Chinese Chews

DessertBakingDateWalnut

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

Photography Credit: Steve-Anna Stephens

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.

Chinese Chews

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

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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Links:

The Hunt for "Chinese Chews"

Chinese Chews from She Wears Many Hats

Steve-Anna Stephens

Management consulting might be her day job, but Steve-Anna Stephens moonlights as an authentic Southern hostess and cook. Having spent the majority of her life in Alabama, Steve-Anna's wanderlust has carried her to Boston, Tucson, Southern California, and back to Tucson again.

More from Steve-Anna

56 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Joyce

    My Mom made these only on Holidays because it was so labor intensive.
    Chopping the walnuts, dates, AND CHERRIES. (MARASCHINO).
    Cutting them clean was difficult and she was always “pushing” something back in the bar….

  2. Rosie

    I have made the chinese chews a lot of times they are delicious , I have how ever put half sugar as they was far too sweet because the dates are sweet but I will continue to make the.
    As I’m watching my cholesterol there good because there is no butter which is fabulous news do you have any more recipes that’s good for cholesterol thanks

    xxxxxyyyyy

    Show Replies (1)
  3. scott darling

    made them over 40 years now when they come out of oven wait a few minutes cut into squares then then make each square into balls and roll them into icing sugar

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. Dawn

    Can I use chopped figs in place of dates?

  5. Sharon

    Simple and easy recipe. Used pecans instead of walnuts. It was crowd approved!

    xxxxxyyyyy

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