Hold-the-Sugar Date Bars

As recently as a few year ago, you couldn’t get me to eat dates for anything. They are one of my dad’s favorite fruits for baked products (cookies mainly) and growing up I remember finding the stash of dates hidden back in a cupboard and wondering why my mom had a package of wrapped cockroaches? Yay, I thought dates were pretty gross looking and therefore could not taste good. Well, here I am eating my words and they taste deliciously like dates. Although I didn’t immediately warm up to anything dates (I still think dates in smoothies is just too sweet), I think the first time thinking “they’re not so bad” is when I had them in wrapped in bacon and stuffed with blue cheese. Holy yum. I will take that on any menu please.

 I eventually started experimenting with trying dates in other forms and just recently was turned on to date bars when a we had a catered lunch for an event and the caterer brought date bars as an extra. After one bite I knew I needed to learn to make my own. I modified this recipe from a standard date bar recipe, but held out a portion of the sugar because the dates really are sweet enough on their own. 

Hold-the-Sugar Date Bars

Makes 36 bars


Date Filling

  • 3 cups chopped pitted dates (1 lb)
  • 1 cup water


  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups oats (I used old fashion, but quick would also work)
  • 1/2tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  1. Pit dates if not already pitted. Then finely chop in a food processor. 
  2. In 2-quart saucepan, cook dates and water over low heat about 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened. Cool 5 minutes.
  3. Heat oven to 400°F. Spray bottom and sides of a 13×9 pan with non-stick cooking spray. 
  4. In large bowl, cut the butter into the brown sugar with a pastry blender until well mixed. Cut in flour, oats, baking soda and salt until crumbly (you may want to switch to a large spoon if needed). Press half of the crumb mixture evenly in bottom of pan. Spread with filling. Top with remaining crumb mixture; press lightly.
  5. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until light brown. Cool 5 minutes in pan on cooling rack. Cut into 6 rows by 6 rows.

These bars are great for a quick snack and keep great in the freezer. I typically make a large pan, cut them up, and then freeze so I can take one out at a time and not be tempted by the whole pan sitting on the counter.


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