Candied dates with cardamom

September 27, 2010  •  Category:


What does one ask of a coffee shop?  Free wi-fi, outdoor seating with shade, really good coffee drinks and pastries, friendly staff and animation. In Beirut, there is Café Younès, which fills these requirements. Walking home after  some leisurely time spent there, I saw these fresh dates, (guess it must be the season), and was reminded of my grandmother’s candied dates.

This is as traditional as it gets;  served with coffee or tea when people drop by for a visit. Use a specific variety of fresh dates that are not sweet.

It is a very retro confection; some milk pudding that I left unsweetened is a good accompaniment.


  • 1 1/2 pounds of fresh yellow or red  dates
  • 2 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice
  • a few green cardamom seeds, crushed with a knife or mallet (traditionally, cloves are used)
  • Peeled pistachios or almonds (about 1/2 cup)(almonds or candied orange rinds are used traditionally)


  1. Peel the dates with a peeler; one option is to boil them first and then peel them when they have cooled.
  2. Place the dates in a saucepan and cover with water. Simmer gently until they are soft when pierced with a knife, about 30 minutes or more. Cool a bit.
  3. Remove the dates from the saucepan and with the tip of a knife or a vegetable corer, dislodge the seed from the dates and any strings from the inside of the fruit. Insert an almond inside or some pistachios.
  4. Place the dates back in the pot and add 2 1/2 cups of sugar. Leave overnight or 12 hours or so.

  1. The next day, measure the syrup and add enough water to equal 4 cups.
  2. Add the cardamom or cloves and  boil the syrup down, adding some lemon juice  until it is syrupy.
  3. Place the dates back in the syrup and simmer gently  for 30 minutes. Cool. Place in sterilized jars. Serve or store in the fridge.

MILK PUDDING or Muhallabiyeh

  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1/2 cup of cream (Puck is a good brand and sold at middle-eastern stores)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of orange blossom water
  • 1/3 cup of cornstarch


  1. Pour the milk minus 1/2 cup and the cream  into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat it until it starts steaming.
  2. Add the cornstarch dissolved in about 1/2 cup of milk to the steaming milk. Stir constantly, about 4 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Add some orange blossom water or other flavoring at this point.
  3. Strain the thickened milk mixture. Pour into individual containers and cool at room temperature, then refrigerate.
  4. Serve with the candied dates and some powdered pistachios or almonds.

NOTE: Go easy on the cardamom seeds, as they tend to be powerfully fragrant!


40 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. HPD says:

    Green cardamon seeds … don’t think I’ve ever stumbled onto that.

    Can see myself wasting away several hours sitting outside with a cup of coffee and a dish of candied dates. Cheers!

  2. Camille says:

    I love dates so much! Thanks for giving me yet another excuse to eat them!

  3. Katerina says:

    Once again I am astonished by how many similarities Mediterranean people have. We make such sweets to. Basically all fruits are made into sweets like that. For us too this is a retro sweet. Back when I was little and there were not sweets like pannacotta, cakes or all these fancy French sweets, people when visiting each other they were presented such sweets. Some times we put it over yogurt. You brought so many memories to me.

  4. Sushma Mallya says:

    This is really very tempting and very yum!!

  5. T.W. Barritt says:

    This is really simplicity at its best, which is really what coffee and sweets should be about.

  6. SYLVIA says:

    Joumana, I don’t know how you do it every time you are very imaginative, your casual Lebanese cooking makes your cuisine one of the healthiest in the world. You have this distinctive style of entertaining, and make some of these best dishes that I can’t live without. This pudding with candied dates, and pistachios will send this towering treat to the table in high style.

  7. Barbara says:

    My mother used to make a vanilla cornstarch pudding and served fresh raspberries over it. Your recipe is much like hers…but I love the idea of those divine figs mixed in. My dad loved figs…wish I could have made this for him!

  8. Marcela says:

    Just love it!!…I just want to eat them….What a wonderful treats are in Lebanon!!….Abrazotes, Marcela

  9. Angie's Recipes says:

    The milk pudding with candied dates….writing it already made me salivate! Thanks for sharing another gorgeous recipe.

  10. Priya says:

    Thats a droolworthy and very interesting dessert…fabulous treat..

