Sticky-sweet dates are truly nature’s candy, which probably explains why we can’t stop eating them by the fistful. This ancient fruit (and the syrup made from date palm trees, known as date molasses) has moved into the spotlight recently as an alternative to refined white sugar. Try swapping a date or two in place of your afternoon coffee + cookie break—trust us you’ll enjoy it. What’s also amazing about these little fruits is how incredibly versatile they are: they add texture and a sweet contrast to both salads and granolas, and can serve as a binder and thickener for smoothies, sauces, and baked goods. They’re also a fantastic appetizer when stuffed, wrapped, and skewered with toothpicks. When shopping, look for pitted Medjool or Deglet Noor dates, and be sure to store in an airtight container or plastic resealable bag so they retain their plumpness and chew. These are our favorite date-based recipes right now, from breakfast through dinner:
Banana-Tahini Date Smoothie
Dates serves as the binder and the sweetener in these thick smoothies. Tahini, a toasted sesame seed paste, adds a nuttiness that balances the dates (the two ingredients are both Middle Eastern in origin, so we like to think they belong together too). For a decadent dessert twist, swap 1 cup of the almond milk for a scoop of frozen yogurt or ice cream.
2 medium ripe bananas
1/4 cup pitted dried dates
2 cups almond milk
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ice cubes
1/4 cup tahini, well stirred
Blend all ingredients on high speed 1 minute or until smooth. Divide between tall glasses and garnish with a dash of ground cinnamon, if desired.
Goat Cheese and Pistachio–Stuffed Dates
Pitted dates are ideal for stuffing, and make a perfect two-bite snack, appetizer, or dessert. Here, we used a tangy goat cheese, thyme, and orange filling. Finely chopped pistachios give the dates a bright green pop and a welcome nutty flavor.
Serves 6 to 8
4 ounces goat cheese, softened
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon honey
16 pitted dates
1/4 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
1. Stir together goat cheese, orange zest, thyme, and honey in a small bowl until smooth and combined. Cut dates in half lengthwise. Spoon a small amount of goat cheese mixture into 1 half of each date, then gently press date halves together (they should hold together, but not be completely sealed). Finely chop pistachios and sprinkle over stuffed dates.
Date, Bacon, + Blue Cheese Salad
You’ve probably seen or heard of the wonderfully retro appetizer of dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon. There’s a reason this combo is so good: the creamy, funky cheese and salty, smoky bacon, paired with the sticky-sweet dates, are pretty much a match made in heaven. Here, we’ve turned the app into a salad with walnuts, spinach, and a warm Dijon vinaigrette.
2 bacon slices
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
5 ounces baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted
8 pitted Medjool dates
1/3 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1. Arrange bacon in a medium nonstick pan and place over medium heat. Cook 6 minutes, turning occasionally, until crisp. Remove pan from heat. Remove bacon from pan and crumble. Whisk vinegar, olive oil, mustard, and honey into bacon drippings in pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour dressing into a large bowl, then add spinach and toss to coat. Roughly chop walnuts. Thinly slice dates. Add walnuts and dates to spinach and toss. Divide spinach salad among plates, sprinkle over blue cheese and crumbled bacon, and season with salt and pepper as desired.
Dates provide a nice hint of sweetness to match the briny olives and bright orange in this chicken stew. They soften and plump as the chicken braises, absorbing flavor from the white wine and aromatics. So good.
These lettuce wraps are all about texture, from the chewy dates and crunchy cashews in the chicken mixture to the crisp lettuce wraps. The dates help give the filling its sweet-savory-profile.
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