Did you know that dates make a delicious and healthy caramel filling? When blended with a bit of coconut oil, mejool dates create a thick, rich, dairy free and slightly chewy “date caramel.” Salt intensifies the natural caramel flavor. And a chocolate coating envelops the whole thing. Divine!
I surprised myself with the fact that I am apparently loosing my mind at the ripe old age of twenty one. This recipe was meant to be in my book Quit PMS but, somewhere between the second and third draft, it slipped out of the manuscript. Unrefined salt is good for the brain, so evidently I just need to eat more salted date caramels before I do another book. Sounds good to me!
Date caramels with hormone-balancing ingredients
These were supposed to have a place in Quit PMS for a reason: they contain a myriad of the hormone-balancing ingredients that I discuss in the book. This includes:
Unrefined Salt – The science is in: salt was wrongly demonized for decades. As a matter of fact, a reduced sodium diet is correlated to higher mortality rates! Other studies show that salt improves insulin sensitivity and also helps reduce cortisol (a stress hormone) – both very health protective factors. Salt is also a natural anti-histamine. (Read more about why salt is good for you.)
What salt is best? Processed table salt is better than no salt, that is for sure. However, I strongly recommend using unrefined salt, which contains a vast array of the trace minerals required for health. I actually fell for a slick marketing trick practiced by some unrefined salt companies, so when I learned better, I shared with you the real differences between unrefined salt brands.
Coconut Oil – Finally, a miracle food that everyone can agree on, no matter which “dietary tribe” you belong to! Coconut oil is about 2/3 medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), fatty acids that are directly absorbed into the bloodstream in the small intestine and used for energy. These MCTs have been shown to increase metabolism, promote weight loss and increase satiety. Both human and animal studies show that the consumption of MCTs increases energy expenditure… which is a more formal term for boosting metabolism.
Coconut oil consumption also improves thyroid function and has been shown to boost weight loss. It is also very satiating, which is why I included coconut oil in my sugar-craving-busting Buttermints.
Raw honey – As I discuss in Quit PMS, healthy sources of carbohydrates, consumed in balance with fat and protein, tell the body that it is safe. This is key for balancing hormones – we want our body to be nurtured and protected, not stressed and starved. Fresh fruits and root vegetables are optimal sources of carbohydrates, but you can add in treats rich in whole sugars such as raw honey and dates. Raw honey , also called unpasteurized honey, contains beneficial enzymes and antioxidants. I recommend sourcing local raw honey, but if you can’t find it, this is the raw honey I recommend available online. (In this date caramel recipe, you can substitute maple syrup for the raw honey, if you wish.)
- 1 cup pitted mejool dates. To measure, pit your dates and then pack them into the measuring cup before soaking them in the hot water. For me, this was about 14 smallish dates.
- ¼ cup coconut milk (full fat or light), warmed
- ¼ cup melted coconut oil
- ½ tsp. vanilla extract, optional
- ¼ - ½ tsp. unrefined salt (himalayan salt - this one is ethically sourced, Real salt or celtic sea salt)
- Coconut flour, for dusting
- Chocolate coating
- ¼ cup cocoa powder (we use this fair trade one)
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- 2 Tbs. raw honey or pure maple syrup
- OR use melted dairy-free chocolate chips (about ⅓ cup chocolate chips, use more if needed)
- Soak dates in very hot water for 15 minutes. Drain before proceeding. Blend the dates, coconut milk, coconut oil and vanilla extract until a smooth paste forms. Add ¼ tsp. salt, blend, and taste. Add a bit more salt if desired. Place in the fridge or freezer until firm and pliable, at least 3 hours.
- Roll teaspoons of the date mixture into balls. Dust lightly with coconut flour so they don’t stick to each other. Place in the freezer to stay firm.
- Make the chocolate coating: melt and stir together the cocoa powder, coconut oil and raw honey over very low heat until combined. The mixture may separate slightly, in this case put it in the fridge for just a few minutes and then stir. Let the mixture cool until thickened enough to coat the caramel balls. Place in the fridge for a few minutes if it is too runny, but keep an eye on it because it hardens very quickly.
- If you are using the chocolate chips instead of the homemade chocolate coating, just melt the chocolate chips over low heat until smooth. Do not overheat.
- One by one, roll a caramel into the chocolate and place on a baking sheet lined with unbleached parchment or waxed paper. Sprinkle very lightly with the unrefined salt, and place in the fridge until the chocolate coating is firm. Store in the fridge. If they aren't consumed quickly (most likely), they last at least a few weeks in the fridge.
What is your favorite recipe that uses dates? This is mine!