Dates are sweet, portable and great to cook with. Plus, they packed full of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that support our health. Learn all that plus ways to enjoy this super sweet fruit.

How to cook with dates. Plus, how to store and enjoy dates

My excitement toward dates is not normal!  Five years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed of eating this fruit. Today, they’re a staple food in my house. I love them for a few reasons. For ine, they’re naturally sweet, and I love sweets). They’re also portable, and my family is always on the go.  Lastly, they’re great to cook with, and I love creating new recipes.

If you love sweets- but you’re trying to eat clean- you need dates.

Health and Nutritional Benefits

Dates are fat free, sodium free, cholesterol free and contain ~21 calories a piece. Their nutritional data is often based on a 40 gram serving (5-6), which is calorically higher than most fruits.  To see how dates compare to typical servings of other fruits, I compared them to a 3-4 piece serving.  Here’s a look at the nutritional breakdown:

40   gram serving (5-6 pitted dates) ~28   gram serving (4 Deglet Noor  dates)
Calories 120 82
Potassium 260   mg (6% DRI) 186   ( ~4% DRI)
Total   carbohydrates 30   grams 21
Sugar 25   grams 18
Fiber 3   grams 2.3

Though the amounts are not significant, dates offer a variety of other nutrients, such as B-vitamins, iron, calcium, manganese and magnesium. They also rank high, among commonly consumed fresh whole fruits, in antioxidant polyphenols.  That makes them a heart smart addition to a healthy diet.

Cooking with Dates

Dates are nature’s only naturally dried fruit. While most fruits range from 75-95% moisture, fresh whole dates are less than 30% moisture. That means unlike other fruits, they’re not a great source of fluid.  They do, however, work great in cooking and as an ingredient in many dishes.

Dates come in two basic classes, soft and semi-soft. Two of the most popular commercially grown varieties in the US are Deglet Noor and MedJool. Both considered to be semi-soft. They have a rich, caramel like flavor and a smooth creamy texture, and they’re versatile with sweet and savory foods. That means, they complement everything from meat, fish and poultry to other fruits and vegetables. Because they are considerably less acidic than many other fruits, they won’t significantly alter the characteristics of the other ingredients they are mixed with. They also have a long shelf life.

Storing Dates

For optimal freshness, store them in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 year. According to the California Date Commission, chopped dates can be stored in cool, dry storage for several months and they can also be frozen.

Ways to Enjoy Dates

  • End your meal with 1-2 dates as a sweet treat
  • Chop them and use as a topping for cereals, bagels, breads or crackers
  • Pair them with protein.  Try sautéing them with seafood, roasting in pork and (for all the bacon lovers out there) they taste great wrapped in bacon.
  • Make date paste by pureeing them and mixing them with chopped nuts or other whole ingredients to make energy balls or no bake chocolate peanut butter bars.
  • Chop a few and add them to a salad
  • Make a caramelized onion and diced date flatbread pizza!  The flavors mixed together are amazing.
  • Stuff them and serve as an appetizer or pre-workout snack! Slice a few open,  and stuff with – walnuts, almonds, a sliver of cheddar cheese, a tsp. of feta and chives, a tsp. of nut butter, or whatever ingredient you want.
  • Make a date and yogurt smoothie. They are amazing!

Do you have a favorite way to enjoy dates?

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