Date Sugar: Make or Buy?
Raw date sugar is made by dehydrating pitted dates at a low temperature in an oven or dehydrator, and then grinding the dehydrated fruit into sugar-like granules or powder. Because date sugar made using this method has not been exposed to high temperatures, it is a great whole food sweetener for people following a raw food diet. Date sugar can also be made by baking dates at a high temperature before grinding, in which case the resulting sweetener can no longer be considered a raw food ingredient.
Below, we take a look at the pros and cons of buying raw date sugar vs. making your own. In this article, you'll also find a basic recipe for homemade raw sugar which can made with or without a dehydrator.
Buying Raw Date Sugar: Pros vs Cons
The main advantage of buying date sugar rather than making it yourself is that all you have to do is head to a health food store or online grocer that stocks this whole food sweetener, and simply buy a bag. Unfortunately, however, not all health food stores sell date sugar, and depending on where you live, you may find it hard to source this all-natural whole food sweetener, plus it can be quite expensive. The good news is that if you have trouble finding raw date sugar in brick-and-mortar health food stores, you can always buy raw date sugar online. Here are a couple of useful links:
When evaluating whether it's worth buying date sugar rather than making it yourself from whole dates, it is also important to keep in mind that when you make it yourself, the ingredients are not the only thing that cost you money. Ovens and dehydrators run on electricity, and not all models are energy-efficient. If you are thinking about buying a raw food dehydrator but don't know which brand to go for, check out the special feature Looking to Buy a Dehydrator? at the bottom of this page.
Making Date Sugar (With or Without a Dehydrator)
While making date sugar at home may require some practice, there are several reasons why you might want to make date sugar rather than buy it. First, a bag of dates is typically cheaper than a bag of date sugar, plus you can buy dried dates in practically every grocery store. The most common variety you will find in the grocery stores is Deglet Noor, and it usually also the cheapest variety. Deglet Noor dates are preferred by many commercial producers of date sugar, and also the following recipe calls for this variety. However, you can also use other types of dates, such as Medjool dates, to make your date sugar using the recipe below, but the dehydrating temperature and time may need to be adjusted.
Another great thing about making your own date sugar from dried whole dates is that you don't need some fancy piece of equipment to make a batch. Having a raw food dehydrator on hand is a plus, but you can also make date sugar without a dehydrator – all you need is an oven. The recipe for raw date sugar below requires an oven that you can set at a relatively low temperature, but there are also non-raw-food recipes that use higher temperatures.
Having a high-powered blender, such as a Vitamix or Thermomix, is also a plus, but not a must if you have a powerful food processor that can handle dried dates, or a coffee grinder.
Finally, the most basic recipe for date sugar only calls for one ingredient: dried whole dates. Some people like to enhance the basic recipe by adding a bit of starch – such as arrowroot powder, non-GMO cornstarch or tapioca starch – in order to prevent the date sugar granules from forming clumps.
Raw Food Recipe for Date Sugar
- Whole Deglet Noor dates
- 1/3 tsp starch for every cup of dates, optional
- Halve the dates and remove the pits. Arrange the halved dates in a single layer on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, or on a dehydrator tray if you want to make date sugar in a dehydrator. Place the tray in the oven or a dehydrator.
- Place the tray in the oven or dehydrator, and let the dates dry at 120°F until they are hard, about 3 hours (the drying time may vary from oven to oven and depending the type of dates you are using). Turn the oven or dehydrator off but leave the dates in to cool down and dry out.
- After several hours or the next day, transfer the dried dates to a strong blender or food processor, or to a coffee grinder if you are looking to make very fine date sugar. Add the starch, if using.
- Process until the dates break into sugar-like granules or powder. If your date sugar seems too clumpy or sticky at this point, you can still spread it on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake/dehydrate at a low temperature until the granules are very hard and dry.
- Use the date sugar immediately, or transfer to an airtight container for storage. When using date sugar, keep in mind that unlike white sugar, date sugar does not dissolve in water.
Looking to Buy a Dehydrator?
If you are on the market for a high-end raw food dehydrator, you may have already heard of brands like Excalibur, Tribest Sedona and TSM Products. But which brand will save you the most money in the long term? In general, Excalibur is better than TSM in terms of energy efficiency, while Tribest Sedona and Excalibur dehydrators use about the same amount of watts. However, as far as energy efficiency goes, Tribest Sedona has one major advantage over Excalibur: Tribest Sedona Combo (SD-S9150/P9150) and Tribest Sedona Classic (SD-S9000/P9000) come with two fans which can be used either simultaneously or independently, so you can save energy by turning off one of the fans when you are dehydrating a smaller batch of food, such as a few cups of dates for homemade date sugar.
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