We learned to bake at a young age and nearly all recipes included white, granulated sugar. After years of sugar-filled baking, it was hard to imagine cookies, pies, and quick-breads without this processed, inflammatory-causing ingredient. Luckily, there’s a whole-food, plant-based (delicious) sweetener that actually has something to offer nutritionally.
Hello, dates! And why didn’t we meet sooner?
Dates are a sweet fruit most often sold dried. They’re rich in fiber (so they don’t lead to a blood sugar spike), vitamins, and minerals and you’ll see them in most of our desserts as well as other recipes that need a hint of sweetness.
You can find dates at most grocery stores in the bulk section or with the dried fruit. Word of caution, make sure to buy pitted dates as pitting them yourself is a tedious task. Also, make sure the only ingredient is “dates.” Some are coated with dextrose (eww), especially if they’re pre-chopped.
There are literally hundreds of varieties of dates, but these 2 are the easiest to come across:
Deglet Noor – Often the easiest to find and the most affordable, I would consider these to be an all-purpose date. The flavor resembles brown sugar. I pick these up in the dried food section at our local Kroger, ALDI, or Walmart. The generic 8 oz package cost a mere $1.89-1.94. The 8 oz package measures out to approximately 2 cups which – conveniently – makes 1 batch of my favorite treat: Chocolate Snowballs.
Medjool – These larger dates are sweet and moist. At local grocery stores I typically find these in the produce section, often hidden off to the side on a bottom shelf. They’re usually sold in 12 oz packages for about $6.00. I only opt for these when I’m going for an extra decadent treat, they really hit a home-run when used for Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.
Choosing one of these two varieties and not buying them from a specialty store makes them a convenient and affordable sweetener. Some other date varieties that you might come across are:
- Barhi – very sweet and soft, most often enjoyed as it’s own snack
- Khalala – the unripe version of Barhi, sometimes found at farmer’s markets
- Dayri – strong flavor with a hint of vanilla
- Khadrawi – soft with a rich flavor
- Amber – dryer with a hint of cinnamon
Dried dates can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer indefinitely – so stock up when they’re on sale! They also store well in the pantry for up to 3 months after the package is opened.
You’ll notice that many of our recipes involve soaking dates in warm water. This softens them up and results in a smooth final product. However – know that short soaking time or no soaking is okay, as long as you have a food processor with a sharp blade. You simply risk having an end product that is less smooth – though equally delicious!
Keeping a batch of date paste (or syrup) – recipe below – on hand makes it easy to whip up a healthy dessert anytime. It’s great to use as a sweetener in cookies, breads, muffins, smoothies and even pies.
Some recipes that we use dates in: Decadent Chocolate Dip, Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding, Gingerbread Loaf, Rice Krispie Treats, Chocolate Pudding, Cinnamon Almond Blondies, Chocolate Banana Quick Bread, Pumpkin Pie, Purely Plants Pumpkin Bread, Samoa Cookies, Chocolate Snowballs, No Bake Gingerbread Balls, Chocolate Peppermint Brownies
Date Paste & Syrup
- 2 cups pitted dates packed
- 1 cup water 2 cups to make date syrup
- Soak dates in hot water for 10 minutes. The dates will soften and absorb some of the liquid.
- Place both the dates and water in a food processor with an "S" blade. Process until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides as needed.
- Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.