I know you’re all about making chocolatey, nutty, sweet and rich yet nutrient-packed two-bite snack balls that are pure bliss. But first, a question:
Have you ever found yourself face-to-face with more dates than you know what to do with?
Not the kind who shows up on your parents’ doorstep smelling like an Abercrombie & Fitch store from 1998, and tries to woo you with a six-pack and a plan to sneak into the neighborhood pool.
Man did I fall for that every time, though.
I’m talking about dried, wrinkly little dates that are loaded with natural sugar and full of fiber.
Maybe this isn’t exactly a common scenario one might find themselves in, but there was a time when I had a pantry bursting with so many boxes of dates that I didn’t know where to begin. I had signed on to a recipe development project with a young girl who had a knack for start-ups.
Although, I suppose most of them just started up and then didn’t really go anywhere…
Regardless of the nature of the gig, it was on her dime, and my role was simply to play with food. How could I say no to that? Her latest venture was a company that sold gift boxes of gourmet stuffed dates.
She sent me pounds of fruit, fancy wrappers, and several types of date syrup to tinker with on my own time.
I had never seen so many Medjool dates in my life, and I couldn’t wait to begin yanking out their pits and getting to work. But, alas, the project fell through – leaving me with a stockpile of dried fruit.
Not that working with an ingredient like that has ever been a problem for me (see “Orange, Lavender & Figs” as evidence, available on Amazon.
Instead of following the original set of guidelines, I decided to take the road less traveled.
As opposed to cramming things inside the dates’ itsy-bitsy wells, I began breaking them down in the food processor to transform them in a different way. Before I knew it, no-bake balls were on the horizon.
I was already dropping too much cash on similar store-bought products, and I’m guessing I’m not alone in that.
I sprinkled in whatever nuts I had on hand for some texture and bulk, then in went a splash of woody vanilla extract and chia seeds for crunch. I loved the idea of making a quick snack that incorporated some high-impact nutritional elements and wasn’t just a guilty pleasure.
I realized that a great way to take full advantage of the dates’ sweet flesh was to marry it with a slightly bitter element that would enhance their flavor even more. I had both cacao and cocoa powder on hand, and in case you’re wondering – no, they’re not the same thing with the letters rearranged.
Raw cacao powder isn’t roasted after the beans are fermented and dried. It’s relatively unprocessed, and the unroasted beans are loaded with a remarkable amount of antioxidants.
Cocoa powder, on the other hand, comes from fermented beans that are roasted at a high temperature. But enough about processing – let’s talk flavor.
Cocoa powder is often used for baking and has sweeter notes of chocolate, while cacao is earthy and somewhat bitter, like dark chocolate. Seeing as my dates already packed a sugary punch, and I wasn’t intending on making dessert-like chocolate date truffles, rich cacao powder was the right call.
The two balanced each other out like they were meant to be together all along.
Stopping there would have been just fine, but the balls needed a little brightness, and I’m a sucker for coconut.
Whether it’s because my sister Sarah lives in Hawaii and coconut’s nutty perfume reminds me of her, or because my college roommate – also Sara, but without the “h” – was allergic to coconut so I had to reluctantly avoid it for years, whenever I can turn to the tropical-scented shreds, I go for it.
See, just like cacao and cocoa – sometimes one letter can really make a difference.
Not only do the sweet, fluffy slivers get blended into the balls, but I snowball the sticky rounds through the coconut for a coating with texture, color, and flavor.
I guess I did know what to do with those dates after all.Print
For a perfectly poppable treat, try our cacao bliss balls. They’re bursting with chewy dates and cashews, and rolled in sweet coconut.
- 1 cup pitted Medjool dates
- 1/3 cup coconut oil
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1/2 cup raw unsalted cashews
- 1/2 cup raw cacao powder
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, divided
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- Place the dates in a large bowl of warm water to soak for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, melt the coconut oil in a small saucepot over low heat. Set it aside to cool slightly.
- Add the almonds and cashews to a food processor and pulse until very finely ground.
- Remove the dates, and reserve about 1 cup of the water. Add the dates to the food processor along with the cooled coconut oil, cacao powder, vanilla, salt, 6 tablespoons shredded coconut, and the chia seeds. Blend, dripping in a few tablespoons of the date liquid if the mixture is dry, until it comes together and starts to form a ball. The mixture should be sticky and uniform. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
- Line a quarter-size sheet pan with wax paper and lay another piece on your counter.
- Turn the mixture out onto the paper on your counter and wet your hands to prevent it from sticking. Using a tablespoon measure as your guide, roll the nut and date mixture into bite-size balls that are about 1 inch in diameter. Arrange on the prepared pan with some space in between each, so they don’t accidentally roll into each other and stick together.
- Transfer the pan to the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, to allow the balls to firm up slightly.
