stuffed dates 9 ways: classic desserts

stuffed dessert dates

And my most visited post of 2017 is . . . stuffed dates! This time around, I thought I would revive the concept of stuffed dates eight ways with a bunch of new ideas (and a few of my favorites from last time) organized around a particular theme: classic desserts.

Five are gluten free, four are vegan, three are both. Most are healthy, or at least healthy-ish. And isn't that just the balance you want to strike for your New Year's Eve party tomorrow? If I see another Christmas cookie this week, I might scream, but I don't feel ready to re-commit to healthy eating just yet. Late December is all about walking that line, and then hopefully bringing some of that balance into the new year with us, despite all our best intentions to become perfect people.

And why not ring in the new year in style, and with minimal effort? Just pit a few dates, cobble together some odds and ends, and you've got something nourishing, simple enough that you don't even need a kitchen, and as cute as a button. Most of them are phenomenally portable for packed lunches, potluck offerings, and airplane snacks. On the other hand, date energy balls, while also portable and healthy, require a food processor, and often end up looking like utilitarian blobs, which are tasty and get the job done, but aren't so easy on the eyes.

Stuffed dates also make it easy to accommodate multiple dietary restrictions at one time. Need something that's both dairy and gluten free? Try the baklawa stuffed date! Need a dessert that's low glycemic index and grain free? Try the tiramisu date! Need something for your vegetarian paleo friend who is carb-loading for a marathon? Try the persimmon pudding stuffed date! (but check with them first because that's kind of a lot).

persimmon pudding

persimmon pudding

ripe persimmons + cinnamon + nutmeg

Stuff each date with a small wedge of persimmon. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon, and a little bit of nutmeg.

chocolate covered pretzel dates

chocolate-covered pretzel

pretzel nuggets + chocolate

Stuff each date with a pretzel and dip the bottoms in chocolate.

apple crisp date

apple crisp

granny smith apple slices + streusel topping

For 8 dates: combine 3 tablespoons oats (gluten free, if necessary), 1 teaspoon sugar, a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, and 1 tablespoon butter (or 2 teaspoons oil). Microwave for 30 seconds just to melt, then stir. Cook for 30 to 60 more seconds, until crispy and golden brown.

Stuff each date with a slice of apple, and pack the streusel topping around it. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

baklawa dates


walnut + cardamom + chopped pistachios

Stuff each date with a few broken walnut pieces. Roll the pistachios in a pinch or two of cardamom, and pack the pistachios in the remaining space.

raspberry cheesecake

raspberry cheesecake

cream cheese + honey + graham cracker crumbles + raspberry halves

Sweeten the cream cheese with a little honey (the date will add a lot of sweetness—you can even skip the honey if you'd like). Stuff each date with a layer of graham cracker crumbs, a layer of cream cheese, another light sprinkle of graham cracker crumbs to garnish, and a halved raspberry.

pecan pie date

pecan pie

shortbread + pecan

Cut or break the shortbread into small chunks. Stuff each date with a chunk of shortbread and one pecan.

s'mores date


roast mini marshmallow + graham cracker + chocolate dip

Roast the marshmallows with a culinary torch, gas stove, or warm them in the microwave for a couple seconds. Stuff each date with a couple marshmallows and a chunk of graham cracker, and dip the bottoms in chocolate.

Use vegan marshmallows to make this vegan.

tiramisu dates


Turkish coffee + cocoa powder + honey + mascarpone

Roll the dates in equal parts finely ground coffee and cocoa powder (if the dates are dry and not sticky, brush them with a little water, let them sit for a few minutes, and dry off any excess water before rolling). Stuff each date with honey-sweetened mascarpone, and dust with a little more cocoa powder.

banana split date

banana split

banana + whipped cream + chopped peanuts + sprinkles + halved cherries

Stuff each date with a banana slice. Top with whipped cream, peanuts, sprinkles, and a 1/2 maraschino cherry.

slow roast persimmon sundae

Slow Roast Persimmon Sundae

How to choose
persimmons. This is precision. 
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted. 
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
will be fragrant. How to eat: 
put the knife away, lay down newspaper. 
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat. 
Chew the skin, suck it, 
and swallow. Now, eat
the meat of the fruit, 
so sweet, 
all of it, to the heart. 

- excerpt from "Persimmons" by Li-Young Lee

Slow Roast Persimmon Sundae

Lee's poem is the first recipe in this post: if you have ripe persimmons at home, enjoy one just as he describes. But the recipe that follows is for when you receive a gift basket of persimmons for the holidays, or when you find a huge crate of them at Costco. Make sure you let them ripen until they feel almost like water balloons, enjoy as many as you'd like fresh, and then move on to ice cream sundaes (edit: or persimmon upside-down cake) when you feel up for a change.

Slow Roast Persimmon Sundae
Slow Roast Persimmon Sundae

The recipe below is for an autumn ice cream sundae with slow roast persimmons, caramel sauce, and raw pistachios. This is one of those desserts that's perfect for entertaining. In fact, you hardly need a recipe: buy a few pre-made ingredients, roast some persimmons, throw everything together, and you've got an elegant and impressive dessert. Or simply serve your guests a platter of persimmons, because sometimes less is more.

You can certainly buy caramel or dulce de leche for this sundae, but you can also make your own if you feel like it. My favorite way of making caramel is slowly simmering a sealed can of sweetened condensed milk for a couple hours and then letting it cool. There's a great tutorial on Serious Eats (make sure you read it so that you don't make the can explode!). The caramel in these photos was simmered for 2 hours and then thinned out with a little water, but you can go a little longer to get a darker color and deeper flavor.

Slow Roast Persimmon Sundae
Slow Roast Persimmon Sundae
Slow Roast Persimmon Sundae

Some things never leave a person: 
scent of the hair of one you love, 
the texture of persimmons, 
in your palm, the ripe weight.

Slow Roast Persimmon Sundae

slow roast persimmon sundae with raw pistachios and caramel

yield: 4 big servings *
active time: 15 minutes
total time: about 90 minutes
download a
PDF to print

4 persimmons
Oil, to coat
1/3 cup raw pistachios
1 quart (2 pints) of vanilla, almond, or pistachio ice cream
Caramel sauce **

  • Preheat the oven to 325° F.

  • Cut the persimmons in half from one side to the other, rather than cutting from stem to end. Coat them in a little oil, place them on a sheet pan, and roast them for about 60 to 90 minutes.

  • The persimmons are done once they have shrunk down, but are still a little juicy.

  • Scoop 1 cup of ice cream into each of 4 bowls. Drizzle with caramel (either hot or cold), top with pistachios, and tuck 2 persimmon halves into the sides of each bowl.

* This recipe can be easily multiplied or divided (each serving comes out to 2 persimmon halves, 1 heaping tablespoon pistachios, 1 cup of ice cream, and 2 tablespoons of caramel sauce). These are very big servings, so feel free to scale things back accordingly.
** This recipe for caramel sauce is pictured here, but you can also use store-bought. If you're going to use the pictured sauce cold, thin it out a little with some water or milk, until it's a pourable consistency.

Slow Roast Persimmon Sundae