How to Make Katharine Hepburn’s Famous Brownie Recipe Healthier and Why You Should

If you want to cut carbs but still treat yourself, this is a great way to do it

Photo by Denise Shelton

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Google the phrase “Hepburn’s brownies,” and you’ll come up with nearly 35,000 entries. That’s because the old family recipe actress Katharine Hepburn shared for the first time in the Ladies’ Home Journal in 1975 is beloved the world over. Unfortunately, not everyone can eat them.

Hepburn’s recipe is wildly popular, even with those who haven’t seen her movies, for a good reason. It’s quick and easy to prepare using the ingredients most people have on hand, and the result is fantastic. Many people claim they’re the best brownies they’ve ever tasted. The problem is that folks on a restricted diet for health issues such as celiac disease or diabetes, can’t enjoy the recipe as written. If you fall into that category, I came up with an alternative version that might work for you.

Katharine Hepburn the kitchen of her Connecticut home (image via

An 8 x 8-inch-square pan of brownies containing a cup of sugar is a dangerous thing. I can personally verify that it’s possible to consume an entire batch in a single day, which isn’t a good idea for anyone. Keep that up, and you will have a blood sugar problem if you don’t already! My solution to the sugar problem is to replace it with Lakanto monk fruit sweetener.

Hepburn’s original recipe uses only a quarter cup of flour, but even that’s too much for some people. I substituted King Arthur Grain-Free Paleo Baking Flour. It’s gluten-free and provides the added benefit of 4 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber per serving.

Here is my healthier version of Hepburn’s Brownies. You can find Hepburn’s original version here on the New York Times cooking site. Enjoy!

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies Adapted for Special Diets

This recipe was adapted based on the original version as it appears on the New York Times cooking site. My notes are in italics.

Yield: 12 brownies


  • ½ cup cocoa
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup monk fruit sweetener
  • ¼ cup paleo flour
  • 1 cup chopped or broken-up walnuts or pecans (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • Heat oven to 325 degrees.
  1. Melt butter in saucepan with cocoa and stir until smooth. (I forego the pan and put the butter and cocoa in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Then I zap it in the microwave a minute at a time until the butter melts. It makes for quicker cleanup.) Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl (Only if you started with a saucepan. Otherwise, one bowl is all you need.). Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine monk fruit sweetener, paleo flour, nuts (if using), and salt. Add to the cocoa-butter mixture. (I don’t use a separate bowl. I just dump everything in the same one. It works out fine.) Stir until just combined.
  3. Pour into a greased 8 x 8-inch-square pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. (Depending on your oven, it could take a bit longer.) Do not overbake; the brownies should be gooey. Let cool, then cut into bars.

NOTE: Please don’t eat the whole pan yourself. There’s a whole stick of butter in there! If tempted, have a couple and keep the rest in a sealed container in the freezer. They’ll be waiting for you whenever you want a sweet treat.

©2020, Denise Shelton. All rights reserved.

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