A week without sugar (agave sweetened brownies)

by Patricia on August 3, 2009 · 19 comments

Yep, you heard me right:  A week without sugar. Can a girl who has eaten brownies for dinner really give up sugar? Better yet, why would she even try?  I have no idea.  Hehehe.  Okay, to be completely and embarrassingly honest, I ate an entire buttermilk cake by myself… over two days. Well, technically over about 16 hours, but it was only a single eight inch layer. And it had cherries in it (cherries are healthy). But in addition to the cake, I also ate a handful or two of marshmallows with chocolate (think s’mores minus the graham crackers and fire). And all of this was really just the culmination of several months of carbo-loading in the form of pure refined sugar (and a little butter of course).

You see, I am addicted to the white stuff. So in a moment of weakness strength, I gave it up.  That’s right, cold turkey.  I reasoned that I needed to reset my sugar cravings. Kind of like the recasting Mireille Guiliano recommends in French Women Don’t Get Fat except without the leek soup weekend and only concentrating on my biggest offender: sugar. I’ve been working out more and seeing progress in how my clothes fit, but my weight hasn’t budged. And in this moment of clarity I thought maybe, just maybe, eating a bit less butter and sugar might help. Maybe. I wasn’t convinced but thought it could be possible. So there I was, resolute and determined… and on Monday, I declared that I would cut out refined sugar from my diet for an entire month. Fruits and naturally occurring sugars are fine… and some natural sugar substitutes are okay in moderation (I mean, I have to have something sweet. I might implode if I have no sweets at all).

Then on Saturday, Dan and I had a couple of friends over for dinner. And they brought dessert: a chocolate cake called “Black Magic” with strawberries macerated in balsamic vinegar. So I had a piece (or two)… it would’ve been rude not to have some. Did I mention the maker of this Black Magic is a pastry chef named Christine who also makes fabulous truffles? I’m not just saying this because I know her… NeoCocoa truffles are decadent and delicious just like truffles should be. I’m only human, people. What would you have done? That’s right, the sugar-free streak bit the dust. And it was totally worth it.


But enough about my weakness. Let’s focus on something positive. I did manage six days without refined sugar and I was feeling pretty good. But I needed chocolate.  Sugar-free chocolate made with sucralose or whatever the artificial sweetener du jour is… well, it just sounds gross to me.  So I made brownie bites sweetened with agave syrup.  I was skeptical, but hopeful. The results weren’t bad. Were they the best brownies I have ever eaten? No. Were they extremely chocolaty and taste good? Yes. The texture is not really what I would call a brownie. I’m a fudgy-chewy brownie girl. These bites were cakey and really dense. Almost like flourless chocolate cake. And packed with a nice dark chocolate flavor (thanks to the extra unsweetened chocolate I added in addition to the cocoa).

I started with the cocoa brownie recipe I’ve used before in the peanut butter brownie bites. I did a bit of research about how to use agave syrup as a sugar substitute. Most of the reading I did repeated the same guidelines:
* Substitute 2/3 cup agave for 1 cup of sugar
* Reduce the baking temperature by 25 degrees because the syrup speeds the browning process
* Reduce the total liquid in the recipe by about 1/3 cup (since the agave is a liquid)

Following these guidelines, here is my modified cocoa brownies recipe:

Cocoa Brownies sweetened with agave syrup
(adapted from The Good Housekeeping Baking: More Than 600 Recipes for Homemade Treats)

5 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup agave syrup
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease mini-muffin pans (makes 24-mini cups).
2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the chocolate cut into chunks, stir just until melted. Remove from heat.
3. With a wooden spoon, stir in the agave syrup. Stir in eggs, 1 at a time. Add vanilla.
4. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
5. Stir flour mixture into saucepan until blended. (You can add nuts now if you like, I skipped them).
6. Spoon the batter into the mini-muffin cups.
7. Bake 10-12 minutes.
8. Enjoy and share with your friends who don’t or can’t eat sugar.


1 krista June 16, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Great job. You know the butter isn’t necessary either. Try using coconut oil instead of butter. It’s still a saturated fat, but the body handles natural fruit fat better than animal fat. You can just use unsaturated oil, too, like canola. I use safflower oil. Or you could do half-and-half. Brownies don’t need butter, really!
Personally, I’m not satisfied with non-fudgey agave brownies, and I’m on a mission to create them, but this is a good start.