- Place the remaining shredded coconut in a shallow bowl. One at a time, toss the balls to coat. Arrange on a plate and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours before serving, until firm.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Category: Chocolate
- Method: No-Bake
- Cuisine: Snack
Keywords: cacao powder, ball, snack, date, coconut, almond
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Gather and Measure Ingredients
If you can’t find dates, you can substitute 1 cup dried Black Mission figs, just make sure you remove the stems before soaking. The final product will be a little less sweet.
If your dates aren’t pitted, slice them lengthwise down the middle to open them. Use your fingers to slide the pits right out. To hit the 1 cup mark, I ended up needing about 10 dates.
Feel free to use walnuts instead of almonds. If you can only find cashews that are roasted, those will work fine. If they’re salted, omit the additional salt from the recipe.
Measure your cacao powder, vanilla, salt, coconut, and chia seeds.
Step 2 – Soak the Dates and Melt the Coconut Oil
Place the dates in a large bowl and cover with warm water for about 15 minutes. Soaking will soften them and help them break down much easier in the food processor.
In a small saucepot over low heat, melt the coconut oil if yours is solid at room temperature. You can also do this in a microwave-safe bowl by heating on high for about 15 seconds at a time until it’s melted.
Allow the melted coconut oil to cool slightly before it goes in the food processor.
Step 3 – Pulse the Nuts and Add Remaining Ingredients
While you’re waiting for the coconut oil to cool and the dates to soak, add the almonds and cashews to a food processor and pulse until they create a crumbly paste. The nuts act as a binder, but you want them to be finely ground so there aren’t big pieces in the balls.
Remove the dates, but reserve about 1 cup of the water in case the mixture is too dry. You can also use the water that’s left in the bowl for wetting your hands when you’re rolling the balls!
Add the dates to the food processor along with the cooled coconut oil, cacao powder, vanilla, salt, 6 tablespoons coconut, and the chia seeds.
Blend until the mixture comes together, keeping an eye on it to see if it looks too dry, and adding some of the date liquid to help it form into a ball. Don’t add too much at once, or the mixture will become runny.
You’ll know it’s ready when it’s sticky and uniform. Transfer the bowl of the food processor to the fridge so everything can firm up a bit before rolling.
Step 4 – Form and Refrigerate the Balls
Line a quarter-size baking sheet with wax paper and lay another piece on your counter. Make sure you do this ahead of time because your hands will be wet after rolling the balls, and you’ll want them to have a prepared place to land. Clear a space in your fridge or freezer for the pan.
Turn the mixture out onto the paper on your counter. Wet your hands slightly so the mixture doesn’t stick to your palms too much and the balls come together nice and easy. I used the date water in the bowl to continuously wet my hands, and it worked like a charm.
Using a tablespoon measure as your guide, roll the nut and date mixture into bite-sized balls. They should be around 1 inch in diameter.
Place each finished ball onto the prepared sheet pan, making sure to leave some space in between them so they don’t accidentally roll into each other and stick together.
Transfer the pan to the refrigerator for about 20 minutes, or the freezer for 10 minutes, so the balls can firm up a bit before being rolled in the coconut.
Step 5 – Roll in Coconut and Chill
Place the remaining shredded coconut in a shallow bowl. One at a time, roll the balls in the coconut until they’re coated well.
Arrange the cacao bliss balls on a plate and refrigerate until they’re firm, for at least 1 to 2 hours before serving.
Warm Water Words of Wisdom
Splashing the warm date water into the food processor to help the mixture come together is reminiscent of dripping starchy cooking water over noodles and sauce. Suddenly, everything begins to cling and make sense.
But before you get rolling, take it from someone who has worked this recipe from start to finish. Be mindful of overwatering your batter. The main issue this will cause is a bit more of a mess as you try to roll your bliss ball into shape, but here’s the good news:
Even if they feel a little too wet, the balls will harden right up in the fridge before being doused in the coconut.
Use this recipe as a base and feel free to take things in a slightly different direction. Sprinkle in some cinnamon or ground cloves. Sweeten the deal by subbing cocoa powder for the cacao. If you don’t like chocolate at all, but still want a fun snack food, consider going for our peanut butter rice treats or our coconut dream truffles instead. Change up the dried fruit or nuts, or make your own combo based on what you have on hand.
How will you add your personal touch to these two-bite treats? Share your ideas in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Not sure what to do with the rest of that container of cacao powder? Whip up one of these recipes that features the fruity, bitter notes raw chocolate next:
- Almost Raw Vegan Cashew Cream Chocolate Cheesecake
- Whole Grain Chocolate Cake
- Raw Berry Cream Pie with a Chocolate Crust
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Lorna Kring on March 17, 2015. Last updated on April 27, 2022.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”