Chewy Date Squares

July 29, 2020
5 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Makes One 9- x 13-inch pan
Author Notes

I ate a lot of Fig Newtons as a kid. Since my very health-conscious parents didn’t allow us to tiptoe into the “dangerous” world of actual cookies, they were as close to dessert as we got. I still have such a soft spot for them, and these chewy squares are very reminiscent of the store-bought variety, only easier to make at home. Dates accomplish a similar texture and flavor profile as figs, but are a little sweeter and also have a smoother (no seeds!) consistency, which I like in the filling.

Using whole-wheat flour gives the outside of the square that wonderfully nutty taste that I always associate with Fig Newtons, and coconut oil (rather than butter) gives the cookie that classic soft, squishy texture.

Instead of making individual squares with the cookie wrapped around the filling as Fig Newtons are shaped, this recipe takes a simpler approach: Just press half the dough into the pan, spread the filling on top, then top with the rest of the dough. You get the same sandwiched experience to the cookie without the fuss and bother of piping the filling and rolling the dough up around it.

If you want to play around with the flavors, try adding a touch of cinnamon or cardamom to the cookie dough. Another route is to add some spice to the filling: You can try black pepper, star anise, or five-spice powder.
Posie (Harwood) Brien

What You'll Need
  • For the cookie:
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (141 grams) coconut oil, chilled until firm
  • 1/4 cup (53 grams) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3/4 cup (90 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (85 grams) whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • For the filling:
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 1 pound pitted dates
  • 1 cup (227 grams) water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Make the dough: Beat together the coconut oil and brown sugar until fluffy. Add the egg, egg yolk, and honey, and beat until well combined.
  2. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the egg/sugar mixture and mix until the dough just comes together.
  3. Divide the dough in half, press both halves into a disc, wrap them in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour (you can speed this up by popping them in the freezer for 20 minutes).
  4. While the dough chills, make the filling: Place the orange zest and juice, dates, water, and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat for about 6 minutes, then transfer (carefully!) to a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth and thick. Set aside to let cool slightly.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and press one half of it into the bottom of a lightly greased 9- x 13-inch pan. Spread the filling evenly over the dough. Roll out the second half of the dough to a rectangle roughly the size of your pan then gently place it on top of the filling and use your fingers to press it into place so it covers all the filling.
  6. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden on top. Remove from the oven and let cool before slicing and serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Lizz Fabel
    Lizz Fabel
  • student epicure
    student epicure
  • Posie (Harwood) Brien
    Posie (Harwood) Brien
  • Cwilson846

7 Reviews

Lizz F. February 6, 2021
Yes, dough is finicky… Cracks and splits when it’s cold. I warmed it up just a touch in the microwave, pressed it into the bottom and then ended up crumbling the remainder over the top. Added some sweetened coconut over the filling, to go with the coconut flavor in the dough. Looked great and was delicious!
Cwilson846 October 11, 2020
These taste good but I’ve found it impossible to roll out the top dough after making multiple times trying several adjustments (adding more flour, chilling longer etc.)
Julesverb August 23, 2020
These are so delicious! However, I had a really hard time rolling out the top layer of dough. My dough was just too sticky and melty, or, if chilled, would just crack apart when rolled. The result is kind of cobbler like, but super good!
student E. August 4, 2020
This was very tasty, but a bit finicky to make. I ended up with excess filling and what felt like not quite enough dough. While the flavor and texture were delicious, it was hard to cut even when cool, although very spoonable into my mouth.
suzngyn August 3, 2020
I'm excited to try this - I love Fig Newtons as a kid. Will the filling keep okay if I made it a day or two ahead of time?
Leigh July 30, 2020
Is there any way to make the cookie vegan-friendly?
Posie (. July 30, 2020
You could try replacing the egg with a flax egg!