You surely want to reduce your sugar intake since you found this post. Dates are sweet and high in sugar, but they behave differently in our bodies than pure sugar or syrups; this makes dates perfect sweetener if you want to bake something. I always have dates in my pantry. The best thing is that they have a long shelf life.
What is date paste?
Date paste is a natural sweetener with only 2 ingredients that you can use instead of sugar or other sweeteners. It is a fiber-rich and nutritious alternative. Date paste is made of whole dates and some water in a food processor or a blender to a smooth, creamy consistency.
Date paste is a perfect sweetener for those following a plant-based-, The Starch Solution-, Vegan-, Whole 30 or Paleo diet. A great sweetener instead of sugar also for diabetics.
Let's dive into the world of dates, some history, sorts, why they are good for you, and of course, the recipe for date paste.
Different types of dates
There are over 1500 varieties of dates! 4 different classes of them. The types are classified on the amount of sugar they have. There are soft dates, semi-dry/half-soft dates, and dry dates.
Soft date varieties are Medjool, Khadrawy, Halawy, and Barhi. Semi-dry are Deglet Noor and Zahidi. A dry date variety is Thoory.
Date palms thrive in hot and dry climates in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Arabia. They also grow in the US-California, Arizona, and Florida. They're also grown in Australia. Have you ever heard the names of different date sorts? Here are some examples in different countries.
- Pakistani: Aseel, Dhakki, Karabalian, Fasli
- Iran: Khenizi, Sayer, Lasht, Shahabi, Majoul
- Iraq: Shorcy, Tamriraq
- Algeria: Alligh, Goundhi, Lagou
- Tunisia: Sofry, Ajwa, Safawy
- Saudi Arabia: Lobanah Masery
- Egypt: Saidi
Dates grow in date palms. Many dates are naturally organic since pests and insects don't like desert-like climates. However, they are rarely certified as organic because of the paperwork for the farms.
I was only familiar with Medjool dates and dry packaged dates before I read more about them. I was amazed that there was a wide variety of them. But of course, it is hard to know when they don't grow up here in the north. I was keen to know more about dates and health benefits, so I also thought to share some info besides the recipe itself.
So what are Medjool dates?
Medjool dates are a widespread date variety, the most pricy one. Medjools are always fresh fruit. They are not dried but harvested and packaged as fresh.
Medjool dates are chewy and have a caramel-like taste. You recognize Medjool dates often by their size since they are much bigger than other dates. They are also more expensive because the cultivation is a labor-intensive process.
The workers have to climb up the date palms several times during the year. First, to help with the optimal pollination, remove some dates for optimal growth, so they become a good size. After this, the dates have to be protected from birds and insects and are covered with nylon nets. Medjools don't ripe simultaneously, so the harvesters climb up the three several times to harvest the ripe ones. Often they are handpicked. All this labor raises the price of Medjool dates.
Medjool dates are originally from Marocco; some palms were transported to the US, so Medjools are also common in the US.
Medjools are my favorite date variety! These I use for snacking and for making date balls and such. Cheaper dates I use for sweetening cakes and making date paste. However, the best date paste is, of course, made of Medjools.
Deglet Noor dates
You might be familiar with Deglet Noor dates; they are quite common. Deglet Noor dates have less sugar than Medjool dates. Medjools are picked in the early ripening season but Deglet Noors later on, so they are a semi-dry type; this makes them have firm flesh. They have a more nutty taste. Some taste hints of cashew and browned butter in them.
The Deglet Noor is the most popular date in the United States. It is from Algeria but is widely farmed in California. Since they are not as mushy and chewy as the Medjool dates, they can be easily chopped and diced. This makes them great for sweet bites in bread, cookies, or cakes. These are also often used to date sugar.
Since Medjool dates are sweeter, you might think they have more calories than Deglet Noor, but they actually don't. Deglet Noor has 10 calories more in 100 grams.
What is the white stuff on dates?
It is not mold but natural sugar that has crystallized. You can eat it. Or warm up your date, so the sugar melts and absorbs in the date.
