Tonka Beans and Chestnut Blondies

Tonka Beans are pretty interesting little things.

Dipteryx odorata

Black and wrinkly on the outside, with a beige inside reminiscent of a nut, and an unmistakable aroma. They are in fact often used instead of vanilla. But everyone who has had my jar of them stuck under their nose the past few weeks has said the same thing… amaretto, almonds, cloves, mmmm!

In the US they are banned!


Well, these innocent looking South American beans contain coumarin, a substance that, in large quantities, may thin the blood and cause liver damage. However, this ban is a definite overreaction as you would have to consume quite a few to be at any kind of risk… and I don’t think anyone would want too many of them anyway, as they can be quite pungent. In France especially, and in many other European countries, they are all the rage. Famous chefs are enamoured and if you can get your hands on some I think you will be too.

So, what do you do with them?

I made chestnut blondies… the aroma is ideal for any kind of nutty dessert, and for adding to creams and panna cotta too, but I had this tin of chestnut puree begging to be put to use after sitting in my cupboard for months. Chestnut puree – your day has come! (It’s seasonal too!)

Chestnut Tonka Blondies

  • 100g (7 tbsps) butter
  • 100g (1/2 cup) sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 250g (1/2 lb) chestnut puree
  • ½ – ¾ Tonka bean finely grated  (OR 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 100g (1/2 cup) finely ground almonds
  • 50g (4 tbsps) plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 75g (½ cup) white choc chips

Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F . Grease and flour a 23 x 30cm/9 x 12 inch brownie tin.

Beat the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Beat in the eggs and then the chestnut puree. It will probably curdle, but that doesn’t matter. Sift in the flour, baking powder, salt and ground almonds and fold in gently. Finally fold in the chocolate chips. Pour into baking tin and bake for about 20-25 minutes, until firm and golden.

Serve warm or cold, with a cup of tea!

As I couldn’t find anything online vaguely similar to what I had in mind, I was pleased that these chestnut tonka brownies turned out to be delicious. I suppose the addition of white chocolate helped! 😉 I only used half a tonka bean and the flavour was very distinct. You really don’t need much.


For more information on tonka beans, see here:

Click here for conversion tables: