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No Bake Date Squares

 
If you know me at all you probably know that secretly there is an old lady in me trying to find her way out. She usually presents herself in Friday night bake-fests, my love for spending hours walking through museums, as well as my secret love for knitting. This time she came out in a no bake date square that I knew I could not pass up. It also helps that one of my favourite ladies in the whole world (who is very young at heart and not old by any means) is coming to visit me next week and I knew we’ll happily enjoy these date squares over a warm cuppa coffee and one of our worldly chats. My grandma is coming to visit this Monday and one of our favourite things to do together is sit and talk about anything and everything. I also share her love for museums, which works out well, because it’s hard to find another person who likes spending an entire day in a museum together. Two years ago we visited the MusΓ©e D’orsay in Paris together and blissfully spent over seven hours looking at art as I listened to her explanations of the numerous beautiful paintings and sculptures. I have a hunch that J might have been happy he missed out on that one πŸ˜‰
 
the food processor
 
Like travelling with my grandma, these date squares make me sooo happy. Not only are they sugar free, gluten free, and vegan but they also taste just like the butter and sugar ridden treats I used to snatch up at our local church’s pot luck as a kid or the kind I’d always find at big family get together’s. If you are not familiar with date squares let me fill you in before we get into things. They are composed of three layers: a bottom cookie-like crust, a middle ooey-gooey carmel-y date layer and a crunchy and sweet crumble top.
 
ceara s kitchen

Let’s get real, usually date squares are not the healthiest of desserts. Traditionally, the crust and crumble are made by mixing together flour and butter. Betty Crocker’s method also calls for boiling the dates with brown sugar until an ooey-gooey center is formed. Sounds awesome, right? Probably and imnotgonnalie that method does taste pretty darn good but in all my health consciousness I knew there was probably a better way way to whip these babies up using less of all of the above. 

 
The brown sugar that the traditional date square called for seemed a bit out of place to me because dates are already a super sweet treat. Honestly, they are like earth’s natural sugar. Often in the afternoon, when my sweet tooth starts calling, I’ll  grab a couple of dates to cut my craving and also for a nutritious energy boost. Dates are also packed full of tons of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants so not only do they taste great but they are amazing for you. I opted out of the sugar altogether because it is really not needed at all (sorry sugar but not sorry). I let the wonderful natural flavour of the dates shine through by not only using them in the ooey-gooey center but also in the crust and crumble as a natural binder along with some heart healthy coconut oil (bye bye butter!). 
 
the dough mixture
These layered no bake date squares are also very easy and simple to throw together – you just need to leave a couple of hours to let them chill out and set in the frige before devouring. First, I let the dates soak in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. This makes the dates that much sweeter and also makes them easier to process in the food processor. I made the decadent crust and crumble by processing three of my favourite foods – oats, coconut and pecans. While the dates are soaking, throw the pecans, shredded coconut and oats into the food processor and process until a course powder is formed. Add in the dates and coconut oil and pulse until a crumbly and moist dough is formed. Set aside 3/4 of a cup for the third crumble layer and press the remaining dough into the bottom of a pan lined with parchment. Now add in the the rest of the dates with some of the sweet date water, a splash of lemon juice and a dash of sea salt. Process the dates until a gooey caramel-like date paste is formed. Spread the golden date mixture on top of the cookie layer and evenly sprinkle the remaining crumble on top. Now all you have to do is play the waiting game until the date squares have fully set after chilling out in the fridge for a couple of hours. Simple, right? Feel free to share these at your next family event or at your church potluck and put the old method of making date squares to shame. I froze mine and will be enjoying these with Grandma on Monday along with one of our notorious long chats! πŸ™‚
 
 
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Date Squares


  • Author: Ceara
  • Total Time: 40 mins
  • Yield: 16 1x

Description

These NO bake date squares are made without any added sugar or flour! They are much healthier, tastier and better than traditional date squares!


Ingredients

Scale

Prepare

  • 3 cups pitted dates, soaked in boiling water for at least 10 minutes – (you are going to use 1/2 packed cup of the soaked dates for the cookie crust and crumble topping AND 2 packed cups of the soaked dates for the date middle layer, you may have a bit of dates leftover)

Cookie Crust + Crumble Topping

  • 1 cup pecans (or walnuts)
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 packed cup of the soaked dates
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Middle Date Layer

  • 2 packed cups of the soaked dates
  • 1/4 cup water (from the soaked dates)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Soak 3 cups of pitted dates in boiling water for 30 minutes [do not discard the water!!].
  2. Place parchment or plastic wrap, two-ways, in the bottom of an 8×8 or 9×9 square baking pan.
  3. Cookie Crust + Crumble Layer: Pulse pecans in the food processor until they turn into a course powder. Add shredded coconut, oats, sea salt, and cinnamon and pulse until your mixture has processed into a course powder. Add 1/2 packed cup of the soaked dates and pulse until the dates are fully cut up and mixed into the dough mixture. Add coconut oil and pulse a few times, scraping down sides when necessary, until a crumbly dough is formed that is easily pressed together with your fingers.
  4. Measure out 3/4 cup of the dough mixture and save for the crumble topping. Scoop dough into the square baking pan. Press an even layer, with the palms of your hands, onto the bottom of your pan (dough might be a bit sticky – that is okay). Place in the fridge to harden slightly for 5 minutes while you prepare the ooey-gooey date middle layer.
  5. Middle Date Layer: Process the final 2 packed cups of soaked dates in the food processor with 1/4 cup of water from the soaked dates, sea salt, and lemon juice until you have a consistent, almost creamy and sticky (*but not runny*) consistency. If the mixture seems too thick add a bit more water by the tbsp until the desired consistency is formed.
  6. Take the pan out of the fridge. Pour the date mixture with a spatula on top of the first crust layer. Evenly smooth out the date layer with the back of a spoon.
  7. Evenly crumble, with your fingers, the remaining 3/4 cup of the dough mixture onto the top of the middle date layer. Lightly press the crumble layer into the dates (so they do not “fly” away)
  8. Cool for 2 or more hours in the fridge. They are easiest to cut when they are cold directly from the fridge. Cut into 16 or 24 pieces depending on the desired size (see note).
  9. Devour, Share and Enjoy πŸ™‚

