Date squares are an authentic, old fashioned Canadian dessert.  This moist layered treat is made from dates and an oatmeal crumble.  Make this easy dessert for kids or adults—it’s sure to be a hit!

Prep Time: 25 minutes
two plates of Canadian date squares
Bars, Desserts Under 300 Calories, Desserts with No Egg

Classic Canadian Date Squares

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This recipe was originally published on November 24, 2017.

Date squares are a popular dessert in Canada, especially at Christmastime.  Everyone loves the thick layer of date filling and the crunchy oat topping and base.  You won’t be disappointed with this simple, comforting treat!

person holding a date square

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What are date squares?

Date squares are a layer of cooked dates sandwiched between two layers of oatmeal crumble, then baked until golden.  They are cut in small squares and typically served with coffee or other cookies and bars.

Where did date squares originate?

Date squares undoubtedly originated in Canada, although it’s not clear whether they came from Newfoundland, Quebec, or some other province.  Scottish, Irish, or even French Canadian cuisines may have influenced the creation of date squares.  This tasty treat has been popular for many decades throughout Canada, and can be known as date squares, matrimonial cake, or date crumbles.

closeup of Canadian date squares

Are date squares healthy?

Date squares are often considered to be a healthier dessert, but they still contain a lot of sugar and butter.  If you’re trying to make healthier substitutions, feel free to cut down the sugar a little.  Don’t cut down the butter, however, or the crumble topping will be too dry.

When to Cut Date Squares

It’s best to cut date squares after they have cooled for about 45 minutes.  If you cut in too soon, they won’t cut very nicely.  For a cleaner cut, you can even chill the cooled bars in the fridge for a couple hours.

two plates of Canadian date squares

Why are my date squares crumbly?

Date squares are dry and crumbly when not enough butter is added to the oatmeal crumble.  My recipe uses 3/4 cup of butter (172g), which is just enough to hold the crumble together and keep it moist.  If your crumble seems too dry, just add a few extra pieces of butter and mix it in until the crumble is moist and clumpy.

How to Store Date Squares

Keep date squares in an airtight container or cookie tin at room temperature for up to 3 days.  If you live in a hot climate, refrigerate the bars for up to 7 days.

plate of Canadian date squares

How long will date squares keep?

Date squares will keep for 3 days at room temperature, 1 week in the fridge, and up to 3 months in the freezer.

Can date squares be frozen?

Yes, you can definitely freeze date squares–they keep exceptionally well in the freezer, and defrost quickly.  Simply seal the squares inside of a zip-top freezer bag or airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months.  Defrost at room temperature for an hour or two.

How to Make Date Squares

Gather the ingredients for the date filling.  You’ll need chopped dates, water, brown sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract.

ingredients for the date filling

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

boiled date filling in a saucepan

Turn the heat down to medium and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the mixture is thickened.  Spread the mix in a flat dish and refrigerate for 30 minutes to cool it.

cooked date filling in a saucepan

Gather the ingredients for the oatmeal crumble.  You’ll need all-purpose flour, old-fashioned rolled oats, brown sugar, unsalted butter, cinnamon, and baking soda.

oatmeal crumble ingredients

Mix all the crumble ingredients together until everything is well combined and the mixture forms clumps.

oatmeal crumble in a glass bowl

Lightly butter an 8×8-inch cake pan and line with parchment paper.  Pack half of the oatmeal crumble into the pan.

packing the oatmeal crumble into the square pan

Spread the cooled date filling on top, making sure to get all the way to the edges.

spreading the date filling on top of the oatmeal crumble base

Sprinkle the remaining oatmeal mixture on top of the dates.  Lightly pack down the layers with your hand.

putting the rest of the oatmeal crumble on top of the bars

Bake at 375 F for 35 minutes, until the topping is browned.  Let it cool on a wire rack for at least 45 minutes.

baked date squares in the pan

Once the squares have cooled for at least 45 minutes, carefully cut them into individual pieces with a sharp knife.  Enjoy!

sliced date squares on a cutting board

Pro Tips for Making Date Squares

  • Let the date filling cool before assembling the bars.  Otherwise, it will melt the butter in the crumble, making the bars greasy.
  • Tightly pack the oatmeal crumble.  This helps hold the bars together, making them more sturdy when baked and sliced.
  • In a hurry?  Cook the date filling and mix up the oatmeal crumble up to 3 days in advance, or bake the bars completely and freeze.
  • Line the pan with parchment paper.  This keeps the pan from getting scratched by the knife, and makes it easy to lift the bars out of the pan.
  • Allow the bars to cool before slicing.  If they are sliced when hot, they will not cut cleanly.  You can even chill the bars before slicing for a cleaner cut.

stack of Canadian date squares on wax paper

Our Go-To Kitchen Tools for Making Date Squares

Satisfy your sweet tooth with these other delicious bars.

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  • Nanaimo Bars: this decadent Canadian treat has layers of a coconut base, vanilla filling, and chocolate topping.
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  • Millionaire’s Shortbread: feel extra posh with these delicious chocolate, caramel, and shortbread bars.

The pleasure of a 5-star review for these date squares would be greatly appreciated.

Print
two plates of Canadian date squares

Classic Canadian Date Squares


  • Author: Emma
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
  • Yield: 30 squares 1x

Description

Date squares are an authentic, old fashioned Canadian dessert.  This moist layered treat is made from dates and an oatmeal crumble.  Make this easy dessert for kids or adults—it’s sure to be a hit!


Scale

Ingredients

For the Date Filling

  • 2 1/2 cups chopped dates (370g)
  • 1 1/4 cups filtered water (300 ml)
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar, packed (54g)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice, from 1 lemon (45 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (5 ml)

For the Oatmeal Crumble

  • 1 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (190g)
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (160g)
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed (200g)
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (172g)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Stir together the dates, brown sugar, water, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
  2. Turn the heat down to medium low, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened.  Spoon the mixture into a flat dish and place in the fridge to cool for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Mix together all the oatmeal crumble ingredients with your hands until well combined.  Small clumps of the mixture should hold together.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Lightly grease an 8×8 inch cake pan with butter, then line the base and sides with parchment paper.
  5. Firmly pack half of the oat mixture into the bottom of the pan, then evenly spread on the date filling.  Top with the remaining oat mixture, then pack it down again.
  6. Bake at 375 F for 35 minutes, until the topping is browned.  Let the squares cool in the pan for at least 45 minutes.
  7. Lift the squares out of the pan by grasping the parchment paper.  Carefully slice the dates into squares with a sharp knife and serve.

Notes

  • Make this recipe perfectly the first time.  Check out the step-by-step photos and pro tips before the recipe card.
  • The pleasure of a 5-star review for this classic date square recipe would be greatly appreciated.
  • 👩🏻‍🍳 Want to see our latest recipes?  Subscribe to our email newsletter to get our latest recipes, fun food facts, food puns, and behind the scenes news about our blog.
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Canadian

Keywords: healthy date bars, date squares

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6 thoughts on “Classic Canadian Date Squares

  1. I like the chewy dates, and I really love the cinnamon and oats. They’re a great combination! I easily eat two pieces!

  2. The chewy oats are nice, and the dates are soft. These squares definitely taste like dates, and are very buttery and delicious.

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