Move over chocolate cake, there’s another fudgy treat in town.
Picture waking up, pouring yourself a cup of strong coffee, and cutting a slice of chocolate quick bread, oozing with melty chocolate chips and with a crumb so delicate and moist that you would swear it must be bad for you.
Now imagine watching your kids or your friends take bite after bite, polishing off every crumb, and having no idea that they’re eating zucchini.
While there’s definitely a place for hearty baked goods that are obviously on the healthy end of the spectrum, recipes that use healthier ingredients, yet taste indulgent, are culinary gems.
And this recipe? Pure, chocolatey gold.
Yes, there’s still some sugar and oil in this recipe, but there’s also unsweetened applesauce and shredded zucchini, adding a nutrition boost that your kids or any vegetable-avoiding adults in your life will never notice.
As a dietitian, I’m all about finding ways to incorporate more whole grains and more ways to enjoy more vegetables. It’s easy with the whole grains: I just bake a loaf or two of some homemade oat bread, and everyone is happy!
And while variety is key with veggies, zucchini is easily my favorite. Not only is it mild in flavor – making it perfect for baking – it’s also incredibly versatile.
Spiralized into noodles, grilled and added to pizza, fried as a healthier alternative to french fries, roasted for a warm grain bowl, or shredded and added to muffins, there isn’t a meal or cuisine where zucchini is out of place.
Nutritionally speaking, it also adds a serious nutrition bump while being low in calories and fat-free. In addition to being high in heart-healthy fiber, zucchini is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, which help protect against disease, and vitamins C, K, and B6.
It’s also a good source of zeaxanthin and lutein – two essential phytonutrients that have been shown to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
In addition to the zucchini, this bread is made healthier by cutting down on the oil and sugar, by using unsweetened applesauce to add moisture and a touch of sweetness instead.
The addition of applesauce in place of some of the oil not only cuts back on the total and saturated fat in the recipe, it also adds healthy fiber.
Sound too good to be true? Scientifically, the reason applesauce works as an oil substitute is because it contains pectin.
When you’re baking, one of the roles of oil is to limit the amount of gluten that develops, so that your bread or cake won’t get dry and crumbly. While the mechanism is completely different, pectin in applesauce also helps to prevent too much gluten from developing, resulting in a moist, soft crumb that’s ideal in quick breads.
However, while using applesauce is an effective way to cut back on oil, it shouldn’t be used to replace all of the oil in this recipe, as that will greatly affect the final texture.
Also make sure to use natural, unsweetened applesauce to avoid adding too much additional sugar to the batter. But if you do want some extra flavor, and don’t mind a little more sweetness, you can choose to make our spiced-infused chunky stovetop applesauce, or maple cinnamon pressure cooker applesauce!
While chocolate chips are non-negotiable in this recipe, whether or not you add walnuts is totally up to you.
I used to hate nuts in desserts, as I like my muffins and breads super soft, without any crunch. Expecting a super fudgy brownie only to bite into a crunchy walnut? The worst.
However, with this recipe I really enjoy the occasional nutty bite. Plus, walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, so including them is another simple way to add a little extra nutrition.
So, whether or not you’re on team baked good with nuts or not, everyone can root for a fudgy slice of this healthier chocolate zucchini bread.Print
Oozing with melty chocolate chips and incredibly moist, no one will guess that this chocolate quick bread is made with zucchini and applesauce.
- 1 cup (120 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 ½ cup grated zucchini
- ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- ½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat sugar, oil, and eggs on medium speed until well-combined. Add applesauce and mix again until combined.
- Slowly add flour mixture to wet ingredients and mix on medium-low, until just combined.
- Stir in zucchini, chocolate chips, and walnuts if using.
- Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out mostly clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before slicing.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 50 minutes
- Category: Quick Breads
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Breakfast
Keywords: zucchini, zucchini bread, chocolate, breakfast
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Grate Zucchini, Measure Ingredients, and Preheat Oven
To shred the zucchini or your choice of another mild summer squash, start by cutting off the ends.
Note: 1 medium zucchini will give you just a little more than 1 ½ cups of shredded squash.
Wrap the shredded zucchini in paper towels and place in a colander. Squeeze the zucchini to wring out any extra moisture. You may need to squeeze a couple times to drain out the majority of the moisture.
Measure out 1 ½ cups of the zucchini.
Measure the remaining ingredients and preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and set it aside.
Step 2 – Mix Dry Ingredients
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
Step 3 – Mix Wet Ingredients
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar, oil, and eggs on medium speed until well-combined.
Add the applesauce and mix for another 1-2 minutes, until combined.
Step 4 – Pour Dry into Wet Ingredients
Slowly add the dry flour mixture to the wet ingredients and continue to mix on medium-low, until just combined.
Step 5 – Stir in Zucchini, Chocolate Chips, and Walnuts
Stir in the zucchini, chocolate chips, and walnuts if you are using them.
If you like, save a few chocolate chips to sprinkle on top of the batter.
Step 6 – Bake and Cool
Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan. If you reserved any chocolate chips, scatter them on top.
Bake for 50 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out mostly clean. If a few crumbs are clinging loosely to the tester, that’s okay.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before slicing.
Incorporate More Vegetables into Your Baked Goods
Adding vegetables to baked goods is an easy way to add more fiber, vitamins, and minerals to your day. Plus, many veggies can also help you to cut back on using flour, butter or oil, and sugar in a recipe.
However, just remember that these baked goods don’t give you a pass from eating vegetables at meals!
Looking for more ways to add fruits and vegetables to baked goods? Check out these tried-and-true Foodal creations:
- Sweet Potato Chocolate Brownies
- The Best Paleo Carrot Cake Cupcakes
- Chocolate Swirl Spiced Pumpkin Bread
- Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
What are your favorite ways to sneak vegetables by the veggie-avoiders in your life? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
And don’t forget, as you’re polishing off your second piece of this bread, be sure to give it a 5-star rating to let other readers know how much you enjoyed it.
Photos by Kelli McGrane, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on August 25, 2010. Last updated: September 20, 2022 at 11:52 am. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
The written contents of this article have been reviewed and verified by a registered dietitian for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as personalized or professional medical advice. Foodal and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet, or using supplements or manufactured or natural medications.
About Kelli McGrane, MS, RD
Kelli McGrane is a Denver-based registered dietitian with a lifelong love of food. She holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in nutrition science from Boston University. As a registered dietitian, she believes in the importance of food to nourish not only your body, but your soul as well. Nutrition is very personal, and you won’t find any food rules here, other than to simply enjoy what you eat.