Date Balls! Gluten Free, Nut Free and Dairy Free (But Not Sugar Free and Not Calorie Free)

April 20th, 2013 | Posted by Alison Spath in Short or Sweet

Did you know yesterday was Earth Day?  Well, Monday is Earth Day, but we celebrated on Friday.  And I spent Friday thinking it was Earth Day.  Whoops.

Monday, Friday, whatever.  On Friday we got together with one of our homeschooling groups for a fun, low key Earth Day event for families.  Each family was invited to share something with the group – like a science project or even just an idea. We decided to demonstrate how we make one of our favorite healthy snacks – date balls!

I decided on date balls because they are round… like the earth.

Date Balls

So maybe it’s a stretch.  Don’t think too hard about it and just eat an earth-shaped treat already, wouldya?

Whenever I make date balls I usually add rolled oats and always include nuts in some form like almond butter, peanut butter or cashews.  This time though they needed to be nut free and gluten free for any friends with nut allergies or gluten sensitivities.

With nut free and gluten free ingredients in mind, I got down to business trying to figure out what combination of ingredients would hold together well, but still taste good too.

Goji Berries and Dates

For a nut butter substitute I tried both sunbutter and tahini.  My taste testers here liked both options, but I ended up using tahini for the demonstration and it’s what I’ve included in the recipe below as well.  I don’t think you’ll go wrong with either sunbutter or tahini (but for the record, I think these are better with almond butter or peanut butter.  Of course then they will no longer be “nut free”… but I don’t need to tell you that.)

Thanks to my friend Bianca and her Chocolate Fudgey Goodness recipe, I was inspired to add Goji berries to these dates balls as well.

Goji Berries

Ummm, yeah – goji berries are my new favorite thing to add to no-bake cookies.  They are chewy and fun and I don’t even care that I type “gogi” every time I go to type “goji”, which is totally because it’s pronounced “go-gee”.  Stinking phonetics.

When I told a fellow homeschooling mama what I was making and why I decided on date balls for this Earth Day event, she called them Earth Balls!  I loved that, so we’re rollin’ with the Earth Ball title here.  (But I promise they don’t taste like dirt.)

Earth Balls

Print this recipe!

yield: about 18 – 22 Earth balls

(no bake, gluten free, dairy free and [optionally] nut free)

1 – 1 ½ c pitted Medjool dates (10 – 15 large dates)
1/2 c tahini (or other seed or nut butter)
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbsp maple syrup

If your dates are really firm, soak them in hot water for 10 – 15 minutes (after pits have been removed) to soften.

In food processor or high speed blender, combine dates, tahini, cocoa powder and maple syrup.  Stop food processor to scrape sides if necessary and resume blending until all ingredients are mixed well and have formed a big pile of… well,

Date Ball Dough

date ball dough.

(What did you think I was going to say?)

Goji berries are optional, but if you decide to add them, I do suggest chopping them up separately ahead of time because they are REALLY chewy.  (And that’s precisely what makes them so good!)  Chopping them into small pieces helps with the chewability factor.

Goji Berries in Food Processor Chopped Goji Berries

Fold goji berries into your date ball dough.

Add Chopped Goji Berries Stir In Gojis

Pinch off 1 – 1 ½ tbsp of the dough and roll into balls with your hands.  Or form into squares.  Or hearts.  Or the infinity symbol.  Whatever you want, go nuts!  (But not if you’re allergic.)

I like to refrigerate these for 15 – 20 minutes before serving to allow them to firm up a bit – I would recommend storing them in the refrigerator as well.

If you’re feeling sassy, you can then roll them in shredded coconut, chopped nuts or cocoa powder to make them look a little more appealing and a little less like greasy brown blobs.  I made a variety of them ahead of time, to go along with the date balls we’d be making during our demonstration.  Some were coated coconut and others were left naked for any coconut haters.  (Is “coconut hater” too harsh?  How about “coconut avoider”.)

Variety of Date Balls

One of the my favorite aspects to these date balls is how versatile they are.  You can easily tweak them to your own tastes or dietary needs.  You can use different nut butters, stir in chocolate chips, shredded coconut, chopped nuts, raisins, dried cranberries, different spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger or add a little vanilla extract or peppermint oil.

There are lots of ways to go and still wind up with a very delicious and health(ier than a package of Oreo’s) snack each time!  These are great to bring to a pot luck, as part of a snack for bunch of kids or simply to have on hand for yourself when you want a treat that isn’t frankenfood.

Eat up and enjoy – and be good to the earth too or something, K?

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3 Responses

  • Bianca says:

    Alison what a lovely surprise I got while reading this! Thank you. Yes, I am a firm believer that goji berries fit in just about everywhere! We love them at our place. Your Earth Balls sound delicious!

  • Hi There, I have made these Earth Balls now, many, many times, sharing the love with skeptic friends and family members, winning them over. One of my most recent win overs was my dad. We’re taking a backpacking trip soon and talking food for the trip. I offered to make the Earth Balls as a source of energy on the trail and he would like to know how many calories are in one ball. I use dates, cocoa powder, sunflower butter, sunflower seeds and chia seeds when I make them. What’s your best guess?

    • Awesome Jena! Based on my own experience, I would venture a guess of 80 – 100 calories a piece. I’ve calculated the calories in these type of snacks before, here’s one example where they came in at 120 calories per ball… the ingredients are different, but still pretty calorie dense, but also in this recipe I used chocolate chips! So yours might be less than 120.

      (Another example here from an old, old blog post.)

      Love that you’re an earth ball making pro!