Baking without refined sugar is definitely a challenge. Sugar (the white kind) has a crystalline texture that adds body to baked goods, crunch to cookies and lightness to cakes. It’s smooth and silky and tastes oh, so, so delicious!
But beneath its appealing exterior, sugar has a black heart. It causes chronic inflammation, as well as weight gain and diabetes. Sugar increases your risk of dying of heart disease or stroke. It raises your blood pressure and contributes to fatty liver disease (yetch!).
I’ve (finally!) kicked refined sugar out of my life, but finding substitutes is an ongoing challenge, particularly for baking. Date paste is one sweetener among many I reach for when baking because it’s sweet, has some bulk and is healthier than refined sugar.
If you’ve eaten a Larabar, you know what dates taste like. Date snobs prefer Medjool dates because they’re hefty and marginally sweeter, but I buy whatever pitted dates I find at Costco, Trader Joe’s or my organic supermarket.
This “recipe” for date paste contains two ingredients: dates and filtered water. Make sure your dates are pitted, then soak them and put them into a blender with a little water, and blend until the dates turn into paste.
I keep date paste in mason jars or zip-top bags I store in the freezer. When I need date paste, I take the amount I need out of the freezer, and allow it to thaw on the counter for about half an hour.
Date paste is not a 1:1 substitute for refined white sugar in baking. It has a different, less-sweet flavor, and it’s gooier. Depending on the recipe, I combine date paste with non-nutritive sweeteners, such as xylitol, erythritol, monkfruit and stevia, as well as natural sweeteners including honey and maple syrup.
How to Make Date Paste for Baking
Blend dates and filtered water for a natural sweetener that's more nutritious than refined sugar.
- 2 cups dried, pitted dates
- 1/4 cup filtered water
Put the dates and water into a blender, and allow to sit for half an hour or longer.
Blend dates and water until smooth.
Store date paste in zip-top bags or glass bottles in the freezer. Be sure to leave extra room at the top of the bag or bottle to allow the date paste to expand when frozen.