Before I made a commitment to real food, I don’t think I’d ever tried a date. I had heard of date nut bread, but it didn’t sound appealing. For some reason I associated it with fruit cake, which is not something I enjoy. But then I discovered Larabars, which are a healthy alternative to traditional store-bought granola bars. Larabars use different nuts and other ingredients for their various flavors, but the one sweetener they have in common is dates. This piqued my interest.
Date Paste: Nature’s Candy
Known as “nature’s candy,” dates add sweetness to many different types of dishes. Even if you don’t like them plain, they can add sweet flavor and dimension to brownies, protein bars, and smoothies. They can be mixed with yogurt for a sweet fruit dip. They can cut the acidity of tomatoes in a batch of fresh tomato sauce. You can also use them to sweeten homemade nut butters, granola, or truffles. Even though they’re sweet like sugar, dates are more nutritious because they contain fiber and antioxidants.
When you chop a date to add it to a recipe, you end up with little bits of date in some bites and not enough sweetness in other bites. Date paste solves this problem because the sweetness is evenly distributed in your final product. You can substitute this date paste for mashed banana, honey, or maple syrup in so many different recipes. If you’re swapping out sugar for date paste in a recipe, you may need to cut back the other liquids just a bit to maintain the proper consistency. One tablespoon of date paste is the equivalent of one Medjool date.
$.16 per tablespoon
- 2 cups Medjool dates about 16
- 1/4 cup water or a bit more, as needed
Remove the pits from the dates, then place the dates in a food processor or high-quality blender.
Add the water and process for about 30 seconds. Turn off the machine and scrape down the sides. Process the mixture for another 30 seconds.
If the mixture is still sticky and noticeable chunks of date are still present, add water 1 teaspoon at a time and process until a smooth paste is formed.
Store this paste in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks (as long as that works with the expiration date on your dates). Alternately, place the date paste in an ice cube tray and freeze. Remove the cubes from the tray and transfer them to an airtight container. These cubes of date paste can be kept in the freezer for several months.
Date Paste Price Breakdown
I get my dates at Trader Joe’s for $4.49 per pound. At that rate, this recipe costs $3.20 to make, and it yields 1½ cups of date paste (20 tablespoons). The cost per tablespoon is $.16. This is about the same amount I pay for a tablespoon of maple syrup or honey. Date paste has the benefit of additional fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants, so it’s a great ingredient to add to your arsenal of sweeteners.