In mid-afternoon, when the hungry children come running off the bus and throw open the fridge or pantry doors and declare with utmost urgency, “I NEED FOOD!!!!” I need to be armed. Lest I face the wrath of the hangry.
I want something that’s going to sustain them, and keep them from saying to me in ten minutes, “I’m still hungry!”
Enter these almond butter date balls.
A KID-FRIENDLY AFTERNOON SNACK
I love throwing a snack together quickly that keeps in the fridge for days. Bonus points if it can be made with ingredients I already have on hand. And double bonus if it’s relatively “healthy,” insofar as it’s not loaded with sugar. (There is a time and a place for things that have sugar and you’ll never see or hear us at Simply Recipes get preachy. But sometimes you want something that’s a little less, ahem, indulgent.)
These almond butter date balls meet the criteria—and then some, because they will sustain the kids thanks to the protein in the almond butter and the nuts. And the balls are just sweet enough that they can satisfy the sweet teeth my children have inherited from both sides of the family.
Triple bonus? If both of my boys like it, this means they will look for it—which means that they’ll eat it without being reminded that it’s there. And that’s the case with these date balls.
EASY PROTEIN BALLS IN THE FOOD PROCESSOR
This recipe would not be possible without a food processor. It’s just what you need, and there’s no real way to do it without one. But it happens so quickly, and you can have your kids lick the bowl. Reward!
A Few Words of Advice
There is a small margin of error with this recipe. A couple of tips!
- Don’t tightly pack the dates into the measuring cup. You’ll have too much and the ingredients won’t come together properly in the food processor. This may result in the motor stopping in its tracks, creating a sad ending for what looked like a delicious beginning.
- Don’t be tempted to add more liquid. You’ll think you can fix by adding more liquid (i.e., maple syrup), but trust me, I have learned the hard way that this recipe is not very acquiescent to course corrections! You will just create new problems—i.e., a gloppy batter.
- Stop the food processor as soon as the mix comes together. If you don’t, it will inevitably result in the food processor motor getting stuck and the whole works will come to a screeching halt. Again.
HAVE SNACKS, WILL TRAVEL
Because these babies are so fast to make, and because they’re sweet and small, they are the perfect snack or after-dinner treat if you don’t want to have something really sugary but want to indulge a little bit.
They also travel well—I’ve shared them with my yoga classes many times.
Dates and nuts are incredibly good for you (magnesium, fiber, protein, so on and so forth) anyway, but regardless, these just taste good. They also happen to be vegan and gluten-free, if those are two areas of concern.
HOW TO STORE THESE DATE BALLS
These date balls keep great in the fridge, covered, for a couple of weeks. I’ve kept them longer than that, mostly when I was recipe testing and forgot they were in there, but honestly most of the time they go pretty quickly.
They’re fine at room temperature, and you can store them covered in a container at room temperature for a few days. But if it’s hot or even just a bit warm, be prepared for them to go a little splat and get a bit misshapen.
TRY THESE OTHER TASTY SNACKS!
Almond Butter Date Balls Recipe
I sometimes like to add a tablespoon or so of dried cranberries to give this a bit of a tart twist.
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/2 cup pitted dates (about 4 to 5), cut into quarters
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder, any kind (I usually use Hershey’s Special Dark)
- Scant 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup almond butter
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup whole almonds
- Cooking spray (optional)
For topping/rolling the balls:
- 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 Make the date balls: Place the walnuts and dates into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade, and pulse several times until well combined. The pieces should look like a rough crumble.
Add the cocoa powder, maple syrup, almond butter, vanilla extract, and sea salt and pulse until the mixture is smooth and thick; it will start to peel away from the edge of the bowl.
When this happens, stop the food processor; if it keeps whirring away, it may get stuck because these ingredients are, well, sticky! Keep a close eye on this, as it will come together quickly.
2 Add the almonds: Add the almonds and pulse a few times to incorporate them. You want them sort of irregularly sized, so that some pieces are still pretty crunchy and offer a variety of textures.
3 Roll the date balls: Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Place the coconut in a small bowl and the cocoa powder in another bowl.
Using a cookie scoop measuring about 1 1/2 tablespoons (like this one) and sprayed with cooking spray for easy release, scoop out the mixture, roll it into golf-ball shapes, and roll in the shredded coconut or the cocoa powder. (I usually do some in coconut and some in cocoa powder, and leave some plain.)
4 Chill and store the date balls: Transfer the date balls to the baking sheet and chill them for a few hours or overnight, if needed. Once they've firmed up, transfer to a plastic lidded container and keep in the fridge for several weeks, but I've never, ever, had them last that long. They are usually consumed too quickly.
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