Maple Date Pudding

February is the month of love, which usually means chocolate. To switch that up, here’s a sweet recipe using dates and a touch of maple syrup. And it’s a pudding and not a date fudge, cake or date candy. Food writer Nigel Slater says that “the potential power of a good pudding to save the world should not be under-estimated.” He wonders if pudding might actually stop war!

Dates have been eaten for thousands of years by athletes to improve physical endurance, agility, and stamina. They are said to be good for our brain, for our bones, and they are also high in fiber.

I’ve fallen in love with new varieties of organic dates we’ve been carrying. Three of those, Halawy, Zahidis and Honey, are drier, firmer dates, which work well in this recipe. Oasis Date Gardens out of CA (the oldest organic date grower in this country) says Halawys are chewy with a caramel-candy flavor. The first Halawy offshoots imported in commercial quantity arrived in 1913 from Iraq. Honey dates, chewy with skin separation and a warm honey flavor, were popularized from a seedling started in the Coachella Valley. Zahidis, introduced from Iraq in the 1900s, are roundish with a golden color when ripe. You’ll find these in our produce department!

Serves 4

1½ C pitted semi-dry dates (read above) ¼ C maple syrup
½ C smooth peanut butter or almond butter 1 tsp real vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon 1 C full-fat coconut milk or other milk
1 Tbsp lemon juicepinch good salt

Pit dates (slit date lengthwise on one side and pull the pit out – it’s easy!). Insert knife blade into food processor. Put dates, maple syrup, peanut or almond butter, lemon juice, vanilla, cinnamon and pinch salt in processor and pulse to combine. Then process briefly with half the milk. Note: half! If you add all the liquid right away, the food processor will tend to spray milk from under the cover. Add remaining milk and run processor another minute. You want some chunks of date left. Spoon into little mousse dishes. Serve well-chilled.

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