Reminiscent of a Snickers bar, this no-bake date bark is crunchy, chewy, sweet and salty all at once. Made with just a few nutritious ingredients, and with ten minutes of (fun!) prep time, it'll be your new favourite healthier sweet treat.
Once in a while a recipe rises on social media, propelling the masses to actually stop scrolling and get into the kitchen. This was that recipe for me.
Originally spotted on That Health Junkie, this viral date bark was immediate love-at-first-sight, which first bite wholeheartedly confirmed. Fast forward (a few trays later), I’ve put my own salty, pea-nutty spin on it.
As a Registered Nutritionist, I’m all about sweet treats that offer good nutrition bang-for-buck, without compromising on taste. This healthier dessert idea is a winner — it’s perfect for the vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free crowd, and with a few tweaks can cater to those with nut allergies (seed butter anyone?).
First up – what is dark bark? It’s a variation of ‘bark’ confectionery, typically made by spreading melted chocolate onto a flat surface, adding toppings, letting it harden, and then breaking into pieces. Instead, date bark features medjool dates as its base and is topped with nut butter, melted chocolate and nuts.
Medjool dates. The heart of our bark. They’re larger, softer, stickier, and more caramel-like than other date varieties (like Deglet Noor). This recipe uses 15 standard Medjool dates (in 5×3 rows).
Smooth peanut butter. A creamy and nutty layer that complements the dates perfectly. Look for peanut butter with minimal ingredients—just peanuts and salt. A drippy style with a higher oil content can be easier to spread.
Dark chocolate. Opt for a 70% cocoa solid dark chocolate bar with a slight bitterness. The bitterness complements the natural sweetness of the dates like a dream!
Coconut oil. A touch of coconut oil added to melted chocolate serves a dual purpose. It slightly thins the chocolate, making it easier to spread, and helps achieve a smooth and glossy finish when hardened.
Roasted salted peanuts. While the original recipe uses flaky sea salt on top, I’m all for the extra crunch and burst of flavour of roasted salted peanuts.
If your Medjool dates are on the smaller side you may want to tweak the amount of nut butter, peanut and chocolate you use – or just add a few more dates into the mix.
Step-by-Step: Chocolate Date Bark
Here are tips and tricks to help your kitchen skills grow while improving the outcome of this dish:
Use (the right sharp) knife. A sharp knife makes slicing easier, resulting in more presentable and safer cuts. For the dates a paring knife (small) is ideal, while a chef’s knife (larger) works fabulously for slicing the bark into squares.
Smoosh the dates flat with a glass. Dates have a natural oval shape and soft, sticky texture. When sliced open and gently pressed down, they can be moulded flat, resulting in a relatively flat surface – perfect for the foundation of our date bark. Make sure to smoosh inside-side down, otherwise things get a bit sticky.
Freeze and cut in a timely manner. A quick 30 minutes in the freezer is all this dish needs to harden and reach prime-cutting consistency. If it’s in there for ages it can be a bit of a mission to cut.
Serving & Storing
Once the chocolate has set in the freezer, remove the tray, place the date bark onto a chopping board and slice the bark into squares. Then store pieces in an airtight container in the fridge until feasting time.
Flavour wise, if you’d like to veer off course to something more aligned to your tastebuds, definitely do – this recipe is easily customisable. Here are ideas:
Peanut allergy or not a peanut fan? Substitute in roasted salted almonds and almond butter, or try hazelnut butter with chopped hazelnuts.
Nut-free? Opt for sunflower seed butter and sunflower seeds. Or, for something gourmet foodie, spread the dates with tahini, mix a little rose essence into your chocolate and sprinkle the top with edible rose petals and chopped pistachios.
Want to dial up the crunch factor? Add a sprinkle of popcorn, rice crispy cereal, seeds, granola or coconut flakes.
Milk chocolate lover? Swap the dark chocolate out for milk chocolate.
What are the nutritional benefits of medjool dates? Medjool dates are a versatile and easy add to your diet. They’re great snacked on raw, blended into smoothies, or as a natural sweetener in desserts – like this recipe! Here are a few of their nutrition perks:
Each Medjool date (around 24-28 grams) contains approximately 1.6 to 1.8 grams of dietary fibre. Fun fact: they’re classified as having a low-moderate glycemic index (aka a measure of blood sugar impact). This translates to a smoother, steadier rise in blood sugar levels after eating.
They offer a natural energy boost, due to being a concentrated source of natural sugars. However, their low-moderate glycemic index, and the potential to pair with protein and fat-rich foods (like peanut butter), work together to be kinder on blood sugar levels (portion size is key too!).
They’re rich in antioxidants. Medjool dates boast several antioxdiants, which help protect cells from oxidative damage, include flavonoids, carotenoids, and phenolic acids (1). One study in dried fruit found that dates had the highest antioxidant content when compared with figs and prunes (2).
If your medjool dates are not pitted (aka had the pit removed), gently make a lengthwise slice down one side of the Medjool date, and then carefully pull open the date to reveal the pit. Remove the pit from the date and discard.
Make the dark bark
Line a baking tray with baking/parchment paper.
Gently spread open the dates. Using the bottom of a glass cup, gently flatten each date, inside-side down (you can do this on the baking tray or on a chopping board).
Add the dates inside-side down, in rows of 5×3, onto a lined baking tray, overlapping each. Your glass cup can help fuse them together by pressing down gently.
Spread the peanut butter overtop, using the back on a spoon to evenly swirl.
Sprinkle over 4 Tbsp of the peanut halves (reserving one Tbsp for later).
Smoosh the peanuts down using the back of a Tbsp, so they’re sitting relatively even and flat.
Break the dark chocolate into squares. Place in a heat-proof bowl and microwave in 30 seconds bursts until melted. Make sure to check it periodically, so it doesn't burn!
Add the coconut oil to the melted chocolate and mix together.
Drizzle the melted chocolate and coconut oil overtop the dark bark, using the back of a Tbsp to evenly cover the surface.
Sprinkle the reserved peanuts overtop. Place the tray in the freezer to harden for 30 minutes.
Remove from the freezer, place date bark onto a chopping board and cut into 12 squares using a knife.