Just made these delicious brownies again for the 100th time…and they are amazing! Don’t let the negative comments fool you – they are just perfect. I substituted half the flour for almond powder and added a bit of spiced rum 😀 The family can’t get enough of them! Thank you again beyondfrosting for this fantastic recipe! ❤️






  14. The texture came out quite good but the flavor is not good. I thought I messed up the recipe because everyone else is raving about it. I think it needs butter???






    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      I tested these with butter and found them to be dry. Can you elaborate on why they didn’t taste good? These are quite popular on my site and the reviews here and on Pinterest are normally pretty phenomenal.