Dates are a natural sweetener that can be added to smoothies, homemade nut milks, baked goods and more. Learn how easy it is to turn dried dates into a paste with a few simple steps.
In my quest to find a better sweetener for baking I've tried coconut nectar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, bananas, stevia and honey (although I prefer to use honey in raw applications). All of these alternatives to white sugar work well with minimal tweaks to the recipe.
The other day as I was making almond milk sweetened with dates I thought "why not dates for baking?". I was going to buy date sugar but it's quite pricey so I tried to make my own. This was a mistake! Dehydrated dates are quite hard and my blender just wasn't powerful enough to pulverize them, so I made date paste instead.
I like to keep date paste on hand to add a little sweetness to homemade baked goods, smoothies, nut milks, chia pudding, homemade granola and more. It's not a straight 1:1 replacement for white sugar when baking and does require a little testing.
Date Sugar vs Date Paste
Date sugar is whole dehydrated dates ground into a fine powder. Don't mistake dried dates for dehydrated dates. Many dates, often ones sold for baking, are dried but are still squishy and pliable. To make date sugar the dates need to be completely dried and rock hard, then pulverized into a fine powder.
Date paste is whole dates soaked in water and pureed into a paste. You can adjust the consistency to your liking by using a little or a lot of water.
I'm purposely not providing quantities for this process. You can make as much or as little as you want, simply follow the instructions.
What kind of dates should you use?
Some things to think about when selecting dates for this recipe:
- This paste is predominately used to add sweetness.
- The subtleties of flavour in each variety of date will likely be lost when added in small quantities in a recipe.
- Budget. I opted to use smaller, more affordable dates.
- By using the whole fruit all of the nutrients are retained.
- Dates are rich in dietary fibre.
- Dates contain a range of vitamins including A, C, E, K, B-complex group.
- Dates are rich in the following essential minerals: iron, potassium, calcium, manganese and copper.
- Pack dates into heat proof jar or mug. You want them to be packed in fairly tightly.
- Pour warm water over the dates, just enough to cover them. If you are better at planning than I am these can be soaked overnight. Simply pack the dates into a jar, cover with water, cover with a lid and let sit on the counter overnight.
- Let the dates sit for 15 - 30 minutes to soften.
- Pour dates and half of the water into a food processor or blender.
- Process the dates on high until smooth, about 4-5 minutes. You may be tempted to stop once the dates are broken down. Don’t. Keep processing. The colour will continue to lighten and the end product will be much smoother.
- If your date paste is too thick add some of the reserved soaking liquid until you get the desired consistency.
- Transfer the date paste into a covered jar and store in the refrigerator until needed.
- You can use whatever dates are available to you.
- It's easiest to use pitted dates, but if you have a dates with pits make sure to remove the pits before soaking.