Date Squares – Traditional Canadian Recipe for Date Bars


Date Squares – this traditional Canadian recipe for date bars with oatmeal crumble topping is so easy to make and they turn out perfect every time. An old fashioned Canadian recipe for the best date squares ever!

refined sugar-free Canadian date squares with oatmeal crumble topping stacked

These Canadian Date Squares are so, so delicious! This recipe for date bars with crumbly oatmeal topping has been one of those recipes my family has enjoyed for years.

I tend to make them around Christmas as they are just so festive and special. I mean, just imagine this crumb deliciousness with an eggnog or gingerbread latte? YUM! 

I usually cut them into small squares and put them on my Christmas cookie platter along with all my German Christmas Cookies and Truffles. 

In Western Canada, these streusel bars are also called matrimonial cake. Some feel it is called matrimonial cake because of the two separate layers brought together by – well dates! Kind of cute right? 

Why this is the best recipe for Canadian Date Squares: 

A luscious date filling sandwiched between a wonderful oatmeal streusel crust and topping. OMG, so good! These tasty date bars are rich, sweet and sensational! If you enjoy dates, you’ll absolutely adore Canadian Date Squares.

But even if you’re not a fan of dates, I still urge you to give them a try.  These date bars are so moist, with just the right amount of sweetness.  I love the fact that the base of the squares hold together quite firmly, while the oat crumb topping is perfectly buttery and crumbly!  

The cooked date filling is quite rich and has a delightfully creamy consistency. The sweetness is counterbalanced by the addition of fresh lemon juice which makes these feel way lighter than any date bar I have ever tried. 

dates in a small dish ready to be cooked for making Canadian date squares

How to make this recipe for Canadian date bars: 

Make the cooked date filling:

To make the date filling, the chopped dates are first cooked in water or orange juice to soften their tough outer skin. As for aromatics, I also add a little cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg and vanilla. I like to add a bit of coconut sugar to bring out the natural caramel-flavor of the dates. 

Have I once made these bars using rum and orange juice instead of water? Yes, and it was SO GOOD! So try it if you like and feel a bit naughty.

The most important addition? Fresh lemon juice! We cook the filling on medium heat until nice and thick, stirring!  let them cool ever so slightly before pureeing in a food processor or blender until fairly smooth. Any date will do for this recipe, but Medjool are the best! 

Make the oatmeal crust and streusel crumb topping: 

To take this matrimonial cake to the next level, I grate some lemon zest directly into the sugar we are using for the crust and rub it in with my fingertips.

For making the oatmeal crust, I add all dry ingredients to a bowl and add some ice-cold butter which I grate right into the dry mix.  This oatmeal “shortbread” crust has a fairly high butter content and there is no egg added. 

Now, the layering of the ingredients begins. First, about half of the oatmeal crust is pressed onto the bottom of our baking pan. The cooled date puree is then spread over the oatmeal crust and then the rest of the dough is crumbled over the dates. I form some proper streusel with my fingers before I add the topping. 

Gently press down to compact the top crust a bit. The Canadian date squares are then baked until golden brown. The longer they bake the more crisp and chewy they will become – anywhere from 45 to 55 minutes is perfect.

A cake platter with homemade Canadian Date Squares with coconut oatmeal crumble topping
sy These Traditional Canadian Date Squares are so easy to make and much better than Starbucks!

Can I make this Canadian Date Bars recipe gluten-free?

You can make these Date Squares gluten-free by using your favorite brand of gluten-free flour! Just substitute it instead of regular flour 1:1.

I don’t think you will need to add xanthan gum but if you have issues with your crust staying together, feel free to add some.

Can I make refined sugar-free Date Squares? 

Yes, this recipe for date bars can be made without refined sugar. The date filling is already refined sugar-free. For the crust and crumble, you can use xylitol instead of white sugar. 

Can I freeze Canadian Date Squares? 

Yes, you can freeze these date bars! Be sure to store these in an airtight container or a freezer bag. Use strips of parchment paper to separate them. 

