Date syrup (Silan)

Date syrup (Silan)

date syrup silan

Today’s recipe is my most recent obsession, which I found out about by complete accident. In search of whether something like healthy sugar actually exists, I came across date syrup or Silan (also referred to as date nectar or date honey) – a natural, liquid sweetener that is a staple in several Middle Eastern countries.

It’s a thick, ruby red syrup with a concentrated fruity taste as it is made exclusively of dates and water. It’s not hard or expensive (especially if you buy dates in bulk) to make and it offers a healthier substitute to other liquid sweeteners like brown rice syrup, agave syrup, maple syrup or (if you are not vegan) bees’ honey.

While, we have been led to believe that certain types of sugar are better for us than others, Dr Greger shows in this neat video that we have been tricked. It turns out that brown rice syrup and agave syrup, two liquid sweeteners beloved by the health conscious are both just as devoid of nutritional properties as regular, white sugar! Shocking, isn’t it? Maple syrup (which I personally like for its unique taste) or even honey did not fare much better in this comparison either, unfortunately.

The only two types of sugar that fare substantially better than others are date sugar and blackstrap molasses. The fact that date sugar proved to be a darling of this comparison isn’t too surprising given that date sugar is essentially dehydrated and ground up dates. It is pretty pricey and not easy to get hold of, so I’m not rushing to switch to it just yet, especially that it doesn’t dissolve or melt like regular sugar so it doesn’t work so well in baking, for example.

Date syrup, on the other hand, is suitable for baking and as it’s also extracted from dates it shares some of date sugar’s nutritional properties. Granted, it has none of the health promoting fibre and some of the other nutrients (potassium, magnesium, selenium and copper) are lost when the dates are cooked and the syrup is extracted, but compared to other sweeteners it still contains more minerals, particularly potassium and calcium.

And just to be clear, I am not making any wild health claims here. Date syrup is still an ingredient with an extremely high sugar content and as such, it should not be relied upon for meeting the bulk of your nutritional needs. It does appear to have a better nutritional profile when compared to other liquid sweeteners, it has a beautiful flavour and it’s easy and relatively cheap to prepare at home so I’m definitely filling my boots.

date syrup silan extraction

date syrup silan reduction

makes
250 ml / 1 cup
PREP
20 min
COOKING
120 min
makes
250 ml / 1 cup
PREPARATION
20 min
COOKING
120 min
INGREDIENTS
  • 500 g / 1 lb dried pitted dates (I used the most common, Deglet Nour variety)
  • 1 litre / 4 cups water
METHOD
  1. Chop your dates roughly.
  2. Soak your dates in boiling water for 20 minutes to get rid of impurities, discard the soaking water afterwards.
  3. Place the soaked dates in a large lidded pot with 1 litre / 4 cups of water. Bring to a gentle boil, simmer, covered, for 1-2 hrs (2 is better if you have time).
  4. Allow it to cool down completely.
  5. Place a sieve over a large bowl and line the sieve with a large piece of cheesecloth or use a nut bag.
  6. Squeeze all of the water from the cooked dates really well. You’ll need to do this in smaller batches unless you have a very large piece of cheesecloth. You should get about 2 cups of liquid.
  7. Pour the date juice into a pot and allow it to come to a gentle simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for about 45-60 minutes until the excess water evaporates and the syrup reduces by approximately half. If you dip a spoon in it, the syrup should coat the back of it – the syrup will become even thicker after cooling. If the syrup is too thin for your liking, return it to the heat and reduce some more, but be careful not to over reduce.

NOTES

My method is adapted from this video.

