Chinese Chews

Chinese chews, a sweet treat made with chopped dates and walnuts, and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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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Comments

  1. Robin

    I’ve never made nor had these before, not to mention ever hearing of them. I love dates too! Today I just happen to be in the mood to bake…guess what I’ll be making a little later? These sound so good!

  2. barb polo

    It seems that I have the same recipe with 2 eggs. I have been making these gems for Christmas Cookie Trays for the past 35 years. I don’t beat my eggs separately but place them in a hollow in the dry ingredients and beat them all together then adding walnuts and dates. Mine are baked in a 300 degree oven for 20 minutes, everything else is the same. I will try your version this week because I feel like “baking” :)

    • Steve-Anna Stephens

      Barb~I’ve seen the recipe with two eggs, too. And the recipe card my mom passed on to me reads, “an all-time favorite for X-mas!” It was only when I researched the first (known) publication of the recipe that I learned it came out in a June issue of Good Housekeeping, rather than at the holidays. I like them year ’round!

      Thanks for letting us know you don’t have to beat the eggs before adding them – to me, that gives them a little extra lift.

      • Wietje

        I gather then we don’t really need to beat the eggs like a cake batter. Is that so? This is more like beating/mixing the eggs for omelette–just to bind the ingredients together.

      • Chuck Carter

        Thank you so much for sharing this memory of your mother. My mother also made these ‘cookies’ solely at Christmas. I was out of country when my mother died, and not really interested in cooking at the time, so the fate of her recipes is unknown to me.

  3. Claudia

    Sounds delicious and fairly simple. Not a walnut fan but love pistachios or cashews. I will try them and let you know.

  4. Cindy

    Ginger is sometimes added as well. In Canada (where I’ve heard of this recipe) people believed ingredients like walnuts, dates, and ginger were from exotic places like the Orient. During that time, most of the immigrants in Canada from the orient where Chinese. So they started calling them Chinese Chews.

  5. Paul M.

    I was intrigued by the name but even more so by the ingredients: wheat flour, dates and walnuts. Nothing sounds Chinese here- much more Middle Eastern in my book. But considering the 1917 date of publication in G.H., any mildly exotic combination could be ascribed to anywhere in the Eastern hemisphere and we’d believe it.
    This is my kind of fruity/nutty snack. But, I’ll go for a more Istanbul than Shanghai interpretation. I think these, with a sprinkling of rose water or orange water with powdered sugar, would make an excellent dessert for a Turkish/Lebanese dinner. No offense to the originator, I just think the cultural boundaries are off by a few longitudes.
    CP

  6. Nancy

    What a lovely surprise to see these on your blog today! My grandmother almost always had a tin of these when we went to visit as I was growing up. She passed in the early ’70′s and this is the recipe card I asked for when her estate was being divided. I love the stained card, noted that she got the recipe in ’64 from “Mary”. Hers calls for 3 eggs, too. Need to make up a batch and tell the distant cousins to do the same in her memory.

  7. Karen

    I think these will have to be on the menu for this weekend. I knew I bought walnuts last week for a reason! I’ll probably sub sucanat for the white sugar and whole wheat for the white flour. You didn’t really expect me to follow the recipe?

  8. David

    The dates and walnuts brought back a strong memory from childhood visiting the grandparents for the holidays. And although there was plenty of baked goods of course, we never had “Chinese Chews”.

    My grandmother would however, pit the dates, insert a walnut half into the date, and roll the whole thing in powdered sugar, placing them all in a simple candy bowl to serve. Delicious.

    I’m going to have to try out this recipe over the weekend, though. They sound great!

  9. Cheryl

    http://thistleha.com/?p=40
    http://lostrecipesfound.com/recipe/marshall-fields-chinese-chews/

    We had these at Christmas every year but as a child I did not like dates. Years later I had a Middle Eastern date rolled in walnuts that had such a familiar taste. When I saw this recipe I immediately connected the dots.

    We made these in balls and rolled them in granulated sugar rather than white an they were always on our (Canadian) Christmas tray.

    Great flashback!!

  10. Claire

    Thank you!!! This is it! I’ve been searching for the chewy date dessert my mother served at dinner parties when I was a kid in the 1960′s. She’d bake the batter in a pie tin, slice into wedges while still warm and serve with a scoop of ice cream.

  11. Val from PA

    These sound pretty much exactly like the date balls that we have always had down South, except that we use pecans rather than walnuts. Always a holiday favorite!

  12. Michele

    I think Cindy – above – is correct in the origin of the name. One of the favorite dishes in Québec is called “Pâté Chinois” or “Chinese pastry.” It is a layered shepherd pie type dish that is ground beef with soy sauce, creamed corn, and mashed potatoes. The only vaguely Chinese thing about it would be the soy sauce which not everyone even uses. Go figure!!

  13. M.

    I love Chinese chews, but I don’t always like the extra ingredients in them when I see them at the Asian market. This is great, though I think I’ll do cashews instead of walnuts.

  14. Karen U

    I made these today in a 13×9″ pan (don’t know where you find and 8×12?). They came out great! Thanks for posting this recipe.

  15. Judi

    I made these a couple of days ago as written. Loved them!!
    At the moment I have a batch in the oven with dried cherries substituted for the dates… it’s what I had at the moment, plus, I wanted to experiment. Can’t wait to taste this batch!!

  16. Yum!

    I made it last night with prunes. It gives a nice tangy taste to it, it was great! I also modified the recipe using only half cup of sugar. It was still nice and chewy! I definitely make another batch this weekend!

