Food & Recipes

‘Top Chef’ Judge Says You Need This Salty and Unexpected Condiment to Bake Brownies

Step up your homemade brownie game with soy sauce.

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A warm, fudgy brownie hits the spot after a delicious meal, and while pre-made brownies will satisfy your basic chocolate cravings, making brownies from scratch lets you add unique ingredients to the batter. Among the most unique we’ve ever heard? Soy sauce. Yep, you read that right. This sounded a bit wacky to me, but since the recommendation came from Iron Chef judge Nilou Motamed, I had to try it out for myself. Here’s what happened.

Why You Should Add Soy Sauce to Brownie Batter

Soy sauce is the last ingredient you expect to see in a brownie recipe. But Chris Kimura, corporate chef at Lee Kum Kee (a company specializing in Asian sauces and condiments), tells First for Women why this salty condiment is, in fact, a perfect fit.

“As opposed to just salt, which only adds salinity (or saltiness), soy sauce is a great way to add a complex savoriness that compliments the chocolate,” he explains. “It also subtly brings out more sweetness in the brownie as well as providing a fuller, richer flavor.”

For this dessert, Chef Motamed recommends using a sweeter variety like Lee Kum Kee’s Sweet Soy Sauce (Available at Walmart and Amazon). “[It’s] both sweet and salty, so you’re going to get all that umami [flavor that] will make your brownies extra special,” she says.

How To Make Soy Sauce Brownies

The recipe below takes soy sauce brownies to the next level by adding pure sesame oil and tahini to the batter. These ingredients are made from sesame, which also gives the brownies a nutty taste.

“You get this really beautiful, aromatic scent [while making the batter] that feels really robust and makes you feel almost like you are smelling a big jar of peanut butter, but better!” Chef Motamed explains.

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (between 60 and 65 percent), chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup tahini, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2  tablespoons pure sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon sweet soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Directions: 

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 8 by 8-inch non-stick baking pan with 2 sheets parchment paper, overlapping and leaving edges long so that parchment covers all 4 sides of pan.
  2. Place chocolate and butter in microwavable bowl and microwave in 30-second intervals until fully melted; stir between each interval. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together sugar, tahini, eggs, cocoa powder, sesame oil, vanilla, and soy sauce.
  4. Stir in chocolate mixture, then fold in flour until just combined. Scrape into baking pan.
  5. Bake until edges are just set and toothpick inserted in middle of brownies comes out clean, about 29 to 31 minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt, and let cool.
  6. Cut into even-sized squares and enjoy! 
Lee-Kum-Kee-Soy-Sauce-Brownies
Courtesy of Lee Kum Kee

My Taste Test

With an open mind and curious taste buds, I took the first bite – immediately noting the brownie’s rich, chocolatey flavor. Also, the light sprinkle of sea salt on top added a crunchiness that complemented the dessert’s dense and fudgy texture. 

Truthfully, the soy sauce, tahini, and sesame oil were barely noticeable. However, these ingredients allowed the bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder to shine through. I’d absolutely make this recipe again — and next time, I’ll serve the brownies with a scoop of ice cream for a brownie sundae.

Some of the ingredients in this recipe can additionally be enjoyed in everyday dishes. Tahini works well in homemade hummus and salad dressings. Plus, soy sauce and sesame oil are tasty additions to crunchy Asian salad and sheet pan sheet pan spicy tofu and green beans.

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