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Grain-Free Cheesecake Swirl Brownies


Do you love brownies, but need an easy grain-free version? Once again, former pastry chef Megan Keatley of Health-Bent comes through for all of us with a healthier version of an old favorite in this guest post just in time for the holidays. No grains, no refined sweeteners, and no refined vegetable oils.Thanks, Megan!

I’ve taken my favorite fudgey brownie recipe and added a little holiday pizazz with some cheesecake batter swirled in. Adapt this recipe by removing the vanilla from the cheesecake batter and adding your favorite extract, like mint, orange or coffee; or you could mix in a bit of raspberry jam. Very easy to put together, hard to screw up, festive and something the kids can help you make. What more could you ask for?

Grain-Free Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

Yield: 12 brownies

The Players
Brownie Ingredients

Cheesecake Ingredients

The How-To

Set your oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the brownie ingredients until well combined, and pour into a greased 9×9 oven-safe baking dish.

Add the cream cheese to your mixer bowl and beat until smooth, add the rest of the ingredients and beat until combined.

Dollop the cream cheese batter on top of the brownie batter. Using a knife, or a toothpick, swirl the cheesecake batter into the brownie batter. This would be a great thing for kids to do! Another option would be to remove the vanilla extract and add your favorite extract flavoring to the cheesecake batter; mint, almond, orange, coffee, coconut–would all work well.

Bake for about 35 minutes–until the top has slightly cracked. Serve well chilled, just like cheesecake.

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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68 Responses to Grain-Free Cheesecake Swirl Brownies
  1. AndreAnna
    December 21, 2010 | 11:41 am

    Wow, looks great! Do you think you could sub in date paste for the palm sugar or would it throw off the consistency?

    • KristenM
      December 21, 2010 | 12:19 pm

      I think you could do that if you reduce the amount of coconut milk. My guess would be to reduce the coconut milk by 1/5th or 1/6th if I was using the date paste instead of coconut or palm sugar. But, no promises!

  2. Cristie
    December 21, 2010 | 12:00 pm

    Oh, yes. I think I’ve found the Christmas Day Dessert I’ve been looking for! I hope substituting honey for the palm sugar will work.

    • KristenM
      December 21, 2010 | 12:17 pm

      Cristie — I think you could substitute honey, but you’d have to modify the recipe. Honey is not only significantly sweeter than coconut or palm sugar, but it’s also a liquid. When I substitute honey, I reduce the liquid by 1/3 cup for every cup of honey I use.

      • Cristie
        December 21, 2010 | 12:36 pm

        Thanks for the tip! I do have Sucanat on hand, but haven’t had the greatest results with that. I’ll have to try it out before the big day.

  3. Melissa Fritcher via Facebook
    December 21, 2010 | 12:29 pm

    My family will devour those! :D

  4. Erika L Krause via Facebook
    December 21, 2010 | 12:55 pm

    great timing! hubby has been asking for cheesecake, and this has a recipe for homemade cream cheese!

  5. Kristen Darling-Green via Facebook
    December 21, 2010 | 5:41 pm

    Oh yes!!! THANK YOU!! Perfect timing!!!
    Can’t wait to try the coconut sugar. What brand do you like or recommend?

  6. Food Renegade via Facebook
    December 21, 2010 | 6:55 pm

    @Kristen — There are Amazon links in the posts for the brands I most commonly use. It depends on where I shop. The BEST deal on coconut sugar is at my local Asian market.

  7. Meagan
    December 21, 2010 | 8:30 pm

    Holy Cow – my mom would love this!

  8. Liz
    December 22, 2010 | 8:07 am

    Whoa. These look insanely good. I’m so excited to have a sweet treat that I can eat on Christmas!

  9. Tracey
    December 23, 2010 | 7:58 pm

    These look excellent! I have metabolic syndrome, so I can’t have sugar in any form. I’ll have to see if I can figure out how to sub stevia without loosing the bulking properties of sugar, possibly by increasing the cream cheese and almonds.

  10. Naomi Devlin
    December 24, 2010 | 3:57 am

    These look incredible! I’m intrigued by palm sugar – having followed SCD for a number of years I’m starting to branch out and think about other things. I tend to use small amounts of dates and honey, but if you have any tips on info about palm sugar I’d be very grateful!

    x x x

  11. Chaya
    December 24, 2010 | 10:00 am

    Looks fabulous. The ingredients work for me.

  12. Debbie
    December 24, 2010 | 10:57 am

    I made these last night for a friend who is gluten sensitive for Xmas. Loved how easy they are to make.
    Taste test after chilling overnight! WOW, it’s like a cheesecake landed on top of a decadent dark chocolate brownie and you only need a little piece to feel very happy indeed. I used the trader joes bittersweet (no sugar) gallettes, cut them in half and added 1/3 cup to the brownie batter. They are delish when you find one, deep dark and a bit crunchy. YUM. I think adding walnuts or mac nuts to this might make it the best thing ever for satisfying a sweet/fat tooth craving.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  13. Lisa
    December 31, 2010 | 10:21 am

    These look phenomenal! I’m bookmarking this in my “grain free” folder.

