Can Applesauce be Substituted for Oil in Box-Mix Brownies?

Can applesauce be substituted for oil in box-mix brownies?

Most brownie mixes—including our taste test winner, Ghirardelli Chocolate Supreme—require the baker to add oil, water, and eggs. Some of these box mixes recommend applesauce as a substitution for the oil to cut fat. To test the idea, we made two batches of the Ghirardelli mix and of mixes from industry giants Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker. We made one batch of each mix according to the pack­age instructions and another swapping an equal volume of applesauce for the oil.

The verdict was mixed. At best, several tasters found the applesauce versions “acceptable for a low-fat brownie” (hardly a ringing endorsement). It was the texture that suffered. The brownies made with oil were chewy and fudgy, while the applesauce versions were cakey in the best cases (“Like a snack cake,” tasters said of the Ghirardelli mix) and spongy and dry in the worst (the mixes from Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker). These applesauce brownies didn’t look right, either. Their tops were dull and ­pockmarked.

Not thrilled with the results, we wondered whether other common baking substitutes intended to reduce fat would fare better in brownie mix. Using the same three brands, we made six more batches of brownies, substituting, in turn, prune baby food and fat-free mayonnaise for the oil. The results were similar to those of the applesauce tests. Some of these brownies tasted like tolerable chocolate cake (they weren’t rich and fudgy like brownies, but they weren’t awful, either). Others were gummy, tough, spongy, and entirely unacceptable.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Skip applesauce, prune baby food, or fat-free mayonnaise in place of oil in brownie mixes. In fact, skip the mix altogether and make our recipe for Fudgy Low-Fat Brownies (see related content). Granted, it’s more work, but the texture and taste are spot on.

BROWNIE BUMMERS: Using nonfat mayonnaise, prune baby food, or applesauce in brownie mix is a bad idea.

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