Spicy Tahini Cream Cheese-Swirled Brownies

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You’ll never look at boxed brownie mix the same way again.
spicy tahini cream cheese-swirled brownies: a spicy tahini cream cheese-swirled brownie on a blue and white checkered plate, next to a yellow spoon
Heami Lee/Chili Crisp

Brownies from scratch are impressive…but we’re not too proud to lean on boxed brownie mix in a pinch. Besides, the pantry staple is so easy to zhuzh up with a few key ingredients. Case in point: the spicy tahini cream cheese-swirled brownies from Chili Crisp: 50+ Recipes to Satisfy Your Spicy, Crunchy, Garlicky Cravings by James Park.

“Humble boxed brownies can turn into a stunning dessert with a few extra elements, like a tahini-cream cheese layer and chili crisp swirls,” Park writes. “Tahini adds an extra nuttiness to the sweet cream cheese. And the cream cheese layer becomes a beautiful canvas to channel your inner artist with swirls.”

We’d advise preparing the chili crisp in advance if you have time. The best method for chopping the nuts is pulsing them in the food processor until coarse, not a paste. Choose from peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pine nuts and pecans, or substitute seeds if you’re allergic to nuts.

Chili Crisp: 50+ Recipes to Satisfy Your Spicy, Crunchy, Garlicky Cravings by James Park © 2023. Published by Chronicle Books. Photographs by Heami Lee.


Very Nutty Chili Crisp (makes about 2½ cups)

5 tablespoons (40g) gochugaru

5 tablespoons (40g) Sichuan chili flakes

2 tablespoons Aleppo pepper flakes

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup (140g) coarsely chopped nuts

1½ cups (360ml) neutral oil, such as vegetable or canola

Brownie Batter

One 18 ounces (500g) box brownie mix, plus any additional ingredients per package instructions

3 tablespoons Very Nutty Chili Crisp

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Tahini-Cream Cheese Layer

8 ounces (230g) cream cheese

¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar

2 tablespoons tahini

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Make the chili crisp: In a heatproof medium bowl, combine the gochugaru, Sichuan chili flakes, Aleppo pepper flakes, brown sugar and salt. Set aside.

2. In a dry, small saucepan, toast the chopped nuts for about 3 to 5 min­utes over medium heat, or until lightly browned but not completely dark. Add the toasted nuts to the bowl with the spices.

3. In the same saucepan, add the oil over high heat and let it warm for about 3 minutes, or until lightly smoking.

4. Carefully drizzle the hot oil into the bowl of nuts and spices and let it sizzle for the flavors to bloom. If it doesn’t sizzle, heat the oil in 30-second intervals. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then mix every­thing together. Once the mixture comes to room temperature, transfer it to an airtight container. You can store it at room tempera­ture, but for longer storage, keep it in the refrigerator, where it will keep for about three months.

5. Make the brownies: Preheat the oven to the temperature indicated on the package instructions. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan and line it with parchment paper.

6. Prepare your brownie batter according to package instructions. Once the batter is made, add the chili crisp and salt. Mix everything together. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the batter for the swirl on top. Pour the remaining batter into your prepared baking pan.

7. Make the tahini-cream cheese layer: In a food pro­cessor, add the cream cheese, granulated sugar, tahini, egg and vanilla and run until everything is smooth.

8. Pour the tahini-cream cheese layer on top of the brownies in the baking pan. Spread it across the pan to make sure it covers the brownie batter, then set the pan aside.

9. In a small bowl, add ½ teaspoon of water to the reserved batter to make it a little loose. With a spoon, add small dollops of chili crisp across the tahini-cream cheese layer, followed by dollops of brownie batter. Using a chopstick or some­thing similar, make swirls through the chili crisp and brownie batter dollops.

10. Bake the brownies according to package instructions. Let them cool slightly and serve warm. The brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to four days.

Nutrition Facts
  • 219 calories

  • 10g fat

  • 29g carbs

  • 3g protein

  • 20g sugars

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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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