  14. RJ_UK
    January 4, 2011 | 9:25 am

    This sounds amazing, will be making it this weekend to curb sweet tooth.

    Why use full fat coconut milk?Would the low fat option work ?

    Can I substitute the palm sugar with carob molasses ?

    • Suzanne
      March 19, 2011 | 6:45 pm

      I would never use low fat coconut milk as it has additives in it. Full fat coconut milk will not harm you.

  15. Robin
    January 4, 2011 | 3:11 pm

    Holy Cow these look delicious!!!!!!!!

    Thanks for sharing.

  16. RJ_UK
    January 5, 2011 | 7:25 am

    for anyone who may be interested in the nutritional value and calories, I found a website that can analyse the recipe…. see below (although I had to change the palm sugar to brown sugar as it did not recognise it)

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving Size 79 g

    Amount Per Serving
    Calories 307Calories from Fat 217
    % Daily Value*
    Total Fat 24.1g37%
    Saturated Fat 8.9g45%
    Cholesterol 68mg23%
    Sodium 133mg6%
    Total Carbohydrates 19.6g7%
    Dietary Fiber 1.9g7%
    Sugars 12.8g
    Protein 7.0g

    Vitamin A 6% • Vitamin C 1%
    Calcium 10% • Iron 11%

    Nutrition Grade D+
    * Based on a 2000 calorie diet

    1 c almond butter (view)
    2 eggs (view)
    1/3 c cocoa powder (view)
    1/2 c canned coconut milk (view)
    1/2 c brown sugar (view)
    1/4 t salt (view)
    1/3 c chocolate chips (view)
    8 oz cream cheese (view)
    1 egg (view)
    1/3 c brown sugar (view)
    2 t vanilla extract (view)

    Servings 12

  17. Erin
    January 5, 2011 | 8:56 pm

    @RJ_UK – what website did you use to analyze the recipe?


  18. Cocobean
    January 5, 2011 | 9:31 pm

    Seriously! You area woman after my own heart!

  19. Rachel
    January 19, 2011 | 5:03 pm

    These are so amazing! I have made them twice now :) They are good out of the oven but fantastic after they have been in the fridge overnight :) Thanks!!!!!

  20. RJ_UK
    March 13, 2011 | 3:48 pm


    Hi there sorry for the late reply. I often use the following website:

    You enter the ingrediants and it tells you the nutritional value.

    Good luck :)

  21. Petra Canup via Facebook
    March 19, 2011 | 3:39 pm

    Sounds and looks great. Nut allergies in our house otherwise I was going to try this. :( Enjoy a bite for me.

  22. Sandra Renner via Facebook
    March 19, 2011 | 5:24 pm

    Totally going to make this tonight! :)

  23. Samantha Salyer Jacokes via Facebook
    March 19, 2011 | 6:00 pm

    Petra – could you use tahini instead of almond butter?

  24. Kelly Gillotti via Facebook
    March 19, 2011 | 6:09 pm

    just made these, but skipped the cheesecake swirl. SO happy with the results!

  25. Food Renegade via Facebook
    March 19, 2011 | 6:26 pm

    I think Sunbutter would be a better substitution than tahini.

  26. Sandra Renner via Facebook
    March 19, 2011 | 7:04 pm

    Used Coconut Cream Concentrate instead of almond butter. Yum!

  27. kristin konvolinka
    March 19, 2011 | 7:08 pm

    Love it! Thank you so much! My foot is halfway out of the office, headed to the kitchen to make my chocolate loving husband a batch of brownies.

  28. Sheree Northcutt via Facebook
    March 19, 2011 | 9:32 pm

    We have been using Sunbutter in place of nutbutters lately and I have to say we really really love it! Having peanut, treenut, latex, shellfish, and now gluten allergies in our house I was becoming quite discouraged. This looks yummy and I can’t wait to try it.

  29. Good Life Menus via Facebook
    March 21, 2011 | 10:22 pm

    This looks fabulous! Brownies are my big downfall. I’ll have to look at the coconut crystal alternative.

  30. Brenda
    April 6, 2011 | 6:32 pm

    I’ve never even heard of coconut sugar til now.. crazy! those look very yummy!

  31. Andrea
    May 14, 2011 | 1:24 pm

    What do you think about subbing the almond butter with Sunflower seed butter? I guess I just better try it… :)

    • Laelle
      March 16, 2012 | 6:25 pm

      I think it would also be interesting to try coconut butter, sometimes also called Coconut Manna. I made a cake with it recently that someone had modified, originally calling for almond butter and it turned out fantastic!

  32. Andrea
    May 14, 2011 | 1:28 pm

    Oh, sorry for my last comment, I just saw the others about sunflower butter. Thanks SO MUCH for this incredibly awesome blog!!!

  33. Hannah
    July 18, 2011 | 10:47 am

    I made these brownies the other day for my boyfriend and his mom and they were amazing! They loved them. I was a little worried that the almond butter flavor would be to overpowering, but it is just perfect. Also, you can really taste the cheescake part. Delish!

  34. Brenda
    January 31, 2012 | 6:16 pm

    O man! I just popped these in the oven and realized I totally forgot to add the nut butter!! eeps!

