I am excited to bring this date nut bar recipe to you. It has an old-fashioned, crumbly oatmeal base and topping, gooey and mellow Medjool date and toasted walnut filling and they’re drizzled with a sharp lemon glaze.

This bar cookie is a mashup of two of my favorite treats from childhood: I lifted the oatmeal dough straight from my mom’s oatmeal raisin bars, and I use the same lemon glaze as in my favorite Christmas cookies, Angel Slices.

I think you’ll love the old-fashioned familiarity of these date and walnut bars and appreciate the little lift the lemon glaze gives them. For ease of browsing, you can find all my cookie and bar cookie recipes in one place.

A small, white cupcake pedestal with 3 stacked date and walnut bars on it.

These are delicious! Actually, they are very delicious! I made a batch for my husband’s office and they were a big hit! I used maple sugar for the sweetener and Measure for Measure gluten free flour. Both worked well in the recipe…I froze 3 pre measured containers of apple juice as I intend to make these bars several times! A winner in my book!

Reader and Date Nut Bar lover Carol

Date Nut Bars, At a Glance

✔️Skill Level: Advanced Beginner
✔️Skills: Toasting Nuts, Chopping Nuts, The Creaming Method (linked), Simmering, Baking
✔️Type: Layered Bar Cookies
✔️Number of Ingredients: Oatmeal Dough: 8, Date Nut Filling: 7, Optional Glaze: 3
✔️Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
✔️Cook Time: 30 minutes
✔️Yield: 48 bar cookies

Jump Straight to the Recipe

Date Nut Bar Tasting Notes

These bars are greater than the sum of their parts, but each part is pretty excellent on its own:

  • Crust
    • Crumbly oatmeal with a hint of cinnamon, sweetened with brown sugar
    • A little chewy on top, firmer on the bottom so the top may crumble a bit as you eat them but the bottom won’t
  • Filling
    • Sweet, fruity, mellow
    • Stays soft and a bit gooey for several days at room temperature
    • Citrus lift from the orange zest
    • Bites of toasted walnuts add textural contrast and keep the filling from reading as too sweet
  • Glaze
    • Thin and crisp so it shatters when you bite into it
    • Bright tart lemon balanced with just a tiny bit of salt

Taken together, the bars contain a lovely contrast of tastes, textures, and levels of sweetness.

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While the glaze–any glaze–is technically optional, I do love that bright, tart lemon note this glaze affords.

If these sound right up your alley and you decide to make them, I have a favor to ask:

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How to Make Date Walnut Bars

These bars are easy to make. The filling thickens up beautifully and there is no need to chop the dates.

The dough is a simple, no-egg creaming method crumble that you can make with a stand mixer, hand mixer, or even by hand.

No pre-baking of the bottom layer separately also means that the layering process is quick and simple.

If you already know you want to make these and don’t need any other instruction, you can jump straight to the recipe.

If you’re a newer baker, in the next sections I’ll go over all the ingredients, offer some substitutions where it makes sense to do so, and walk you through all the steps.

