Old-fashioned date squares have a delicious oatmeal crumble and chewy date middle. This recipe has the perfect ratio of crumble to filling, with a hint of cinnamon for a delicious flavor.
Date bars are a classic recipe that’s absolutely delicious, despite having very simple ingredients. I’ve heard these squares called date crumbles or matrimonial bars, but no matter the name, I can’t imagine a dainty tray without them. This recipe has the perfect ratio of oatmeal crumble to date filling, and the crumble is buttery and flavorful without being too dry.
I like my date squares with a thick, chewy layer of dates in the middle. But getting the right flavor is key. We’re actually adding a little orange juice to the date filling. The orange adds natural sweetness, and the acid helps to soften the dates as well.
The Best Date Squares
I like to use Medjool dates – but any pitted date will work. The date mixture gets boiled down first to soften the dates and bring out the flavor. If you don’t boil down the date mixture first, you’ll end up with hard pieces from the skin in the bars – which you definitely don’t want. You’ll make the date filling first, then let it cool as you make the base/topping.
The oatmeal crumble doubles as the base and topping for this recipe. We’re using brown sugar and a hint of cinnamon for more flavor, and real butter for that (obviously) delicious buttery flavor. I like to use quick-oats in this recipe because I find it produces a more uniform crumble than old-fashioned oats – but either will work.
To assemble the bars you’ll reserve about 1 cup of the oatmeal crumble for the topping, then the rest gets pressed into an even layer at the bottom of a lined 8×8 inch pan. Spread the filling on top of the base. then crumble the reserved topping on top. It will need to bake for about 50-60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
This recipe can also be made in a 9×9 inch pan if you prefer – the squares will just be slightly thinner and the bake time will be about 40-50 minutes.
When slicing the bars, you’ll need them to cool fully first (about 4 hours) – this way the filling will fully set and you’ll get clean cuts. You can lift the bars out of the pan using the overhang of the parchment paper (I always line the pan first) the place on a cutting board. This makes the bars so much easier to slice and remove from the pan.
Make-Ahead and Freezing
Date squares will last in an airtight container at room temperature for about 3-4 days, or in the fridge for up to a week. They also freeze really well. Just ensure that the bars are fully cooled before freezing and be sure to freeze in an airtight container. Then thaw overnight in the fridge.
I love these date bars because they have a deliciously crumbly oatmeal topping, sweet date filling, and way more flavor than any other date recipe I’ve tried. They’re one of my favorite retro desserts and I can’t think of a dainty tray – whether its for a church tea or Christmas party – without them.
And for more delicious old-fashioned desserts, be sure to try:
- 8x8 inch pan
- 3 cups pitted Medjool dates* about 400 grams
- ¾ cup water
- ¼ cup orange juice
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
Oatmeal Crumble (for the base and topping)
- 1 ½ cups quick oats*
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup unsalted butter softened, but not melted
- 1 cup brown sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) degrees and position the oven rack in the center of the oven.
- Line an 8x8 inch (20x20 cm) pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang around the edges of the pan.
- Chop the dates into pieces (they don't need to be tiny).
- Add the dates, water, orange juice and brown sugar to a saucepan over low-medium heat. Gently stir the mixture as the dates boil down and start to soften.
- Once the dates are soft enough that they begin to fall apart and you could mash them with a fork, the mixture is done. Remove from the heat.
- In a medium bowl stir together the oats, flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.
- In a large bowl beat together the brown sugar and butter until there's no lumps.
- Gently mix the dry ingredients into the butter - you can do this by hand or with the mixer on low speed. Stop as soon as the mixture is combined (be careful not to over mix). It should be crumbly.
Assembling & Baking
- Reserve about 1 cup of the oatmeal crumble for the topping, press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the lined pan.
- Spread the date filling over the base and sprinkle the reserved oatmeal mixture over the top.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack (still in the pan) until completely cooled - about 4 hours.
- To slice, lift the bars out of the pan using the overhang from the parchment paper and place on a cutting board. Slice with a sharp knife.
- A 9x9 inch pan will work for this recipe. The bars will be thinner however, and the bake time will be a bit shorter - about 40-50 minutes. I tested the bake time for this recipe using a metal pan. If using a glass or ceramic pan, the bake time may be slightly different.
- Any kind of dried, pitted date will work for this recipe. I prefer Medjool because I think they have the best flavor.
- Old-fashioned oats (AKA large, flake oats) will work too. Do not use instant oats or steel-cut oats.
- Store bars in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3-4 days, or in the fridge for up to a week. Bars can be frozen for up to 2 months, then thaw in the fridge.
- Nutrition information is an estimate only and based on 1 bar, assuming the pan is sliced into 16 equal pieces.