~ This decadent Chocolate Zucchini Bread recipe features luscious, sweet-tart cherries and a double layer of rich, deep chocolate flavors. Dense, luxuriously moist, and studded with chocolate chips, it’s truly a chocolate lover’s dream! For quicker baking, this is a perfect zucchini muffin recipe, too! And it freezes beautifully – make a double batch to stock up for grab-and-go convenience, or for gifts! ~
This Recipe Is: • Freezable • Make Ahead • Vegetarian •
It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and I just read a sweet quote that I really, really wanted to remember (and so, of course, I forgot it immediately. *SIGH*). It had something to do with Valentine’s Day being for all types of love, and I really took that to heart. (Haha … see what I did there? Valentine’s Day … Heart … no?)
Well, that quote brought to mind a story, and gave me an idea for how I’m gonna show some love.
Picture this (true story): I come home after a long day at school. I fling open the front door, and I’m greeted by the enticing aroma of Chocolate Zucchini Bread (thank you, mom!), which wraps around me like a warm, soft quilt. Instant joy. I dash excitedly to the kitchen, only to find that my lovely, amazing twin has beaten me to the coveted bread. Grrrrr … Ty!!
Usually this would be fine, because I’m a *wonderful* and *kind* person who likes nothing more than sharing with her dear brother. But he wasn’t just eating a typical slice. Oh, no. He was eating the ENTIRE TOP of the loaf, which he had hacked off horizontally like an uncivilized bread savage.
Before you hear the rest of my beautifully heartbreaking story, you must be properly educated on the anatomy of zucchini bread.
Fact: the top “crust” of zucchini bread is the best part. The rest of it is good, but can never compete with the top. This is scientifically proven by the Federal Bureau of Zucchini Bread. (Yes, it’s totally a real thing … I think …) So, not only did Ty break the most fundamental law of bread slicing, but he’d also claimed the most delicious part of the loaf all for himself. Which was just rude.
And there I was, left to munch sadly on the decimated crumbs. (Cue sad violin music.)
You’re probably wondering where love comes into this. Trust me – it does.
You see, I have a low-effort plan (the best kind) to show Ty how much I love him: I’m going to forgive him for ignoring the bread slicing code. I might even bake him another loaf, and I might even let him have the top part. Honestly, if that’s not true sibling love, I don’t know what is! And if you have a sibling, you know that they can be the very toughest to love sometimes (especially when they steal the bread tops).
Okay … wanna share some love, too? (Of course you do!)
Then you’ve come to the right place!
This cherry-studded Chocolate Zucchini Bread will win anyone’s heart. (Or say, “I forgive you for breaking the hallowed and immutable Bread Slicing Code” … whatever you need to do, friends!)
And since this is THK, you know you can feel great about sharing this love, too! Oh, yeah … it’s got:
- 100% whole grains
- only a tiny bit of oil (check out our applesauce trick below!)
- antioxidant-rich cocoa and cherries
- a veggie (zucchini!) and two kinds of fruit (you know … those yummy cherries, plus the apples in the applesauce!)
Bingo! A heart-smart way to say, “I heart you!” and/or, “I forgive you! (You bread-hacking menace to society.)”
But before you dash to the kitchen to start baking (‘cuz I know you’re dying to begin), I’ve got a few tips for ya …
Chocolate Zucchini Bread Ingredients: Nutrition and Shopping Tips
Tip #1: Using Applesauce to Replace Fat
There’s a lot of applesauce in this Chocolate Zucchini Bread recipe, which helps us slash the calorie-dense fats down to just 2 tablespoons of oil, while still yielding an ultra-moist, rich zucchini loaf.
Applesauce is one of our fave fat replacements in baking – works great in recipes like our Healthy Apple Cobbler Muffins and our Praline Peach Muffins, and even in our decadent Almond Joy Zucchini Cake.
But wait. Don’t want to open a whole jar of applesauce just for this recipe? Yeah – my mom hates wasting food, too. So, she often buys those little mini applesauce cups (like you’d pack in kids’ lunches), and that way we don’t end up with opened, partially used jars of applesauce molding in the back of the fridge (although they do make handy science projects!).
