How to Make Date Paste (A healthy sugar substitute!)

I’ve been on a mission to sweeten more of my dessert recipes with dates lately. If you ask me, dates are the BEST natural sweetener because they are loaded with fiber and essential minerals, like calcium and iron.

Medjool dates in a bowl on white background

You may have already tried these amazing Date-Sweetened Brownies and Date-Sweetened Peanut Butter Cookies, but I also wanted to give you an option for using dates as a sugar substitute in practically ANY recipe. That’s where date paste comes in.

jar of homemade date paste

I remember hearing about date paste years ago, but I was always leery of trying it because the method for making it sounded so… vague. Recipe directions usually go something like “add enough water and blend until a paste is formed.” But how much water and how many dates you use could vary SO MUCH with those instructions! Especially if you soak the dates first.

Maybe that works for some home cooks, but I prefer hard and fast measurements so that I can easily follow along. (That’s why I’ve always loved baking– give me a set of solid directions I can follow and I’m happy.)

That’s why I’m sharing my exact measurements for making date paste today, along with some recipes that I’ve used it in, so you can see how you can use date paste as a substitute for sugar.

measuring cup of homemade date paste

Why are dates good for you?

  • They may help lower cholesterol. Dates are loaded with soluble fiber, which may help to lower the total cholesterol in your blood.
  • They’re good for bone health. Dates contain minerals like selenium, magnesium, manganese and copper, which are thought to keep bones healthy and help to prevent osteoporosis.
  • They’re good for constipation. Dates are known for helping to relieve constipation, most likely due to their soluble fiber and magnesium content.
  • They’re rich in iron. Dates are a plant-based source of iron, which may help to prevent anemia. (I ate a bunch of them during my second pregnancy, and I managed to avoid anemia like I had during my first pregnancy.)
  • They’re good for your skin. Dates contain vitamins C and D, which are thought to help with skin elasticity.

Are dates good for diabetics?

I know some people are scared of the “sugar” in dates, but research has shown that dates are a low glycemic food. A study that tested the effect of eating dates on healthy individuals and on those with diabetes found that dates do not cause significant glucose spikes in the blood, and therefore may be beneficial for diabetics as part of a healthy diet. (source)

How to Make Date Paste

The ratio I’ve been using to make date paste is 1 cup of tightly packed dates (about 8 ounces by weight) + 1/4 cup of water. I wanted to use as little water as possible, so as not to add too much hydration to a recipe when making sugar substitutions, but this seems to be just enough water to also make the dates blend in a normal food processor. (That way you don’t need a fancy high-speed blender!)

dates in a food processor, blended to make date paste

5 from 8 votes
Print
How to Make Date Paste (a healthy sugar substitute!)
Prep Time
5 mins
Total Time
5 mins
 

Here's how to make date paste, a healthy substitute for sugar, and how to use dates as a substitute for sugar and maple syrup in baking. 

Course: Dessert
Servings: 26 tablespoons
Calories: 104 kcal
Ingredients
  • 1 pound Medjool dates , pitted (about 2 cups tightly packed)
  • 1/2 cup water
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a large food processor fitted with an "S" blade, combine the pitted dates and water.

  2. Process until very smooth, scraping down the bowl to make sure all of the dates are incorporated.

  3. Store the date paste in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks, and use it in your favorite healthy recipes.

How to use Date Paste as a Sugar Substitute

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen me testing date paste as a substitute in various recipes. I wanted to see how date paste worked as a 1:1 substitute for various types of sugar in recipes, including coconut sugar and maple syrup. Keep in mind that when you use date paste as a substitute, the texture and sweetness will vary slightly from the original recipe– so maybe don’t experiment with this right before serving guests!

To Substitute Date Paste for Sugar:

Use a 1:1 ratio when subbing date paste for granulated sugar, like coconut sugar. I tested this method with my Gluten-Free Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies and found that the results were slightly softer and slightly less sweet, but the cookies still held together well. You can get away with adding slightly more date paste, for a sweeter flavor, but keep in mind that the date paste will create a more cake-like texture, rather than a chewy texture in baked goods. (I went ahead and used a full cup of date paste in this cookie recipe, and they still turned out well.)

chocolate chip cookies made with date paste

To Substitute Date Paste for Maple Syrup:

