Gluten free date squares are a modern take on a classic dessert, with a date filling but minus the butter and white sugar. It’s not super sweet, so you can have it as dessert, but also as a snack or part of breakfast.
A Canadian specialty, date squares are present at any event on the prairies (on the west coast they’re called matrimonial squares), cut into tiny pieces on a dainty tray. They’re almost universally loved, and I grew up eating them.
This version has been made GF by using oat flour alongside the rolled oats for the base and crumble topping. They’re also dairy-free and vegan, made with solid coconut oil instead of butter. The date flavour comes through really well and you still have that sweet, sticky filling and crumbly bar.
Our apple crumble bars were inspired by date squares and feature similar ingredients.
Why You Should Try This Recipe
Sweet without being overwhelming, the date flavour is more noticeable in these slightly healthier date squares. It’s the perfect little treat for any time of day.
- It’s flexible: you can use any nut butter and add other spices like nutmeg to customise your squares.
- You can use any dates: no need for expensive medjool dates. Cheaper deglet noor work just as well, and dry dates can be soaked beforehand.
- Store in the freezer: the idea make-ahead dessert, these are best when kept frozen so you don’t need to worry about them spoiling too quickly.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Rolled oats: if you’re making these for someone with coeliac remember to get certified gluten-free oats. They’re naturally free of gluten, but often come into contact with wheat during production.
- Flaxseed: this provides binding. I haven’t tried using chia (seeds or flour) but they might work as a substitute.
- Nut butter: I almost always use peanut butter, but hazelnut is a good sub. For nut-free bars, use sunflower seed butter.
- Coconut oil: it’s necessary to use an oil or fat that’s solid at room temperature. Butter (vegan or not) probably works, but I haven’t tried it. Use refined coconut oil to avoid any slight coconut taste.
Step by Step
1. Make the crumble: mix the base and crumble topping, dividing and pressing the base into the tin.
2. Make the filling: blend the date mixture until very smooth.
3. Add filling: spread the date mixture over the bar base.
4. Add topping and bake: sprinkle the crumble over the bars and bake until golden.
If you can’t see the recipe video, please watch it here on YouTube instead.
If you don’t have a freezer, or no space in it, the bars can be stored in the refrigerator instead. They’ll be softer but still taste good.
If you don’t have a food processor, I think it’s still possible to make the date squares. You’ll have to be prepared to use a lot of elbow grease, though, and the dates must be very soft. Medjool are probably better in this case. Simply mash the filling ingredients by hand with a fork until ver smooth.
How to Store
Storage: the bars can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days but are best frozen. I don’t recommend keeping them out at room temperature for an extended period.
Freezing: these are best served frozen, or thawed for just a few minutes. Freeze the bars solid in a single layer before transferring to an airtight container and freezing for up to three months.
- Soak the dates: if the dates are at all dry or hard, soak them in very hot water for at least half an hour. Drain well before blending.
- Use rolled oats: quick cook oats are fine in a pinch, but rolled are best. Steel cut oats can’t be used here.
- Make your own oat flour: blend rolled oats in a food processor until a fine flour forms (the oats can be weighed before blending, same weight as the flour).
- Cool fully: these have a tendency to crumble if sliced before they cool fully. I recommend freezing for a few minutes first as outlined in the recipe card.
More Date Recipes
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Gluten Free Date Squares
- 100 grams oat flour*
- 150 grams rolled oats
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
- 50 grams coconut sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 80 grams coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk or water
- 300 grams soft dates seeded**
- 2 tablespoons nut butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt optional, to taste
- 1-2 tablespoons water only if needed
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a 20 cm (8 inch) square baking pan with parchment paper.
- Add the oats, oat flour, flaxseed, coconut sugar, cinnamon, and salt to a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine.100 grams oat flour*, 150 grams rolled oats, 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed, 50 grams coconut sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Add the coconut oil and milk. Use your hands to mix until a soft, crumbly consistency is reached. When pressed, the mixture should hold its shape.80 grams coconut oil, 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk
- Press two-thirds of the crumble mixture into the base of the prepared baking pan. Use the back of a spoon to press into a firm, even layer. Set aside the remaining third.
- Spread the date filling in an even layer over the base. Add the reserved crumble topping over the date mixture.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges and top are a light golden colour. Cool fully before slicing. If possible, freeze for about 10 minutes before slicing for the tidiest bars. Store in the freezer and serve cold.
- Add the dates, nut butter, vanilla, and salt to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Blend on high speed until a very smooth paste forms. If the mixture is too firm to spread, add a tablespoon of water and blend to incorporate. Add a second tablespoon if needed. If the dates are soft enough, no water should be required.300 grams soft dates, 2 tablespoons nut butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, 1-2 tablespoons water
This post was first published in January 2015. It has been updated with new images and text, and the recipe has been improved, as of October 2022.