Super dark chocolate brownies: made in one bowl with dark cocoa powder, these midnight brownies will satisfy all your late night chocolate cravings and they’re ready in under an hour.
Let’s be honest: I love brownies and realistically, won’t turn any down. What I will say, however, is that these are the most intense, deeply dark chocolate brownies made with cocoa powder that I’ve ever had, and they happened entirely by accident (as most genius things do).
The story begins last weekend, when I made my favorite brownie recipe for a party celebrating the weekend appearance of a friend who lives in LA. Brownies are my go-to party food since they take almost no time to make, require no separating and rolling like their high-maintenance cookie cousins, and cause people to go bananas at the mere sight of them. So I made them, brought them, had some wine, and watched other people enjoy them — but they were gone before I was able to snag one myself.
I wasn’t going to be greedy and take one before everyone else, but the truth is that brownies, especially brownies warmed and covered in vanilla ice cream, are one of my guilty pleasures. So I was fairly disappointed that I’d missed out.
By Tuesday of this week I couldn’t stand it any longer and decided, upcoming beach vacation be damned, I was going to make a whole batch of brownies just for the two of us. YOLO.
So I rummaged through my cabinets, grabbed the normal (aka natural) cocoa powder, opened and…you can guess what the problem was. Some very rude person (hi, it was me) used all but like, two tablespoons of the cocoa powder, and put it back in the cabinet without buying another one. Amateur hour over here.
Frustrated, inner chocolate monster in full force, I kept rummaging until I reached the very back of the cabinet where a half-used container of that Hershey’s special dark cocoa (a mix of natural and Dutch process cocoa) and some espresso powder were hiding out. Desperate times, desperate measures.
So I mixed them all together with the scant amount of natural cocoa I had. What could go wrong, I thought, cursing myself the whole time for being too lazy to go to the grocery store.
Nothing went wrong. In fact, it went VERY right.
The mix of powders and the hint of espresso combined to make the most deeply dark cocoa brownies I’ve ever had. You know I’m a huge fan of dark chocolate (if not, these molten chocolate cakes should have been a clue) and these are the epitome of that.
They don’t taste like coffee; the espresso powder just enhances the absurdly intense chocolate flavor. Of course I added coarse sea salt on top, and I wouldn’t skip that either if I were you.
It bears mentioning that you can TOTALLY use natural cocoa powder in this recipe, and as you read above, I usually do. So don’t worry about going out and buying dark cocoa powder if you don’t have it. Because there is no leavener (baking soda or baking powder) in this recipe, any kind of cocoa powder will work. But if you do have the dark kind…try it.
Blooming the cocoa: The important thing, no matter which cocoa powder you’re using, is to “bloom” the cocoa powder by whisking it into hot melted butter before combining it with any of the other ingredients, then letting it sit for a couple minutes. This brings out the chocolate flavor like you wouldn’t believe (the smell alone is unbelievable). If you’re a super nerd like me and interested in the science of cocoa blooming, I found this article by the Kitchn quite helpful.
Natural vs. Dutch process cocoa: if you’re curious about the differences between natural and Dutch process cocoa powders, and where and how to use each, this article by King Arthur Baking is very informative!
After you bloom the cocoa, it’s just a matter of simple whisking: sugar, egg, vanilla, salt, flour, chocolate chips. No mixer needed. Not too much flour. One bowl, magical results.
NOTE: This is a thinner, cake-like, cocoa powder only brownie.
Several readers have mentioned that the batter seems thin when you spread it into the 8×8 inch pan. That’s ok! These brownies are thinner and denser than your average brownie. They also bake up to be a bit cake-like, with very deep cocoa flavor. Some people love this and some don’t!
If you’re looking for a more traditional fudgy brownie recipe, I recommend:
I’m not sure whether I called these Midnight Brownies because of: 1. their color; 2. the fact that you could make them at midnight, when the brownie cravings usually hit, pretty easily; or 3. I was wearing some super dark nail polish when I made them. Regardless, you get to enjoy the result. Please bring them over if you do, because we ate the whole pan already.
- ½ cup (113g) unsalted butter (8 Tablespoons)
- ½ cup (48g) unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch process*
- ½ teaspoon espresso powder (or 1 teaspoon instant coffee)
- ⅔ cup (134g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs (ideally at room temperature)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup (32g) all-purpose flour (can sub an all-purpose gluten-free blend if needed)
- ½ cup (85g) chocolate chips
- Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling on top
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease an 8×8 inch baking pan (or line with parchment for easier removal) and set aside.
- In a large bowl, melt the butter in the microwave (or in a saucepan on the stove, if you prefer). Whisk the cocoa powder and espresso powder into the melted butter until smooth and glossy, and let sit for about 2 minutes. It should smell intensely chocolatey.
