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Recipe: Pantry Cocoa Brownies

With four base ingredients, rich and fudgy brownies are within reach.

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Photos by Lauren Volo

Ah, the call of the brownie hits us all. Sometimes it’s midday, sometimes it’s midnight. Dense and rich, neither cake nor fudge, a chewy brownie satisfies that primal need. But sometimes you just don’t have every ingredient in the house when the need strikes. You’ve got some cocoa powder, flour, and sugar in the pantry, and just a few eggs in the fridge. Enter: these decadent pantry cocoa brownies that are so delicious, you may find yourself making them even when you have a kitchen packed with groceries.

Harnessing the Power of Blooming Cocoa

What makes this brownie work so well is really a technique. To bring out the best in cocoa powder, it often is “bloomed,” which means that the cocoa is added to a warm liquid, stirred well until it is lump-free, and then set aside to sit for a few minutes. It will become fragrant, and the cocoa powder will dissolve and thicken. When added to any mixture, that fragrance stays put even after baking. The liquid used for blooming cocoa is almost always water.

Some baking experts like Alice Medrich and Dorie Greenspan love cocoa powder brownies and mix their cocoa powder with oil. I took their advice, and kicked it up a bit by warming the oil and using it to bloom the cocoa.

A Handheld Mixer Makes It Better, Faster, and Easier

A simple handheld mixer makes this more than quick and easy — it ensures a great brownie. This brownie can be made by hand, but the mixing takes quite a long time in this recipe, far longer than most brownie recipes, so I strongly suggest using a handheld mixer.

The faux chocolate mixture needs to emulsify; once well-mixed, it will bake up as smooth as can be. Thoroughly mixing the eggs and sugar also makes the top crackle and shine. You can also haul out the stand mixer here and use it with the paddle attachment if you wish.

Mix in the Order Listed

Mixing is really the second key element to this recipe; the mixture has to be pretty much finished with all the extra mixing before the flour and baking powder are added. I have built in a safeguard in the directions to ensure your brownies are tender every time.

Pantry Cocoa Brownies

Yield: Makes 16

Prep Time: 20 minutes to 25 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes to 30 minutes


  • Cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup canola or flavorless oil
  • 2/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Coat a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Dust the pan with flour, tap out the excess, and set aside.

  2. Place the oil into a microwave-safe medium bowl and heat on low power in 4 to 6 (5-second) bursts until warm but not hot. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until completely smooth and combined. Let sit for 4 or 5 minutes so the cocoa can bloom. Meanwhile, prepare the dry and wet ingredients.

  3. Place the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and whisk to combine; set aside.

  4. Place the eggs, powdered sugar, and brown sugar in a large bowl. (Alternatively, place in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.) Using an electric hand mixer, beat on medium speed until fluffy and lighter in color, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla until just combined.

  5. Add 1/2 of the cocoa mixture to the egg mixture and mix at medium-high speed until shiny and fully combined, about 5 minutes. Add the flour mixture to the egg and cocoa mixture and mix at low speed until fully combined. Add the remaining cocoa mixture and and mix at medium-high speed until shiny and fully combined, about 1 minute. Transfer to the baking pan and spread into an even layer.

  6. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes (you can bake for up to 30 minutes if you like a firmer brownie with some crisp edges). The brownies will pull away from the edges of the pan, but a cake tester or knife inserted in the middle will not come out clean. Let cool before cutting into 16 squares.

Storage: The brownies can be stored in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Tami Weiser is a writer, recipe developer, culinary educator, and caterer. She is a graduate of the Professional Culinary Arts program at the Institute for Culinary Education (ICE) in New York.

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This post originally appeared on The Kitchn and was published January 21, 2020. This article is republished here with permission.

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