Many whole-food recipes call for dates as a sweetener, but if you’re trying to reduce the sugars in your diet you may be avoiding those recipes. A simple solution is to ferment the dates to reduce their sugar content, so you can have a date-sweetened treat now and then! Fermenting dates also adds in some beneficial bacteria, which is great for your gut health.
I love the flavour of fermented dates – they add an extra layer of flavour to the recipe, giving the finished result more depth and deliciousness. Scroll down for lots of recipes you can make with fermented dates!
Fermenting dates is super easy.
You basically cover dates with a liquid that promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria, like coconut water kefir, kombucha or whey, and leave it for a day or two.
Where can you find these ingredients?
The longer the dates ferment, the more sugar is removed.
- Coconut water kefir is easy to make with water kefir grains and pure coconut water. Ask your friends or ask in the Quirky Community if you’re looking for kefir grains – people often have some to give away. See my Coconut Water Kefir recipe in Simple, Healing Food. You may also be able to buy a bottle at a health store.
- Kombucha is easy to buy at most health stores and grocery stores these days – just look for one that doesn’t have added chemical sweeteners like xylitol or erythritol (you want a pure, naturally fermented kombucha if possible) – or of course you can make your own with a kombucha scoby purchased from a health store. See my Honey Kombucha recipe in Simple, Healing Food. I’ve used plain or ginger and lemon kombucha to ferment dates – even berry kombucha would be fine.
- Whey is the cloudy liquid that separates from yoghurt – you can drip your homemade yoghurt (or plain bought yoghurt) through a nut-milk bag or muslin in a colander over a bowl, and it will separate into thick yoghurt (or labne) and whey. Or if you make your own cheeses you’ll have plenty of whey on hand, ready to use.
- Dates can be purchased at the grocery store or health store – either dried dates or medjool dates will work in this recipe.
Dates are usually fermented for 1-2 days, as they can become quite alcoholic tasting if left too long. But you can leave it for another day or so if you like. Taste a little bit (with a clean spoon) after 24 hours in warm weather, or leave it for 48 hours in cooler weather. Add more time if needed. (You’ll see little bubbles on the edges as it ferments, and it will taste slightly tangy.)
What kind of jar do I need?
You don’t need special equipment like airlock jars for fermented dates, just a glass jar with a screw-top lid. Make sure there’s a few centimetres space between the dates and the top of the jar, in case the volume expands while fermenting.
How do I store them and how long do they last?
Once fermented, store the fermented dates in the fridge. They will last for months (or even years!) in a sealed jar in the fridge.
How do I use fermented dates?
Here’s some recipes you can add them to – just swap regular dates for the same weight of fermented dates:
400g pitted dates, roughly chopped
190ml (3/4 cup) coconut water kefir, plain kombucha or whey, or to cover
- Place chopped dates into a large glass jar. (I use a 750ml jar with a screw-top lid. You don’t need an airlock jar for this ferment.)
- Pour water kefir, kombucha or whey over the fruit and stir through. Press dates down under the liquid as much as possible.
- Leave on the bench to ferment for 1-2 days. Bubbles will start to form as the dates begin to ferment. You can taste a little bit to make sure they are ready – they should taste slightly tangy but not alcoholic. Fermenting time may take slightly longer (about 3 days) during winter, and in summer you may only need to ferment for 24 hours.
- Transfer the jar to the fridge for storage (don’t strain off any liquid). They will last in the fridge for months or even years.
- Use fermented dates in smoothies, desserts, bliss balls, raw ‘cheesecakes’ and more!