Use Dates To Elevate The Sweet Flavor Of Baked Beans Without Sugar

Baked beans are a hearty, delicious side that strikes a perfect balance between sweet and savory. It's worth noting, however, that in most recipes, that sweetness is due to the addition of brown sugar. This can be a problem for those avoiding refined sugar due to a dietary restriction or preference. And whether that's you or you just want to switch things up with a savory, nutritive alternative, substituting sugar for dates can give your beans a naturally subtle sweetness.

Dates are a Middle Eastern fruit celebrated for their tender texture and candy-like flavor. Just one date can contain up to 16 grams of sugar. What makes this different from refined sugar, however, is that all of this fruit's sugar is stored within complex carbohydrates that also offer quite a bit of fiber, meaning the sugar is digested more slowly. As a result, it will fuel your body more steadily and can be helpful to curb sudden spikes in blood sugar. In addition to these benefits, dates also have a deep, rich flavor that can mimic molasses-packed brown sugar quite well, so you won't feel like you're ending up with a lesser final product.

How to add dates to baked beans

In a classic baked bean recipe, it's typical to cook the sauce in the same pot as the beans; however to best incorporate the dates, you will need to make the sauce separately. Prepare your sauce ingredients as normal, then add them to a blender with your deseeded dates. Run the blender until the mixture has fully combined and has a uniform texture. After this quick detour, you can pour the sauce into a pot with your beans and continue to cook like any other recipe. 

There are many types of dates, but we recommend using Medjool dates for since they have one of the sweetest flavor profiles. You may also have the opportunity to choose between fresh versus dried dates, in which case you should select the fresh kind as they are less chewy and easier to blend. It is also worth opting for pre-pitted dates to save yourself the time of removing each fruit's large, woody seed when it comes time to cook.