Chinese Chews


Please welcome my dear friend, guest author Steve-Anna Stephens as she shares a favorite treat, Chinese Chews. ~Elise

Every now and then, I just have to bake something. Anything.

It’s almost always more about the baking than the eating. So, you’ll find me walking around the neighborhood, knocking on doors, and giving whatever it is away. Perhaps due to an unusually large spate of baking on my part, one of my neighbors has been passing up my offerings of sweets and homemade buttermilk biscuits, saying, “No thanks, I’m good.”

Now that’s a sad experience, having your baked goods declined.

So, when I asked the other day if he would like “some more of those date and walnut squares with powdered sugar,” and he said, “Sure,” I knew these Chinese Chews were a hit.

Chinese Chews have been a favorite in our family for years, but try as I might, I could not find the source for the recipe. A little digging revealed that the recipe for Chinese Chews first appeared in the June issue of Good Housekeeping in 1917. This version, handed down to me by my mother, varies only slightly from the recipe that was published during World War I. It includes an extra egg, calls for sifting the dry ingredients, beating the eggs well, and topping the squares with confectioners sugar (rather than forming them into balls and rolling them in granulated sugar).

What’s best about Chinese Chews is that while they are undeniably chewy, they aren’t overwhelmingly sweet. The crunchy walnuts add a nice balance to the texture, and the confectioners sugar sends a message to your mouth that they are, indeed, a dessert—not a health food bar.

There are many variations on the recipe for Chinese Chews, and perhaps just as many guesses as to why they are called Chinese Chews. There’s nothing noticeably Chinese about them, so that remains a mystery. Some versions of the recipe call for butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and even coconut. Others switch out the walnuts for pecans, and toast the nuts.

What’s your favorite way to make Chinese Chews? Please tell us in the comments. If you haven’t tried this popular, chewy dessert, you’re in for a treat. Your neighbors might like them, too!

Chinese Chews Recipe

  • Yield: Makes about 3-4 dozen squares, depending on the size of your squares.


  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3 eggs, well-beaten
  • Confectioners sugar, for topping


1 Preheat oven to 300° F. Grease and flour an 8 x 12-inch pan – if you use a smaller pan, the baking time will be longer. Note: If you grease the pan, but don’t flour it, the squares will stick to the pan and be difficult to remove after baking.

2 Combine flour, sugar (not confectioners sugar), baking powder and salt. Sift with a sifter or fine mesh sieve into a medium sized mixing bowl. If you don’t have a sifter, whisk dry ingredients together well to combine.

3 Stir the dates, nuts and well-beaten eggs (I beat the eggs separately with a hand mixer for about 1 minute until fluffy before adding them), into the dry ingredients. It is not necessary to beat the eggs with a mixer, you can beat them by hand with a fork. Make sure ingredients are well combined – the batter will be sticky.

4 Spread the batter out as thinly as possible into the prepared pan.

5 Bake for 30 minutes, or until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean.

6 Let cool completely, and cut into 1 to 1  1/2-inch squares. Note: Many recipes call for cutting the squares while still warm. In my experience, they are much easier to cut after they’ve cooled.

7 Sprinkle with powdered sugar, using sifter or sieve, as desired.

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The Hunt for "Chinese Chews"

Chinese Chews from She Wears Many Hats


Chinese Chews on Simply Recipes

Photos of Chinese Chews by Steve-Anna Stephens.

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Showing 4 of 57 Comments

  • stephanie comstock

    The website for Hawthorne Inn in Concord, Mass says they are 100% Slavic. I have no idea, I’ve never heard of them before but are dying to try them!

  • Debbi Thomas

    I have made Chinese Chews for about 40 years so it’s nice to see others who enjoy them and when the recipe originated. In my family they were made by my great Aunt Agnes and always at Christmas when I was growing up. I just finished making them to share with my family as I’ve done all these years. My recipe is the same as yours Elise. They are so yummy!

  • Sarah

    I made mine with almonds instead of walnuts and coconut sugar instead of white sugar … I also added a 1/2 cup I shredded coconut … They are delish!

  • Gary Tew

    Hi , my mum has this recipe going back to the 40’s. The difference is that her recipe has her coating the warm uncut slice with lemon icing before cooling and cutting into pieces. Yum oh.

  • Alanna Kellogg

    From my mother’s 80-something friend, causing me to figure out what in heavens Chinese Chews might be! Funny thing is, my mother didn’t think of her as much of a cook. :-) Maybe that’s how this tale came to be? “When my son was in Afghanistan, I sent his buds a pan of ‘Chinese Chews’ which my Mum had made in a pan — cut in bars, rolled in sugar — because the dates in it would keep the panful moist while en route. Guess what. I forgot to put in the sugar. The buddies had to roll the bars in extra sugar, but the effusive thanks were the same as for rum balls and everything else.” Anyway happy to know what Chinese Chews are!

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