Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies Recipe (2024)

By The New York Times

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies Recipe (1)

Total Time
About 45 minutes
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Much like its author, this recipe is a no-fuss classic. It calls for just ¼ cup of flour, which yields an incredibly rich and gooey brownie, and it's super easy to make. So easy, in fact, that baking a batch of these might just become part of your weekend routine. (Watch the video of Vaughn Vreeland making Katharine Hepburn’s brownies here.)

Featured in: Straight Talk From Miss Hepburn; Plus the Actress's Own Brownie Recipe

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Yield:12 brownies

  • ½cup cocoa
  • ½cup butter (1 stick)
  • 2eggs
  • 1cup sugar
  • ¼cup flour
  • 1cup chopped or broken-up walnuts or pecans
  • 1teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (12 servings)

226 calories; 15 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 4 grams monounsaturated fat; 5 grams polyunsaturated fat; 22 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams dietary fiber; 17 grams sugars; 3 grams protein; 25 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies Recipe (2)


Make the recipe with us

  1. Step


    Heat oven to 325 degrees.

  2. Melt butter in saucepan with cocoa and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla.

  3. Step


    In a separate bowl, combine sugar, flour, nuts and salt. Add to the cocoa-butter mixture. Stir until just combined.

  4. Step


    Pour into a greased 8 x 8-inch-square pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Do not overbake; the brownies should be gooey. Let cool, then cut into bars.



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Cooking Notes

Sydne Newberry

This has been my go-to brownie recipe for 30 years, even after going to baking school! I agree that using the best cocoa possible makes a difference. These days, I use Callebaut. In the 80s, an acquaintence in Germany to whom I brought some of the brownies, and who considered herself a great cook, asked for the recipe but was never able to get it to work. She kept asking me what she was doing wrong and I was never able to solve her problem. Eventually, she moved to the US and stole my husband!

Stephen Exel

Bake it like Kate: Food & Wine published this recipe in a dessert book published in the late '80s. They left the method in Miss Hepburn's original rendition. Step 1 calls for the eggs and vanilla to be added to the melted cocoa/butter mixture, and then you "beat it all like mad." This you must do with perfect posture and cheeks sucked in, of course.


No one else has mentioned how important it is to let the chocolate batter cool sufficiently before adding the egg mixture. If the batter is too hot you will cook the eggs and the brownies will not rise or set up correctly when baked.

Edith F

Use good cocoa, not Dutch. I use Penzey. Mound the cocoa measurement a little and underfill the sugar a bit. Toast the nuts, preferably pecans. Throw in a couple more pinches of salt, and 1/8 tsp of espresso powder. Easy and amazing and very popular.

Booger McSmoot

I substituted applesauce for the butter; you lose the crispness that butter provides, but I didn't have butter. Also didn't have vanilla. I substituted 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) bourbon. Add 1 teaspoon to the batter, reserving 7 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons in a glass of your choosing. Add the best ice you can find. Sip while brownies bake. Find inner peace


This is the go-to brownie recipe for so many people, including me, that I wasn’t planning on commenting. However, it seems like all the other people who love this recipe are swimming in a sea of Valrhona chocolate like Scrooge McDuck diving through piles of gold coins. Just wanted all the other bakers getting cocoa powder at Trader Joe’s and Walmart to know that everyone loves these brownies, even if made with regular ingredients. *Everyone* loves fat and sugar. Sincerely, a broke grad student

Emily Weinstein

Hello all, we have retested and adjusted the baking time on these brownies to reflect your notes. The original baking time was 40 minutes; you'll see the recipe now suggests 30 to 35 minutes. These are best when they are gooey and fudgy, so as the recipe says, take care not to overbake!


The sugar should be added to the melted butter before the eggs. Not with the flour mixture. The sugar reduces the temperature of the butter so the eggs don't scramble. I've been making this recipe since my Mom worked in the food department at McCall's magazine.

Susan R

I, too, have made these brownies for years and think that they are the perfect mix of nuts and gooey chocolate. I have always used 2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate. I also cut the sugar down to 3/4 cup. I make sure to use the full cup of walnuts, and even those who don't like nuts in brownies, love these. Have to watch when the brownies are in the oven, particularly when using a square glass Pyrex pan, because they cook more quickly. As soon as you smell them, they are nearly done!