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NUTRITIONAL INFO
calories
1335
67%
sugars
317 g
352%
fats
0 g
0%
saturates
0 g
0%
proteins
17 g
33%
carbs
383 g
147%
*per serving
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5.0
15 reviews, 71 comments
REVIEWS & QUESTIONS
James:
I stay away from most sweeteners, as my wife can't have most of them. I use this recipe to make a fantastic pumpkin spice syrup. In the reduction stage, I add pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and clove. I use it to make pumpkins spice lattes at home. The flavor of date syrup fits perfectly and tastes great! Thank you for posting this!
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks James, I am really happy to hear that this recipe has served you well and your autumnal flavouring sounds divine too and right up my street - great idea! Ania
Steph:
Hi Ania, I know this post is a bit old but I was wondering if I make granola with this date syrup would it shorten its shelf life, currently I'm using honey so what do you think in comparison to that? As in one coment you mentioned it has to be refrigerated so it doesn't mold, now I am unsure about it.
I would love to know your opinion on making the switch of ingredients.
Thanks,
Steph
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Steph,
    I am pretty sure that once the syrup gets dried out properly in the oven mould won't be as much of an issue. It's the moisture that promotes mould growth. Good luck! x Ania
CoSuDu:
We lived in the Middle East for 5 years and loved eating all kinds of dates (hundreds of varieties) and using the date syrup in our hot cocoa. The sweetest dates I ever tried in Oman were Sukari Dates and I was able to find them in a store in Calgary and man I love eating them right out of the container like a little piggy. I thank you so much for posting how to make date syrup and I think I will give it a try with the Sukari Dates. Awesome!!
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks, I hope you'll enjoy homemade syrup and those dates sounds amazing - sadly they don't seem to be a popular variety here, in the UK. x Ania
CIndi:
Do you put the water from cooking into the bag along with the dates when you strain? Or do you just put the fruits?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Yes, all of it. I mean you would not typically need to strain water but it is likely to contain some bits of pulp and you want to be sure your syrup is silky and smooth, without any impurities. Hope this helps! Ania
Belinde:
Hi Ania,
A quick question wrt the date syrup...Once it has cooked for about 2 hours, do you only use the liquid extracted from the actual dates )with the cheese cloth) or do you also add the left over liquid that is still in the saucepan , to the concentrate?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Belinde,
    I'm not sure I understand what you mean. The syrup is the liquid squeezed out of dates after simmering for 2 hrs and reduced to the desired consistency. Hope this helps. Ania
Belinde:
Hi Ania,
Thanks so much for this recipe.
I made mine nearly 3 weeks ago, and have left it outside of the refrigerator as an experiment. Still beautiful ..colour, consistency, taste etc.
Thanks again...
Ps.... I have tried about 8 or 10 of your recipes already..and living them all
Thanks sooo much.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks so much, Belinde! I'm glad to hear that this recipe came in useful and thank you enjoyed some of my other recipes too. Thank you. Ania
Edyta:
Hi!
Just wanned to say big thanks for this recipe! It worked perfect, though I messed it up a bit when squeezing the dates as I decided to use the slow juicer 🙈 unfortunately, the dates stucked up in the upper part and no juice would come out. Yeah, I learnt something :))
As for the pulp I will use it in home made "nutella" recipe😊
BTW I used the mazafati dates, 600g of which, where I live, cost about the same as the ready made SILAN, but I still prefer to have it home made :)
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks so much for your kind words, Edyta! I'm delighted to hear that! I've never heard of Mazafati dates - I don't think they are popular in the UK - but they sound similar to Medjool dates, which while insanely delicious are quite pricey, I agree. I tend to use cheaper varieties for this, but I am sure the end result is even nicer with sweeter & juicier ones. Ania
Linda:
Hi, thanks for this recipe!! What impurities are we removing by doing the first 20min soak? I googled 'date impurities' and 'why do you have to soak dates for impurities,' but couldn't find anything (and now am concerned). Thanks for all your work.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Linda,
    Pesticides and other chemicals that dates might have been sprayed with by the grower, for example. You can skip this step if you don't think it necessary. Hope this helps! Ania
Nicole:
How much syrup did you get from 1 lb of dates?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Nicole,
    It depends on how much you'll reduce it but I got just over 1 cup (250 ml). Hope this helps! Ania
Gina:
Thank you Ania for sharing, so kind of you. I bought date syrup recently at Winners, and I'm loving it, so I'm definitely making it when I run out! I wanted to ask you, how much syrup is this recipe supposed to yield?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks Gina, I hope you'll enjoy it! It depends on the evaporation rate but I made roughly 1 cup (250 ml to be exact) out of this amount of ingredients. Hope that helps! Ania
may:
Mix date syrup with tahini and eat it as a dip with pitta bread.
One great winter snack.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Yes, I'm familiar with this combo but thanks for reminding me. I love date paste mixed with tahini even more - delicious! Ania
Nadia:
Great recipe Ania. Will try it
Thanks.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks Nadia! I hope you'll enjoy it! Ania
