Saturday, 16 February 2013

Date sugar...the only wholefood sugar

To kick off my Whole Food Lent Challenge we have my number one versatile sweetener...Dates!

I have been thinking a lot about sugar recently. Completing the Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition got me thinking about my habits and how ‘healthy’ I actually am, or maybe more importantly the ways in which I could still improve. It triggered me to think bigger and better than ever before. For the first time I actually fully appreciated what the word ‘whole foods’ actually means. I know that might sound silly, but a healthy alternative is still often not actually 'whole' and previously I hadn’t clicked onto that fact! 

For example when it comes to sweeteners,. I love agave syrup and use it a lot but there has been a lot of media attention in recent months and years disputing the health benefits of agave and so I thought it might not be a bad idea to think a little further  beyond. Sweeteners that I have been trying out much more recently are coconut sugar and also date sugar is of particular interest to me as it is a complete whole food.

The other bonus is, you can easily make your own date sugar!  

I am planning on incorporating date sugar into many more of my recipes to come, but at the same time I will also try and offer a substitute so that those of you without will still be able to benefit from the recipes.

The ‘world’ of sweeteners can be a confusing minefield, and I do like a bit of cake and so i’m simply not prepared to give up my ‘sugar’ in modest amounts but obviously the healthier I can make sure this is the better. 

What are your favourite sweeteners and what ‘healthy’ tricks to you use to satisfy a sweet tooth?

step one- dried dates

step two- first grind

step three- re-bake and second grind

Recipe: Date sugar

Makes 1 cup


3 cups fresh dates (I used deglet noor- so as big and sticky as medjool)
1-2 tsp starch (I used arrowroot but others will also work)


Halve the dates and lay them in a single layer on a lined baking sheet.

Place in the oven on the lowest temperature (mine was approx 50C) and ‘bake’ for about 3 hours, turn the oven off and allow to cool whilst still in the oven. I left mine in their overnight. They should end up much harder and dryer.

Placed in a high powered food processor (I used a Thermomix) and blitz on high for 30 seconds. Add 1 tsp of starch and blitz for another 30 seconds.

At this stage I lots of small clumpy grains that were still a little sticky. Lay this mixture out on the baking sheet once again in an even layer and bake at a low temp for another hour until the mixture is very hard to the touch.

Once fully cool, re blend the mixture in the processor adding a touch more starch if necessary (the starch helps to prevent clumping).  You could also add other flavours such as vanilla or cinnamon here if desired.

Once the date sugar is as fine as you can get it and there is no moisture present. Pour into an airtight storage container for future use. You will find that the date sugar hardens together over time which is normal. Use a fork to loosen for use.

Notes: you may find that if you are able to ensure the dates are rock hard from the first bake the resulting sugar will be fine enough from the first blend without the need for re-baking. You can also use a dehydrator to achieve the same affect. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

For further guidance on making gluten free choices please see this post.

For tips and info on recipe measurement conversions, ingredients, substitutions and the methods behind how I do things.... check out my 'baking tips' tab at the top of the page.


  1. What about coconut sugar? Isn't that a whole-food sugar as well?

    1. Hi, I also use coconut sugar a lot on my baking but as to whether it can be considered a whole food is debatable. As I understand it, coconut palm sugar is the dried sweet nectar of the tropical coconut palm tree flower but since it isn't the whole flower itself it is not a whole food, in a similar way that coconut oil is not a whole food as it is not the coconut in its entirety. Dates are the whole fruit including call the fibre and have nothing extracted, therefore 'whole'. That said I do think all coconut products are healthy baking substitutes!

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  3. Huh! So simple! And such a clever result! Now I'm sitting here thinking there must be other great ways to make sugar from other fruits as well! Thank you so much! (And beautiful photo's!)

    1. Hi Tora, Thanks for your lovely comment. I too am thinking so many more whole food sugars could be made! Very tempted to give it a try :-)

  4. This is brilliant. A few days ago, I made date syrup and I was wondering how I could incorporate more date in my cooking. You answered my question! Does it dissolve?
    I'm really curious on how you'll use it.

    1. Hi Nezumi,

      I am planning lots of recipes using date sugar and date paste... so keep an eye out! :-) The only downside to date sugar is the fact that it does not dissolve, since it contains all the fibre of the date it is does not have the same composition as other granulated sugars. I will use date paste when I need dates in a liquid form.

  5. You are pure genius! I'm down to nada with my dates, but as soon as I restock, this is number one on my list.
    I can't believe you actually made your own date sugar! They used to sell this in the health food stores way back in the day for the cost of your first born. So, here's to saving the future children of the world. :) Awe-some!

    1. Ha ha Liz, that made me laugh! Yes you must definitely try it...dry, grind, dry, grind... super simple :-)

  6. This is awesome because I love dates and refuse to buy date sugar when it is so expensive but I can get a large amount of dates for 1/3 of the price.

    1. I totally agree! I can't easily buy date sugar over here in the UK anyway (only online in a few places) so needed to find a way to make my own :-)


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