These date nut bars are unbelievably easy, and a perfect mix of texture and flavor. Not too sweet, these make the perfect bite for dessert. Have gotten rave reviews from anyone whose tried them!
What are date bars?
I feel like everyone in the Middle East has their own version of these bars- especially in the GCC. There are three things you’ll always find- a biscuit base, dates as a filling, and sweetened condensed milk that is baked until golden and bubbly.
Date bars are basically portable bars that have a crust and feature fresh dates. They are often served with coffee or tea, and are especially popular in Ramadan, when Muslims usually break their fast with dates- this is a fun spin-off.
What makes these date nut bar so good?
I’m clearly biased, but the recipe I came up with for these date nut bars is hands down my favorite. I actually couldn’t believe how good these were!
Just a few simple ingredients in a good proportion turned into something heavenly.
The base isn’t too buttery: If you compare the crust of these date bars to a typical biscuit base, like the one used in 7 layer bars, it actually has half the butter.
I really liked the result. Just enough butter to hold the crust together, but not so much that they are heavy and greasy.
The topping isn’t too sweet: Bars topped with sweetened condensed milk- like 7 layer bars- usually use a whole can, around 400 g on top. Dont use all that!
The dates are sweet enough, and this way the delicious bubbling condensed milk topping doesn’t overpower the rest of the bars.
What do you need to make these bars?
Biscuits for the base: I used digestive biscuits, hugely popular British biscuits found widely in the UK and Middle East. An excellent substitute would be graham crackers.
Melted butter: to bind the crumbs together. Again, we don’t use too much at all.
Cinnamon Powder: to add a little flavor to the crust, optional but I really like this.
Dates: I like using soft sticky dates for this, Medjool would also do very well, but chop them in quarters instead of halves, because they won’t melt in as much.
Walnuts: I think dates and walnuts are a natural pairing, but feel free to sub for any nut of your choice. Pecans would be lovely.
Coconut: I used dessicated coconut, the shredded almost powdery stuff. It isn’t sweetened and it isn’t sticky, just gives a hint of coconut flavor.
You can substitute sweetened shredded coconut if you like. It’s just a small amount so it’ll be fine.
You can also omit the coconut entirely!
Assembling the bars:
Make the crust:
The crust is made by crushing the biscuits into a fine powder. You can use a food processor, or do what I did, and place the biscuits in a large ziploc bag. I then used a wooden rolling pin to whack the bag, and roll over it until I had fine crumbs.
Make sure the crumbs are really fine and powdery. Since there isn’t a lot of butter in the recipe, this will make it easier for them to bind with the melted butter.
Add cinnamon if using, mix well, and press the crust into a prepared pan.
This recipe is perfect for an 8×8 inch square pan, but you can double it to make a 9×13 pan.
Top the crust:
Scatter on the crust the dates then the walnuts. Drizzle the condensed milk- I do this in a zig zag fashion. Add the coconut evenly over the top and the bars are ready to bake!
How to bake date nut bars:
The bars need around 20-25 minutes in a 350 F (180C) preheated oven. Once the bars are a light golden brown and condensed milk has set, they are ready!
The nuts get toasted and delicious in the oven, but be careful not to over bake or the dates will dry out and you risk the nuts burning.
How to store the date bars:
Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature for 3-4 days. They probably won’t last you that long, but they hold up very well and taste just as good a few days out.
Serving date bars:
I like having these plain with coffee or tea.
I also really like having these slightly warmed in the microwave with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Delicious!
Can I double the recipe?
Yes, and you can prepare two 8×8 inch pans or one 9×13 inch pan.
Should the oven be turned on from up and down?
Yes, to ensure the bars cook evenly.
Can I make any ingredient substitutions?
For advice on substitutions, check the “what do you need to make these bars” section above.
Can I make these gluten free?
If you use gluten free biscuits for the base crust, you definitely can!
Date Nut Bars
For the crust:
- 155 g digestive biscuits or graham crackers 10 digestive biscuits, 12 graham crackers (6.5oz)
- 1/2 stick butter, melted 55 g
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
For the topping:
- 150 g soft dates, pitted and cut in half 5 oz, I used 13 dates
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts 60 g
- 3-4 tbsp shredded dried coconut
- 1/2 can condensed milk 200g, 8 oz
- Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Prepare an 8×8 inch square pan by lightly greasing and lining with parchment paper.
- Crush the digestive biscuits or graham crackers into a fine powder either by using a food processor or by placing in a large ziploc bag and whacking with a rolling pin.
- Place the biscuit crumbs in a large bowl, add the melted butter and cinnamon if using and mix well until combined and all the crumbs are evenly moistened.
- Press crumbs tightly into the base of the prepared pan.
- Scatter the dates evenly on the base, followed by the chopped walnuts.
- Drizzled the condensed milk in lines evenly over the top. Finally, sprinkle on the shredded coconut.
- Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown and set. Let the bars cool completely before lifting out of the pan and slicing into even squares.
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