Casey:
Amazing!! Thank you so much for sharing such a healthy recipe! I can’t wait to make this :)
    Ania
    Ania:
    My pleasure, Casey! I'm hope you will enjoy your very own homemade date syrup. Ania
Sara:
Goodness me, you put out a great sounding recipe for a delicious syrup and all people can do is challenge you?! Date syrup is great, works in so many things and has an excellent flavour. I like date puree also but for certain things (pancakes) you can't beat the flavour of syrup. Yes maple syrup is tasty and relative to other sugars, also a decent choice but it is prohibitively expensive in some places or for some people.
I am excited to try this, I need to get a cloth to filter the dates through first though. Thank you so much for sharing as it sounds perfect.
    Ania
    Ania:
    hahahah, that's the dark side of the Internet for you. I'm glad you are excited about trying this and I hope you'll enjoy the result. Ania
jose:
Hi there, thank you for the recipe. Do you do something with the remains of the dates? Do you use them for any other recipe?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Jose,
    You are welcome, you could add the pulp to cake or pancake batter, for example. Hope this helps! Ania
Santos:
Could I use instant pot (5 min) to reduce slow cooking of 2 hours
Thanks for yr advise
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Santos,
    I would love to help you but I don't own an instant pot so I have no idea. Sorry. Ania
Arif:
I am making it today will let you know how it turned out.
Melanie:
Thanks for this recipe. The syrup was lovely and I used for your Baclava recipe- it was lovely to eat some thing sweet but not sickly. Now thinking what to do with the pulp as it seems a waste just to bin it. Thanks again.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Great to hear that you enjoyed it, Melanie! It could be a good idea to use in pancakes or cake batter. Hope that helps! Ania
Temmy:
Hi,
Thanks for the post
I prepared my date syrup last week and realized that it's fermented
this week although I didn't refrigerate
What should be done
Was it that it wasn't thick enough
Thanks
    Ania
    Ania:
    I'm not sure, possibly or do you live somewhere hot? I tend to keep it in the fridge just in case and it stays good for months. Ania
Hi i wanted to ask if you remove the skin of the dates before putting them in boiling water or do you just pit them? Also can I use mazafati dates?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi,
    I only just pit them. I have never heard of this particular type of dates - they are not popular here as far as I know - but I don't see why not. Ania
Jane:
This was lovely. I used a nut milk bag to strain. Plan to drizzle on a warm eggplant salad with walnuts. :-)
    Ania
    Ania:
    Great idea, I'm glad you enjoyed this recipe and thank you for letting me know that you did :) Ania
Brieux:
Made a batch . . . it is wonderful!
Inspired by Spiced Silan Boubon Cocktail recipe in Adeena Sussman's book "sababa".
    Ania
    Ania:
    That's great to hear, thank you! Stay well. x Ania
Feyza:
Thanks for this recipe! I wanted to bake something with my hard-as-rock dates lol, and knew I’d need to boil them to soften them up first. So I looked up ways I could make use of the water in which I boiled the dates, and I came across your article. This is just great! Thanks.
    Ania
    Ania:
    My pleasure, Feyza! I hate food waste so I am super glad my post has saved your dates. x Ania
Paula:
Great recipe ! What did you do with the dates?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thank you, you can add them to cake batter for example. Ania
Justine Nigro:
For the first step of soaking, do you mean to say that we should soak in boiled water? Or we should boil the dates for 20 minutes?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi,
    The first one - soak them in boiling water. Hope that helps! Ania
Jill:
Looking forward to making this soon! Thanks so much.
    Ania
    Ania:
    I'm glad to hear, Jill! I hope you'll find it as useful in your kitchen as I do. Ania
Lawrence:
I blitzed the cooked date mixture in my Vitamix for one minute before straining out the liquid through the cheesecloth. The pulp remaining in the cheesecloth makes a superb spread on toast with butter. Also on crackers etc.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Nice idea, Lawrence! I think adding a dollop of tahini to it would work really well too! x Ania
denise:
If you follow Dr Greger, or even just watched the video you refer to for healthy sweeteners, you would know that your date syrup is not comparable to the whole date puree he describes. Date puree , or date sugar, that he recommends is the whole date. Your date syrup removes all the fiber that makes dates his recommended sweetener.
You should not be alluding that date syrup is complient with Dr Gregers recommendations for whole food plant based diets
    Ania
    Ania:
    This is a direct quote from the post you've commented on, hope it clarifies your issues:
    Date syrup, on the other hand, is suitable for baking and as it’s also extracted from dates it shares some of date sugar’s nutritional properties. Granted, it has none of the health promoting fibre and some of the other nutrients (potassium, magnesium, selenium and copper) are lost when the dates are cooked and the syrup is extracted, but compared to other sweeteners it still contains more minerals, particularly potassium and calcium.
    And just to be clear, I am not making any wild health claims here. Date syrup is still an ingredient with an extremely high sugar content and as such, it should not be relied upon for meeting the bulk of your nutritional needs. It does appear to have a better nutritional profile when compared to other liquid sweeteners, it has a beautiful flavour and it’s easy and relatively cheap to prepare at home so I’m definitely filling my boots.
WD Green:
thanks ...
    Ania
    Ania:
