Gluten-Free Brownies With Soy Sauce or Tamari

Gluten-free brownies with soy sauce sound unusual but our testers swear that the rich umami taste is unlike anything else. Dark chocolate, almond meal, and brown sugar keep things fudgey, while the soy sauce brings a touch of salted caramel to the party. 

A batch of gluten-free brownies with soy sauce or tamari cut into 16 squares on a piece of parchment.

Adapted from Hetty McKinnon | To Asia, With Love | Prestel, 2021

A few years ago I posted a recipe for Vegemite brownies on my website, which raised some eyebrows. Yes, the use of this yeasty, uber-umami sandwich spread in a brownie is surprising, but it brings a complex depth of flavor that is quite unique. These soy sauce brownies are of a similar ilk—where salt is widely used to amplify the “chocolatey” flavors in desserts, soy sauce brings a rich caramel glow. The taste very much resembles salted caramel. This brownie is gluten free, by way of nutty almond meal and a gluten-free soy sauce. There are many different gluten-free soy sauces on the market and they all work well in this recipe.–Hetty McKinnon

Gluten-Free Brownies With Soy Sauce or Tamari

A batch of gluten-free brownies with soy sauce or tamari cut into 16 squares on a piece of parchment.
Gluten-free brownies with soy sauce sound unusual but our testers swear that the rich umami taste is unlike anything else. Dark chocolate, almond meal, and brown sugar keep things fudgey, while the soy sauce brings a touch of salted caramel to the party.
Hetty McKinnon

Prep 15 mins
Cook 30 mins
Total 2 hrs 45 mins
Dessert
Asian
16 brownies
175 kcal
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Ingredients 

  • 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter plus more for the pan
  • 1 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chopped into bits, or use chocolate chips
  • 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 (or substitute 1 1/2 tablespoons Vegemite)*

Directions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Coat a 9-inch (23 cm) square baking pan with butter and line with parchment paper.
  • To a large glass bowl that is completely dry and clean, add the butter and chocolate and set over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water). Let the chocolate and butter melt, stirring occasionally, 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the almond meal, cocoa powder, and baking powder.
  • In a third bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and soy sauce.
  • Slowly whisk the egg mixture into the cooled chocolate mixture until well combined. Fold in the dry ingredients.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until set and the internal temperature is between 165°F and 210°F (74°C and 99°C), 25 to 30 minutes. The higher the temperature, the cakier your brownies will be.
  • Remove and allow to cool completely in the pan, about 1 hour, then stash in the refrigerator to chill for 1 hour more.
    TESTER TIP: The brownies will continue to firm up in the refrigerator, so if you can resist temptation and let them chill overnight, they'll be firm and easy to cut.
  • Cut into 16 pieces. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
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Notes

*What is tamari sauce?

Tamari is a type of soy sauce, both being the by-product of miso production. Whereas soy sauce contains gluten, tamari is made with little to no wheat. It also has a darker color and a richer flavor than most soy sauces, as well as being less salty. Tamari tends to have a more balanced flavor that makes it a better choice for dipping or using in dressings. If you're avoiding gluten, make sure to read the label—not all tamari is purely gluten-free. 

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1brownieCalories: 175kcal (9%)Carbohydrates: 21g (7%)Protein: 4g (8%)Fat: 9g (14%)Saturated Fat: 3g (19%)Trans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 35mg (12%)Sodium: 96mg (4%)Potassium: 127mg (4%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 16g (18%)Vitamin A: 56IU (1%)Calcium: 48mg (5%)Iron: 2mg (11%)

Recipe Testers' Reviews

These gluten-free soy sauce brownies are excellent brownies that hit you with deep chocolate flavor and a lusciously rich and fudge-like texture. My family had no idea they were gluten-free or were flavor bombed with soy sauce. The first reaction from my children was unanimous—delicious! The headnote promises hints of salted caramel. Yes, I agree.

I was skeptical after my first taste. The brownies were cooled in the fridge just 2 hours out of the oven. They were gooey and very brownie-like. Nothing horrible but also nothing exceptional. I had thought maybe I under-baked the brownies because they tasted so wet and muddled. Out of the oven, they had a nice crust and dark color. The tester in the middle came out clean. I had pulled them out after exhibiting all the appropriate visual cues that the bake was complete. I wrapped the remaining brownies air-tight and stored them for an additional cool rest in the fridge.