Notes

Soaking the dates before processing them in the food processor brings out their natural sweetness as well as makes them much easier to process in the food processor. Make sure to line your square baking pan (9×9 or 8×8) with parchment paper or plastic wrap for easy transferring and less clean up. After throwing these squares together, allow them to chill out and set in the fridge for at least 2 hours [or overnight]. These date squares cut best when cold with a sharp knife. Cut into 16 or 24 pieces depending on how big your want each date square – keep in mind that these are very sweet (I prefer cutting them into 24). Keep these date squares in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze for up to a couple weeks.

  • Prep Time: 40 mins
  • Category: Dessert
  • Cuisine: American

Nutrition

  • Calories: 4391
  • Sugar: 573g
  • Sodium: 2026mg
  • Fat: 162g
  • Saturated Fat: 78g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 75g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 768g
  • Fiber: 89g
  • Protein: 53g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg

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27 Comments

  1. Had anyone tried using hemp hearts instead of oats ? Love this recipe but I’m working on being grain free !

  2. AMAZING!! The only thing i didn’t use was the oil. Didn’t soak the dates either because they were fresh dates so i just blended them.

  3. I made these yesterday. They are absolutely awesome! The best date squares I’ve ever tasted.
    Thank you!

  4. I don’t like coconuts, but want to try this recipe. Is there a substitute I can use for coconuts or just eliminate them all together? Thanks!

    1. I have never made these squares without oats so I’m not sure. You can try replacing the coconut with half oats and half oat flour! Let me know if you end up trying it! πŸ™‚

  5. I just made these, I divided them into 25 squares and they end up being about 125 calories each. Me and boyfriend both agreed the flavor was great. I only added a tad more cinnamon to the crust. I think they would be great just as granola bars without the date center too!

    1. So happy you and your boyfriend enjoyed the date sqaures, Emily! I love the idea of making the bottom later into a granola bar! Thanks for the great idea and wonderful feedback πŸ™‚

  6. I made them and was a little confused by directions. Ingredients say three cups dates and then 1/2 cup dates. The instructions then indicate three and two cups of dates. They were delicious but when I added the three cups of dates to the other ingredients it was not crumbly but more like a date paste. Any suggestions?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Eileen,

      Thanks for your comment. I apologize if the instructions were confusing, I updated the recipe so the instructions are a bit more clear.

      First soak three cup of dates in boiling water to soften them up (these are the dates you are going to use in the cookie crust, crumble and middle layer).

      Measure out 1/2 packed cup of the soaked dates and add it to the dough mixture (the bottom layer and cookie top layer).

      After you’ve transferred the dough layer to the pan, you are going to use the remaining 2 cups of packed dates for the middle layer.

      Measure out 2 packed cups of the soaked dates for the middle date layer and proceed to process the dates with the lemon, date water, etc.

      I hope this response was helpful. Would love to know your feedback!

    1. Thank you Praj, If you are not a fan of coconut oil I would try using a butter substitute (such a “Earth Balance” butter) that solidifies when cold and at room temperature (this also helps to keep the date squares nicely together!). I would not recommend subbing regular oil because it stays in a liquid state at room temperature and will make your squares a lot more crumbly! You could always try subbing an extra 1/4 cup of soaked dates instead of the coconut oil also – but I have not tried this so cannot guarantee the results πŸ™‚ Good luck, and please let me know if you try it! Thanks for stopping by!

  7. An old lady hiding inside you?!?!? Ok – that’s just super hilarious! I’m so glad she’s there, though, if she inspires recipes like this one! Loooove it! I’m a huge fan of using dates for their fabulously sweet, caramely flavors – this recipe is a perfect example of how brilliantly great something so healthy and natural can taste. I absolutely want to be eating one (or … ummmmm … two … or three … ) RIGHT NOW! Pinning for sure! And hey – I hope you had a wonderful time with your Grandma! She sounds like a really special friend! πŸ˜€

    1. Hehe! Yes there is an old lady hiding inside me! I can’t help it πŸ˜€ We are having a wonderful time together here enjoying Europe!! Thanks for the pin, Shelley!

  8. Pinning as I am drooling right now!! That center looks so good πŸ™‚ I have an old lady in me as well. When I go visit my grandma in L.a. We go to the movies and eat peppermint together!! Good times πŸ™‚ I hope you have fun with your grandma and have a great weekend πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks for the pin Savy and the kind words πŸ˜€ Haha we can be old ladies together because munching on peppermint and going to the movies sounds right up my alley! Have a great weekend as well πŸ˜€ !

    1. Thanks for the kind words and sounds like a great plan Cara (your date squares look to die for!). Have a wonderful weekend! πŸ™‚

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