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14 BEST Dates Substitutes + 1 To Avoid

I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of dates substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.

Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or seeking an alternative tailored to your specific dietary requirements, rest assured I’ve got you covered.

Ready-made date syrup is a no-brainer substitute, but it won’t give you the added texture of dates. Raisin paste is a fantastic date substitute for baking and it’s cheap. Other dried fruits like figs, apricots, or jujubes will work too.

Ready? Let’s jump right in.

The recipe

I made oatmeal cookies to test out various date substitutes.

Dates are fruits. They’re loaded with fiber and boast a soft and chewy texture, with an intensely sweet, caramel-like flavor.

They’re used in everything from smoothies to baking and are packed with nutrients.

I was looking for a substitute that would also work in a range of applications and had a similar rich flavor.

Here’s are the substitutes I tested and the verdicts:

SubstitutesHow to SubstituteVerdict
Ready-Made Date SyrupReplace the sugar in your recipe with an equal amount of date syrup10/10
Dried FigsReplace dates in a 1:1 ratio9/10
Dried JujubesReplace dates in a 1:1 ratio9/10
RaisinsReplace dates in a 1:1 ratio with raisins or sultanas9/10
Dried ApricotsReplace dates in a 1:1 ratio8/10
Other Dried FruitsReplace dates in a 1:1 ratio with your choice of dried fruits8/10
NutsReplace dates in a 1:1 ratio with your choice of nuts7/10

Common uses of dates

Here are some popular ways to use dates and the best substitutes for those situations:

  • For baking and desserts: Try using ready-made date syrup, dried figs, dried jujubes, or other dried fruits. Mashed banana or apple sauce are good binders.
  • Smoothies and shakes: Try using ready-made date syrup, dried figs, dried jujubes, or other dried fruits. Honey is good if all you want is sweetness.
  • For salads and other savory dishes: Try using dried figs, dried jujubes, raisins, dried apricots, or other dried fruits. You can also use a combination of ready-made date syrup and nuts for crunch and flavor. 


Prunes look super similar to dates, but they’re actually dried plums.

Prunes are milder in flavor, with more acidity and less sweetness. They’re also mushy rather than chewy.

But you can swap them for dates in a 1:1 ratio in most applications – they make great snacks on their own and I like them in smoothies if I already have lots of other sweet ingredients.

In baking, you might want to up the sugar content, or mix them with a sweeter dried fruit like apricots.

How to substitute: replace dates in a 1:1 ratio with prunes.

Dried figs

Dried figs are an excellent alternative for dates.

They’re also less sweet, but they have a deep, earthy flavor that will bring a similar complexity to your dish. 

They also have a satisfyingly chewy texture similar to dates. But they also have seeds which will add some crunch to your dish (although this wasn’t really noticeable in my cookies).

Psst… figs are naturally lower in sugar than dates, so a great substitute if you’re looking for a sweet but low sugar snack.

How to substitute: replace dates in a 1:1 ratio with dried figs.

Ready-made date syrup

Date syrup is a mixture of pureed dates and hot water, so it’s no surprise to see it as a substitute.

It matches dates’ honeyed sweetness to a tee, but the key difference lies in the texture.

Date syrup is, well, syrupy. It won’t provide the same bulk or chewiness as dates in your dishes.

Date syrup is also often pricier than dates. But you can use it for a lot of things! It works as a healthy sweetener in coffee, and you can drizzle it over anything from pancakes to ice cream.

How to substitute: skip the sugar in your recipe with an equal amount of date syrup. 

Dried jujubes

Jujubes are often called red dates due to their physical resemblance to dates, especially when dried.

You might even mix them up if it weren’t for their vibrant color!

They have a chewy, leathery skin, and are just as fiber-rich as dates – with the added bonus of being low-calorie!

Dried jujubes have a sweet flavor like dates but with a subtle tangy note that brightened up my oatmeal cookies. 

They’re not the most mainstream ingredients, but you should have some luck in your local health food store.

How to substitute: replace dates in a 1:1 ratio with dried jujubes.


If you need something quick and easy, raisins are a perfect substitute for dates. 

They’re not as sticky or sweet as dates, but they can hold their own with their subtly sweet and slightly tart flavor profile. 

And if you prefer something sweeter, give sultanas a go. I used these golden delights in my cookies and they were great!

Want to get even closer to dates? Try blending your raisins into a paste. Then you can use them as a base for your energy bars or in baking.

And the best part about raisins? They’re way cheaper than dates! 

How to substitute: replace dates in a 1:1 ratio with raisins or sultanas.

Dried apricots

Nigella Lawson recommends dried apricots as a stand-in for datee in her renowned sticky toffee pudding recipe. 

They don’t taste exactly like dates, but they’re sweet and have a fruity, tart flavor everyone will love.

And if you really want to match dates’ honeyed sweetness, look for unsulphured dried apricots (they’re dark brown!). 

They’re grown without chemicals and have a richer, sweeter flavor.

How to substitute: Replace dates in a 1:1 ratio with dried apricots.

Other dried fruits

There’s no shortage of dried fruits you can use in place of dates.

They obviously won’t provide the same intense flavor. But most dried fruits are soft and chewy like dates and deliver a healthy dose of dietary fiber. 

Options like dried peaches or cherries are naturally sweet with a hint of sourness.

Or if you want to switch things up, try dried cranberries. They’re naturally more tart than dates, with a subtle sweet flavor.

Or go for a mix to get the perfect flavor for you.

How to substitute: replace dates in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with your choice of dried fruits. 


If you prefer skipping fruit completely, try nuts instead.

They’ll help bulk up your dish and add a crunchy texture, but you might need to add a bit of extra moisture and sugar depending on the recipe.

I used pecans with my oatmeal cookies, and they turned out great! I’ve heard that walnuts are good too.

Psst… consider pairing this substitute with date syrup – you’ll get the flavor of dates but with the texture of nuts! 

How to substitute: replace dates in a 1:1 ratio with your choice of nuts.

Substitutes for dates as a binder

Dates are sometimes used in recipes to add moisture and help bind all the ingredients together. Mashed bananas and applesauce are good options for replacing dates as a binder because both has some fruitiness. You can also use a nut butter or raisin paste.

Substitutes for dates as a sweetener

Another popular use for dates is as a natural sweetener. To replace dates as a sweetener you can use brown sugar. This is an easy alternative that has similar caramel-like notes. You can also use maple syrup or molasses. Both have a thick, sticky consistency and will also work as a binder for no-bake desserts.

Cascara – substitute to avoid

I love finding unique substitutes, so I was excited to try this.

But after looking more, I learnt that Cascara is the dried skins of coffee cherries and it functions like tea!

Add it to hot water, leave it to steep for a few minutes, and you’ll be good to go.   The resulting tea was tasty, but it didn’t work as a substitute for dates. 

13 Best Dates Substitutes + 1 To Avoid

I tested loads of dates substitutes to find the best one.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Ingredient
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Keyword: dates substitutes, substitutes for dates
Prep Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 8 minutes
Servings: 1 person
Calories: 414kcal


  • date syrup
  • 1 cup dried figs
  • 1 cup dried jujubes
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1 cup other dried fruits
  • 1 cup nuts


  • Cook your meal according to the recipe.
  • Add your chosen dates substitutes at the appropriate cooking time.
  • Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 414kcal

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