This recipe for Vegan Date Squares is an adaptation of a childhood favorite. My mother had seven children, was a stay at home mom, and spent a great deal of time preparing meals for 9 people. I can remember my Mom sitting at the kitchen table, pitting and expertly chopping the dates for her date squares. Of course, we would be snatching a few dates while they were out. She let us get away with it because she loves dates too. When I think back on that, I really appreciate what a labor of love that was. Believe me, that pan of date squares would be gone in minutes!
It Started at The Market
Making this adaptation came about when I recently purchased a 2.5 lb bag of organic pitted deglet noor dates and started craving these bars. I knew that I had, at some point, tucked the slip of paper with my Mother’s recipe on it, into one of my cookbooks (do you ever do that?). So, I went searching through all of them. But, no luck.
Time To Call Mom
Now, my Mom is 91 years old. After my Dad died, she sold their home and relocated to a retirement community. I couldn’t remember seeing her cookbooks in her new apartment, but I gave it a shot and called her to see if she still had the recipe. I was as delighted as she was that she had it. It was so fun to have her read the recipe to me, step by step. Actually, it was so much sweeter than if I had found it, because we talked about what a family favorite these bars were. I even learned that she started making these because my grandparents didn’t care for dates and would pass along to my parents the gift of dates they received every year from a California relative.
A Food Processor Makes the Work Easy
I was excited to make a fresh batch of these for this post. But, we had recently moved and my old, die-hard, Cuisinart food processor was a casualty (30 years after I bought it second hand from a girlfriend). So, I had to wait until my new one arrived. Why wait for the food processor (instead of just doing it by hand, like Mom)? Because a food processor really makes this recipe come together quickly with a nice consistent chop to the dates. The only hard part is waiting for them to cool in the pan, an essential step in having them hold together.
Gallery: Making the Date Squares
A Full-on Treat You Can Feel Good About 🙂
For those of you looking for a sugar free or fat free bar, this isn’t it, but given the number of servings, it isn’t too bad. After all, in my childhood, this was served as a dessert. So, I decided not to change the recipe in ways that would change the flavor or experience. It’s personal and, in moderation, worth it. That being said, Greg and I have eaten these for breakfast quite happily (and for a post-workout treat, too)
Nutrition MVP: For this recipe, I would say that dates are the MVP with oatmeal coming in at a close second (hey, snacks can still be good-is for you!). While the health benefits of oatmeal are fairly well known, dates are often avoided because of their high sugar content. While this is a fair concern, dates are a great source of fiber and magnesium. Fiber is essential for digestive health. Magnesium is a powerful nutrient for decreasing systemic inflammation and is associated with lower blood pressure. So, in the end, dates provide wonderful sweetness PLUS nutritional value. Much better than simple processed cane sugar!
We’re all about healthy eating but we also love a great dessert, and this is one of our favorites. The texture of the bar is the perfect balance of creamy center and plenty of satisfying crunch. So, enjoy the sweet treat of these Old Fashioned Dates Squares, vegan-style!
- 2 cups pitted and finely chopped dates*
- 1 Tbs all purpose flour
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 cup vegan butter, melted (I use Earth Balance)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease or parchment line an 8x12x2 inch baking pan
- Combine the dates and 1 Tbs flour with 1 cup of hot water in a sauce pan and simmer on moderate heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened
- Remove from heat and stir in vanilla
- Set aside
- Combine the brown sugar, flour, baking soda, rolled oats and melted butter until well blended. The texture should be like coarse crumbs
- Spread half of the mixture into the bottom of the pan and press evenly with your hands
- Spoon the date mixture evenly into the pan and gently spread it over the bottom layer. Don’t worry if some of the oats get pulled away from the bottom. Just work carefully and make the layer as even as possible
- Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture on top of the date mixture and, once evenly distributed, pat into the date mixture with your hand or the back of a spoon
- Bake in the center of your oven for 20 minutes
- Cool completely in the pan before cutting into the squares
- Share and enjoy!
- * a note about dates: there are many kinds and they all have different properties. The most common in the supermarkets are Deglet Noor. They are medium brown, firm, a little drier, and slightly sweet. The other type you often find are Medjools which are large, very dark, very sweet, and a bit expensive (usually). Because they are so easy to get we often use the Deglet Noors. But Medjools would really intensify the sweet. Much harder to find are the soft, gooey, sticky, super sweet Khadrawy dates (which we love), which are a real treat, and wonderful in these date bars. You really can't go wrong - its your choice!