Classic, old-fashioned date squares, just like the ones Grandma made. Nice and thin, with the perfect balance of date filling to crumb! Can be made in a small 8×8 pan or double for a 9×13 pan.

Old-fashioned date squares cut on serving board.

Why you’ll love this date squares recipe

These are the classic, old-fashioned, bake-sale, church dinner, pot-luck, just-like-your-Grandma-made kind of date squares. They are thinner than many date squares that you see these days, but in my mind, they offer the perfect bite, with the crumb and date filling in perfect balance.

What you’ll need

Ingredients needed to make date squares.

A few notes about the key ingredients …

Oats – These date squares will need old-fashioned, large-flake rolled oats. I haven’t tested this recipe with quick-cooking oats. They may work, though as they are milled finer, the resulting bars would lack the lovely texture of the larger-flake oatmeal. I don’t recommend quick oats here.

Dates – Delicious date squares have been made for years using basic and inexpensive, “baking aisle” dried pitted and chopped dates. That said, whole dried and pitted dates that you chop yourself are also fine. Regular dates or honey dates are both fine, as they are dried dates. I haven’t tested this recipe with Medjool dates. Medjool dates are fresh dates, as opposed to dried dates. They may work, but as I haven’t tested them I can’t confirm that.

Dried dates are typically sold pitted, but if your dates have pits, simply slice the dates in half and pull out the pit before chopping.

Brown Sugar – Light brown sugar is recommended, but dark brown sugar will work in a pinch. The squares will have a darker appearance and a bit more molasses flavour.

Other ingredients you will need – White sugar, salted butter, baking soda and all-purpose flour.

How to make date squares

Adding date filling ingredients to saucepan.
1
Adding lemon juice to date filling.
2
Mixing the oats, brown sugar and flour in a mixing bowl.
3
  1. Combine the date-filling ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Remove to a bowl and refrigerate until cooled completely before proceeding, about 1 hour in the refrigerator.
  3. Make the base and topping by combining the oats, flour and brown sugar in a mixing bowl and stirring together.
Cutting the cold butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter.
4
Flour and butter mixture in mixing bowl.
5
Drizzling the flour mixture with baking soda mixture.
6
  1. Add the cold butter pieces to the flour mixture and cut in using a pastry cutter, or two knives or rub in with your fingertips.
  2. Cut in the butter until the butter pieces are pea-sized.
  3. Stir together the baking soda and hot water and drizzle over the flour mixture.
Pressing some of the flour mixture into the bottom of the baking pan.
7
Baking pan after spreading date filling over and ready to scatter on the topping.
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Date squares ready for the oven.
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  1. Add about 1/2 of the flour mixture to the bottom of a parchment-lined 8×8-inch baking pan and use a flat measure to press it into the pan.
  2. Spread the cooled date filling mixture over the top of the base, then scatter the remaining flour mixture evenly over top.
  3. Spread the topping out evenly and bake for 18-24 minutes, until golden and set.

Recipe video

Recipe tips!

  • You can make these squares as a small batch in an 8-inch square baking pan, as I have done here, or double the recipe to make a 9×13 pan of date squares. (Just use the handy “2X” button above the ingredients in the recipe card below and it will be calculated automatically for you!).
  • It is very important to allow the filling mixture to cool completely before using. Ideally, you will make it ahead and refrigerate so it is chilled when assembling the squares. Any warmth in the filling will melt the butter in the base and affect the cooked texture.
  • It may look like there is very little filling when you spread it out over the base, but trust me, it will be fine! There will be plenty of date flavour in the finished squares.
Old-fashioned date squares cut on serving board.

Storing and freezing

Store these date squares in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. They keep well, though the crust tends to soften slightly the longer they sit.

Date squares freeze well, so don’t hesitate to freeze for longer storage. Wrap well and freeze up to 3 months.

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Old-fashioned date squares cut on serving board.

Get the Recipe: Old-Fashioned Date Squares

Classic old-fashioned date squares just like Grandma made. Nice and thin, with the perfect balance of date filling to crumb!
5 stars from 7 ratings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Cooling Time:: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Yield: 16 servings

Ingredients

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted dates, tightly packed *see Note 1 below
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Base and topping:

  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons large flake old-fashioned oats, *see Note 2 below
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 6 Tablespoons salted butter, cold, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon hot water

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350F. (regular bake setting/not fan assisted) Grease an 8×8-inch baking pan and line the bottom and two sides with parchment paper, allowing the paper to extend over the edges by an inch or so (to use as handles to lift out of the pan later on). (You can also double the ingredients and make them in a 9×13-inch baking pan.)
  • It is important to make the date filling ahead so that it cools completely before assembling the date squares so it is chilled when assembling the squares. Any bit of warmth in the filling will melt the butter in the base and negatively affect the texture of the finished squares.
  • Make the date filling (do ahead!): Combine the dates, white sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Stir to combine. Heat over medium heat, stirring regularly. Bring mixture just to a full boil. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice. Transfer the date filling to a bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour to cool completely.
  • Make the base and topping: In a large bowl, stir together the oats, flour and light brown sugar. Add the cold butter pieces to the flour mixture and cut in with a pastry cutter (or use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour) until the butter pieces are evenly pea-sized. In a small bowl, stir together the baking soda and hot water until the soda is dissolved. Sprinkle over the flour/butter mixture and stir in.
  • Add about half of the flour mixture to your prepared pan (it's around 1 1/4-1 1/3 cups-ish). Press into an even layer, adding a bit more of the flour mixture, as needed, to make a thin, even layer. (I like to use a dry 1-cup measuring cup to press the base down.) Spoon the cooled date-filling mixture over the top and spread out evenly. (It will seem like there is barely enough filling to cover the base but trust it. It will be fine!) Scatter the remaining crumb mixture evenly over the top. Tip! Sometimes I will squeeze the mixture for the topping and then crumble it with my fingertips over the top. This makes for a more crumbly topping.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 18-24 minutes, until golden brown and set. (Baking time should be similar for both an 8×8-inch pan or a 9×13-inch pan.) Remove the pan from the oven to a wire rack, allowing it to cool completely in the pan before lifting out by the parchment "handles" to a cutting board. Cut into sixteen 2×2-inch squares or nine 3×3-inch squares. (I like to refrigerate the squares in the pan before cutting, as they cut more neatly.)
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months, for longer storage.

Notes

Note 1: Be sure to chop the dates BEFORE measuring and pack the 1/2 cup measure tightly. It’s ok if it’s a slightly rounded measure if you want to sneak a few more dates in. 
What kind of dates should you use for date squares? For these old-fashioned date squares, it’s perfectly fine to use the baking aisle block of chopped dried dates. You can also use bulk whole dried dates that you chop up yourself. I haven’t tested this recipe with Medjool dates. Medjool dates differ in that they are fresh dates vs. dried dates. This may affect the texture of the filling. Medjool dates are also considerably more expensive.
Be sure to read the notes above this Recipe Card for more tips and substitution suggestions for this recipe.
Cuisine: American, Canadian
Course: Snack
Serving: 1serving, Calories: 172kcal, Carbohydrates: 30g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 11mg, Sodium: 81mg, Potassium: 92mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 16g, Vitamin A: 133IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 16mg, Iron: 1mg
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