Ingredients and Substitutions

Labeled images of all the ingredients needed to make date nut bars: Medjool dates, apple juice, dark brown sugar, kosher salt, orange zest, toasted walnuts, vanilla extract, all-purpose flour, unsalted butter, cinnamon, rolled oats, baking soda, water, powdered sugar, and lemon juice.
  • Medjool dates: I prefer Medjool dates for their luscious flavor and texture. They are very sticky, but since there’s no need to chop them, I think they’re the best choice. If you cannot find Medjool, you can use prechopped dates in the same aisle as raisins. Or use Deglet Noor dates, which are also tasty but a bit firmer with a more caramel-y flavor (Source and differences between these two types of dates) No dates? Substitute an equal amount of dried and chopped figs. My friend June made these with figs and said they were fantastic!
  • Apple juice: This is the liquid for cooking the dates, so why not use one with more flavor than water? You can use water, though, for a slightly less sweet filling. You could consider using other fruit juices here such as cherry juice or pineapple juice. Just know you may need to adjust the amount of sugar depending on the juice you use
  • Dark brown sugar: Used in both the filling and the crust. You may also use light brown sugar or even granulated sugar plus a couple of teaspoons of molasses. If you don’t have molasses, substitute honey. Adjust the level of sugar, especially in the filling, to your liking
  • Kosher salt: Balances and focuses all the flavors, especially bringing out the nuttiness in the oats and walnuts
  • Orange zest: Brightens the filling with a lovely citrus lift. Use the zest from 1 medium orange
  • Toasted walnuts: Whether you buy walnut halves or pieces, you’ll want to toast them for deeper flavor. Pieces will toast more quickly than halves, so keep an eye on them. I toast halves in the toaster oven, but pieces, I toast in a dry pan on the stove so I can keep a closer eye on them. Once the oil in the nuts starts to sizzle, they’ll go from perfect to burned quickly, so err on the side of caution. If you don’t love walnuts, substitute almost any other nut you can think of. Pecans or cashews would be particularly nice
  • Vanilla extract: Rounds out the flavors in the filling providing some warm, floral, and woody notes
  • all-purpose flour: Makes up the bulk of the crust, adding structure. Stick with all-purpose here. Cake flour will yield a too-crumbly crust and bread flour will make a crust that is too tough
  • Unsalted butter: Used in the crust, butter carries flavor and tenderizes the crust so it’s not tough and dry
  • Cinnamon: Provides just a hint of spice without being overtly cinnamony. You can leave it out if you don’t like cinnamon or prefer or a more straightforward flavor for your bars
  • Rolled Oats: Use old-fashioned oats or quick-cooking. I’d stay away from instant oats because they don’t add a lot of extra texture
  • Baking soda: A powerful leavener, baking soda provides some lift and puff to the crust so it’s not too hard and crunchy. It also neutralizes the acidic molasses in the brown sugar
  • Water: You need a couple of tablespoons of water to bring the crust to the correct consistency for pressing tightly into the pan and also for crumbling on top of the date filling. I’ve used milk before, but I think it makes the crust too tough. Stick with water here
  • Powdered sugar: For the glaze. You’ll be making a thin, lacy coating for the bars, so you don’t need tons. It provides sweetness and also forms a syrup with the lemon juice to make a nice, drizzly consistency
  • Lemon juice: Provides a nice, tart flavor to the glaze which contrasts beautifully with the mellow, nutty filling. If you don’t like lemon, you can substitute some milk to make a more neutral glaze

Procedure

To Make the Filling

A collage of six images showing how to make the filling for date nut bars: 1)A whole date on a green cutting board. 2)A finger pressing into the date to easily remove the seed. 3)Pitted dates, brown sugar, apple juice, salt, and orange zest in a pan on the stove. 4)The date mixture at a slow boil in a pan. 5)The cooked filling in the pan with a spoonful of it held up to show the thick texture. 6)Date filling with chopped walnuts stirred into cooling in a pan.

Pitting whole Medjool dates is super easy. They are so soft that all you have to do is press into them until you get to the pit. Then just pull it out, making sure to get that blossom end (as in the first photo) as well.

Then all the filling ingredients except the chopped nuts and vanilla go into a pan.

Slowly bring the mixture to a boil, using a wooden spoon or spatula to mash and chop the dates as the mixture heats.

Simmer the date mixture for about five minutes, stirring and smooshing the dates frequently, until nice and thick.

Off the heat, stir in the vanilla and toasted nuts.

Set aside to cool down while you make the crust

Jenni says: If using chopped dates, you won’t need to smoosh them, so just cook and stir until nice and thick like jam.

For the Crust

A collage of 6 images showing how to make the oatmeal crust and press it into your pan: 1)Creamed dark brown sugar, butter, salt, and cinnamon in the bowl of a stand mixer. 2)Flour, oatmeal, and baking soda dumped on top of the creamed mixture. 3)The mixture all mixed up and looking very crumbly in the mixing bowl. 4)A hand holding some crust mixture that has been squeezed together and is holding its shape. 5)Some of the oatmeal mixture dumped into a 9x13" metal baking pan. 6)The crust mixture pressed evenly and firmly into the pan and covering the whole bottom in an even layer.

First, you’ll cream together the butter, dark brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon until nice and smooth.