Use double the amount of date paste when subbing for maple syrup. So, if a recipe calls for 1/2 cup of maple syrup, I’d recommend using 1 cup of date paste. I tested this method using my Paleo Pumpkin Spice Muffins, and the results were super-dry when replacing the maple syrup with a 1:1 ratio of date paste, but if you double the amount of date paste, the texture and sweetness are much better.

pumpkin spice muffins made with date paste

One thing I’ve noticed when substituting date paste for either a granulated sugar or maple syrup is that the baked goods seem slightly drier than the original, which I found surprising! I thought the date paste would make baked goods too moist, but that hasn’t been the case so far. I imagine that it might vary per recipe, particularly since there are so many variables in baked goods, like the type of flour used and the amount of oil called for, so I’ll continue to update this post as I experiment with this super-healthy sweetener even more.

(Next time I’m going to try to add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to the date paste, to help account for the dryness it adds. I’ll report back!)

You can bet that my daughter’s first birthday cake is going to be sweetened with date paste this year!

Reader Feedback: Have you used date paste before? Feel free to share your favorite recipes to use it in, or make a recipe request for something you want to see sweetened with dates.

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Comments

Alia Vo

Thanks Megan! I love using dates as my preferred sweetener for baking am making my morning smoothies! This information and tips you’ve provided are so helpful! xx

Karen

Love dates. However , I am not so sure about it being “good” for diabetics. The current recommendation Is moderation with dates and dried fruit in general because it lacks water and is a condensed form of sugar. So the idea is that they need to Be used in moderation. Not an all you can eat food or anything. It’s also important to keep things in perspective when hen we read any particular study. One study on its own isn’t enough to change health advice. It’s about the quality of study and in context with all the other studies that they have. So it’s important to listen to consensus.

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2016/03/18/diet-in-the-news-what-to-believe/?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=Chan-Twitter-General

    Megan Gilmore

    I don’t mean to suggest that dates should be eaten with reckless abandon– the study I referenced mentioned that they can be included “as part of a healthy diet” for diabetics, so I think that implies moderation.

    I do get frustrated when the consensus seems to lean towards limiting fruit intake due to sugar or fructose content, when many of the fructose studies I’ve looked at only deal with industrial fructose (like white table sugar), and then they lump fruit into that category by default. (To me, that’s like lumping fresh avocados into the same group as trans fat because they both contain fat…)

    The few studies I’ve seen that look at how whole fruits work in the body have only been positive, even when participants eat up to 20 pieces of fruit each day. (Which is more than I think I could possibly eat!) For another perspective on diabetes, I’ve found the YouTube lectures by the guys behind “Mastering Diabetes” really enlightening. (One has his PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry.) Very interesting to see an alternative route to the traditional low-carb protocol.

      karen

      Sorry. i actually did read that part as well. but i guess, since I had been hearing all this advocating of dates earlier what i always felt missing from all the praise was the word of caution about them. Especially if you have readers who are pre-diabetic or diabetic. A lot of people trust unconditionally what they read on the internet and don’t put it into proper context (I used to be one of those people, so i can understand how it is so easy to do that)

      I can’t attest to any of the other studies that you mentioned, however, fruit, as i understand it, tends to be much better for us because of it is accompanied by both water and fiber (dates also have fiber.. which would make sense if it had a lower gi rating. I’ve also learned that dates can vary quite a bit in their sugar conte

      avocados contain monounsaturated fat. not trans fats. which is why you can’t really compare avocados to fruit in that example. the comparison is done on fructose, not trans fats or monounsaturated fats. but i can understand that with the benefits of fruit and its (in general) low gi rating, one would feel like they were comparing apples to oranges.. fruit, however, does contain fructose. so if one was studying fructose on the body, fruit would have to be in the equation as well. but i agree, because one isn’t digesting straight fructose, it would need to be analyzed a little bit differently, but thats where context comes in. various fruits, have different gi scores. most are considered low gi. however melons and pineapples and raisins, have a medium score. and while dates have a low gi rating, their ultimate gi load is valued at an 18 making it a medium glycemic food.
      http://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load-for-100-foods

      http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices/fruits.html?referrer=http://www.bing.com/search?FORM=INCOH2&PC=IC06&PTAG=ICO-27df2888&q=fruit%20and%20diabetes

      the consensus is that fruit is completely fine for diabetics, as long as they do it with their blood sugar scores in mind. people who are at risk for the condition need to be that much more aware than the average person about their sugars and how it affects them. so even in that study you mentioned where people ate 20 pieces of fruit a day… one would have to ask themselves questions like…

