Between honey, agave, maple syrup, and Stevia, you might think you’ve heard enough about alternative sweeteners. There’s one, however, that truly deserves a place in your pantry. Date syrup, also known as date molasses or date honey, is a dark and sticky sweetener made exclusively from dates.
Called rub al-tamr in Libyan cooking, date syrup is popular in Middle Eastern and North African dishes. In Israel, the sweetener is known as silan. Historically, date syrup was often used as a topping for asida, the wheat flour dessert, or the milk pudding malabi. However, you can use it in place of other sweeteners in places like oatmeal, fruit salad, toast, meat marinade, sauce, dressing, vinaigrette, and cocktails. When baking, it’s possible to sub in date syrup for honey, maple syrup, and molasses at a 1:1 ratio. When swapping it for white sugar, you’ll want to use about half as much date syrup, as well as reduce some of the liquid called for in the recipe—this is, however, a bit trickier, and results can differ based on each recipe.
Watch: 2 Sugar Substitutes
When it comes to fruit, dates are very, very sweet. Yet when compared to other sweeteners, dates rank fairly high on the nutritional scale, especially with regard to fiber, antioxidants, potassium, and magnesium. They also contain a small amount of protein, which is more than most fruit (or sugar, for that matter) can say. Since date syrup is literally just liquid dates, it’s permissible under some special diets like Paleo and Whole30.
Soom Foods, a company that became wildly popular in the food industry in recent years for to their creamy, super-mild tahini, recently launched bottled silan.
“When considering what else we could provide the American market, we wanted something that mirrored the core qualities of tahini: delicious, nutritious and versatile,” Amy Zitelman, Soom Food’s CEO and Co-Founder, told me in an email. Zitelman also noted that tahini has become an addition to the American home and restaurant pantry recently due to an increase in food sensitivities and allergies, interest in Mediterranean cuisine, and special diets like Paleo and Keto; she expects silan to fill the same space.
While you can buy date syrup online and in some stores, it’s also quite easy to make your own. Chop 2 cups pitted medjool or deglet noor dates and place them in a small saucepan with 1 cup water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then simmer for 30 minutes, or until the dates are very soft. Let the mixture cool slightly, then transfer it to a blender (preferably a high-power one like a Vitamix) or a food processor. Puree the mixture until completely smooth. Store in an airtight container in the fridge and use within two weeks.
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