By the next afternoon, the brownie crumb came together nicely and sliced into pristine squares. The enhanced taste had that salted “caramel glow” that the recipe promised. Can’t speak to how long the brownies stay fresh because ours were eaten less than 24 hours after baked. Very successful recipe to be shared and repeated.

I made a vegan version of these gluten-free brownies with soy sauce, and I was pleased with the results. I used Earth Balance for the butter and aquafaba (the liquid from canned garbanzo beans) for the eggs. I'll admit, for the chocolate I used some fancy dark chocolate bars I had lying around, and that may have added to the recipe. But generally, I think the almond flour is an improvement in brownies, adding a rich texture without oiliness.

I was almost certain this recipe for gluten-free brownies with soy sauce wouldn't work out, and yet it turned into the dark horse that swept the affections of all who tasted it. While I did have someone refuse to eat it on the principle that soy sauce shouldn't be in baked goods, everyone who ate it without knowing its provenance loved the rich fudgy texture and flavor. Only one could tell it was made with an alternative flour and nobody could guess the soy sauce. A few tasted the salted caramel notes mentioned in the headnote. On par with the flavor is the ease of preparation, which consists of melt, stir, and dump into a pan. Overall, these are good brownies by any standards and don't need any sort of "good for gluten-free brownies" qualifier.

I used Blue Diamond almond flour, which I find is very finely ground/sifted and provides a great texture with minimal graininess. I used 4 tsp reduced-sodium Kikkoman soy sauce since that's what I had, but being a salt fiend I don't think regular soy sauce would have been overpowering. I removed my brownies at 185°F, splitting the difference between fudgy and cakey and that was perfect. Finally, I found the brownies separated from the parchment paper best after a chill in the fridge.

I have to give these brownies props for being gluten-free and still perfectly respectable. I’m not a seasoned gluten-free baker, but I do know of the challenges involved and this recipe seems to have wrangled all of that into place. For this alone, I think it deserves a TC recommendation, but as an overall brownie recipe, I’m a little bit in the ‘meh’ camp, as were my tasters, and I would probably only make these again if I needed to satisfy a special flour-free diet.

The soy sauce is of course the novelty factor—and the reason I was intrigued by the recipe. (I’m not sure what the point of using soy was to begin with, but I’m a sucker for intrigue and unique ingredients!) Ultimately it turned out to be one of those stealth ingredients that most people would never identify, even if you recognize that something is ever-so-slightly different. I could definitely taste the savory undercurrent from the soy sauce; it wasn’t unpleasant in any way, but also not as inviting as the similarly savory quality of a good salted caramel, for instance.

The gluten-free brownies with soy sauce themselves were somewhat thin, airy, and light in texture. My eaters prefer something a bit thicker and chewier, but these were still enjoyable enough. (Chocolate is chocolate, right??) They are very soft and a little fragile, even when cooked through and chilled for a while.

Don’t let the name scare you away; these gluten-free brownies with soy sauce are next level. Unbelievably rich and fudgy with a fantastic chocolate flavor, you get the perfect balance of sweet and savory without a trace of soy sauce flavor. I would’ve never guessed it was in here and frankly, I wouldn’t have guessed these were gluten-free either. I cooked them 25 minutes and they temped 195°F but I’ll cook them a little longer next time to see if they come out a touch cakier. These are fabulous brownies.

Do not let the words soy sauce in the title misguide you into thinking that these brownies are anything out of the ordinary. This is hands down THE BEST gluten-free brownie I've ever made or tasted (and I have tasted my fair share).

These gluten-free brownies with soy sauce are so rich, decadent, and fudgy without the graininess you sometimes get from baking with almond flour. These brownies will satisfy the craving of any chocolate lover regardless if they're gluten-free or not. Much like adding coffee to chocolate cake, the soy sauce simply adds richness to the chocolate so don't be shy. I found that you could cut the brownie perfectly fine after letting them cool on a rack for about 2 hours but placing them in the fridge overnight let them set just a little bit more. These are perfect to serve right out the fridge on their own or warmed up for a few seconds in the microwave and served with vanilla ice cream.


Originally published April 29, 2021

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