Red Velvet Chocolate-Swirled Brownie Bars

Red velvet fever has begun in advance of Valentine’s Day. It’s everywhere.

Here’s my contribution.

They’re in between a brownie and a bar. Not over-the-top chocolaty to give them true brownie status, but much fudgier, denser, and richer than your typical bar.

Classic red velvet is known to have chocolate undertones, but isn’t overly chocolaty, and these hit that mark. 

And they’re as far away from red velvet cake that you can get.

Nothing light, fluffy, or cakey about them. They’re smooth, rich, dense, and supremely moist. 

They’re an easy, no-mixer, scratch recipe that comes together in minutes. Just as easy as opening a box of red velvet cake mix, but so much better and more unique tasting.

I made them by adapting my trusty blondies base recipe. Melt 1 stick of butter, stir in an egg, brown sugar, vanilla, and then whisk in cocoa powder. 

Then I added the red food coloring, and lots of it. I bought two sets of  Betty Crocker gel food coloring (with red, blue, yellow, and green) in order to get two red vials needed. And lucky me, I have enough green on hand that I’m already ready for Saint Paddy’s Day projects, now and through the year 2020.

My grocery stores stopped carrying the old fashioned drops and gel is being sold, and in package sets. Get your hands on as much red food coloring as you can, gel or old-fashioned drops, because turning chocolate batter red is a big task.

After you get the batter as red as you like, stir in flour, turn it out into the pan, and drizzle with melted chocolate chips to create the swirling. I detailed in the recipe section how to make the easy swirled pattern.

It’s challenging to determine when any kind of dark-colored food is done, and red and brown food is some of the hardest. I baked for 28 minutes. I recommend 28 to 30, or until the top is set and isn’t glossy. The chocolate swirls will be glossy, but not the batter.

They remind me of the Gingerbread Molasses Chocolate Chip Bars I made before Christmas and a longer cooling period is preferred. I urge you to allow them to cool in the pan for at least a few hours, or overnight. It’ll give the chocolate a chance to set up fully and for the bars to just rest so slicing is a neater job.

You’ll be rewarded with bars that are soft in the interior, with slightly firmer and chewier edges, and you’ll just want to sink your teeth into them.

The chocolate swirls on top help to accentuate the cocoa that’s stirred into the batter. The overall chocolate level is present, but not too dark or too intense.

They’re buttery, rich, and velvety soft and smooth. They don’t call it red velvet for nothing.

Red Velvet Chocolate-Swirled Brownie Bars

These easy, no-mixer brownie bars are in between a bar and a brownie. Not supremely fudgy to give them true brownie status, but much fudgier and richer than your typical bar, and not cakey. They’re smooth, rich, dense, and supremely moist. I bought two sets of Betty Crocker gel food coloring (with red, blue, yellow, and green) in order to get two reds vials. Use whatever kind of food coloring you like; you’ll need lots of it in order to dye the chocolaty batter red. They’re squishy soft in the interior, with slightly firmer and chewier edges. The chocolate swirls add a nice burst of chocolate, without being overly chocolaty in order to stay true to red velvet. They’re buttery, velvety soft, and perfect for Valentine’s Day or Christmas!


1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1 large egg
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
heaping 1/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
2 vials red food coloring, or as needed (I used 2 red Betty Crocker gel food coloring vials)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
pinch salt, optional and to taste
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. In a large, microwave-safe bowl melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.
  3. Wait momentarily before adding the egg so you don’t scramble it. Add the egg, brown sugar, vanilla, and whisk until smooth.
  4. Add the cocoa and whisk until smooth.
  5. Add the red food coloring and whisk to incorporate. I used 2 vials of red food coloring. I had to buy two sets of gel food coloring (red, blue, green, yellow) for the two reds I needed. Use any type of food coloring you like; you’ll need a lot of it because it takes a lot to turn a chocolaty batter red. Keep adding until desired shade is obtained.Add the flour, optional salt, and stir until just combined; don’t overmix.
  6. Add the flour, optional salt, and stir until just combined; don’t overmix.
  7. Turn batter out into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula; set aside.
  8. In a small, microwave-safe bowl melt the chocolate chips, about 1 minute on high power. Stop to check and stir. Heat in 10-second bursts until chocolate can be stirred smooth.
  9. Drizzle the chocolate over the pan and swirl lightly with the tip of a table knife or a toothpick. To create the pattern shown, drizzle chocolate over batter in 5 wide, evenly spaced, parallel lines, each spanning the length of the pan. Like 5 rows of long train tracks. Rotate pan 90-degrees. With a toothpick, starting at the top of the pan, “draw” 5 evenly spaced lines through the chocolate. You’re dragging the toothpick perpendicularly through the first set of lines to create the swirling.
  10. Bake for about 28 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. Allow bars to cool in pan for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving; however, for optimal results, cool overnight so the chocolate has a chance to fully set up fully. Bars will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
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