Why are dates healthy?
- Dates can help to lower cholesterol.
- Good for constipation
- Good for bone health
- Dates help to prevent anemia because of Iron content.
Most of the fiber in Dates is insoluble. Insoluble fiber is important to our bodies since it protects us from certain diseases, such as bowel cancer. Insoluble fiber increases stool weight, so it has a laxative effect. You can notice this if you eat too many dates.
Dates have natural antioxidants, glutathione, polyamines, and phenolics. These help to reduce oxidative damage. In history, dates have been used in medicines to treat hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.
Dates also have antimicrobial properties. They have anti-fungal, bacterial, and viral properties and can help prevent chronic inflammation.
Nutrition content in dates
DV stands for the needed daily value you need these vitamins.
|Dates nutrition value per 100grams|
You can find source for information in dates here.
Is date paste healthier than sugar?
Date paste is rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Sugar only contains 99,9 percent of available carbohydrates. It has no other nutritional value, just empty calories.
Is date paste good for people with diabetes?
Dates have a low GI and do not spike blood sugar. Dates do not raise blood sugar levels in people with diabetes more than in healthy individuals. Dates are a good sweetening alternative for baking instead of sugar for people with diabetes.
You could think that dates make a sugar spike since they are sweet, but they don't. A study that compared people with type 2 diabetes and healthy individuals and how dates affect their blood sugar levels noted no differences between these groups in their sugar levels. Dates have fiber, so this makes the sugar absorb slower in the body.
Since date paste is made of the whole date, it has its fiber and nutrient content. This makes it a perfect sweetener for people with diabetes. The GI is between 46-55. Other sweeteners are apple puree or other fruit purees or pastes from different dried fruits.
The recommendation for people with diabetes is to be moderate with dried fruits; they are though very concentrated with sugar. Dates should be used in moderation. What is moderation? Eat just a few dates or a piece of baked goods; you should not scoop the whole jar or date paste as a dessert.
Do dates need to be refrigerated?
Dates do not need to be refrigerated, but they need to be stored airtight at room temperature; otherwise, they will dry out and become hard. If stored in the refrigerator, they will hold even longer, up to 6 months.
What do you use the paste for?
- Instead of sugar in savory dishes
- In baked goods instead of sugar
- Nice cream sweetening
- Salad dressings
- On cereal
- In smoothie bowls.
- Top your porridge with
- Raw ketchup
- Coffee smoothie
- Granola instead of oil
- Toast spread with some chia jam.
- Sweetening to plant milks
Date paste is a more healthy option to other natural sweeteners such as maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar and cane sugar, since dates are the real fruit and not processed. It is the most natural sweetener.
My favorite dish before becoming vegan was bacon-wrapped dates. We once ate this in Tallinn at a restaurant, and it was just delicious. Sweet dates, crunchy bacon, and some oil fried rosemary. Have not yet tried a vegan bacon version, but will have to try one of carrot-bacon or rice paper bacon.
How to use date paste as a sugar substitute?
Date paste is great for savory dishes. Many dishes contain some sugar in the recipes. For example, in Thai recipes, brown sugar is often used. Date paste is a great substitute for those recipes. I like to add it to Thai recipes that often have a sweet and savory sauce made of sugar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and other spices.
You can use date paste as sugar replacement and add date paste as much as sugar in the recipes. It is good to remember that date paste have a lot of moisture, and is not dry like sugar, so you have to alter you original recipe a bit. Reduce the liquid amount sligthly if you use date paste instead of sugar.
If you use this 1:1 ratio instead of sugar, remember that dates are still not as sweet, so the taste will be a bit different than the original recipe. In many recipes I use 1,5:1 ratio. So I will put 1,5 times more date paste than sugar, but then I reduce the liquid amount also, or add in more dry ingredients to get the right consistency.
In some recipes though, they might get a bit dry even if you use the moist date paste. So I guess you have to experiment a little with recipes that are not created specifically to date paste.
