Date, nut and licorice snack bars: naturally sweet

Dates. Yes, I featured them recently: here I go again. Dates are just the tastiest, loveliest, most delicous non-dairy fudge out there, and they’re fruits.

The other week, in a moment of weakness, I picked up a raw, all-natural energy bar from the snack counter in my super-market. The packaging was red and had the word bakewell tart on it; I was bored and hungry. The ingredients were interesting: dates, cashews, raisins and natural almond flavour. Nice and simple. The bar was really good and made me wonder how difficult it would be to make your own snack bar?

Three flavours of date snack: licorice, cocoa and matcha, chipotl and seaweed.

Three flavours of date snack: licorice, cocoa and matcha, chipotl and seaweed.

Note: our American readers will find links to some of the ingredients below on European shoppers will find the same ingredients in health-f00d shops – or even their local super-market – or in specialist shops indicated. 

I’ve made date truffles before, so it wasn’t that difficult to turn date gooeyness (and goodness) into a snack bar. However, while experimenting, I learned that there were a few things to consider.

  • Dates are sticky: the inspirational bar I bought was dry on the outside whereas the ones I made at home were sticky. I think the bought bar had been dehydrated. I don’t have a dehydrator nor the patience to slowly dry bars in the oven to prove my thesis. Instead, I covered my bars in a thin covering of powder (cocoa or corn starch), or seaweed. Put a bit of powder in a sandwich bag, chuck in the bars and shake gently to cover. (Don’t cover them in licorice powder: that will only make them stickier. And too strong for most palates.)
  • Texture: some dates are softer than others. My favourite dates are very soft – read moist – compared to the standard chopped dates. As a result, the mixture needs a higher percentage of nuts to become manageable. To 200 grams of dates,  I added up to 80 grams of cashews and could probably have gone even higher to make a firmer paste. You can use other nuts: I chose cashews because they are fairly flavour neutral.
  • Flavour options: I made three batches:
    • Pine nuts, seaweed and chipotle. C. described this as ‘interesting’. I sandwiched the date paste between nori sheets and cut into squares. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but in the end, ate all the squares. The chipotle gives a slow heat, pine nuts and seaweed add savoury notes to the otherwise very sweet date and nut mix. (40 grams pine nuts, 2 teaspoons chipotle, 4 teaspoons Mara Seaweed dulse.)
    • Almonds and licorice. This was my favourite, so it’s what I’m putting in the recipe below. Licorice powder isn’t a super-market ingredient, but it’s fairly easy to get hold of these days. You can buy it online, or find bags of it in Tiger. (40 grams almonds, 4 teaspoons licorice powder.)
    • Cocoa, matcha and pistachios. The flavours work well together, and I love the bright green pop of pistachios even if their flavour was overpowered by the matcha. (40 grams pistachio nuts, 4 teaspoons cocoa, 4 teaspoons matcha.)
Dates, licorice powder, a tower of snacks and a quick way of covering snacks in, for example, cocoa.

Dates, licorice powder, a tower of snacks and a quick way of covering sticky things in, for example, cocoa.

The bars keep in a cool dry place for at least two weeks and firm up a little over time. They’re great in a lunch box and make a good substitute for after-dinner chocolates. As ‘healthy snacks‘ go, date and nut bars are great: they give you a hit of sugar but also vitamins and minerals. However healthy, they, like everything else, should be consumed in moderation.

Date, nut and licorice snack bars
Preparation time
Total time
A date snack bar with an unexpected twist.
Recipe type: Snack
Cuisine: European
Serves: 8
  • 200 grams dates
  • 60-80 grams cashews
  • 40 grams almonds
  • 4 teaspoons licorice powder
  • Corn starch (optional)
  1. Put the ingredients in a blender and mix until it forms a ball. Start with the lower amount of cashews and build up until you have almost the texture you desire.
  2. Add the almonds and mix. (You can chose to keep them coarse or blend until the paste is quite smooth.)
  3. Shape into balls, fingers or any shape you want.
  4. Turn in cornstarch to stop from sticking together.
  5. Store in an air-tight box for up to two weeks.

They are easy to make, fun to play with and good to eat, too.

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About Caroline von Schmalensee

Cooking, eating and drinking is fun as well as necessary. I do food for fun and I write for a living. Good food makes the world a more delicious and satisfying place. Good writing, meanwhile, can make the world a less confusing place.

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