2 Rhonda January 30, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Loved it! I am always changing recipes to use agave since my husband is diabetic. This one is great, very moist. I think I, along with my daugther, am addicted to chocolate! I didn’t have the unsweetened chocolate first time I made it though. Substituited with dark chocolate chips., worked fine. Now I have the chocolate so will make again for superbowl coming up….go ravens!!! :)
Would love to see more agave sweetened recipes if you have. I have to remember to lower oven temp. like you did. I have heard you should do that with agave, lower temp. 25 degrees.

3 thehealthyfoodlady June 19, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Try five years with none of the white stuff! It is a lifestyle one I don’t mind paying for as I am healthier for it. Sugar is evil people and feeds the bad stuff in ur body. I only use Agave or honey and my ratio is down to about a 30% to one ratio. Remember the more sugar u have the more u want it is an addictive substance! Will try ur brownies but am adding some ground oats chia seeds and pecans in them too

4 tiffani June 5, 2012 at 7:39 pm

okay, the batter alone is the best thing in the world. i was recently diagnosed with insulin resistance and FORCED to go on a sugar free diet. i’ve been quite miserable. especially without brownies. my sweet doctor approved agave syrup! magic. this is magic. i’m excited!

5 Clare Weingarden November 14, 2011 at 1:46 pm

FYI. I have been without sugar for 734 days. I am in my 3rd year. I have taken off 232 lbs. Looking forward to trying your recipe. I have tried the black bean brownie recipe and yuck… lol

6 Brittany November 6, 2011 at 1:10 am

I made these today and loved them! They are so moist and I was so so glad to find a recipe that actually tastes nice, and normal, with no funny after taste! I did make a few changes to your recipe:
I used margarine as its dairy free
I used gluten free self raising flour and omitted the baking powder
I omitted the salt
I only used 1/2 cup agave syrup and it was certainly sweet enough like that
I used dairy free/sugar free/wheat free chocolate

Thanks for the recipe! Love it!

7 Angela September 22, 2011 at 7:45 pm

I believe you can have more fudgey brownies if you add less egg. Eggs are used as a leavening agent.

8 krista June 16, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Good to know!

9 Sarah March 23, 2010 at 9:12 am

Oh thank you for this sugar-free recipe! I just began my no faux sugar diet and though its working out well, I can’t seem to stop thinking about brownies. How did the no sugar thing work out for you in the end?!?

10 Kristen August 4, 2009 at 5:08 pm

Congrats to you for trying to go without sugar. That is must be so hard to do, it would be tough for me and I don’t really even have a sweet tooth :) Agave syrup is some tasty stuff. I mix it with cocoa powder to make chocolate syrup, my kids love it.

11 Candice October 2, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Put the chocolate syrup on banana its really good

12 Deb Schiff August 4, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Good for you. Just remember, it isn’t sugar free if it’s agave nectar. It’s 90% fructose and 10% glucose. You still get the calories, albeit from a nice source.

13 Kate August 4, 2009 at 3:58 am

No sugar? That would be hard….congratulations on pushing through it!

14 Amanda August 4, 2009 at 2:02 am

I totally know what you are talking about. I recently found out I am diabetic so I have had to change the way I eat EVERYTHING. I’m not cutting it out completely, and sugar free stuff isn’t for me. I would rather have small amounts of something delicious than larger amounts of something I’m not crazy about. I also bought some agave nectar and haven’t used it yet. Glad to see that it worked for you!

15 heather August 3, 2009 at 2:48 pm

A week without sugar… Bravo! Even as a dietitian, I’d find that hard to do!

And don’t despair that your weight isn’t budging. When you work out the first thing you lose is fat [which is why your clothes are fitting better]. You’ll also build up muscle mass. Fat weighs very little and muscle weighs a lot; so really building up muscle and losing fat may appear, in the short term, that you’re not making any progress. Never fear, YOU ARE!! Keep it up! Cutting back slightly on sugar will definitely help that as well; no need to nix it all together. I’m like you, sugar free chocolate doesn’t float my boat :)



16 Sarah August 3, 2009 at 4:09 am

Thanks for this recipe – and the guidelines!! Been trying to reduce sugar due to massive sugar spikes/pitfalls these days in the blood, always been intrigued by agave!

17 s. stockwell August 3, 2009 at 3:51 am

just started Gweneth Paltro’s Clean Diet and she is using agave syrup so i bought some? it’s really pretty good but seems it is expensive. Love your blog. best from Montecito, California, s

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