Date bars with a buttery shortbread cookie crust topped with caramel like moist dried fruit and crunchy nuts are so irresistible! An easy mouth watering treat for all times.
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Caramel Date Bars
Dried fruits are first processed with coconut milk and maple syrup and then baked to give an amazingly delightful caramel like flavor and chewy texture. Along with the buttery shortbread crust and crunchy nuts it gives you a truly rich taste experience but is a lot healthier and nutritious than other sweet treats.
Also, I used different kinds of dried fruit to make the mixture. Especially, the prunes add a deep flavor and apricots add a hint of tangy taste. However, you can also make these with just sweet and moist Medjool dates too.
This easy treat is so satisfying and will make great gifts for sharing.
What are Date Bar Cookies?
There are several kinds of date bars prepared as cookie bars, energy or power bars and so on. Most often though, when people are looking for date bars, they mean the cookie form, where processed dates are baked between layers of dough.
Many popular recipes use added sugar and a lot more flour in the bar cookies. This recipe uses a judicious amount of flour for the buttery crust but tops it with a variety of crunchy nuts. Using brown butter adds a nice nutty flavor to the shortbread.
- Brown Butter, Brown Sugar, Flour, Coconut milk, Maple syrup, Dried fruit (dates, apricots, prunes, raisins or just dates), Nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds), Dried coconut flakes
- Flavoring - I used vanilla but you could try citrus zest, cinnamon, cardamom, rose water or orange blossom water. If using the liquid flavors make sure to adjust other liquids to not make the mixture runny.
How to Make It
These cookie bars can be easily made with the ingredients you have at home.
- Make brown butter in a saucepan and combine with sugar, flour, salt in a mixing bowl and mix it up until crumbly. Press crumb mixture onto a baking sheet and bake until very light brown. Let cool.
- Process chopped dried fruits, maple syrup, coconut milk and a pinch of salt in a food processor to a smooth, thick and spreadable paste.
- Using a spatula, layer the dried fruit mixture over the cookie base and top with chopped nuts and coconut flakes. Bake and cool completely before cutting them into squares with a sharp knife. Store in an airtight container.
Healthy Date Bars and Nuts
These date bars use a very small amount of brown sugar for the shortbread base and are primarily sweetened with dried fruit.
The brown butter adds a very nutty and rich taste. The bars have only a single layer of short crust and therefore use relatively smaller amount of butter while giving the same mouthfeel and buttery taste as a regular date bar.
Dried fruits are high in fiber, potassium, other minerals, vitamins and rich in polyphenols with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. So they make an excellent alternative to refined sugar.
And the nuts add a satisfying dose of good fats and other beneficial nutrients.
Some suggestions you could try. I have not tried the following variations.
- Vegan and Dairy Free: Use coconut oil for the shortbread base.
- Gluten Free: Try rice flour or oat flour based shortbread cookie base.
- Whole Wheat Pastry: You can easily use this instead of regular all purpose flour.
- For a richer taste you can use ⅓ cup milk plus 2 tablespoon brown butter, in place of coconut milk.
- Add some chocolate chips with the nuts.
Best Tips and Tricks
- Make sure that the dried fruit mixture is easily spreadable or it may lift off some cookie crumbs and roll over.
- Spread the date mixture all the way to the edge of the baking sheet or pan. That helps the mixture from rolling back over the cookie base.
- Don’t over-bake the crust before spreading the fruit layer.
- For a crisper crust, brush egg white on the top before baking. Alternatively, cool the baked crust, brush some melted chocolate and let it harden before spreading the dried fruit paste.
- Store the date cookie bars in airtight container. They can be frozen for couple months in freezer safe containers and with wax paper between the layers.
- You may also try using dried figs.
More Treats You May Like:
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Caramel Date Cookie Bars with Nuts
Dried Fruit and Nut Topping
- 1½ cups medjool dates pitted
- 1 cup dried apricots or dates
- 1 cup prunes or dates, pitted
- ½ cup raisins or dates, pitted
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ½ cup coconut milk adjust as needed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla or flavoring of choice
- 1 pinch salt
- ½ cup walnuts chopped
- ½ cup pecans chopped
- ½ cup almonds chopped
- ½ cup dried coconut flakes
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan and simmer at a low setting. Let the milk solids settled at the bottom of pan toast to a light brown. Cool the brown butter.
- In a mixing bowl combine brown butter, sugar, flour, salt and mix it up well until crumbly. Press the crumb mixture evenly onto a 14 X 9 inch baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper. Tip: Use half recipe for a 8 x 8 inch square pan.
- Bake the shortbread layer for about 15 to 18 minutes until very light brown. Let cool.
- Meanwhile chop the dates, apricots and prunes. Process all the dried fruits, maple syrup, coconut milk and pinch of salt in a food processor to a smooth paste. Tip: Adjust the amount of coconut milk as needed, to make a thick but spreadable paste.
- Dollop the dried fruit mixture all over the shortbread base and using a flat spatula spread it evenly into a layer.
- Scatter the chopped nuts and coconut flakes over the dried fruit layer and bake for about 15 to 18 minutes until few of the coconut flakes start turning a light brown.
- Store in an airtight container.
- The dried fruit mixture should be easily spreadable or it may lift off some cookie crumbs and roll over. And spread it all the way to the edge of the baking sheet or pan to prevent it from rolling back over the crust.
- They can be frozen for couple months in freezer safe containers and with wax paper between the layers.
- You may also try other flavors such as citrus zest, cinnamon, cardamom, rose water or orange blossom water.