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 an alternative sweetener for baking, I’ve tried coconut nectar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, bananas, stevia and honey. All of these alternatives to white sugar work with some tweaks to the recipe if you are using the same form of sweetener: granulated sugars tend to be the easiest to switch in my opinion and one liquid sweetener can be interchanged with another, but switching a granulated sweetener for a liquid takes a bit more finessing of 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 very 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 or brown sugar when baking and does require a little testing.
Date Sugar vs Date Paste
Date sugar is whole, pitted 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, pitted 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 and not a significant source of flavour.
- 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 for this recipe.
How to make date paste
- Soak the pitted dates
Submerge the dates in water to soften them up. The length of time you soak the dates depends on a few things: how firm the dates are to start and the temperature of the water (warm water will help them soften up a bit faster). It’s easiest to use dates that are easily squished with your fingers.
- Puree the dates
Once the dates are softened remove them from the water and add to a small food processor or blender jar. Save the water to loosen up the paste if needed. Turn the food processor or blender on to start to break down the dates.
- Puree until smooth
Puree the dates, stopping to scrape down the sides of the jar until you get a smooth consistency. Add a bit of the soaking liquid if needed to create a looser paste. The colour with lighten as you process and after it sits for a while it will darken back closer to the original colour of the dates.
- Put into a jar and store in the refrigerator
Scoop the date paste into a jar with a lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
- 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.
- food processor
- Canning Jar
- 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 them before or after soaking.