What Is Date Syrup?

Plus, get our homemade date syrup recipe.

February 02, 2023
Date honey with dried dates, Jewish national sweet food, copy space

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Date honey with dried dates, Jewish national sweet food, copy space

Photo by: Rimma_Bondarenko/Getty Images

Rimma_Bondarenko/Getty Images

By Layla Khoury-Hanold for Food Network Kitchen

Layla Khoury-Hanold is a contributor at Food Network.

What Is Date Syrup?

Date syrup is a thick, dark brown sweet syrup made from dates that's commonly used in Middle Eastern and Arab cooking as well as a natural sweetener. Date syrup is also known as date honey, date molasses and debes. Date syrup is made by softening chopped dates in boiling hot water, blending them, boiling and reducing the mixture, then straining out the pits and insoluble parts. Date syrup is commonly made with Medjool dates, which are soft and easy to work with, or Deglet Noor dates, which are modestly sweet but need a longer soak time to soften.

Date syrup is commonly used in Middle Eastern and Arab cuisines in savory and sweet dishes. It is a key ingredient in luqaimat (fried dumplings tossed in date syrup) and jallab, a classic Middle Eastern drink made with date syrup and rosewater that’s popular in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. In some countries it’s common to serve jallab in the evenings during Ramadan to break the fast. In Lebanon, date syrup can also be mixed with tahini to make debes tahini, a creamy, sweet dessert dip served with bread. Date syrup can also be used as a natural sweetener for smoothies, beverages, salad dressings, marinades, desserts and baked goods. Try swapping date syrup in place of maple syrup or honey and drizzle it over yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes or waffles.

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Photo by: Eugene Mymrin/Getty Images

Eugene Mymrin/Getty Images

Date Syrup vs Sugar

For more info about date syrup’s nutritional properties and how it compares to sugar, we consulted Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, award-winning nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Family Immunity Cookbook. “Date syrup is made from fruit, so it contains fructose as well as glucose to make the disaccharide sucrose. Granulated sugar also contains a disaccharide called sucrose which is a combination of glucose and fructose. Sucrose is categorized as simple sugars."

When it comes to comparing calories and total carbs/total sugar, Amidor says there’s really no difference between date syrup and sugar. “The major difference,” she says, “is the micronutrients found in date syrup which isn't found in granulated sugar. Date syrup contains very small amounts of vitamins and minerals including calcium, potassium, magnesium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate.” Amidor also shares that studies show that date syrup contains several phytonutrient antioxidants that are shown to have antibacterial properties. “Even though you take in a small amount of the sweetener, it is nice to have a sweetener with a few added functional properties,” she says.

Close up of date molasses with silver spoon

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Close up of date molasses with silver spoon

Photo by: bdspn/Getty Images

bdspn/Getty Images

Benefits of Date Syrup

Although date syrup contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals, Amidor says it does contribute something. “One tablespoon has about 1 to 4% of the micronutrients mentioned above.” As for whether date syrup is a better-for-you alternative to sugar? “Date syrup is a nice addition to your sweetener repertoire—I personally love it—but it is still an added sugar and should be used in small amounts in a healthy eating plan,” Amidor says. “The 2020-2025 dietary guidelines recommend no more than 10% of total calories should come from added sugar.” Amidor shares that Date Lady is one of her favorite date syrup brands.

Homemade Date Syrup

The secret to homemade date syrup is patience and keeping a watchful eye as it cooks. Try using Deglet Noor dates as they’re less expensive than Medjool dates and possess a modest sweetness. Be sure to save the leftover date paste to use in smoothies or baking, or roll it into small balls for a healthy snack.

Recipes with Date Syrup

Jallab is a classic Middle Eastern drink made with date syrup and rosewater; this version calls for the common addition of raisins and pine nuts for extra flavor. In some countries it’s common to serve jallab in the evenings during Ramadan to break the fast and help replenish nutrients lost during fasting.

The secret ingredient in the slather sauce for these smoked ribs is, yup, you guessed it—date syrup. It’s whisked with ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire sauce and cooked over medium heat just until warmed through. The sauce offers a tangy-sweet counterpoint to the rich flavor of the smoked meat.

Try subbing in date syrup for maple syrup to sweeten these flavor-packed bars and complement the chopped dates that are part of a medley of dried fruit and seeds. Typically, a direct swap will work, but you might want to taste as you add to adjust to your preferences.

Food Network Kitchen’s Healthy Breakfast Smoothie, as seen on Food Network.

FNK_HealthyBreakfastSmoothie_H

Food Network Kitchen’s Healthy Breakfast Smoothie, as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Renee Comet

Renee Comet

Dates make a sweet addition to all kinds of smoothies, but date syrup works too! Add one tablespoon of date syrup for every date, though you’ll likely want to taste as you go and adjust for desired sweetness level.

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