Date Oatmeal Bars Recipe

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We Love Date Oatmeal Bars

Recipe for Date Oatmeal Bars
Date Oatmeal Bars Ready to Serve, © B. Radisavljevic

I got the basics of this recipe for date oatmeal bars  from Mary Lou Houser of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I never met her, but her recipe was published in my now-dog-eared More with Less Cookbook. This book was commissioned by The Mennonite Central Committee in Akron, Pennsylvania as a response to world food needs, and published by Herald Press in 1976.

At the time, I was working at the Logos of Westwood, a Christian bookstore in Westwood, California, and I saw every new book that came in. Since I loved to cook and bake, and since I was interested in nutritious meals, I immediately had a look at this book.

Since most Americans eat way too much sugar, dessert recipes in this book try to use less sugar than you might find in other recipe books and more nutritious ingredients such as fruit, nuts, and oats. This recipe for date oatmeal bars  has these characteristics. I have changed it to meet our family’s needs by using more whole grain, less salt, and real butter. I know butter is a saturated fat, but in the controversy between the use of butter and margarine, I believe butter is less harmful. Use margarine if you believe it’s healthier.

Date Oatmeal Bars Recipe

These Products Are Handy to Have Before You Making the Date Oatmeal Bars

Most cooks have the bare essentials for baking around the house. However, if you started cooking and baking a long time ago, as I did,  you may owe it to yourself to update or replace some of them. I like to go for  quality that lasts.

I am still using the set of Farberware saucepans I got  for my wedding shower 53 years ago. They wear so wear I’ve never had a need to replace them. I use the two and  three quart pans the most. The two-quart pan is just right for cooking the dates in this recipe. You see a different pan in my pictures because I was working in a different house with my mother’s pans the day I made this batch.

The lasagna pan is 10 x 14 inches. I use it for shallow casseroles, and any kind of bar cookies. I’ve been using mine, which is plain aluminum, for close to fifty years. I don’t like to use a non-stick bottom for pans where I will do a lot of cutting. If you use a smaller pan for this recipe, your bar cookies will be smaller and thicker than mine, or you won’t get as many.

You will need a sturdy mixing bowl for blending the butter and sugar and them cutting into crumbs. I use a Pyrex® glass one from a vintage set I also got as a shower present. It’s a bit shocking to see it in antique stores now. The bowls below will also  do the job. I really like the set. It’s stainless steel, so it’s light. The bowls have flat non-slip bottoms and pour spouts, and the insides have measuring marks.

 Farberware Classic Stainless Steel 2-Quart Covered Saucepan Pyrex Prepware 4-Quart Rimmed Mixing Bowl, Clear Threshold 10 X 14 Lasagna Pan Chef Essential Stainless Steel Non-Slip Mixing Bowls Set with Handles and Pour Spouts, Set of 3, Black Decker Kitchenware Kitchen Professional Ergonomic Baking Dough Blender – Stainless Steel Pastry Cutter – Round Hand Dough Blender with Blades for Your Kitchen Collection Party Essentials Hard Plastic 12 x 18-Inch Rectangular Diamond Cut Serving Tray, Crystal Clear, Single Unit


If you don’t have a pastry blender you love, or if you’re still using a fork, do yourself a favor and get the professional hand dough blender above. It makes every thing much easier if you have the right tools for the job. Cheap pastry blenders don’t  cut cleanly and the ones with wire blades bend when facing cold butter.  It would be a great shower gift for someone setting up housekeeping.

Recipe for Date Oatmeal Bars
Ingredients for Date Oatmeal Bars. Whole wheat flour is not shown here. I decided to add it after I took the picture.
©B. Radisavljevic

Ingredients for Date Oatmeal Bars

  • 3 cups pitted dates, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed into measuring cups
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour, loosely spooned into measuring cup
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, loosely spooned into measuring cup
  • 1 1/2 cup rolled oats, not quick-cooking
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, level

What to Do with the Ingredients

 1. Chop the dates in any way you find efficient. I cut mine up with scissors. I almost got a blister because they  didn’t fit my hand as well as the kitchen scissors I normally use. I would have saved time had I used the food processor, but I didn’t have one where I was baking these.

