Recently, a customer asked if I had any fat-free chocolate dessert recipes. While I’m unaware of any chocolate or recipes that contain ZERO fat, there are lots of low-fat options. Here’s a little information about the fat that is in chocolate, the best options for low-fat chocolate, and a couple of very low-fat chocolate recipes that this chocolate lover finds worth trying. These are wonderful treats for anyone who cannot process fat (or has other reasons for not wanting to eat fat).
MYTH: COCOA POWDER IS FAT FREE
Unadulterated, pure bean-to-bar chocolate like Tangle Chocolate is made from cacao beans that are roughly 50% cocoa butter, a kind of fat. (The percentage of cocoa butter in beans varies between about 45-55% depending on the type of bean, its origin, the harvest, etc.) Cocoa powder, as explained in this Tangle Chocolate blog post, is simply the solid matter that is left when the cocoa butter has been hydraulically pressed out of the bean. However, it’s not possible to get 100% of the cocoa butter out of the bean; the typical amount left per tablespoon is between .7 and 1 gram. By comparison, the amount of fat in a tablespoon of 70% chocolate is about 6 grams. So cocoa powder is by far the less-fatty choice, but it is not fat free.
REMEMBER: NOT ALL FAT IS BAD!
Did you cringe when you read that a cacao bean is roughly 50% fat? If so, please know that one-third of that fat is oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, and one-third is stearic acid, a saturated fat that has a neutral effect on cholesterol. The final third, palmitic acid, is the component of concern: that one is a saturated fat that increases LDL “bad” cholesterol. Remember too that chocolate is high in flavanols and antioxidants which are known to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, and increase blood platelets’ clotting ability.
SUBSTITUTES FOR FAT
If you’re on a low-fat diet and want to eat chocolate, cocoa powder is the way to go. Here at Tangle, we do not (yet) make our own cocoa powder, but you can buy either standard tins from your supermarket or higher-quality cocoa powder from premium chocolate makers who are bigger than we are. Ghirardelli 100% cocoa powder is not Dutch processed, so it retains more flavanols (see this Tangle Chocolate blog post to understand more about Dutch-processed or Dutched cocoa). Note that Ghirardelli Majestic Premium cocoa powder is Dutch processed, so please read labels. Almost all recipes using cocoa powder instead of chocolate also contain some kind of fat such as butter, oil, or shortening. But you can substitute cornstarch for fat or, even better, applesauce. Applesauce offers a bit of thickening which the cornstarch also does, but the applesauce’s sweet moistness makes it superior, in my opinion.
Here is a recipe for chocolate cake and another one for brownies, both using cocoa powder and applesauce to keep the fat content as low as possible.
Tip: Baked goods that use applesauce can stick to the pan. Don’t be tempted to overcook in order to prevent this problem. Instead, use parchment paper and/or a spray cooking oil disted with flour to help the cake and brownies release.
LOW FAT CHOCOLATE CAKE (adapted from thebigmansworld.com)
INGREDIENTS for one 8” round cake (double or triple to make a layer cake)
1 ½ cups flour of your choice
1 cup granulated sweetener of your choice
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1 cup water (or milk of your choice)
- Preheat oven to 350. Prepare an 8” pan with parchment paper; even better if you spray it with cooking oil and dust with flour if you’re ok with adding a bit of fat from the oil.
- Use a mixing bowl to combine the flour, sweetnener, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well.
- Add vanilla extract, apple cider vinegar, and applesauce. Mix well.
- Pour room temperature water over the top and mix until fully combined.
- Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out just clean.
- Let it cool in the cake pan for 10 minutes, remove to a wire rack and let it cool completely before frosting.
If you’re really trying to go low fat, true frosting or icing is not a choice. So, I recommend making a glaze instead. It’s super easy: powdered sugar, a little extract of your choice (vanilla, orange, whatever you like with chocolate), and a little milk of your choice. Pour over the cake and let stand until it hardens. Done! Alternatively, you can dust the cake with powdered sugar, even making a patterned template to have something extra special.
LOW-FAT BROWNIES (adapted from thespruceeats.com)
This recipe has more ingredients than the cake and yields a denser texture as well as slightly more complex taste because of the added cinnamon. Worth a try, and adjust it based on your taste preferences!
INGREDIENTS for one 8” square pan
1 cup all-purpose flour
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup granulated sugar of your choice
¼ cup brown sugar (optional)
¼ cup dry non-fat milk powder
1 large egg white, room temperature, slightly beaten
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon powdered sugar for dusting the brownies (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350
- Spray with cooking oil and dust with flour an 8” square pan.
- Combine all of the dry ingredients in one bowl and all of the wet ingredients in another bowl. Stir well.
- Now combine the two bowls just enough to moisten all the ingredients. Do not overmix.
- Spread the batter in your prepared pan and bake for 22-23 minutes until a skewer comes out just clean. Remember not to overcook.
- Dust with powdered sugar if desired, and enjoy!