      -what kind of a study was i
      -who ran the study? who funded it
      -did they look at real disease endpoints?(these often take YEARS. so often they just look at potential markers – but those don’t always equate to diseases)
      -what was the health of the those being studied
      -I’m assuming the test subjects were people, but other studies done on animal subjects might not be as reliable as those done on humans.
      -how does the study fit in with the whole body of other studies on the topic. etc….

      in t

      Thank you for your recomnded lecture. I like watching those things. i will check it out for sure. 🙂

        Jan

        Perhaps it depends on the diabetic. My father was a Type II diabetic for many years – borderline that is, and he ate fruit all the time. Not so much dried fruit since my mother rarely bought any but the man loved his fresh fruit. It didn’t affect him in any way, but then again he was only borderline. He did watch his carb intake and, of course, his regular sugar intake. Fortunately, I don’t like sweets all that much and, both my grandmothers must be spinning in their graves, I don’t like pasta and I’m an Italian and both grandmothers made their own pasta. I rarely eat breads of any kind. This date paste does intrigue me, and I think I will have to try this..

Kayleen G

Thank you for this recipe! I’m excited to try it out soon. 🙂

Jess

Hi, I was wondering if you could freeze the date paste in small amounts, and just thaw before using?

choco

Can you eat dates on a sugar free diet

    Megan Gilmore

    It depends on what you mean by a “sugar free” diet. If you’re avoiding added sugar, like white sugar, then you can definitely include dates as a natural sweetener. If you’re avoiding the natural sugar found in fruit for some reason, then you might not want to include dates.

Amanda

Thank you so much for this post! My kids and I love your date brownie bites and cookies! I’ve been trying to get away from using maple syrup and honey so often in baking so your date paste recipe is going to be SO helpful! I’d also be curious to know what you think about freezing the date paste..

Jacquie

Also curious about freezing the paste. Lots of dates Yao use up.

Christine

Hi Megan, thank you so much for the date recipe. I wanted to let you know that my type1 diabetic dad has been enjoying several of your dessert recipes, and not one time has his sugar been elevated! I actually can’t believe it. My dad checks his sugar several times a day. He especially enjoys your date balls. Of course, he only eats 1 or 2 depending on the size. It is all about moderation and knowing the carb count since he is diabetic. Thank you for yummy recipes that do not elevate my dad’s sugar.

Caroline

Thanks so much! I used this tonight in your cashew butter cookie recipe, and they turned out wonderfully! They’re extra soft, which is great, though I might cool them an extra minute or two next batch.

Heather McClees

I love this recipe! I’m a huge believer in the benefits of dates; they’ve done wonders for my digestion and energy levels. Just two a day makes a huge difference for me. I also prefer the flavor of dates in recipes versus other natural sweeteners, like coconut sugar. Maybe that’s because their whole food flavor comes through, but whatever the case, I’m never without Medjool dates in the fridge! I have always wanted to make date paste and this has inspired me to do so. I also love that you used less water than most recipes call for, great idea! Now I just need to make those cookies of yours! 🙂

Moriah

Iove date paste! I usually make mine a bit thinner and mainly use it to sweeten oatmeal. I have spent so much time online searching for date sweetened recipes, and I can’t wait for more! Would love to see date sweetened snickerdoodles!

DP

Thanks for including the weight in the recipe! I hate to try to stuff the dates in the cup. I just bought a scale and it is so much easier to use.

Milissa

Thanks for this post! Dates have literally changed my life. I love to just grab three or four and eat them like candy, with no guilt:) I learned about date paste about three years ago, and like you, was frustrated by the lack of concrete instructions. So I also experimented to come up with a consistency that worked well. You’re so right about the dryness of baked goods, and I will sometimes add a few tablespoons or up to a quarter cup of unsweetened applesauce to help with the moisture and binding properties. I’ve considered using ripe mashed bananas or shredded zucchini but haven’t tried that yet. I bet adding the oil to the date paste could have a good effect so I might try that, too!

