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Date squares are a popular dessert in Canada around Christmastime. Everyone loves the thick layer of date filling and the crunchy oat topping and base. They make a fantastic addition to a plate of Christmas cookies, and can freeze extremely well. You just might not have any extra ones to freeze, though! 😉
These squares are pretty simple to put together. Simmer the date mixture for about 10 minutes to thicken it, then let it cool. Pack half of the oat mixture into the bottom of a square cake pan, spread on the dates, and pat the rest of the oats on top. After about 40 minutes of baking, you have a pan of delicious date squares just waiting for you cut into them. Be careful not to overbake the squares, though, as this will make them extra crunchy, crumbly, and dry.
Classic date squares have a crunchy oat topping and a thick layer of moist date filling. They freeze well and are popular with adults and kids alike.
For the Date Filling
- 2 1/2 cups chopped dates
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
- 1 1/4 cups filtered water
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Oat Mixture
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
Making the Date Filling (5 minutes + 10 minutes cooking + 30 minutes cooling)
- Stir together the dates, brown sugar, water, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. 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 let it cool. Set aside.
Making the Oat Mixture (5 minutes)
- Mix together the flour and baking soda in a medium bowl, then add the brown sugar, cinnamon, oats, and butter. Mash everything together until well combined.
Assembling & Baking the Squares (15 minutes + 40 minutes baking + 1-2 hours cooling)
- 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. This helps the squares come out easily from the pan, and protects the pan from knife scratches.
- 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 as before.
- Bake at 375 F for 35-40 minutes, being careful not to overbake the squares.
- Let the squares cool in the pan for 1-2 hours, until quite cool.
- To remove from the pan, run a butter knife around the edge of the pan, if you didn’t line it with parchment paper, and turn out the squares on a large cutting board. Depending on the type of pan you use, if you cut the squares in the pan, it could damage it. Slice the dates into squares with a sharp knife and serve.
- Speed up the cooling time for the date filling by putting it in the freezer for a few minutes.
- Freeze extra date squares and defrost to enjoy later.
- Date squares make a great dessert to pack for school, work and picnic lunches.