- When the mixture is slightly cooled, whisk in the sugar, followed by the eggs one at a time until the mixture becomes thick, smooth and viscous. Stir in the salt and vanilla extract until fully blended.
- Stir in the flour until just combined, then fold in the chocolate chips. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. NOTE: this batter will be thicker than most brownie batters, and it may seem sparse for an 8×8 pan – but that's what makes these brownies so great. They are thinner, a bit cake-like, and very intense!
- Bake for 30 minutes. The brownies should have a dry, shiny crust. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt if desired. Let cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes (they will continue to cook and firm up a bit in the pan). Cut into 16 brownies and enjoy!
Excuse me, I have to go make them. Again.
I made these and they are the best brownies of all time. I did not have an 8×8 pan so I doubled the recipe and used 10×13. I bloomed the black cocoa powder and what a fantastic, intense flavor. No boxed mix can compare. I also lined the glass dish with parchment and glad I did b/c the were so easy to remove. Thank you for this recipe, my boyfriend thinks I’m a genius😘
YAY! I am so happy to hear that, Sara!
Thanks for the info. Just came here today to see if I could double the recipe so I could have a stash in the freezer for the summer! Love these brownies, but don’t like using the oven down here in the southern US in the summer time. Thanks Sara 👍
Awesome idea! Thank you for the review, Ann!
It was more cake like than brownie texture…Not a fan..
But if a person likes a drier more cake like brownies, they would love it..The taste was great….
Sorry it wasn’t your favorite! It definitely is more of a cake-like brownie than fudgy.
I’m making these for the 4th time. Will never eat any other brownie. I use Godiva 69% cocao chocolate chips. So awesome! I don’t know why some of these people have an issue with the batter. It doesn’t look like a lot, but it bakes up just fine. I cut it up into 16, wrap individually and freeze cause I make just for myself. They freeze & defrost nicely one at a time like that. Thanks so much for this recipe!
This became an obsession after the first batch! The investment of really good black cocoa powder is most definitely worth it .. Now this has become a part of our weekend routine for week prep!
So great to hear! Thank you Maggie!
Made exactly per recipe and in 8×8 pan. Taste and texture were ok but I agree they were not thick enough. If I made these again I would make 1.5x the recipe in an 8×8 or 2x in a 9×9. I think they would be great with peanut butter chips.
Sorry they weren’t what you were expecting Mary – I will test the recipe again but I’m glad you still enjoyed it!
Made these tonight, had everything except vanilla extract. I used Folgers instant coffee. They came out amazing! I’ll admit I was concerned with how thick the batter was before being put into the dish, but reminded myself these are supposed to be dense. Thank you for the recipe!
So glad you enjoyed it!
Easy and DELICIOUS!!
Only 1/4 cup of flour? And no baking soda/powder…. made these tonight but the batter barely covered the bottom of my square pan? Definitely not thick brownies as pictured. What went wrong?
Hi Kayla – I’m not too sure. How big was your pan? Are you sure you measured all the ingredients correctly?
The recipe is way too small a batch for an 8″ x 8″. I think you need to readjust your recipe. i had to make two batches for one small tin.
Hi Shermin, I’m sorry it didn’t work for you but I haven’t had anyone else experience that issue with this recipe.
My batter was way too thin as well. I measured correctly and used correct pan. There’s no way that little if batter was going to make thick brownies like Thissen pictured.
I made brownies like this by accident too! Same scenario lol Only there’s a recipe on Allrecipes called “Best Brownies” which is like yours but no espresso powder or chocolate chips, but adds frosting. I also LOVE putting raisins in brownies. I’m going to do the espresso powder next time (probably tomorrow when this pan is gone lol) and put the course salt on top, which both would put this over the top!! I may end up in a brownie coma, but I simply do not care and I’ll hide my scale so it won’t see me eating these lol shhhhh don’t tell, ok? #hersheysdarkcocoarocks!
Yay! I am so glad you loved these, Cindy! Dark cocoa is awesome.
May I just clarify what do you mean by, ‘I don’t recommend substituting a Dutch process cocoa alone here‘?
Hi Alicia – dutch process cocoa is alkalinized, meaning it’s chemically different from natural cocoa (Hershey’s and most store brands are natural cocoa). It reacts very differently in baking recipes so you should always use a recipe specifically tailored to dutch process cocoa if you’re using it!
i saw these and was convinced that there was charcoal in the batter, or maybe that they were dyed black. but extra dark cocoa powder?! so down. and now that you mentioned a brownie sundae, i need. preferably with some coffee ice cream.