Jacqie Muscha

I’ve become addicted to the dates and almond butter that you introduced me to in your 3 day detox guide. Never in a million years would I have put that combo together, but I can’t get over how delicious it is. It has become one of my go-to snacks. Helps stabilize that low blood sugar feeling too, I’ve noticed. I would love it if you could do a post or video explaining the differences of the different dates out there, Medjool and Deglet Noor. Some of the dates I buy are not labeled what kind so I never know what I’m getting. I recently bought a bag that specifically said Deglet Noor so I tried them. They were huge and more sweet than other dates I have bought so maybe the bags I had that were not labeled were Medjool. I actually didn’t like the Deglet Noor. Do you have a preference? I noticed most of your recipes call for the Medjool. Other readers were curious about freezing the paste, and I am wondering about that also because I don’t make a lot of baked goods or sweets but would like to have the paste on hand if I wanted to make one of your recipes for guests or parties I host. Thank you.

Rachel

Megan thank you this is a great resource – I’m with you girl, dates are the best natural sweetener around! I love using dates as a sweetener and below is a link to my families fave date loaf. But I’ve never made the paste up before, I usually just blend into the batter so a more looking forward to trying this method. Love your site, keep up the fun content xxxx

http://www.realsoupfortherealsoul.com/?p=1838

Noreen

Once again you amaze me with your innovations for everyday living. Thank you for guiding me along a healthful path where I no longer eat any sugar. Your recipes and advice have made living with no sugar a possibility and a joy.

Dahlia

Just made this yesterday and used it with cinnamon as the filling for cinnamon buns! (Used maple syrup in the actual dough) It was amazing!!!! I thought it might have a date taste but it doesn’t, really tasted like sugar and cinnamon! Thanks!!!!

Rach

I don’t have a food processor. Would a nutribullet be ok? Thanks

    Wendy

    Yes!!! Works great. I prefer to make mine in the bullet. Just add a tad more water, if needed.

Melodie

This is great! Thank you!

Jackie

I love dates, but it’s important to go easy on quantity. Between 2 to 3 dates contain 25 grams of fructose, so eating more dates, or more of any kind of food containing fructose during the same day, can have some pretty nasty impacts on the liver (which has to break fructose down) and the rest of the body. See more here:
http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/is-fructose-bad-for-you-201104262425

    Megan Gilmore

    I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can on the subject, and every study that actually compares the industrial fructose (like high fructose corn syrup or refined white sugar) to the fructose in fruit seems to show that fruit is EXEMPT from those negative impacts, possibly because of all the fiber and polyphenols fruit also contains. I’ve even seen a study where they studied fresh fruit juice, with the fiber removed, and it was still beneficial, rather than harmful. (And some of these studies have participants eat 20 pieces of fruit a day with no negative outcomes.)

    If you have a link to a study that shows where fresh fruit has shown to have a negative impact, I would actually be really curious to take a look at it. At the moment, it seems that Dr. Lustig has a tendency to lump all fructose into the same category, but that doesn’t seem appropriate with the studies I’ve seen.

Wendy

I make mine in my Nutri Bullet. Nice and creamy. No chunks. Love this stuff.

Christine

HI Megan, I wanted to let you know that the date paste worked perfectly for your cinnamon muffins.
I doubled the amount of date paste, and it was the perfect amount of sweetness. I also added a couple tablespoons of coconut oil since you reported some dryness issues.

Thanks so much!

Nikki

I just made your paleo pumpkin muffins and doubled the date paste. Turned out great! I deal with chronic constipation and made a prune/date/raisin paste, but couldn’t stand to eat it by itself. It’s so much better in baked goods! Thanks for the idea!

lizbeth

Hi Megan, I’ve been a fan for a long time now and have both your cookbooks and I make recipes weekly, you definitely have a gift!. I was thinking that the date paste could be used to make a chocolate frosting or nutella type spread, using whole ingredients. I’ve been experimenting with raw cacao powder, dates, macadamia nuts and water in the vita mix and the results have been promising, but i bet you could perfect something like that! just a hopeful suggestion. 🙂

    Megan Gilmore

    Ha, you must have read my mind! I was testing a date-sweetened chocolate frosting yesterday. 🙂 The results aren’t perfect yet, but hopefully soon!

Kristie creek

Have you tried making the date paste using dried dates?

    Megan Gilmore

    No, I haven’t. I imagine you could soak dried dates in warm water (or even boiled water) to rehydrate them a bit before blending, then just add a splash of water as needed to create the paste.

    Annie English

    I make Date Paste often, using dry variety. Stuff as many as is possible into pasta sauce jar, top up with water. Leave overnight. Transfer to food processor, process until smooth. Love Date paste on hot buttered toast, could leave out the butter part….but, hey, once a day to start the day….

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