Tip #2: Regular Vs. Mini Chocolate Chips (Sneaky Healthification Tricks!)
In some of our recipes, we prefer to use mini chocolate chips. This is a favorite healthification strategy for spreading more tiny bits of chocolate scrumptiousness alllllll throughout a muffin or quick bread, without having to use quite as much chocolate to get the job done. Our “Kids’ Favorite” Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins and our Healthy Double Chocolate Muffins with Fresh Strawberries are perfect examples of how well this little strategy can work.
But … you’re noticing that we switched it up on you today, aren’t you? Wondering why?
Well, for this specific zucchini bread recipe, we wanted big bursts of creamy chocolate, to stand up to all those chunks of cherries. Regular-sized chocolate chips were the answer. But with rich, dark chocolate flavor already in this bread from the cocoa powder, we didn’t need many chocolate chips – just a half cup for the entire loaf.
And, we played up those meltingly decadent chocolate chips by simply reserving some to sprinkle on top. Yep! The very best part of the bread – that top crust – just got even better! Those chocolate chips perched on top absolutely scream “I’M CHOCOLATE AND I’M DELICIOUS!” (If your bro didn’t already hack off the entire top of the bread … and eat it all himself. 🙁 ) Seriously, though – this little trick totally enhances the perception of chocolaty-ness, with no extra calories at all!
Tip #3: Chopping Your Cherries
Just a quick note here: we usually chop our dried cherries in half for this zucchini bread recipe because the ones we’ve found at the store lately are pretty big. Totally optional, but we think that extra quick step creates perfectly sized cherries that aren’t too big to overwhelm the chocolate in each bite.
Faster Chocolate Zucchini Bread! (Hint: Zucchini Muffins)
Didn’t leave quite enough time to get a loaf of zucchini bread baked and ready? No problem!
Just make zucchini muffins!
All the same chocolate-cherry goodness … in about a third of the baking time. Perfect for grab-and-go snacks that way, too!
Our little time-saving tip here: practically any quick bread recipe (banana bread, zucchini bread, etc.) can be made faster if you bake muffins instead of a whole loaf of bread. (Even meatloaf loaves can be faster if you turn ’em into muffins! No, really! Check out our Hoisin-Glazed Mini Meatloaf “Muffins”!)
Just be sure to watch your muffins closely, checking them often for doneness, the first time you experiment with this technique for a new recipe, since muffin bake times can vary (and you sure don’t want them to burn).
Adjusting Quick Bread Bake Times and Temperatures for Different Pan Sizes
Seems everyone has a slightly different loaf pan in their pantry, and because of the wide variety of sizes and materials in baking pans, even simple quick bread recipes like this one can require slight adjustments depending on your equipment. We can help!
Note that this recipe calls for a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, which is really ideal for the amount of batter in this zucchini bread recipe. (We absolutely adore these baking pans – they perform like a dream, and generally don’t even require one bit of cooking spray to be wonderfully non-stick.)
If your favorite pan is a bit smaller (even an 8.5 x 4.5), or is a dark-colored metal or oven-proof glass pan, you may need to make tiny adjustments (as you would with most other quick bread recipes) to achieve that perfectly baked, lusciously moist loaf you’re looking for.
For smaller loaf pans, the batter will be deeper, and a slightly longer bake time may be needed to ensure the center is cooked. However, because you don’t want the outsides of the zucchini bread to dry out before the center is done (this chocolate zucchini bread is meant to be richly moist), you may also find it helpful to decrease the oven temperature to 325°F for smaller loaf pans and for glass or dark metal pans. For smaller pans (such as an 8.5 x 4.5), you will probably find that, when decreasing the temperature, you need to then increase the baking time by about 5-15 minutes. Remember: the goal is to ensure that the bread is evenly baked but still very richly moist throughout.
