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January 10, 2017

How to Use Dates as a Sweetener: Our Date Paste Recipe for Syrup, Smoothies & More

Sugar-free chocolate shakes

Cutting down your refined sugar intake can be a Herculean feat. Refined sugar is often added to most processed food products (including innocuous items like crackers and yogurt) and can be hard to dodge when it comes to restaurant meals, juices and sauces.

Luckily, you can keep a bit of sweetness in your life and reap some awesome health benefits by swapping in dates for sugars, syrups and ingredients ending in –ose (like dextrose and maltose). Dates are super versatile and mild in flavor, so they won’t change the taste of your concoctions much more than adding a little sweetness.

As an added bonus, dates are high in fiber, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus. The fiber helps slow the uptake of sugar into your system, preventing blood sugar spikes, and the nutrients help the body recognize it’s eating real food. Sweet and nourishing? They’re win-win.

Here’s how to sweeten things up a little while giving your body what it needs (and none of what it doesn’t):

Sweeten coffee

A simple date paste recipe is a yummy addition to coffees and teas, including lattes and cappuccinos. Whip up a batch and store it in a glass jar to have it handy for your morning joe. Simply blend 8-9 soaked, pitted medjool dates, 1 ¼ cup water and 1 ½ tsp lemon juice until it’s smooth. This will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Bake a little something-something

Dates make the perfect binder and sweetener for raw desserts: just blend them with nuts and seeds to form a solid crust for pies and tarts. You can also use the date syrup above in place of brown or white sugar, molasses, agave or other sweetener syrups in just about any recipe.

Smoothies

Forget agave and stevia: dates are a delicious way to sweeten a smoothie. Start with 1 and add another 1-2 to taste. If they’re soaked before blending, the dates will melt into the mixture and leave nothing but a subtle sweet taste (no weird chewy bits, unless you want them).

Homemade nut milk

A couple of pitted dates can make neutral nut milk truly magical. Blend 2 cups soaked, drained cashews (or other nut of choice) in 3-3.5 cups of water and toss in a couple of dates towards the end. Strain as usual.

Salads and dressings

Add a burst of sweetness to a savory dish with a small handful of chopped dates. We love them in quinoa salad with a little olive oil, parsley and chickpeas. You can also make your own dressing using a date, your favorite oil, lemon juice and sumac (or other spices to taste).

Dip your fruit

Blend together 4 pitted dates, 1 tablespoon almond butter, a pinch of cinnamon and sea salt and a little water to thin. You’ll have the most delicious, caramel-esque dip for green apples, pears and bananas.

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- Amy Height

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