Recipe for Date Oatmeal Bars
Cook dates in water over low heat until the mixture comes to a boil and gets thick. I started the temperature at medium high (7 on electric range) until it was steaming. Then I turned it down to low (4 on electric range) until it boiled and got thick.
© B. Radisavljevic,

2. Combine water and chopped dates in 2-quart saucepan. I used a non-stick pan here. Cook over low heat ( use level 4 on an electric range) until it boils and becomes thick enough not to be watery. See picture and video. Stir often so the bottom won’t burn. When it’s thick, put it aside to cool.

3. Measure brown sugar by packing it firmly into measuring cups. When you put it in the bowl, you should still see the shape of the cups, as in the picture below.

Recipe for Date Oatmeal Bars
Be sure to pack brown sugar as firmly as possible into measuring cups.© B. Radisavljevic
Recipe for Date Oatmeal Bars
Brown sugar should retain its shape somewhat when put in bowl if you packed it firmly enough. My sugar was very hard, making it really firm when I put it in bowl and harder to break up than softer brown sugar. ©B. Radisavljevic

4. Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Be sure to measure flours loosely instead of packing it down in the measuring cups. So far here I’ve added the butter and brown sugar.

5. When all the ingredients are in the bowl, mix well with a wooden spoon.

6. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

7. Cut the chunks of butter (and brown sugar if it was hard) with a knife and fork. I couldn’t demonstrate this because it took two hands and I didn’t have anyone with me to help do a video. I use the knife and fork like scissors, crisscrossing them through the mixture to make the chunks small enough to blend with the other ingredients. The fork can be pressed down on the chunks, and then wiped off with the knife when needed. When the chunks are small enough, I use a pastry blender for the rest of the job, continuing to wipe the tines with a knife when they become covered with butter. I also keep turning the bowl as I blend and bringing more loose flour and oats into contact with the ingredients that are clumped together. You have finished the blending when the mixture is like a lot of large crumbs. See pictures and video.

Recipe for Date Oatmeal Bars
All ingredients are now in bowl and ready to blend.
© B. Radisavljevic
Recipe for Date Oatmeal Bars
I’m trying to break up chunks with a knife here, but I later added a fork because once the knife or fork collects too much butter it’s useless and you need to wipe it clean to proceed. © B. Radisavljevic
Recipe for Date Oatmeal Bars
This is how your mixture should look when you have finished blending it. © B. Radisavljevic

8. Grease a 9″ by 13″ pan. I used the butter wrapper I had saved after putting the butter in the bowl. You can also spray the pan with Pam or a similar product if you wish.

Recipe for Date Oatmeal Bars
I have just greased the pan with a butter wrapper. © B. Radisavljevic

9. By the time you do all this, the date mixture should have cooled enough so nothing drips when you raise a spoonful from the pan and slant it. See video.

10. Spread half the crumb mixture in the bottom of the greased pan and press firmly.

Recipe for Date Oatmeal Bars
I have spread the crumb mixture evenly on the bottom of the pan and pressed it down. © B. Radisavljevic

11. Spread cooled date mixture over the layer of crumb mixture. Try to leave about 1/4 inch margin at edges of the pan, since baking will spread this.

Recipe for Date Oatmeal Bars
Spread cooled date mixture evenly over the crumb mixture. © B. Radisavljevic
Recipe for Date Oatmeal Bars
This is how it should look when you finish spreading date mixture. © B. Radisavljevic

12. Sprinkle the rest of the crumb mixture over the date mixture and lightly pat down. Be careful not to press hard enough to poke through to the date filling.

Recipe for Date Oatmeal Bars
Sprinkle the rest of the crumb mixture evenly over the date mixture. Them press down lightly. You don’t want to press firmly enough to break through to the dates.

13. Put the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly brown on top.14. When done, cool on a rack. Cut into 32 bars. Enjoy.

Recipe for Date Oatmeal Bars
After baking the date bars, let pan cool on rack. Then cut into 32 bars as shown. I cut down the middle each way, and then keep splitting each section until I have four sections on the short end and eight on the long side. © B. Radisavljevic

Put on a decorative serving plate or platter and you’re ready for a party.  Enjoy.

Recipe for Date Oatmeal Bars
Nutritional Content of Date Oatmeal Bars, compiled by B. Radisavljevic for this recipe.

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Recipe for Date Oatmeal Bars: Delicious and nutritious, and festive enough for a party.

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