Ever notice your favorite healthy vegan recipe blogs use dates to sweeten their desserts? What gives? Well, it turns out that dates are one of the most naturally sweet fruits in the world and they've got health benefits in spades, making them the perfect healthy dessert ingredient.
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Refined Sugar vs. Natural Sugar - Why it Matters
As a whole, American’s, eat way too much sugar. 66 pounds of added sugar a year, per person! And most of this sugar we’re consuming is refined sugar, not from natural whole food sources.
Why is that a problem?
Unlike natural sources of sugar (like those found in whole fruits like dates), refined sugar does not have nutrients or fiber in tact. Without the fiber in particular, our blood sugars aren’t regulated, causing dangerous spikes and dips. Dates are an especially great source of plant based natural sugar because one cup of dates contains 12g of fiber, which is almost half of our recommended daily value, which means your blood sugar can stay stable while you enjoy your treat.
Eating refined and added sugars can do a number on our bodies and lead to serious health problems, like chronic inflammation, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and increased risk for heart disease.
If you're trying to eat more whole plant-based foods, but still want to satiate your sweet tooth, there are a few options for replacing refined sugar in your treats. Some folks opt for brown rice syrup, maple syrup, and raw local honey as healthier sweetener choices, though some whole food plant-based experts do note they’re not technically whole foods (and honey isn’t vegan).
Really want to keep it whole food? Get acquainted with dates.
What Are Dates?
Dates are a tropical stone fruit that's very naturally sweet, making them a popular choice for healthy plant-based desserts.
There are many types of dates but you'll most likely encounter Medjool dates or Deglet Noor dates in supermarkets here in the United States. Medjool dates are large, rich, chewy, and sticky. They're very sweet and have a caramel-like flavor. Deglet Noor dates are smaller than Medjool dates, with a firm flesh and more delicate flavor than Medjool dates.
(Here are MamaSezz, we use our own date syrup, made from whole dates and water, to sweetened our plant-based meals and desserts.)
10 Delectable Date Sweetened Vegan Dessert Recipes
These vegan desserts are sweet as heck using nothing but dates to sweeten them! And FYI: all of these treats are gluten-free, vegan, whole-food plant based, oil-free, and refined sugar free!
1. Vegan Chocolate or Vanilla Dessert Sauce
Use it as a cake glaze, pancake syrup, oatmeal topping, cupcake icing, even as a pudding. Dip strawberries in it on your anniversary…or a treat-yo-self Tuesday night! This healthy topping is packed with nutrients, so why limit yourself to just one batch?
2. Dairy Free Lemon Cheesecake
A whole food plant-based lifestyle does NOT mean saying goodbye to your favorite dessert. This healthy vegan spin on lemon cheesecake is absolutely lick the fork, lick the plate, go back for seconds and do it all over again, gooood. It’s a no-cook recipe (perfect for warm weather) and 100% refined sugar free and gluten free!
3. Vegan Caramel Sauce
Yep, you can make caramel sauce from dates...and in under 5 minutes. It is dairy-free, oil-free, AND refined sugar free. Enjoy it by the spoonful, or drizzle it over your dessert, breakfast, or favorite vegan smoothie.
4. Vegan Black Bean Brownies
Black beans in brownies? You bet your plant-based bottom! Turns out, black beans are what’s been missing from your vegan brownie recipe all along; they make the perfect fudgy brownie dough. And this date-sweetened brownie recipe is gluten-free, refined sugar-free, not to mention high in fiber, protein and potassium. All good reasons to have another brownie.
5. Plant Based Chocolate Pie with Peanut Crumble Crust (Salt Free!)
Treat yourself to a plant-based chocolate pie recipe that the whole family will love. This vegan dessert is loaded with antioxidants, potassium, and iron. And there is absolutely no refined sugar, as it's sweetened with dates! Oh, it's gluten free, salt free (option), oil free, and dairy free, too! It's even immunity boosting.
6. Chewy Gluten-Free Plant-Based Pancakes
Breakfast for dessert, or dessert for breakfast! These gluten-free vegan banana pancakes are another date-sweetened wonder. Time to bring back Sunday brunch, without the food coma. These healthy vegan pancakes are easy to prepare and loaded with potassium, calcium, fiber and plant-based protein. Healthy, simple, and delicious for the whole family. How about that?
7. Refined Sugar Free Vegan Hot Cocoa
As fall arrives, there’s nothing better than wrapping yourself up in a cozy blanket, sitting by a crackling fireplace, and sipping on a nice steaming cup of hot cocoa. But if you’re trying to give up refined sugar, you may think your cocoa-sippin’ days are behind you. Luckily, this vegan hot cocoa recipe swoops in to save the day, and in your favorite mug, to boot!
Rich, thick and creamy, you’ll think you’re drinking melted chocolate!
8. Peanut Butter Cream Sweet Potato Brownies
Well, they’re not called sweet potatoes for nothin'. These peanut butter cream sweet potato brownies will have your even your omnivore friends asking for seconds (and the recipe). The sweet potato brownie mix is good on its own, but once you add the whipped peanut butter cream? Forget about it!
9. No-Bake Plant Based Pumpkin Pie
For those of you who can’t wait for jackets, boots, corn mazes, and apple picking, your season is almost here! As the air gets crisper, the leaves get browner, and socks get thicker, one thing is for sure: there’s no escaping pumpkin spiced EVERYTHING (even if you’re plant-based). This super healthy plant-based no-bake pumpkin pie recipe is so darn good and so darn easy. And it's sweetened with (you guessed it) dates!
10. MamaSezz High Protein Breakfast Bar
Don’t feel like baking? This dense and delicious MamaSezz treat is loaded with plant-based protein to power you through your busy morning. And this healthy breakfast truly tastes like dessert. The blondie, walnut base is hearty, flavorful and chunky, while the brownie topping is smooth and sweet. Heck, it tastes twice as indulgent thanks to its two decadent layers. Add MamaSezz High Protein Breakfast Bars to your order now.
By Caroline DiNicola Fawley
Caroline is a plant-based chef, recipe designer, and whole food plant-based nutrition educator, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies