Did you know that despite its name, date sugar is not actually a sugar? The product of dried dates that have been processed into fine pieces, date sugar is intensely sweet, with a richness similar to brown sugar. Unlike other sweeteners such as agave, maple syrup, and others, date sugar is not refined and is therefore technically considered a whole food.

Whole foods are unprocessed and unrefined foods such as the least possible processing or refinement, which includes fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, beans, legumes, and some non-dairy milks. Eating a diet rich in whole, plant-based foods have been touted by health experts as being one of the healthiest ways to eat. A whole foods diet excludes refined sugars, which contain little to no nutritional value, according to health experts. Luckily, date sugar exists as a healthy alternative to refined sugars for those of us who want to cut back on refined sugar as much as possible. Even better: it’s easy to make at home.

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Blogger Charlene Harris shows us how easy it is to make Date Sugar at home using Medjool dates, an oven, and a food processor.

Charlene starts with 14 ounces of Medjool dates. Be sure to use this type of date and not Delget Noor or any other variety. Medjool dates are famous for their sweet, caramel-like richness and gooey texture, which makes them perfect as a sweetener in whole foods, plant-based desserts and a base for crusts in many raw vegan cheesecakes.

Once you have your dates, spread them out onto a baking tray and roast at 300°F until the dates are hard, but not burnt. This process should take up to an hour, but be sure to check frequently. Remove the dried dates from the oven and allow them to cool, then add them to the bowl of your blender and pulverize them into a fine powder.

Date sugar can be used in baked goods in the same way that you would use brown sugar or white sugar. However, if you’re going to be baking with date sugar, you might want to reduce the amount of sugar you add to your recipe. Livestrong recommends using 2/3 cups date sugar per cup of white sugar. Please also note that because date sugar is made from chopped up dates, it will not dissolve like traditional sugar, which may result in your baked goods having a darker color or flecks of dates.

If you’re not sure about making sugar substitutions just yet, try this recipe for One-Bowl Quinoa and Date Sugar Brownies. To learn more about a whole food, plant-based diet, read How to Eat a Healthy Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet on $50 Per Week.

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Lead image source: Date Sugar