What Are Dried Dates?

Megan Shoop
Megan Shoop
Dried dates.
Dried dates.

Dried dates are dates that have been lightly heated for many hours to remove their moisture and prevent spoilage. The fruits may be sun-dried or dried in a dehydrator or oven. They are very sweet when fresh and even sweeter when dried. The drying process condenses the flesh and sugars in the fruit, giving them a very intense sweetness. Dried dates are often used in place of sugar in vegan, vegetarian, and raw food recipes.

Dates growing on a date palm.
Dates growing on a date palm.

Before they’re dried, dates are typically plump, shiny, ovoid fruits that grow in bunches from date trees. They can be either dark purple or bright red and contain a large central pit with pointed ends. This is usually removed before the fruit is dried, serving two purposes. The first is to make the fruit easier to eat and cook with once dried. The second reason is to create a small tunnel in the center of the date through which air can flow. This helps the dates to dry out evenly.

Home cooks interested in drying their own date crop, or preserving fresh dates from the grocery store, may do it in one of two ways. Both methods require the cook to pit the dates first, which may be done by pushing a knife through the center of each date or pitting them with a cherry pitter. Some may prefer to slice the dates in half and remove the pit that way.

The first method, sun-drying, may only be done in the summer. Cooks making sun-dried dates need a solar dehydrator. These usually consist of a box with a glass top and screened sides and bottom. A reflective plate a few inches below the screened bottom of the box reflects heat onto the dates. Solar drying requires several days in a row of bright sun and very warm weather.

The second method requires little more than an electric dehydrator or an oven. The dates are typically spread out onto trays and warmed at about 180°F (about 82°C) for up to 24 hours. Unlike other dried fruits, dried dates are so full of sugars that they won’t shrink much or get crispy. When fully dried, they’ll be wrinkly, brown, and very dense. Biting into a fully dried date should typically feel like biting into a ripe banana or a very dense cookie.

Many recipes exist for cooking with dried dates. Some of the simplest include injecting them with sweetened or herbed goat cheese and wrapping them in prosciutto. Others call for the dates to be chopped an added to cookie, cake, brownie, and even pancake batters. Gourmet ice creams, chutneys, and Mediterranean stews can also benefit from chopped, dried dates.

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Discussion Comments


My friend's dad owns a Middle Eastern grocery. They sell boxes and boxes of imported Middle Eastern dates once a year, during Ramadan. This is when Muslims fast and they like to break their fast with a date or two. My friend said that it's a tradition.

I think dried dates are an important and holy fruit because they are mentioned in several holy scriptures. Jews, Christians and Muslims all value dried dates and eat them.


@bluedolphin-- I think may dates are sun dried. But sometimes, commercial dates are not sun dried unless the label says so specifically. Of course, it's best if they're sun dried because they become sweeter as they ripen and dry under the sun.

Fresh dates can be eaten when they're ripe. There are date palms in Southern parts of the United States. I've had fresh dates before. They were good, but like the article said, the dried version is sweeter. So I prefer dried dates.

I like using dates in baking, to make fruit cake or cookies. I think that this is a very healthy fruit. Although it's very sweet, I've read that dates do not increase blood sugar very quickly. Dates are healthier than raisins for example. But they're also more expensive, so it's not something that most of us buy regularly.


I didn't even know that dates can be eaten fresh. I though people didn't pick them until the dates dried all the way on the date palms.

Are most dates today naturally dried under the sun or are they dried in a dehydrator?

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    • Dried dates.
      Dried dates.
    • Dates growing on a date palm.
      Dates growing on a date palm.