  35. Kris
    February 4, 2012 | 9:00 am

    The recipes sound fabulous and I am going to make the Cheesecake Brownies for sure. Do you think you could ask your sponsors to stop with the animated commercials. They really slow my computer down and are irritating to my eyes. It is time they switch to a more user friendly format.

  36. Sophie
    February 16, 2012 | 4:36 am

    Waw! Your brownies are looking just fabulous, tasty & special too!

    Fab food! :)

  37. Shauntelle
    February 24, 2012 | 12:34 pm

    This looks so yummy, but any suggestions for alternative to the almond butter? We have nut allergies in our house, and I prefer to avoid almonds (even though they are “supposedly” on our safe list).

  38. Lisa
    March 6, 2012 | 9:53 pm

    These look wonderful! I’m going to try making them with honey to make them a GAPS-legal dessert.

    For those with nut allergies, sun butter or coconut manna (sometimes called coconut butter, it’s easy to make your own) is a good substitute.

  39. Crunchy4Life
    March 16, 2012 | 8:40 pm
  40. Laelle
    March 17, 2012 | 11:25 am

    Planning to make these for my husband’s birthday today as he told me he wanted either cheesecake or brownies :-)

  41. Charity
    October 1, 2012 | 11:58 am

    Ooh! These look absolutely delicious!!! Do you think there is any way to substitute Almond FLOUR for the Almond butter?

  42. Mary Beth Elderton
    August 29, 2013 | 2:24 pm

    I just made these! OMGoodness…delicious! I think I saw it on FB recently and came over to pin it. Was looking for something chocolate to make,something with ingredients on hand. I was out of almond butter, but I did have a jar of Tropical Traditions’ wonderful Coconut Peanut butter. Thank you!
    BTW–I don’t yet know what it tastes like chilled,utit
    s wonderful warm right out of the pan :)

  43. Vickie Walker via Facebook
    January 27, 2014 | 12:27 pm

    One of my favorites! Love it and it’s so easy! No one realizes it has no flour.

  44. Mandisa Jean-Pierre via Facebook
    January 27, 2014 | 7:58 pm

    Omg! These are sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo good. One of my favorite recipes. Thanks for the reminder, I need to make them again.

  45. Melissa Allred Jessop via Facebook
    January 27, 2014 | 8:42 pm

    Can I make this without almond butter??

  46. Food Renegade via Facebook
    January 27, 2014 | 9:06 pm

    Melissa Allred Jessop Yes. If you want a non nut, you can sub in something like sunbutter.

  47. Melissa Allred Jessop via Facebook
    January 28, 2014 | 7:12 pm

    I made my own almond butter and made these. First paleo brownies and they turned out pretty good! Thanks for the recipe!

  48. Kelly Harris Kirkendoll via Facebook
    January 29, 2014 | 12:02 am

    Sounds YUMMY. Hmmm…suggestions on making it dairy-free? I’m allergic to cow’s milk :(

  49. Megan Loukota via Facebook
    March 11, 2014 | 11:09 am

    The best gluten free brownie recipe I have every made. THE BEST!

  50. Food Renegade via Facebook
    March 11, 2014 | 11:15 am

    Glad you enjoyed it, Megan Loukota!

  51. Erika L Krause via Facebook
    March 11, 2014 | 11:56 am

    Zero flours?? Looks amazing!

  52. Michelle Tankersley Haines via Facebook
    March 11, 2014 | 12:26 pm
  53. Emily
    June 16, 2014 | 3:10 pm

    I was just wondering if I could use homemade soaked peanut butter instead of almond butter and raw whole milk instead of coconut milk?

  54. Mary Light via Facebook
    September 1, 2014 | 1:23 pm

    from the look of this picture, I need some now.

  55. Food Renegade via Facebook
    September 1, 2014 | 2:13 pm

    Agreed, Mary!

  56. Rachel Mitchell via Facebook
    September 1, 2014 | 4:42 pm

    Laura Duffey

  57. Goldie Sunny Reilly via Facebook
    September 1, 2014 | 6:08 pm

    Ahhhhh, I should have thought about coming to you first! I will now but first, I need to sleep. But later I think I will message you.

  58. Dan Paulson via Facebook
    September 1, 2014 | 7:55 pm


  59. Omar Ayyash via Facebook
    September 2, 2014 | 5:48 pm

    It’s healthy and warming and soothing for the temple we were given to eat some bread every now and then, same with animal flesh. Nuts, vegetables, and fruits on the other hand are great all the time, mostly vegetables and the fat from nuts.

  60. Omar Ayyash via Facebook
    September 2, 2014 | 5:50 pm

    if you eat grains the best way to eat healthy is to have it in flour form for baking lightly and an oil for fat, starches and fat work together well. Just don’t have much, just get some carbs from it, not a lot, as your body doesn’t need much. Grains are best heirloom, or ancient as heirloom actually is, and organic.

  61. Omar Ayyash via Facebook
    September 2, 2014 | 5:51 pm

    Vegetables, and fruits, and proteins. Always seems to work best this way.

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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