Any advice on alternatives to dates in recipes?

I have found a couple of really mouth watering recipes but they contain dates. I had a really bad reaction to just one date a couple of years ago and subsequently discovered, via this site I think, that dates are often rolled in flour. So I don't want to use them even though I understand there may be some brands that are okay. Has anyone got an alternative please? Thank you!

24 Replies

  • Hi Urbangirl, I'd use those large raisins and reckon you'd get a similar texture too. Dates go really sweet and mushy when cooked so if you use another dried fruit it would probably be a good idea to give them a quick soak in water first, so they replicate the dates whist baking.

    I aslo reckon fresh cherries could be another really good alternative, sweet and juicy...

  • Thanks Jerry but aren't they sometimes dusted with flour too to stop them sticking together? I have kept away from dried fruit mainly because of their high sugar content but also read somewhere there is a risk of them being dusted with dodgy stuff.

  • What about the block of dates? They're the ones stuck together.

    I don't think the fresh cherries Jerry mentioned would have flour. The packet ones generally have wheat glucose syrup. Saw the process on 'Food Unwrapped' and it really was quite disturbing!

    Of course there are always prunes .....

  • Thanks Jacks - I haven't tried the blocks of dates before. Might give them a try. The recipe uses dates to give a consistency so it would be good to use them. Although I do like the thought of cherries - I guess its adapting the recipes that make it a fun task! Will be giving this to my guests at the weekend. Thank you!

  • Hi Urbangirl, some brands of mixed dried fruits dust them with flour to stop them sticking together but if you go for a good quality brand especially organic ones they will state the ingredients and some boast gluten free.

    I agree with Jacks about glazed cherries and thought of them as my neighbour gave me a big bowl of fresh cherries from their tree last week and they were amazing.

  • Wish I had your neighbour Jerry could do with some fresh cherries next door! Do you trust the good quality brands not to dust the fruit? I am so suspicious.

  • Hi Urbangirl, I read the labels and some companies use organic palm oil to keep the product 'organic' and the oil stops the fruit sticking together.

    Here's a link to Sun Maid whose raisins are packed in a separate factory so remain gf:

  • That's really hepful Jerry thank you. I've just been to M & S and looked at their packaged dates and they do not have any labelling at least I couldn't see any and there was no GF sign on the pack. I did buy some other stuff whichwas labelled.

  • What about using plums?? Would that be a good idea as a substitute?

  • If you read the ingredients you'll find that some do not have flour. It always says

  • I don't think it always does Bluebell because the time that I ate them we scrutinised the label beforehand and it did not mention this; but I only ate 1 date and got so sick. But I think they were imported.

  • Hi Urban Girl. I've been buying majool dates from Waitrose recently. They are delicious - very caramelly - and definitely gluten free. They are about £2.50 for a very big box of them. In my local store they are kept in the whole food section near the nuts. As you say, they are amazing for cooking with - blitzed - then used instead of sugar. Also, good as snacks smeared with nut butter! If dates don't work for you, mashed bananas can sometimes work as a replacement in recipes. We write a blog at Gradually, I'm starting to write recipes for healthy, family friendly gf food. x

  • Thank you so much for this advice - I will look in Waitrose. It will be so good to eat dates again - not often but for special treats and for cooking.

  • Just checked the brand name on our's - it's Jordan River. I've also had nice madjool dates from Sainsburys, but I think the W'rose ones are probably better value for money, as it really is quite a big box! Have a good day.

  • Brill! This recipe I am trying out has cashew nuts, coconut and raspberries as well as dates - so yummy methinks! But it also uses agave syrup which I won't use. Will look up your recipes. Thank you for your help!

  • legislation on labelling has changed. it is now much easier to see what is in foods. If you are sensitive to traces (as I am) make sure you go for products that aren't packed in a factory that also handles wheat.

  • Yes this is a good thing and so helpful. But we have a permanent food market (like many towns) and one fruit and veg stall has some beautiful figs and dates on display but the owners cannot guarantee the produce has not been dusted in flour. The produce has come from abroad. Items are sold as per item - there is no packaging therefore no labelling.

  • I never buy anything like that. Sad, but even the handling processes and possible contamination is too much for me. Most dried fruit in bags I cant eat even when it doesnt have wheat flour as an added ingredient, I have to find the suppliers who package goods in a factory that doesnt handle wheat.

    As food importers they should know if a foodstuff has an added ingredient. They should ask who ever they get it from.

    Lost five days to illness the other day and didnt eat out and didnt eat anything officially hazardous- so something snuck in somewhere. Only thing I can think of is some bagged puffed rice that I bought and it didnt specify the packaging environment.

  • Me neither - just looked and drooled! I'm afraid the don't know but erred on the side of caution which was helpful. The guy who served me has a close relative with coeliac so knew what he was talking about. But he was not the stall owner.

    Sorry about your experience the other day - 5 days is a long time to be sick I hope you are recovered now. It must have been awful for you. I think contamination is so important to address. I am petrified of being glutened and so very cautious so try not to eat anything I am unsure of. However, this is not always possible if I am out or visiting friends. Even having people round to my place poses problems as they are forever sticking their contaminated knives or forks into food that I have made and will eat. Not always possible when they've contaminated it! They don't do it to hurt me they just don't think or forget what I have told them and don't realise the repercussions for me.

  • The sticky dates you get in supermarkets often seem to have glucose syrup, which I won't go near, but the drier looking ones you get in cardboard boxes in mediterranean-type local shops have been OK - and I tend to react to everything. I've got some at home labelled Anjoman Dates (from Anjoman Foods) which are really good. (Especially if you replace the stone with dark chocolate then heat very briefly in the microwave...)

  • I can't do glucose syrup either but I think the date that made me ill was from a mediterranean provider. I'm completely stuck on this one. Waitrose cooking dates contain potassium nitrate which I can't eat. Only other dates on offer did not say gluten free either. We've got some small shops I will look in but I didn't think this would be so blimmin complicated!

  • We actually had a bag of Waitrose organic ones (clearly money to burn!) and the only extra ingredient is sunflower oil. Waitrose are quite good at labelling wheat where indicated (it is in a few of their dried fruits) and I'm still alive after eating some.

  • Jacks for some reason the labelling was not present on the dates in our local Waitrose. However, yesterday I found some dates in a health food shop and ate a couple in the process of making this new desert. So far so good! The desert looks good .... looking forward to eating it later today with our guests - it had better be worth this trouble. Thank you everybody for your help and now I have found some good dates and will try Waitrose again for dates.

  • Prunes?

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