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Jo Knows Nutrition by Joanne Nijhuis


Feb. 11, 2024 – Date squares have been a Canadian favourite since the 1920s for good reason. Delicious as a dessert or a snack, date squares get most of their sweetness from the Medjool dates and not from added sugar. A perfect treat when feeling that afternoon slump or after a vigorous workout, these homemade date squares are easy to prepare and far less expensive than store-bought granola and energy bars. They even freeze well, so double or triple the recipe to have a handy supply for weeks to come.


Base Layer & Topping

  • 1 cup (250 ml) pecans, walnuts or almonds
  • 1 cup (250 ml) unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1 ½ cup (375 ml) oats
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking soda
  • 1/3 cup (83 ml) coconut oil or melted butter
  • 1/3 cup (83 ml) of soaked dates, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt

Middle Layer

  • 2 cups (500 ml) soaked dates
  • ¼ cup (63 ml) water from the soaked dates
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) cocoa powder, optional
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) instant coffee granules, optional
  • 1 ½ teaspoon (7.5 ml) lemon or lime juice
  • 1/3 teaspoon (1.7 ml) salt


  1. Soak 2 1/3 cups (583 ml) of pitted dates in boiled water for 20-30 minutes. Drain and reserve the date water.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F (177 C). Grease or spray with cooking spray a 9 x 9 inch (23 x 23 cm) square pan.
  3. To prepare the Base Layer & Topping, crush the nuts in a food processer or with a clean mallet or hammer. In the food processor or a medium size bowl combine the nuts with the coconut, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, coconut oil or melted butter and 1/3 cup (83 ml) soaked dates. Pulse several times in the food processor until a crumbly dough is formed. Alternatively, use your hands in the mixing bowl and knead to create a crumbly dough.
  4. Divide the crumbly dough by measuring 1 cup (250 ml) into a separate bowl to be used for the topping. The remainder of the dough can be used for the base by pressing an even layer with your hands onto the bottom of the square pan. Put the square pan in the fridge for 5-10 minutes to harden this base layer.
  5. To prepare the Middle Layer, put the remaining 2 cups (500 ml) of dates and the date water, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, coffee granules, lemon or lime juice and salt in the food processor and pulse several times until a paste is formed. If you do not have a food processor, use your hands to make a paste with all of the ingredients for the middle layer. If the paste is too thick, add a little more of the date water until the consistency is sticky, but not runny.
  6. Take the pan out of the fridge. Spread the middle layer on top of the base layer. Then, sprinkle the remaining crumbly dough on top of the middle layer.
  7. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely before slicing into squares.


Joanne Nijhuis MSc, RD is a consulting, media and culinary dietitian in Simcoe Grey Bruce on a mission to entertain and educate through her love of food. In addition to recipe development and writing for several publications, Joanne offers nutrition talks and cooking demos/classes – in person and online via Zoom. For more information, email Joanne at jo.knows.nutrition@outlook.com


Despite the natural sugar in dates, they have a relatively low glycemic index due to their fibre content. This means that dates are digested more slowly, leading to a gradual rise in blood sugar as opposed to a fast spike that a glass of juice would cause. Dates are a good source of potassium, iron and magnesium. So very nutritious, they also contain several B vitamins and a high concentration of the antioxidants called polyphenols.

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