The mixture doesn’t have to be fluffy–we’re not making a cake. Then mix in the water until completely incorporated.

Whisk together the flour, oats, and baking soda and then dump them in on top of the creamed mixture and mix on low speed until all the flour is absorbed and the mixture is crumbly.

Test it by squeezing some. If it holds its shape, you’re good to go.

Then, dump a bit more than half the oatmeal mixture into your pan and press it out into a tightly packed, even layer about 1/4″ thick.

Assembling and Baking

A collage of 4 images showing how to assemble your bar cookies: 1)Date nut filling in the middle of the unbaked, oatmeal crust in a pan. 2)The date-walnut filling spread out evenly with a spatula to cover the entire crust in an even layer. 3)The rest of the oatmeal crust crumbled on top of the filling. 4)The baked bars with golden brown oatmeal crust on top.

Once your crust is made and pressed into the pan, your date filling should be cool enough to plop it onto the crust. Make sure it’s just barely warm and not hot, because you don’t want it to melt the butter in the crust.

Jenni Says: To ensure the filling cools quickly, spread it out in the pan to give it more surface area. You can also put the pan in the fridge and/or transfer the filling to a metal bowl to speed cooling.

Crumble the rest of the oatmeal mixture evenly over the date filling. You should have enough to almost completely cover the filling. But some open spots are perfectly fine. Nothing bad will happen.

Then, all you have to do is bake for about 30-35 minutes. I think mine took 33 minutes at 350F in the center of my oven.

Once the bars are completely cool, glaze them (or not), let the glaze set up for at least a couple of hours, and then slice the bars into 48 slices (or your preferred number of slices).

Equipment You May Need

As long as you have a pot and a baking pan, you can make these bars.

I have to say, though, I do love my quarter-sheet pan. It has the same dimensions as a standard 9″ x 13″ pan but with sides that are only an inch tall as opposed to 2″.

This makes removing the bars (or brownies) so much easier.

Jenni's Pick
USA Pan Nonstick Quarter Sheet Pan
$13.49
  • Perfect for baking brownies or slab pies.
  • Shorter sides allow for better air circulation
  • It's also much easier to serve slices from a shallow pan than a deep one.
Purchase Now
This is an affiliate link which means I earn from qualifying purchases. Your price is unaffected.
03/02/2024 02:22 pm GMT

I also need to give a shoutout to my favorite pan by OXO. I use it almost every day, including cooking the filling for these bars in it.

Jenni's Pick
OXO Good Grips Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Pro 3.5QT Covered Saucepan
$120.16

I love my OXO saucier very much. I use it when making most custards and curds as well as for smaller batches of soup. It's a very versatile pan.

Purchase Now
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03/02/2024 11:12 pm GMT

Date Bars Q & A

An overhead shot of sliced date-nut bars with drizzles of lemon glaze on top.
How long will these keep?

Made with Medjool dates, the filling will stay soft and moist for a good week. Expect 3-4 days of moist goodness if you use a different kind of date.

Can you freeze these?

Absolutely. Freeze before or after baking, double-wrapped in plastic wrap and foil. Bake from frozen, allowing another few minutes to bake. If freezing them after baking, allow them to sit out in their wrapping at room temperature until completely thawed. Then unwrap and enjoy.

Can I make a half-recipe?

Yes. Bake in an 8″ square pan. The amounts for a half recipe are in the NOTES section of the recipe.

For a sweet, Graham cracker-chocolate-marshmallow extravaganza, try my S’mores bars. They’re sweet and gooey, and kids and adults are guaranteed to enjoy them.

For unadulterated lemon deliciousness, try my luscious lemon bars. They are super tart and lemony and made for lemon lovers.

And for chocolate perfection, my fudgy, cocoa powder brownies are truly a decadent treat.

And if you are all about the oatmeal, even though these aren’t bar cookies, I think you’ll love my chewy oatmeal raisin cookies.

Questions?

If you have any questions about this post or recipe, I am happy to help.

Simply leave a comment here and I will get back to you soon. I also invite you to ask question in my Facebook group, Fearless Kitchen Fun.

If your question is more pressing, please feel free to email me. I should be back in touch ASAP, as long as I’m not asleep.

