Date me and I’ll make you caramel
date caramel
Credit: Photo by Danielle Wood via Getty Images

Sometimes you realize your breakfast—be it a bowl of oatmeal, stack of pancakes, or an apple—just needs to be covered in something sweet. I love to use honey and maple syrup as sweeteners, but sometimes I crave a little more excitement. Sweetened nut butters are delightful, though the good ones can get pricey, so I tend to be stingier with spooning them out. In these moments of need, I grab a jar of caramel. But not just any caramel: Date caramel.

That’s right, you can turn dates—those sticky, sweet, fat, brown things that some of your friends have started using instead of sugar—into caramel. Maybe you pooh-poohed the idea of dates instead of sugar at first, but what if I told you they can be pureed into a creamy caramel that takes no more than a few minutes and is impossible to burn? If you’ve ever tried to make your own caramel in a pot with a cup of granulated sugar and a prayer, you might understand how precious a no-cook, impossible-to-burn caramel really is.

Here’s how it’s done. Most dates found at the store can be on the dry side so let 2 cups of pitted medjool or deglet noor dates soak in hot water for about 15 minutes, then transfer them to a food processor or high-powered blender. If the dates you have are already really moist and sticky, you can skip the soaking step. If you only have a standard blender, the food processor will likely work better in terms of ending with a super-smooth caramel.

Toss in a pinch of kosher salt and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract. Begin to puree the mixture, then slowly stream in 2 tablespoons of water and 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil.

If you’re looking for a thicker caramel to spread on toast or fill pastries, you’re done. Scrape the mixture into a container with a lid and store in the fridge. If you want a saucier caramel for drizzling over pancakes and waffles, or for dunking apples, with the motor running on the blender or food processor, slowly stream in ¼ cup full-fat coconut milk and blend until smooth.