Baking With Dates: Which Variety Reigns Supreme?

published Aug 16, 2012
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(Image credit: Anjali Prasertong)

Dates have been on my mind. I’m in the process of developing a recipe for raw energy bars and have been experimenting with many different types of dates for flavor, texture and consistency. I found my very favorite for this particular recipe, but when I tried using them in other baking recipes, they fell short. I came to the quick conclusion that all dates are not, in fact, created equal.

In a well-stocked grocery store, gourmet food shop, or our cupboards as of late, you’re likely to run across many different types of dates. While they’re all wonderful to snack on, some are decidedly better than others for baking. Let’s consider a few choices:

1. Medjool: These are the larger dates that you’ll often see in plastic packages at the grocery store. They’re incredibly soft and super sweet, wonderful for stuffing or using in shakes, smoothies or energy bars. I don’t often reach for these first in baking recipes such as scones or quick breads simply because they’re so moist and can be a little more difficult to cut uniformly. They can also be a touch more expensive than other varieties.

2. Deglet Noor: These dates are really easy to locate in most grocery stores these days. They boast a nice amber color and a chewier and much drier texture than Medjool dates, and keep a little longer. A great all-purpose date. We often have these in our cupboards to snack on.

3. Thoory: These dates are the opposite of Medjool dates: they’re a very light brown and not at all sticky. In fact, they’re much harder and have a distinctly nutty flavor. A great on-the-go snack, or wonderful in trail mixes, muesli, and granola because their low moisture content won’t affect the freshness of the oats.

4. Halawi: Slightly smaller in size with a name that translates to “sweet” in Arabic, these have a really special caramel flavor that makes them popular paired with cheeses and savory fare.

The Winner? Deglet noor dates are my go-to date for baking. They’re dry enough to chop and maintain their integrity in bread, cookie, or cake recipes while still maintaining that superstar, sweet date flavor. Plus, they’re easy to find and often less expensive than other varieties.

What’s your favorite variety for baking?