In many recipes, like cookies, sugar and butter make a really chewy consistency. If you use date paste instead, the consistency will not be the same of course. But I think you will still be surprized on how good it is.
Use it as a substitute for maple syrup
Maple syrup is sweeter than date paste, so use 1,3 times more date paste than maple syrup.
Is date paste the same as date syrup?
Date syrup is thinner and more concentrated with sugar. Date syrup does not contain the pulp of the date. Date paste is made with the whole dried date.
How to make it?
It is simple to make date paste. Actually it is just to mix water and dates into a paste in a food processor. The hard part is to know how much water to add so it gets the right consistency.
To make date paste you can use:
- Food processor
- Hand mixer
- Nutramilk, as a food processor
- Blender, like Vitamix.
Remove the pits from your dates
Dates are sold unpitted and pitted. I like to buy pitted dates because they are the easiest to use. The dry date cakes are usually pitted, but it is still important to check the dates. So they don't have any leftover stone pieces. The stones are very hard, and I have actually broken one hand-mixer because one date pit got forgotten to be removed.
If you have bought unpitted Medjool dates, remove the pits by slicing the date open with a knife and removing the pit. With soft dates, this is easy to do by hand also, so you don't even need a knife.
Blend your dates in a food processor with boiled water. Blend to smooth and creamy paste, this can take some minutes.
Should you soak your dates before blending?
You need to soak dried dates before blending. Soft dates such as Medjool do not require soaking. You can also use medium-soft dates without soaking them.
Using soft dates, such as Medjool
Soft, chewy, caramelly, sweet Medjools are the sort I recommend for date paste. These are the sweetest dates and are the easiest to make date paste with.
Then you get a sweet caramelly paste.
Usually, Medjool dates are big and weigh around 20 grams each. About 25-30 Medjools, pitted are 500 grams of dates in weight. This makes 1,5 cups of paste.
To make a paste of soft Medjool dates, you don't need to add water. Use a high-speed blender and scrape the sides a couple of times. If the mass does not move, then add a little boiled water.
A blender with a stick is perfect for these pastes. I have a high-speed blender that is a vacuum machine and doesn't have a stick, so that is why I like to make all pastes with a food processor.
Using dried dates
You can buy dried dates in different types; soft dried dates and hard packaged dried dates in a cube. Both of these you need to soak before using.
As a rule of thumb for date paste, you need to use a ratio of 1:4 of water and dates—1 part water and 4 times that dates to get the right consistency to the paste.
Soft dried dates
Boil some water in a saucepan. Add 1,5 cups of dates (3,5dl) to the boiling water. Turn off the plate and let the dates sit in the water for 10-15 minutes.
Save 1 cup of the soaking water. Drain then the dates. Add the dates and the soaking water to a high-speed blender or a food processor and mix long enough, so it forms into a paste. You might need to scrape the sides 1-2 times. If you use a blender, it can be good to double the amount, so your blender has enough mass to make it into a paste.
Pour your date paste into a storage container. I recommend a vacuum container, but any jar will do as long as it is air sealed.
Cubed dried dates
These you need to soak in boiling water for a bit longer. Up to 30 minutes for them to soften up. Often one cube is 250 grams of dates. Save ½ cup of the soaking water. Blend the drained dates in a food processor or high-speed blender with ¼ cup of water, add some more soaking water if needed.
How long does this store?
You can store your date paste for up to 3 months in the refrigerator, but I recommend using it in a month.
You can also freeze the date paste. Ice cube trays can be handy for you, so you can thaw just a piece when you need it. Remember that the freezer's tastes and odors can stick to the date paste, keeping it covered and separate from meat, onions, and other foods. If you freeze it airtight, it stores for up to 6 months.
The shelf life of whole dates
At room temperature, they hold up to 3 months. In the fridge for up to 6 months. As long as your dates don't have a weird smell or taste and no black mold on them, they should be ok to eat.
- 200 grams dates. 1 5 cups
- 180 ml water ¾ cups
- Boil the water.
- Put your pitted dates in a food processor with the boiled water
- Blend until smooth
- Store in an airtight jar.