Tips for making the best date squares: 

  • Medjool dates are best in this recipe for date bars as they are nice and big and process perfectly into a perfectly sweet smooth filling.
  • Always use cold butter for your crust, this is a rule to live and die by in baking.
  • You can use orange juice instead of water and use some orange zest in the filling. Or use a 1:1 mix of both. I do recommend adding some lemon juice to lend some brightness to the date filling. 
  • DO NOT SKIP THE LEMON JUICE AND ZEST. Without the lemon or any kind of citrus added, I find date squares fairly boring. Still delicious but lacking flavor. The lemon really makes the filling sing! 
  • I made these bars using 1/4 cup rum and 1/2 cup of orange juice instead of water. It was SO GOOD! So try it if you like and feel a bit naughty.
  • For this date squares recipe, I like to use old-fashioned rolled oats rather than quick-cooking as I prefer their thicker texture and flavor.
  • To make it easier to cut these squares, it is best to chill them first. 
  • Homemade Date Squares will keep for up to a week if wrapped tightly or stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

More traditional Canadian recipes: 

Did you make and love this recipe for Canadian date bars? Give it your review below! And make sure to share your creations by tagging me on Instagram!

Date Squares - Canadian recipe for date bars

Date Squares – this traditional Canadian recipe for date bars with oatmeal crumble topping is so easy to make and they turn out perfect every time. An old fashioned Canadian recipe for the best date squares ever!

Course Breakfast, brunch, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine Canadian
Keyword Canadian date squares recipe, date squares recipe, recipe for date bars
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 350 kcal
Author Kiki Johnson

Ingredients

Filling

  • 3 + 1/8 cups dates Medjool
  • 3/4 cups water 6 fl ounces, 180 ml - or orange juice
  • 3 tbsps butter 40 g
  • 1- 2 tbsps coconut sugar or brown sugar, or xylitol
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg or cardamom
  • 1 tbsps vanilla extract
  • 1 lemon

Crust and Crumble Topping

  • 2 cups rolled oats 180 g
  • 3/4 cups shredded coconut
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg or cardamom
  • 1 3/4 cups flour + 1 tbsp, 235 g
  • 1/2 cup sugar susbtitute with xylitol for refined sugar-free
  • 50 g coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup butter ice cold

Instructions

Filling:

  1. Chop the dates up a bit and add them to the pot with water or orange juice, butter, sugar, and spices, a pinch of salt, and bring everything to a boil on medium heat. Zest the lemon and juice it. Grate the lemon zest straight into the measured out sugar you are going to use for the crumble crust. Rub it in using your fingers so that the peel lets go of its oil and the sugar gets all aromatic and lemony.

  2. Add lemon juice to the date filling and continue to boil the date filling until nice and thick.  Watch if well so that it doesn't burn or stick to the pan. Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Let cool.

Crust and Crumble:

  1. Preheat the oven to 356 F (180C). Line a (23 x 33 cm) baking tin with baking paper. 

  2. Add all dry ingredients for the crust to a bowl. Grate the ice-cold butter right into the dry ingredients using a box grater. Rub everything together quickly to form streusel. 

  3. Add half of the streusel dough to the pan and press down and into the edges to form a crust. Spread date filling on top. Sprinkle remaining streusel on top. Gently press down to compact the top crust a bit. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until the streusels are golden brown. Should the topping brown too quickly, cover with some aluminum foil. 

  4. Let cool down completely before cutting into squares. 

Recipe Notes

  • Medjool dates are best in this recipe for date bars as they are nice and big and process perfectly into a perfectly sweet smooth filling.
  • Always use cold butter for your crust, this is a rule to live and die by in baking.
  • You can use orange juice instead of water and use some orange zest in the filling. Or use a 1:1 mix of both. I do recommend adding some lemon juice to lend some brightness to the date filling. 
  • DO NOT SKIP THE LEMON JUICE AND ZEST. Without the lemon or any kind of citrus added, I find date squares fairly boring. Still delicious but lacking flavor. The lemon really makes the filling sing! 
  • I made these bars using 1/4 cup rum and 1/2 cup of orange juice instead of water. It was SO GOOD! So try it if you like and feel a bit naughty.
  • For this date squares recipe, I like to use old-fashioned rolled oats rather than quick-cooking as I prefer their thicker texture and flavor.
  • Homemade Date Squares will keep for up to a week if wrapped tightly or stored in an airtight container in the fridge.


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