Hetty McKinnon’s Flourless Soy Sauce Brownies

This is a chocolatey, rich gluten-free brownie with an added ingredient—soy sauce—that gives this treat deep caramel notes.

Flourless Soy Sauce Brownies by Hetty McKinnon stacked on a plate.

Lori Rice

A traditional brownie is a joyous treat, a source of reliable comfort. But that doesn’t mean a classic treat cannot be tinkered with to produce a wholly different kind of indulgence.

While this gluten-free brownie recipe is far from traditional, it is deeply chocolatey and rich, from the addition of an unexpected ingredient—soy sauce.

Soy sauce may seem like an unusual addition but if we think about it, it makes perfect sense. It is common knowledge that chocolate tastes better with a pinch of salt. Salt brings out the natural sweetness of chocolate and masks any bitterness. In this brownie recipe, we replace salt with soy sauce, and the result is even more spectacular.

Why Add Soy Sauce to a Brownie?

Soy sauce, the salty condiment produced through the fermentation of soybeans and wheat, works double-time in this brownie—it adds sweetness but also a deep, caramel flavor that accentuates the intensity of the chocolate. The brownie tastes roasty and woodsy, but fruity at the same time.

I first came up with recipe a few years ago, not long after I moved from Sydney, Australia to Brooklyn, New York. Feeling homesick, I added some vegemite, the polarizing Australian yeast extract that is also highly salty, to my brownies.

When I posted the recipe on my website, it raised some eyebrows but suddenly, home cooks were trying and loving it. The vegemite brings a complex depth of flavor to the brownies. This early iteration eventually led to these soy sauce brownies, with a flavor that is reminiscent of the salty bitterness of salted caramel.

‘To Asia, With Love’ Flourless Soy Sauce Brownies stacked on a plate.
Lori Rice

Tips and Tricks for Making Flourless Brownies

There are two schools of thought when it comes to brownies: cakey or fudgy. This one falls on the side of fudge, the center is soft and creamy, with an irresistible nuttiness from the almond meal.

Nuts are a wonderful way to add an extra layer of flavor and texture to your brownies. You could also experiment with other nut flours such as hazelnut or pistachio which would all provide you with a pleasing variety of nutty flavors. The nuts do deliver a softer consistency, so I like to leave this brownie in the fridge overnight, which allows it to firm up a little and makes it easier to cut.

The other thing that I love about this brownie is that it is gluten-free. Regular soy sauce does contain gluten so opt for a gluten-free tamari or soy sauce. You could also use a product like liquid or coconut aminos which are naturally gluten-free.

How to Store Flourless Brownies

These brownies will store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Flourless Soy Sauce Brownies by Hetty McKinnon cut into squares and in a pan.
Lori Rice

About to “To Asia, With Love”

“To Asia with Love: Everyday Asian Recipes and Stories from the Heart,” by Hetty McKinnon is a vibrant cookbook rich with modern, family-friendly vegetarian dishes. McKinnon draws from her cultural heritage as the child of Chinese immigrants who was raised in Australia to create fresh and interesting recipes rooted in tradition. The recipes are accessible and familiar but also push the boundaries of what it means to cook Asian flavors at home.

More Recipes from Hetty McKinnon, author of “To Asia with Love”

Hetty McKinnon’s Flourless Soy Sauce Brownies

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Chilling Time 24 hrs
Total Time 24 hrs 40 mins
Servings 12 to 16 servings
Yield 12 to 16 brownies

Reprinted with permission from “To Asia with Love,” by Hetty McKinnon. Copyright © 2021. Published by Prestel Verlag, a member of Penguin Random House.

Ingredients

  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup semisweet or dark chocolate bits
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 to 4 teaspoons tamari or gluten-free soy sauce

Method

  1. Preheat the oven and prep baking pan:

    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and line a 9-inch square baking pan.

    Lined pan to make ‘To Asia, With Love’ Flourless Soy Sauce Brownies.
    Lori Rice
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate over a double boiler:

    Place the butter and chocolate in a large glass bowl (one that is completely dry and clean) and set over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water).

    Leave until melted, then whisk until smooth. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

    Butter and chocolate melting on the stove to make ‘To Asia, With Love’ Flourless Soy Sauce Brownies.
    Lori Rice
    Melted chocolate in a glass bowl to make ‘To Asia, With Love’ Flourless Soy Sauce Brownies.
    Lori Rice
  3. Combine the dry ingredients:

    In another bowl, whisk together the almond meal, cocoa powder and baking powder.

    Dry ingredients in a glass bowl to make Flourless Soy Sauce Brownies by Hetty McKinnon.
    Lori Rice
  4. Combine the wet ingredients:

    In a third bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, vanilla extract and soy sauce.

    Whisking wet ingredints in a bowl for Gluten-Free Soy Sauce Brownies.
    Lori Rice
  5. Combine the egg and chocolate and fold in dry ingredients:

    Slowly whisk the egg mixture into the cooled chocolate mixture until well combined. Fold in the dry ingredients.

    Adding wet ingredients to chocolate mixture to make Gluten-Free Soy Sauce Brownies.
    Lori Rice
    Batter in a bowl for Gluten-Free Soy Sauce Brownies.
    Lori Rice
  6. Add batter into prepared pan, bake:

    Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes. Remove and allow to cool completely in the pan (I like to leave it in the fridge overnight which makes it easier to handle).

    Batter in the pan for Gluten-Free Soy Sauce Brownies.
    Lori Rice
    Baked Gluten-Free Soy Sauce brownies cooling in the pan.
    Lori Rice
  7. Cut, serve or store:

    Cut into 12–16 pieces (depending on how big you like them). Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

    Gluten-Free Soy Sauce Brownies cut into squares on a cutting board.
    Lori Rice