Best brownies ever! I followed the recipe exactly except for a small adjustment--I melted the butter and cocoa in a large glass bowl in the microwave, thus saving myself the task of having to wash a saucepan. Lined the pan with greased parchment paper for easy removal. Baked for 29 minutes.


Add some dark rum. Dark rum makes everything better.


The melting point of butter is about 95°F--well below the temperature required to "cook" eggs. Do not rush the melt by setting the stove to frying temperatures. Cut the butter into small pieces to melt faster at low temperature. It is actually faster than waiting for hot over-heated fat to cool!


I have been making these for years. I use one teaspoon of espresso powder in it. Everyone's favorite.


Good point about salt. I use about an 1/8 teaspoon Maldon salt. Also I find it necessary to line well buttered pan with foil and then lavishly butter foil. I let foil overhang sides of pan and lift out when cool for easy cutting.


Have tried many brownie recipes, but this one, which I have used for years, is the best. I started out using 2 oz of the unsweetened chocolate, but recently began using 3 oz unsweetened choc and found this to be an even more delicious brownie. No need to increase the sugar if using 3 oz.

hayden dilly

I was excited to these but my brownies were swimming in butter. Super oily unfortunately


The best brownies I’ve ever had and brownies are my favorite so I’ve tried a zillion recipes. This one is the best!! I made zero changes to the recipe. Perfect as written!!


I doubled the recipe and baked it for 30 minutes in a 9x13 pan. Threw a few chocolate chips on top before baking to make it look extra pretty. I otherwise followed the recipe line-by-line and they came out delicious.I recommend cooling the brownies for AGES before cutting. 2 hours at least. At one hour post-bake they were overly gooey. Two hours post-bake they were fudgier and the consistency was noticeably better.


Very easy but nothing special. Cakey, not fudgy, and no crackly top. Not the brownies for me personally.


1/4 cup sugar1.5 tsp instant espresso


Way too eggy, which makes for a very strange texture that's neither cakey nor fudgy. I won't make these again.

Andrea BK

I keep walnuts chopped to the size of panko crumbs on hand (great in cream pasta) and I used some to fill in the air spots of the cup of chopped nuts to double down on the walnut flavor and make the texture a little more solid.


It's just OK. I've made it twice and I find I prefer a more chocolatey and structured brownie.

Holly K.

I reduced sugar to 3/4 cup & it was still too sweet. Almost cloying. Not a ton of chocolate flavor, I prefer a deeper chocolate flavor. Mine were done at 20 minutes for some reason & oddly crumbly. (Maybe I messed up measuring bc the recipe doesn't go by weight)? I feel like this recipe would be enhanced by melting dark chocolate with the butter, toasting the nuts, and either adding coffee extract or espresso powder. America's Test Kitchen has a superior brownie recipe. 7/10 for these brownies.


Meh. Followed the recipe exactly. They tasted good, but were flat and paste-like. Not my kind of brownie. I also tried the two variations that Vaughn made in the video. A hard “no” for me.

Alissa Jones

Great gooey brownie recipe. I did half regular sugar and half light brown sugar since that's all I had. I used an 8x8 pyrex glass pan but was surprised how low the brownies came out. I could have definitely doubled the recipe and made a standard sized brownie. These do not raise much at all. I used regular ol' Trader Joe's Cocoa Powder and they turned out fantastic.


Simply the best brownies I've ever had. Just make sure you don't overcook them.


Tasty, but they sure didn’t come out in nest little bars for me. What’s the secret? And before you ask, yes I did butter the baking pan.


To reduce steps/clean-up - I used a metal bowl over a pot as a double boiler, melted the butter in it, removed from stove, whisked in cocoa, then sugar (to cool mixture prior to adding eggs), then vanilla and eggs, then flour, nuts (toasted), and salt. Yay - one bowl. Folks w microwave can do similar. Made twice. Good stuff. Once exact recipe. Second time w chopped toasted almonds, and pinches cinnamon, cardamom, and habanero powders for Mexi vibes.


Rave reviews. Baked 35 mins, gooey as can be.

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Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies Recipe (2024)


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