Date Syrup: A Sweet Addition to your Pantry

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Tasting Jerusalem August 2014

date syrupWhether you call it silan, dibbis, molasses, honey, or syrup, the boiled down sweet essence of the ancient date is an under-used, little known powerhouse of sweet, fruity, tangy flavor that deserves a prominent spot on your pantry shelf.

Date molasses is thick like traditional molasses and just as dark. It’s sweet with fruity undertones. In the Bible, “honey” is not from bees, but is date honey, writes Gabriella Gershenson in an article in Saveur magazine .

Cookbook author Faye Levy wrote about date molasses in a Jerusalem Post article. She says that Iraqi Jews brought it to Israel. Date syrup/molasses is made by simmering dried dates in water until they are thick like porridge. Then it’s put in a wet cloth bag and squeezed. The resulting juice is simmered on a low heat until thickened.

Levy says that in the Middle East, date molasses is often eaten at breakfast. As our Tasting Jerusalem cooks have already noted, people mix date molasses with tahina paste and serve the peanut butter stand-in with bread.

In Israel, Gershenson saw date molasses drizzled over roasted cauliflower and enriching sautéed eggplant. “I brought a jar home and started stirring it into yogurt, salad dressings, and braising liquids—anywhere that honey or maple syrup might go—to impart a concentrated dried-fruit richness,” she writes.

If using date syrup as a sweetener, The Kitchn blog advises that date syrup isn’t as sweet as agave nectar or honey, but is sweeter than granulated sugar so use less (about 1/3 less.)

You can find date syruponline at Amazon, through Ottolenghi’s store or at your local Mediterranean or Middle Eastern market.

August Date Syrup Recipes from the Cookbook Include:

Pureed Beet Dip with Yogurt & Za’atar (pg 52) includes date syrup to give the beet’s sweetness a subtle boost, which balances the dip’s garlic and green onion.

date syrup

Chunky Zucchini & Tomato Salad (pg 84) which would be a perfect foil for that bumper crop of squash and tomatoes you have in your garden right now

Butternut Squash & Tahini spread (pg 69) – this recipe will get you ready for fall if you are in the northern hemisphere

Roasted Cauliflower & Hazelnut Salad (pg 62) – Sub date syrup for the maple syrup

date syrupNon-cookbook recipe suggestions:

Chicken wings with date syrup via Hannah from Blue Kale Road

date syrup

Photo courtesy of the blog Blue Kale Road

In The Foods of Israel Today, Joan Nathan writes about a delicious dish she ate in the Negev that had grilled quail seasoned with cumin and cardamom and served with dried fruit. The sauce was made from date syrup and red wine. Here is a variation on that recipe in an article in a Jewish Women’s International magazine.

The Washington Post offers this pomegranate molasses/date syrup combo on baked chicken, a great way to use last September’s ingredient with this August’s topic.

And Michele Kayal of the blog The Hyphenated Chef offers another pomegranate and date molasses combo in a refreshing and tangy Middle Eastern salad.

It can be used as a maple syrup substitute in many recipes. Use it over waffles or yogurt and fruit, as Beth has done. Or use it to make homemade granola, as Sarene and Beth have done.

date syrup

date syrup

Or how about in ice cream, like Sue Busch of the blog Couscous and Consciousness has done:

date syrup

Photo courtesy of Couscous and Consciousness

Or maybe a refreshing mocktail to kick off the weekend – try this Jallab by Samantha Ferraro of the blog The Little Ferraro Kitchen

date syrup

Photo courtesy of the blog The Little Ferraro Kitchen


Welcome to Tasting Jerusalem

If you’re new to the group, here are our “rules” (there really aren’t any except to cook and share your experiences.)

Group Guidelines:

  1. How often will we cook: We’ll pick a new set of recipes monthly to allow us all to fit in the cooking when we can and to find any ingredients that might not be available at your typical grocery store stop.
  2. Do I need to cook all the recipes?: We offer up several recipes to fit your taste buds, menus, schedules – cook as many or as few as you desire. But once you start cooking from this book, you probably won’t stop!
  3. What do I need to participateJerusalem: A Cookbook Plus an interest in cooking, willingness to try new flavors, and an electronic device that communicates via the Internet. We will always post the month’s information in a blog post via so you can subscribe to Beth’s blog to be guaranteed to receive it or just check in frequently via the Facebook page or Twitter hashtag #TastingJrslm
  4. How to share what you cook: Tasting Jerusalem is open to anyone. You do not have to be a blogger or food professional of any sort. But if you have a camera, we encourage you to share photos of your dishes on Twitter or the Facebook page or Instagram, using the hashtag #TastingJrslm – we all love to see the results of your kitchen adventures. New to these types of social media? Just drop me an email beth (at) omgyummy (dot) com – I’ll be glad to help you get started.
  5. What recipes can be published and how to publish: We expect to cook through most, if not all, of the recipes in the cookbook over time. As such, for those of us blogging or writing about our experiences in any way, it’s important that we don’t include the recipe in our blog posts, unless Ten Speed Press has approved its use. The goal of the group is to learn together and enrich our experience using this cookbook, not create an online version of it. We are in touch with Ten Speed Press to find out which recipes we can post. For an example of another group that writes about their cooking but doesn’t post each recipe, please visit French Fridays with Dorie. If you legitimately change a recipe, rewrite the headnote and instructions, and choose to share it, please say you’ve adapted it, giving credit to the source including a link to purchase the cookbook.
  6. What if I have questions? Sarene and I will be monitoring the Facebook page and Twitter hashtag #TastingJrslm almost continuously so just leave us a note there. If you see a question and know the answer, jump on in before us. Part of the fun of the group will be each of us sharing our own knowledge, perspectives and ideas.
  7. What to include if you write a blog post: If you do post about what you cook, please let us know – we will link to it. And feel free to post it on the Facebook page and Twitter with the #TastingJrslm hashtag. We’d also appreciate it if you would include this verbiage in the context of your post:

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ten Speed Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to, following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest.”



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7 Responses to Date Syrup: A Sweet Addition to your Pantry

  1. sandycorman August 30, 2014 at 9:40 am #

    Sounds interesting. Looks wonderful on the baked chicken.

    • Beth Lee September 2, 2014 at 8:00 am #

      Yes, I really want to try baking chicken piece or wings as an appetizer, I bet it’s delicious.

  2. Deb August 30, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    Date syrup is a new-to-me ingredient. I am looking forward to seeing the creative recipes! My mom often cooked and baked with molasses. Can date syrup be used in place of traditional molasses? I might have to try a few of her recipes with this new ingredient!

    • Beth Lee September 2, 2014 at 8:03 am #

      I have not tried it as a direct replacement for molasses yet but given it’s taste and consistency and all that I have read, I would say yes. Please check back in with us if you try it and let us know how it works. In any case, with your creativity, I just know you will like this ingredient in your kitchen Deb. Thanks for coming by.

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