Cocoa-Dusted Espresso Blondies

We’re knee-deep in holiday merry-making, all the while adjusting to our tiny new ball of fur. I can’t think of a better time to share these blondies.

Espresso and homemade coffee liqueur provide a double dose of caffeine, and a generous dusting of dark, rich cocoa powder is a beautiful flourish. Festive and fortifying all at once!

Cocoa espresso blondies_HGN

Made of nut and oat flours, coconut oil and maple syrup, these are a lighter (gluten-free) version of the traditionally gooey blondies you may be familiar with. These are dense and more cake-y, and not overly sweet to bring the coffee and cocoa flavors to the forefront where they belong.

What’s in it for me?

Oats are one of the richest known sources of the trace mineral manganese (nearly 50% DV per 1/3-cup serving) that has antioxidant properties and important roles in skeletal development, wound healing, and metabolism. Oats provide more than 10% of your DV of fiber, helping regulate digestion, stabilize blood glucose levels and potentially decrease insulin resistance, and improve cardiovascular health.

Flaxseeds provide another punch of fiber, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, a small amount of protein, and antioxidant polyphenols. Among commonly eaten foods, flaxseeds are ranked as one of the richest sources of the fiber-related polyphenols called lignans, which offer antioxidant protection, and can act as phytoestrogens — beneficial plant-based compounds that may enhance lactation for breastfeeding mums.

A rich source of monounsaturated and some omega-3 fats, as well as antioxidant vitamin Ealmond and pepita flours promote heart, immune and brain health. Naturally low in carbohydrates, they offer plant-based ‘non-heme’ iron and small amounts of protein, and are good sources of both manganese and copper. Pepitas are also excellent sources of magnesium, phosphorous, and immune-supporting and inflammation-reducing zinc.

Coffee is perhaps a surprising source of antioxidants, and is considered one of the greatest sources in the American diet given the amount we consume. Other perks of coffee include improved alertness, focus, mood and endurance, potential benefits on a variety of conditions including prostate cancer, migraines and gallstones, and it may offer protection from age-related cognitive decline.

Unlike highly refined white sugar, maple syrup is an all-natural sweetener that contains manganese, zinc and is another small source of those anti-inflammatory polyphenolsCocoa powder is rich in antioxidant flavonoids linked to battling free radicals related to cancer, cardiovascular diseases and other chronic illnesses. A mere 1 Tbsp provides roughly 7% of your DVs for fiber and magnesium, as well as 10% each of your DVs for copper and manganese.

Similar to crowd-pleasing tiramisu, these blondies are much easier to prepare yet just as fancy and decadent. Enjoy with a cup of coffee or cocoa to shoo away the afternoon cold, or serve on a special platter to family and friends at a holiday gathering. Go ahead — grab life by the beans!

Cheers, Heather

Tell me… Do you cook or bake with coffee?

Cocoa-Dusted Espresso Blondies
Prep Time
Cook Time
Total Time
Recipe Type: dessert, gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, egg-free
Makes: 8 slices (or 9 squares)
  • 3 T ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup warm brewed espresso (see HGN Notes)
  • 1 1/2 cups oat flour (or GF-certified rolled oats blitzed into flour in a blender, food processor or spice grinder)
  • 1 1/2 cups almond, pepita or other nut/seed flours (I used a combo of almond and pepita; see HGN Notes)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup coffee liqueur, such as Kahlúa
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil, plus more for greasing parchment
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup (not maple-flavored "pancake syrup")
  • 1 Tbsp high-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a standard 8" x 4 1/2" loaf tin (or an 8" square tin) with parchment paper, and grease the parchment with melted coconut (or olive) oil. Set aside.
  2. Place the ground flax in a small bowl with the warm espresso. Stir to combine and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, whisk together the oat and nut flours, baking soda and sea salt in a medium to large mixing bowl. In another bowl or large liquid measuring cup, stir together the coffee liqueur, melted coconut oil and sorghum or maple syrup. Add the flax-espresso mixture and stir well. Pour the wet mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients; mix to combine. It will be fairly sturdy, but if it's too dry, add water or milk 1 Tbsp at a time to bring the ingredients together.
  4. Spread the batter into the greased parchment-lined tin, smoothing the top evenly with a spoon or rubber scraper. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. (Do not overcook -- you want the center to be slightly gooey, and they will firm while cooling). Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before cutting into 8 slices (or 9 squares, if using the square tin). Before serving, add the cocoa powder to a small sieve and generously dust the top. Keep any extras in the refrigerator, covered, for 3 to 5 days.
HGN Notes
Because coffee is a predominant flavor in these blondies, use a high-quality bean to brew with. We rarely deviate from a Wisconsin favorite: Stone Creek Coffee. Our standard for espresso rotates between their Cream City Blend, Black Sheep, Green Bike and Classic French. This time of year, Santa's Revenge can't be beat -- great for espresso, cold brew and French press! Give 'em a look-see:

If you don't have the means to brew your own espresso, you can either: A) stop off at a local coffee shop for a couple shots to go, or B) dissolve 2 to 3 tsp of a high-quality espresso powder with 1/4 cup warm water. And while I promise these won't give you a caffeine buzz, decaf is a perfectly good substitution.

Instructions for homemade almond flour can be found in the Leftover Nut Pulp + Homemade Flour post. The same method was used for pepita flour from making pepita milk. (

+ Swap out maple syrup in equal amounts for earthier sorghum or lighter honey.
+ Play around with add-ins, such as toasted chopped nuts or seeds, fresh or dried fruit, orange zest, spices, or unsweetened flaked coconut.
+ If you prefer not to engage in boozy baking, dairy or alt milks are acceptable substitutions for the liqueur. You could also swap in fresh-squeezed orange juice, or simply increase the amount of brewed espresso with 1 Tbsp cocoa powder or 1 tsp chocolate extract whisked in.
+ If you don't have Kahlua, try another liqueur that pairs well with the flavors of coffee and cocoa, such as Chambord (raspberry), Kirsch (cherry), Frangelico (hazelnut), Triple Sec (orange), or a chocolate liqueur.
Nutrition Info
Serving Size: 1 slice Calories: 323 Fat: 20 Saturated fat: 7 Unsaturated fat: 13 Trans fat: 0 Carbohydrates: 26 Sugar: 9.5 Sodium: 313 Fiber: 5 Protein: 7.5 Cholesterol: 0

Recipe adapted from The Green Life.

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