A Note About Measurements

My recipes are almost all written by weight, including liquids, unless otherwise specified.

For accuracy and consistency of results, I encourage you to buy–and use–a kitchen scale.

I promise that baking and cleanup will be so much quicker and easier.

This is the scale that I recommend for home use. I have owned and used one for years.

Best for Home Use
Escali Primo Digital Food Scale
$24.95

Don't let its small price and small size fool you. The Escali Primo is an accurate and easy-to-use food scale that I have used for years. It's easy to store, easy to use, has a tare function, and easily switches between grams and ounces/pounds for accurate measurements.

Purchase Now How & Why to Use a Kitchen Scale
This is an affiliate link which means I earn from qualifying purchases. Your price is unaffected.
03/07/2024 05:03 pm GMT
5 golden stars for rating recipes
A square image of 3 date-nut bars stacked on top of each other.

Date Nut Bars Recipe

Jennifer Field
These date and walnut bars have an old-fashioned oatmeal crust, a citrus-scented date nut filling and a tart lemon glaze that offsets the sweet, mellow filling nicely.
5 from 6 votes
Tried this recipe?Please give it a star rating!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 48 servings
Calories 138 kcal

Ingredients

For the Date Nut Filling

  • 12 oz whole Medjool dates, pitted 340 grams or about 2 cups, Medjool preferred
  • 8 oz unfiltered apple juice 227 grams or 1 cup
  • 4 oz dark brown sugar 113 grams or 1/2 cup, tightly packed
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest from 1 medium-sized orange
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt 3 grams, I use Morton's
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 oz walnuts, toasted and chopped 170 grams or about 2 cups

For the Crust

  • 5 oz unsalted butter, softened 142 grams, 10 Tablespoons, 1 1/4 sticks
  • 8 oz dark brown sugar 227 grams or 1 cup, tightly packed
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt 3 grams, I use Morton's
  • 1 oz water 28 grams or 2 Tablespoons
  • 8 oz all-purpose flour 227 grams or about 1 3/4 cups
  • 6 oz rolled oats 170 grams or 1 3/4 cups, old-fashioned or quick-cooking, not instant
  • ¾ teaspoons baking soda

For the Glaze

  • 6 oz powdered sugar 170 grams or about 1 1/2 cups
  • pinch salt
  • 2-3 Tablespoons lemon juice 28-43 grams, as needed

Instructions
 

For the Date Nut Filling

  • If using whole dates, pit them by smooshing them with your finger and pulling out the pit and the dried blossom end and discarding.
  • Place dates, apple juice, dark brown sugar, orange zest, and salt in a medium saucepan. Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat, chopping and smooshing the dates with a wooden spoon or spatula. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring and "smooshing" frequently, until thick and jammy, about 5 minutes.
  • Off the heat, stir in the vanilla and toasted and chopped pecans. Allow filling to cool, either on the counter or in the fridge while you make the crust. Spread the filling out in a thin-ish layer so it cools more quickly.
    A collage of six images showing how to make the filling for date nut bars: 1)A whole date on a green cutting board. 2)A finger pressing into the date to easily remove the seed. 3)Pitted dates, brown sugar, apple juice, salt, and orange zest in a pan on the stove. 4)The date mixture at a slow boil in a pan. 5)The cooked filling in the pan with a spoonful of it held up to show the thick texture. 6)Date filling with chopped walnuts stirred into cooling in a pan.

For the Crust

  • In a medium-sized bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, rolled oats, and baking soda. Set aside.
  • In a bowl with a hand mixer, in the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a bowl using a spoon or spatula, cream together the softened butter, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon until smooth and creamy.
  • Add the water and mix in until completely combined.
  • Dump in the dry ingredients and mix until all the flour is absorbed and the mixture holds together in little clumps.
    A collage of 6 images showing how to make the oatmeal crust and press it into your pan: 1)Creamed dark brown sugar, butter, salt, and cinnamon in the bowl of a stand mixer. 2)Flour, oatmeal, and baking soda dumped on top of the creamed mixture. 3)The mixture all mixed up and looking very crumbly in the mixing bowl. 4)A hand holding some crust mixture that has been squeezed together and is holding its shape. 5)Some of the oatmeal mixture dumped into a 9x13" metal baking pan. 6)The crust mixture pressed evenly and firmly into the pan and covering the whole bottom in an even layer.