One other great little trick I’ve tested, to compensate for the difference in volume between common loaf pan sizes: If you have a pan that is smaller than 9 x 5, you can decrease the amount of batter you bake in the loaf pan itself, and use that extra batter to bake a few muffins, in addition to the smaller zucchini loaf. For example, I’ve tested this recipe with an 8.5 x 4.5-inch loaf pan, instead of the 9 x 5 called for. To compensate for the differences in pan volume and loaf height, I removed 1 cup of batter and used it to bake 4 muffins (using the directions for muffins on the recipe card), along with the slightly smaller loaf, without adjusting the oven temperature or baking time called for in this recipe at all. Perfect!
Freezing Zucchini Bread (Perfect for Make-Ahead Gifts!)
Whether you make a whole loaf of this Chocolate Zucchini Bread, or opt for quicker muffins … either way … these freeze great! We usually just wrap the cooled loaf (or individual muffins) tightly in plastic, and stash in a freezer-safe zipper bag.
It’s the perfect make-head solution for breakfasts and snacking … or for last-minute homemade gifts! Such a special treat for sharing with neighbors, favorite teachers, hostesses, new moms, bread-stealing brothers … anyone who could use a little love!
So, happy Valentine’s Day to all of you … from our healthy kitchen, to yours! (And whether or not you’re a rule-trampling bread stealer … ahem … Ty!).
I hope you’ll find a way to show someone in your life how very much you love them this Valentine’s Day. And, hey … since they say food is the way to a person’s heart, why not try making this Cherry-Chocolate Zucchini Bread?
And even if you decide not to share, I promise you’ll love it! (You can even eat the top … I won’t tell. 😉 )
- cooking spray and flour for preparing loaf pan
- 2 cups white whole wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (from about 1 medium, 7-ounce zucchini)
- 3/4 cup dried tart cherries, coarsely chopped if desired
- 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Prepare a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan by spraying with cooking spray and lightly but thoroughly flouring the bottom. (See discussion in post for more information on using a different pan size and adjusting baking for various types of pans.)
- In a large bowl, mix 2 cups flour, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, whisking to combine thoroughly.
- In a medium bowl, combine applesauce, brown sugar, eggs, canola oil, and vanilla, stirring well to combine. Add zucchini and stir well again.
- Make a well in the flour mixture and add the wet ingredients, stirring just until moist.
- Stir in cherries and all but about 2 tablespoons of the chocolate chips (setting the 2 tablespoons of reserved chips aside). Mix just until combined, being careful not to over-mix.
- Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan and sprinkle the reserved 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips over the top of the batter.
- Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean or very nearly clean. (This zucchini bread should form a lovely "crack" through the top of the bread, and that crack will be the very last part to be completely baked. Test carefully to be sure this part of the bread is done, as it is often still under-baked for a few minutes after the rest of the loaf tests as done. Your entire loaf should be uniformly done but still very dense and moist.)
- Cool zucchini bread in pan for about 10 minutes, and then carefully remove from pan to finish cooling completely on a wire rack. You may find it helpful to run a thin paring knife around the edge of the loaf to help it release from the pan.
Baking Muffins (will yield 18 muffins)
- Prepare muffin pans by lining with 18 non-stick foil muffin liners.
- Mix batter as directed in steps 3-6 above.
- Spoon batter evenly into prepared muffin cups and sprinkle the reserved 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips over the top (about 2-3 chips per muffin).
- Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out almost clean. (The muffins don't "crack" like the loaf does.)
- Cool zucchini muffins in pan for about 5 minutes or until the muffins are beginning to set and are cool enough to handle. Remove the muffins to wire racks to cool completely.
Make-Ahead and Freezing: This zucchini bread recipe freezes great, whether you make a whole loaf or individual muffins. After cooling completely, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in the freezer in a freezer-safe zipper bag.
This Cherry-Chocolate Zucchini Bread recipe is adapted from another of my favorite old Cooking Light recipes, their Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread, published almost 13 years ago, in July 2004. We swapped in whole wheat flour for a boost of fiber-rich nutrition and reduced the already-small amount of canola oil by one-third. Using brown sugar instead of white gives a little additional moisture to this reduced-fat bread, and the addition of vanilla and dried cherries add a wonderful new flavor twist (not to mention all the great antioxidants and micronutrients from the delicious cherries)! If you love our Cherry-Chocolate Zucchini Bread recipe and want to try the original inspiration, as well, you can find it HERE.