  17. Hannibal

    My maternal grandmother used to make these and over the decades I have had dozens of variations on this same recipe. As Elise said, you can vary the nuts – pecans, hazelnuts (filberts), cashews, peanuts, pistachios walnuts and roasted chestnuts. Candied fruit is another variation you can try – pineapple, mango, papaya, cherries, and the new juice suffused candied cranberries are delicious also. The AP flour can also be varied by replacing half of the all-purpose with whole wheat or replacing it with some rolled oats. Same basic recipe, but different variations that make for a slightly different tast treat.

    There is a cookie recipe that is probably based on this one also or perhaps visa versa, and they too are either rolled or flat and they have to dipped and rolled in the powdered sugar while just a little bit warm to coat properly. Like the bars, these too have several dozen variations of different nuts and chocolate bits and various flavorings including anise, vanilla, chocolate, espresso coffee, mint, and numerous liquers. Even Mexican bizcochos, a traditional wedding and holiday cookie are a variation of this one. Try some of the different bar and cookie recipes and people will come back enthusiastically for more.

  18. Elana

    I made these for a treat over the weekend. We couldn’t stop eating them. Amazing! So easy to make too. This will be one of my go to dessert recipes.

  19. stella74

    I love such simple and easy to follow recipes. Never heard about these chews before. Maybe we have a similar recipe for those in Austria as well. I’ll check. I made these today, but followed the recipe of barb polo. Just adding 2 eggs directly to the dry ingredients. Very yummy!!!!!! Thanks and I really love your Website and your easy and delicious recipes. They are always pure and simple, that ‘s what I really love.

  20. Cheryl

    Did these yesterday and replaced the flour with a gluten free flour mix. They turned out great although I couldnt get them to spread enough for a 9 x 12 dish… not sure if that is because of the gluten free mix. 9×9 would be perfect.

  21. Katreena

    I really don’t like dates, could I just remove them completely? Or should I sub something else? How about something completely different like chocolate? I’ve never made (or heard of) these, so I have no way of knowing how this would effect the final product. Any suggestions?

  22. Jayne

    Chinese chews! I’ve never heard of them and I’m Chinese. LOL. They look really good and chewy though. Using dates for that intensed chew factor is good. Have to pin this recipe for later this year when dates come in my the crates!

  23. Florence walter

    I’ve loved reading the comments listing all of the various substitutions! What a forgiving recipe! I’m going to try it for that very reason!

  24. kp andrew

    My Mom made this recipe when I was a child. I looked up her recipe and it is almost identical. She cut the squares while warn and rolled them into loose ball shape then dusted with the sugar.
    I’m going to make some now!!!

  25. Bob @ Cooking with an Evolved Dad

    I made these for dessert yesterday. Since my wife doesn’t like walnuts I substituted 1/2 c of pecans and 1/2 c of pistachios and it came out great.

    Served with vanilla ice cream this made a very nice way to wrap up our Mother’s Day dinner.

    Thanks!

  26. Julianna

    Have been away for a couple of weeks and just found this post. This sounds DIVINE… My Mama (& I) LOVED dates. She made a similar “rolled cookie” with pecans & dates for which I still salivate when I think about them. I guess this recipe will use up a box/carton of the dates that have been living in my pantry…LOL.
    In addition, she made a Date Roll candy (with dates and pecans) at Christmas and a very dark, heavy, and wonderful date cake. If anyone knows of these recipes, I’d love to have either or both as most of her wonderful old recipe cards were destroyed in Katrina’s flood waters.
    Thanks to Elise and all her fellow contributors for the wonderful recipes provided here. Marco thanks you too, as he gets to eat them all!!! Julie

  27. Roshi

    I made this yesterday with a slight variation… I added 1/2 cup sultanas and 1/2 cup desiccated coconut and vanilla and kept the rest of the ingredients. I have made this with the addition of 2 eggs before, but prefer the outcome with the 3 eggs. They came out super.

  28. Maureen Predragovich

    I’ve made this exact cookie for at least 45 years. This a family favorite and I always have dates on hand. I sometimes use pecans instead of walnuts and I roll the bars in powder sugar instead of sprinkling.

  29. Barb King

    Chinese Chews

    I have been making these for years at Christmas my son always asked me as a small boy to make these. He is now 32. I roll them into little balls and they always seem to be eaten first.

  30. Karen Glaser!

    I first made this recipe with my great grandmother in the 50′s when I was just a little girl. I remember the recipe she had was a well used, tattered paper torn from a magazine. When she died the recipe disappeared and I thought it was gone forever. When I was a teenager in high school in the 60′s my home ec teacher brought the recipe in for us to make. I was thrilled to see it again! My mom and I used to make it every year at christmas thereafter. When we cleaned out my mom’s house recently I couldn’t find it. Again I thought it gone forever until I found it on your site. I’m 62 now and can’t wait to share it with my teenage neice and college daughter. Thank you so much!

    • Steve-Anna Stephens

      Hi Karen, what a great story! I’m so glad you reconnected with the recipe and can share it with your family again. Happy Holidays!

  31. b

    I started making this recipe to find that I was unprepared–no baking powder! I opted for a substitution I found using 1/4 t baking soda and 3/8c molasses. I lowered the sugar to about 2 tbs. After all that, it left me with more of a date-walnut bread, which is good, but I’ll be stocked up on baking powder next time!