To Assemble and Bake

  • Place a rack in the center of your oven and heat it to 350F/180C.
  • If you do not have a non-stick 9×13" pan, line the pan, long-wise, with a piece of parchment paper folded to fit snugly without wrinkling and extending up the two short sides of the pan. Spray the uncovered sides of the pan with pan spray.
  • Press a bit more than half of the crust mixture into the pan in a well-packed and even layer of about 1/4"/6 mm.
  • Scrape the cooled filling onto the crust and spread it evenly with an offset spatula.
  • Crumble on the remainder of the crust mixture evenly over the filling and press it down slightly to compact it just a bit.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until the top is firm and golden brown.
    A collage of 4 images showing how to assemble your bar cookies: 1)Date nut filling in the middle of the unbaked, oatmeal crust in a pan. 2)The date-walnut filling spread out evenly with a spatula to cover the entire crust in an even layer. 3)The rest of the oatmeal crust crumbled on top of the filling. 4)The baked bars with golden brown oatmeal crust on top.
  • Remove from oven and let cool completely before applying the optional glaze.

For the Glaze

  • Whisk the powdered sugar and salt together very well.
  • Whisk in the lemon juice, a bit at a time, until you have a nice, drizzly consistency.
  • Use a fork or the end of your whisk to drizzle the glaze on, aiming for a "lacy" design by drizzling it in circles. The glaze should not cover the crumbly oatmeal topping completely.
  • Let the glaze set up for a couple of hours before slicing the bars. If you used parchment, you can lift the bars out to slice them with a knife or pizza cutter. Otherwise, just slice them in the pan with a kitchen knife.
  • Store in the pan, covered with foil or in an airtight container, at room temperature for up to a week. Freeze for longer storage. Serve at room temperature or warm them a bit in the microwave if you prefer.

Did You Make Any Changes?

Notes

Small-Batch Recipe (8×8 pan)

For the date filling
  • 6 oz Medjool dates
  • 4 oz apple juice
  • 2 oz dark brown sugar
  • zest from half a medium orange
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 oz walnuts, toasted and chopped
For the crust
  • 2.5 oz butter
  • 4 oz dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1-1 1/2 Tablespoons water
  • 4 oz all-purpose flour
  • 3 oz rolled oats
  • 3/8 teaspoon baking soda

FAQ

How long will these keep?
Made with Medjool dates, the filling will stay soft and moist for a good week. Expect 3-4 days of moist goodness if you use a different kind of date.
Can you freeze them?
Absolutely. Freeze before or after baking, double-wrapped in plastic wrap and foil. Bake from frozen, allowing another few minutes to bake. If freezing them after baking, allow them to sit out in their wrapping at room temperature until completely thawed. Then unwrap and enjoy.

Nutrition

Calories: 138kcalCarbohydrates: 23gProtein: 2gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 6mgSodium: 87mgPotassium: 99mgFiber: 1gSugar: 16gVitamin A: 86IUVitamin C: 0.4mgCalcium: 18mgIron: 1mg
Keyword bar cookies, dates, oatmeal, walnuts
Did you make this recipe?Please tell us what you loved!

Thanks so much for spending some time with me today.

I hope you enjoy the date nut bars. The combination of the sweet, mellow filling with the crumbly dough and hints of orange and lemon are really hard to beat.

Take care, and have a lovely day.

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4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I absolutely love these bars! The layers of flavors is spot on. The recipe is well written and proportioned effectively.
    I have made these several times and always enjoyed by all!

  2. 5 stars
    These are delicious! Actually, they are very delicious! I made a batch for my husband’s office and they were a big hit! I used maple sugar for the sweetener and Measure for Measure gluten free flour. Both worked well in the recipe. I glazed half of the pan and left half the pan unglazed. I really like the glaze on the bars, however, they are still excellent without it. Trader Joes sells 12oz pitted medjool dates which were perfect for the recipe. I froze 3 pre measured containers of apple juice as I intend to make these bars several times! A winner in my book!

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