  11. Magic of Spice says:

    This looks delicious, love candied dates, and I just bought some green cardamon seeds on Saturday 🙂

  12. Sarah says:

    Another recipe that looks delicious.
    I just wish you’d organize a cookery class and show us Beirut …

  13. FOODESSA says:

    Joumana…believe it or not…I had a taste at fresh dates for the very first time last week. I don’t know why I waited so long to try them…especially considering how much I love dried dates.
    This recipe of yours is quite different than what I’m used to with dates…I will have to look into it further ;o)

    Hope you’re still enjoying your time in Beirut.

    Ciao for now,

  14. Ángeles says:

    Unas recetas ¡ imprecionantes !. Me encanta todo, todo.

  15. deana says:

    Joumana, I just tasted fresh dates last weekend and wondered what to do with them… now I know. I used to buy them to use in flower arrangements but one can never eat anything from the flower market… covered in pesticides etc. I’ve always wanted to
    taste them and thought they were interesting when I did. I imagine this recipe of yours will make them fabulous. PS mace in French is macis, it is the outer golden shell of the nutmeg.

  16. Swathi says:

    Candied dates with cardamom looks gorgeous. I was looking for Labanese recipes in Google and stumbled upon arriving your space.

  17. sicoulette says:

    I just discovered your blog, and it’s love at first sight:)) I am lebanese too and I am so happy to see all these recipes with your creative’s really a pleasure:)

  18. Pauline says:

    Sweets like grandmother used to make, plus warm weather and wifi – sounds like heaven to me!

  19. Conor @ HoldtheBeef says:

    I think these would make a great gift in pretty jars. They look deliciously goopy!

  20. Sweet Artichoke says:

    Fresh dates are difficult to find here, but whenever I find them, it is always a pleasure to bite in the somehow strange texture they have. Your candied dates sound delicious and OMG, I imagine the delicious combination with the mahallabiyeh!

  21. Sophie says:

    MMMMMMMM,…Joumana!! what a lovely & sweet spiced dessert this is!

    It looks just georgous!!

  22. maybelles mom says:

    what a lovely blog. i don’t like dates but do like cardamom and you have made the combo seem fabulous.

  23. Heavenly Housewife says:

    This looks truly sensational. I am going to book mark this one!
    *kisses* HH

  24. Heni says:

    Candied dates huh? So very interesting … just when I thought dates were sweet enough … beautiful presentation and dessert Joumana!

  25. Adelina says:

    Joumana, I actually bought fresh dates from a close by middle eastern market and was thinking of preparing a salad… but then I got all four of my wisdom teeth pulled and did not think I would be able much on them much. Thanks for your beautiful creation!

  26. Katie @Cozydelicious says:

    These look so amazing!!! Would you believe that I have never seen fresh dates? Where do I find fresh dates in Boston? I have GOT to make these! I love how you call them a retro confection! They seem so decadant to me.

  27. sophia says:

    AACK! This will be VERY dangerous around me. I don’t know how anyone can just stop with a couple of them!

  28. Ladybird says:

    Ahhh I adore cardamom! it is such a heavenly scent 🙂

  29. MaryMoh says:

    I have never seen fresh dates. They look so pretty. I love dates. Your date dessert looks very delicious. Thanks very much for sharing. I had just made an apple cake yesterday with dates…very delicious.

  30. peter says:

    A beautiful dessert, especially when paired with the pudding. I think you would hit this cafe even without WI-FI offered!

  31. Sue Stephens says:

    The candies dates with cardamom sound scrumptious – I wonder if I can make this over here? It would be a super winter treat sitting next to the fire . . .

  32. Clare@MrsMultitasker says:

    Ooh this looks like a unique and wonderful little dessert! Love the idea of stuffing the date with a pistachio!
    You have a gorgeous blog =)

  33. Doc says:

    Cardamom reminds me of Turkey! These look Fab and I love the quince, but will have to take your suggestion and replace with the abudant sweet taters we have here.

  34. Mimi says:

    I haven’t seen fresh date before wither. Now I must find some so I can make this.

  35. Mary says:

    I love dried dates, but only bought fresh ones for the first time a few weeks ago. They were yellow, as yours are, but they were crunchy! Is that what they’re supposed to be like? I was very surprised, but I couldn’t stop eating them anyway. This recipe sounds wonderful, as I love cardamom.

  36. OysterCulture says:

    I just picked up some fresh dates here in SF, and now I need to go back to the market so I can try out this incredible candied version. Thanks so much for sharing.

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