Like with most sugars, I’m not a fan of artificial sweeteners – not even stevia or monk fruit. They’re highly processed, change your gut bacteria into inconsiderate meanies that make you feel miserable, and trick your body into thinking its about to get some serious calories, which messes with hormones, including insulin, and digestion.
Always following the path least processed, I use dates as a natural sweetener in everything from my morning coffee to my favorite holiday baked goods. A single date contains 7 grams of fiber, along with magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, zinc, and many more trace minerals. If you’re keeping score, dates win over artificial sweeteners, or processed sugars any day of the week.
One of my favorite fall recipes is Gooey Date Caramel. It contains just three ingredients (four if you count the pinch of salt), and perfectly pairs with firm, tart green apples, or if available in your area, McIntosh apples.
Create a paste
Sometimes called “date butter,” start with pitted soft Medjool dates, or rehydrated common dates (grocery store variety soaked in a little warm water). Pulse a handful or two of dates in a food processor or smoothie blender, and then run continuously while streaming in water until the desired consistency of paste has formed. The less water, the thicker the paste; the more water, the thinner the paste. Some people stop here and call it caramel, but I like to add one more ingredient.
To create a true, creamy, buttery caramel, I like to add in a little bit of homemade coconut milk or nut milk. Mix in a few splashes until the caramel is ultra creamy, and finish with a pinch of Celtic sea salt.
Gooey Date Caramel
Yields: about 1 1/2 cups
- 1 cup pitted Medjool dates
- 1/8 tsp. sea salt
- 1/2 cup water, plus more as needed
- 1/2 cup coconut milk, plus more as needed
- In the bowl of a food processor or high speed smoothie blender (like a bullet), add dates and salt. Cover and pulse four to five times.
- For date paste: Add water and process on high speed, streaming in additional water as needed to reach desired consistency. Stir in additional salt to taste.
- For caramel: Add water and process on high speed, streaming in coconut milk as needed to reach desired consistency. Stir in additional sea salt to taste.