These 5-minute, nut-free date energy balls make an ideal lunch box treat or healthy anytime snack. Naturally sweet, chocolatey, and delicious, they are also vegan and gluten-free!
I’ve seen recipes for so-called energy balls, bliss balls, protein balls, or whatever you want to call them, floating around for ages. But my contrarian nature means I usually stay away from “food fads”.
After a few years of resistance though, if the trend is still around, my curiosity usually wins out. That’s what happened with these Buddha bowls, and more recently with these date energy balls.
Also, considering that they require 6 ingredients and about 5 minutes time, there wasn’t much to lose, frankly.
I am so glad I gave these a try! They have been a life-saver with the World’s Hungriest Children around all the time. Sometimes things are trendy for a reason!
I consider Medjool dates to be the gold standard of dates and highly recommend them for this recipe and any other date recipe.
Medjool dates are plump, sticky, caramelly and delicious. Because they are stickier, they will bind the mixture together better than regular dates. If you do use regular dates, you may need to add a little extra maple syrup to bind the mixture so you can form the balls.
Although we are using dried dates here, not fresh, you will likely find them in the fresh produce aisle at the grocery store (although my grocery store has them with the nuts as well).
If you can’t find pitted dates, don’t worry, the pit is very easy to remove. Just split it in half with your fingers and pull out the seed.
Make them Your Own
Needless to say, these no bake chocolate treats lend themselves to endless variations.
My son’s elementary school is nut-free, so I deliberately left nuts out of these vegan date balls for this reason. If that’s not a concern for you, you could toss in some slivered almonds, walnuts, or whatever nuts you enjoy.
Note that they do contain coconut, which is often lumped in with tree nuts, but is actually a fruit. Coconut isn’t nearly as common an allergen as tree nuts and peanuts. Check with your school if you’re worried though.
Making energy balls with dates means you don’t need to add much, if any, sweetener.
The function of maple syrup in this recipe is more for binding purposes than for sweetening, because the dates already provide a lot of sweetness. I call for only 1 tablespoon of maple syrup to bind the mixture together, but you may need to add a little more, depending on the stickiness of your dates.
I use maple syrup, a natural plant-based sweetener, in these because I’m from Quebec and maple syrup is one of my favorite things ever!
I really wanted the cocoa to shine through in this date balls recipe, because chocolate is the way to my kids’ hearts, so I didn’t add any additional spices. But a dash of cinnamon would have been a nice touch.
Roll them in something fun
I sometimes roll these vegan date balls in crushed pretzels because I personally love the added salty crunch.
Another option would be to roll them in some extra shredded coconut.
And if you’re feeling indulgent, you can never go wrong with some mini chocolate chips!
And finally, here’s how I make them!
Step-by-step date energy balls
Here’s what you need:
- Place the oats and coconut in the bowl of a food processor.
- Pulse together until finely ground.
- Add the dates, cocoa, sunflower seeds, and maple syrup to the food processor.
- Pulse until it all comes together in a sort of dough that holds together when you make a ball. If it’s not quite coming together add a few drops of maple syrup and pulse again.
- Roll the dough into 1-inch balls.
- Roll the balls in crushed pretzels if desired, pressing down to adhere.
As the Barefoot Contessa would say, how easy is that?
How to store these date energy balls
These date balls keep very well in an airtight container at room temperature for 5-7 days.
You can also freeze them. Freeze on a lined baking sheet and then transfer to a freezer bag.
Date Energy Balls
- 1/2 cup oats any kind will do (Old-fashioned, quick-cooking etc)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1.5 cups pitted Medjool dates about 16
- 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup finely chopped pretzels optional
- Place the oatmeal and coconut in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times until finely ground.
- Add the cocoa powder, dates, sunflower seeds, and maple syrup and pulse to combine until the mixture comes together in a sort of dough. Add a few more drops of maple syrup if it’s not quite coming together, and pulse again.
- Roll mixture into 1 inch balls and roll in the chopped pretzels if desired.