How to Use Dates as a Sugar Substitute
If you’re trying to cut back on your added sugar consumption, you may be looking for healthier ways to satisfy your sweet tooth. Raw dates can be used to sweeten your recipes — and even better, if you’re following Sugar Free 3, they fit the plan. But if dates aren’t usually on your grocery list, you may be wondering how to eat dates as a sugar substitute.
First things first: You want to choose whole, raw dates. Date sugar and date syrup are just sneaky names for sugar — they have zero fiber and can spike your blood sugar just like any other added sugar.
Raw dates, on the other hand, have more health benefits than refined sugars. “Fruit is better than any refined sugar because it’s a whole food that also comes with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants,” Michele Promaulayko explains in Sugar Free 3.
And dates can easily be swapped into many of your favorite recipes. Here are a few ways to use dates as a sugar substitute.
1. Add Sweetness to a Smoothie
Want to sweeten a green smoothie without adding honey or maple syrup? Dates are a great addition to smoothies since they also lend some creaminess. For the smoothest consistency, blend the dates with your liquids first. Then add the remaining ingredients and blend again.
Try these for breakfast or a snack:
- Chocolate Pecan Shake
- Berry Date Smoothie with a Kick
- Apple Cinnamon Smoothie (If you’re following Sugar Free 3, be sure to use unsweetened almond milk and no-sugar-added almond butter.)
- Creamy Raspberry Smoothie (Again, use unsweetened almond milk and no-sugar-added almond butter. For the protein powder, Openfit’s Plant-Based Protein Shake is the perfect Sugar Free 3-approved option.)
- Salted Caramel Smoothie Bowl (To keep it Sugar Free 3-approved, choose a yogurt with no sugar added.)
2. Balance Out Salad Dressing
Salad dressings can be acidic, so you’ll typically want to balance it out with a bit of sweetness. When adding raw dates to salad dressing, it’s ideal to use a high-speed blender or food processor to combine chopped dates with all of your other ingredients except the oil. Then, with the machine still running, slowly add in the oil if the recipe calls for it.
These recipes are delicious over any salad:
3. Make No-Bake Treats
Sticky dates can help bind together ingredients for cookies and bars, which is perfect for no-bake treats. Process the dates into fine pieces, then add nuts, grains, spices, and other goodies.
When you want a sweet but don’t want to turn on the oven, consider these:
- No Bake Jelly Cake
- Peanut Butter Stuffed No-Bake Cookie Bites
- Healthy No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies (Be sure to choose a no-sugar-added peanut butter.)
4. Whip Up Energy Balls
You can DIY any energy balls or bites by combining your favorite nuts with dates and any seasonings (or chocolate chips!). Then add protein powder for a great post-workout snack.
For inspiration, check out the following recipes:
- Peppermint Protein Balls
- Chocolate Coffee Protein Balls (For the protein powder, use Openfit Plant-Based Protein Shake to keep this recipe added-sugar-free.)
- No-Bake Brownie Bites
- Lime Coconut Energy Bites
- Chocolate Bliss Balls
- Chocolate Hazelnut Balls
- Peanut Butter Energy Balls
- Oatmeal Raisin Energy Balls
- Gingerbread Cookie Balls (These cookie balls aren’t Sugar Free 3-approved, but they’re still a tasty way to use dates!)
5. Substitute Dates for Sugar in Baked Goods
Wondering how to eat dates for dessert? Date paste — made by blending raw dates with just enough water to form a pate consistency — can replace granulated sugar in all kinds in baked goods. (Just be aware it may affect the taste and texture.)
If you’re combining the dates with dry ingredients, process the dates alone first. If you’re combining them with wet ingredients, you can process everything together.
Try one of these baked goods: