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A major regret I have in life is not sampling the delightful caramel-like sweetness of dates (specifically, Medjool dates) prior to my mid-30s. What a waste of 30 (plus) years! After experimenting with a container of dates I picked up from the store, I fully grasp why so many vegan and health-conscious cooks have turned to this delicious fruit for a natural sweetener that worthy of praise.
But, what if I were to tell you that just adding a few simple ingredients and popping these dates in the freezer would create one of the tastiest treats ever? It’s true! Frozen peanut butter dates are packed with flavor, but even more lovely in their simplicity. When a recipe comes together that is simple make (in just a matter of minutes) without sacrificing flavor or texture, then it’s what I consider a “must share!”
What you’ll love about these peanut butter dates
A complex, delicious flavor combined with an easy process to make these as needed. All you need to do is check to make sure your dates are soft enough to work with and within minutes, you have a tasty dessert that is bursting with flavor. I tend to soak my dates for about 30 minutes before stuffing them (just to be on the “safe side”), but this works into our schedule well. I can decide to make these as a dessert and soak the dates while preparing dinner, then stuffing and freezing while we eat.
They are sweet without becoming overpowering. Medjool dates, in particular, contain more sugar than many of their date counterparts. In fact, dates tend to contain up to 80% sugar. Their caramel-like flavor gives these a more rich taste than if you were to isolate the sugar, and creates a sweet result that is not too sweet. When you add a few simple ingredients like nut butter, the flavors become even more dynamic and delicious.
Dates are generally considered a sustainable crop. I’ll discuss this more below, but harvesting dates creates minor impact on the planet and has the opportunity to be a zero-waste crop.
Medjool Dates: The Medjool variety is what I prefer for this recipe given its lovely texture when frozen, and rich flavor. Simple recipes like this one are suitable for the Medjool date variety. I tend to prefer the dates with pits, since it is easy to remove them myself.
Peanut Butter: Use the peanut butter texture you prefer, but I think it’s fun to incorporate a crunchy peanut butter for added texture. Bonus points if you select a version that has one ingredient (peanuts) and is organic.
Vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips: We’ve enjoyed every vegan chocolate chip variety on the market thus far; I suggest a semi-sweet chocolate chip. It would be fun to experiment with dark chocolate, too (hint, hint).
Unsweetened shredded coconut: This is a nice opportunity to capitalize on the caramel undertones of dates, nutty flavor of the peanut butter, and sweetness from the chocolate chips and date itself. Unsweetened shredded coconut sticks to the peanut butter and is small enough to not overwhelm the recipe. It also creates added texture that complements the smooth creaminess of the date and the peanut butter and crunch from the chocolate chips.
How to make peanut butter dates
Soak the dates, if needed. If this is your first time working with dates, you might need a little time to get used to the texture. As a general rule of thumb, I suggest soaking your dates for about 30 minutes to make sure you can easily remove the pits and create a well to add your ingredients.
Slice the dates to remove pits. When removing the pits and preparing the dates, take a small, sharp knife and cut lengthwise down the side of the date, stopping just before the end (about ¾ of the way down the date’s length). Gently pull open the sides and remove the pit. Once the pit is discarded, use your fingers to press the empty cavity until it is large enough to hold your ingredients.
Stuff the date with nut butter, chocolate chips, and then shredded coconut. Use a small spoon, or a ½ teaspoon measuring spoon to scoop your peanut butter and nestle it into the cavity of the date. This can take a little patience as you direct the peanut butter where to go. If your peanut butter is drier, you might need to use your fingers to press it into the date. Otherwise, don’t forget to stir any natural oils from the peanut butter before using.
Take about 3 regular-sized vegan chocolate chips and press them into the peanut butter. Inevitably, it is helpful to place one chocolate chip at the very top of the date, to prevent peanut butter from exiting.
Sprinkle and gently press (if needed) the shredded coconut onto the section of the date with exposed peanut butter.
Freeze for about 20 minutes. The date itself will not freeze completely, but the other ingredients will harden. Place the dates on a baking sheet or parchment paper to freeze for approximately 20 minutes before eating. If you leave them in the freezer for longer, allow them to thaw at room temperature for a few minutes before enjoying.
Peanut Butter Dates
- 8 Medjool dates remove pits or use pitted
- 8 teaspoons peanut butter
- 24 vegan chocolate chips 3 chips per date, about 0.7 ounces total
- 4 teaspoons unsweetened shredded coconut
- Soak the Medjool dates in water for about 30 minutes.8 Medjool dates
- Dry the dates with a towel before using a small knife to make a cut 3/4 of the way down one side of the date. Gently peel open with fingers and remove pit (if the dates are not pitted), and press the cavity of the date to make a well for peanut butter.8 Medjool dates
- Add the peanut butter until the cavity of the dates are full.8 teaspoons peanut butter
- Press the vegan chocolate chips into the peanut butter, allowing some of the peanut butter to cover the chocolate chips.24 vegan chocolate chips
- Sprinkle the shredded coconut over the portion of the dates with exposed peanut butter. The peanut butter is what allows the coconut to stick.4 teaspoons unsweetened shredded coconut
- Place in the freezer for about 15 minutes before enjoying cold.
- You are welcome to use the nut butter of your choice.
- Feel free to customize toppings to your liking.
Choose a nut butter that is organic and natural, including natural oils. If (or when) the oil separates and you stir it, you will find a more malleable butter to nestle into the dates. If the nut butter is too dry, the process becomes a little more frustrating.
Are peanut butter dates sustainable?
Yes! The growth and harvest of dates is typically of minimal impact to the environment. As with most foods; however, much of this depends upon where you are buying your dates. Opt for dates that are organic and take some time to do a little research regarding the company’s practices – if you think dates will become a staple part of your diet!
Dates grow well in arid climates, making them a more versatile crop for parts of the world (including the Western United States) that is concerned with low water supply.
What makes dates an interesting fruit in the sustainability discussion is the promising opportunities presented by date palms themselves (the tree that grows the dates). Certain toxic metals (i.e. lead) may be absorbed by date palms and help us fight pollution from batteries and the like. Plus, palms can serve a purpose besides just growing dates – the rest of the plant biomass can be turned into biofuels. Pretty interesting, right? Read more about the possibilities in Food Revolution’s date sustainability discussion as well as tangible applications in an article from Innovators Mag.
The remaining ingredients (peanut butter, vegan chocolate chips, and shredded coconut) are mostly-to-moderately sustainable. To position yourself for as eco-friendly a finished product as possible, opt for organic brands whenever possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I freeze stuffed dates?
Absolutely! Stuffed dates are delicious both “fresh” and frozen, but allowing the stuffed ingredients to freeze with the date does create a special texture that makes it easier to eat. Think of the consistency as similar to a candy bar when frozen. Plus, you prevent the nut butter from spilling onto your fingers. When preparing to freeze the stuffed dates, you can use a baking sheet or parchment paper (we re-use parchment paper to reduce waste, since our freezer never has enough space for a baking sheet). Stuffed dates will freeze throughout after about 15 minutes, but can be stored in an air-tight container for longer. I suggest eating frozen stuffed dates within a few weeks, allowing them to thaw at room temperature before eating. Remember that the high sugar content within the dates themselves lends them to freezing; they won’t become ice cubes, but typically experience a shift in texture to a softer consistency.
What is the difference between Medjool dates and regular dates?
Simply put, many varieties of dates exist. Generally, most compare the Medjool date to the Deglet Noor variety. Medjool dates possess certain characteristics that make them unique, notably they tend to be larger in size, sweeter in taste, and more carefully harvested (which also tends to increase their price). The delicious texture and flavor of Medjool dates makes them a fantastic candidate to be eaten fresh and as the primary ingredient, as opposed to hiding away in a cooked meal.
Why are Medjool dates better?
To put it bluntly, Medjool dates are not necessarily better; the preference for them simply comes down to your planned use for them. If you intend to make a very simple recipe (like these peanut butter dates stuffed with a few, simple ingredients, Medjool is a great choice because the texture is softer and the flavor sweeter. However, drier dates with a little less sweetness do well when chopped and incorporated into a savory dish, or as a complement to other, more complex ingredients. We should note that all dates can be enjoyed as a snack on their own, but many prefer the Medjool date variety when the date itself is expected to take center stage.