    you're welcome! x
Parstabligh:
Hi Ania ,Thank you for your posts
    Ania
    Ania:
    My pleasure, I am so glad you are enjoying them! Ania
Amara:
Hi Ania,
Thanks for the instructions on making date syrup at home. I did it and the syrup turned our great and some of my friends have also learnt from you.
Thanks a lot and keep up the good work.
    Ania
    Ania:
    That's great to hear, thank you!
Ainee:
Hi Ania, what will happen if the dates were cooked more than 2 hours (step 3)?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Ainee. It's all good, the longer you cook them the more goodness the syrup gets infused with.
Adel:
Hello, I'm really looking forward to try this recipe, but I have one question - you advise to keep it in a glass jar, but I once bought date syrup in a plastic one and I'd like to use it, does it make any differnece? Apart from ecological reason, of course.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi, no, I don't think it makes any difference. Just make sure the syrup is cold before pouring it into the plastic bottle. Ania
Ije:
Well done!
Nicely written procedure. It led to the expected end.
The syrup came out really nice.
I am leaving it unrefrigerated to know how long it keeps. This is because I haven't seen any information online that talked about preserving without refrigeration. Plus, irregular power supply patterns in the tropics and developing countries doesn't encourage refrigeration.
In all, well done Ania!
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks, that's nice to hear! Ania
Julie Comtois:
Glad you linked a video to your recipe but i was talking about the fact that maple syrup is not bad for the health. A video showing me how to do the date syrup is not a source for that.
I made a lot of research on sugar for my radio show and i can assure you that maple syrup is not bad and is the only one that doesn't make the sugar level go up in the body. Didn't know about the date sirup before so i don't know about it for the sugar level but you shouldn't put down the maple syrup as it is also a good way of sweetening something
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Julie,
    I did link to the video (here is the link again)
    explaining how alternative sugars, maple syrup including, compare to regular sugar so please take a look if you are interested in this. The link to the video showing how to make date syrup was simply to acknowledge that I did not invent this technique myself, but adapted it from another source. Hope that makes sense! Ania
David A:
I don't quite get the idea of boiling the dates first to get rid of the impurities...what impurities? Does that water not take a lot of the sugar with it? As to the nourishing value of sweeteners like maple, honey, agave etc I really don't worry about it much as sweeteners are never used for their nutritional value. My go to though is molasses ans love the stuff. Agave and honey to have the value of a lower glycemic index.
Good site...keep up the good work!
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi David,
    Thanks for your point of view, to which I will reply 'each to their own'. Many of my readers are super keen on using only natural sweeteners with as much nutritional value as possible (I get asked that all the time) so I thought this recipe will make them happy. If you don't care for it, fair enough and I get your point, but no harm in having both (sweetness and nutrition) if it's possible. Ania
تعمیر کامپیوتر در محل:
Nice web design ........ Thanks for sharing
Irin:
Hi I was curious to know about the nutritional fact. Through this process like heating and simmering do the nutritional fact reduce anyway.
Thanks for the elaborate process written.
Irin
    Ania
    Ania:
    My pleasure! Yes, I suspect so, which is why I mentioned that in my post, but according to the research paper I linked to, it still has fairly substantial quantities of calcium and potassium.
Ephie:
Thank you for your posts! How long will this last ? Is it shelf stable?
    Ania
    Ania:
    I would treat it like maple syrup - keep it in the fridge and it should be good for several months. Mould forming on the surface would be something to look out for though. Hope that helps! Ania
Julie Comtois:
I wonder where you got the idea that maple sirup is not good for the health... it's the only one that doesn't even change the sugar level in the body and contains lots of minerals
I love the idea of the date sugar because it might be cheaper to make it than to buy maple sugar, but you should research about the maple sirup more
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Julie, I linked to my data source (a video) from the post. Hope that helps! Ania
Val:
What can you do with the date pulp?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Val,
    It's slightly sweet, so I would incorporate it into muffins, cakes or maybe even vegan burgers. Ania
Cheri:
Just to clarify, do you boil water and then remove from heat and soak the dates, or are we boiling the water while soaking?
    Ania
    Ania:
    I assume, you are talking about step 2, Cheri? I boil water and then pour into a bowl with chopped dates. Hope that clarifies. Ania
Michelle:
This looks great!
Any idea how long this will keep if refrigerated?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Michelle,
    I imagine it's similar to maple syrup, which means that if you keep in a glass container in the fridge, it should keep for months without any mould growth. Hope that helps! Ania
Alice:
The only two types of sugar that fare substantially better than others are date sugar and blackstrap molasses. The fact that date sugar proved to be a darling of this comparison isn’t too surprising given that date sugar is essentially dehydrated and ground up dates. It is pretty pricey and not easy to get hold of, so I’m not rushing to switch to it just yet, especially that it doesn’t dissolve or melt like regular sugar so it doesn’t work so well in baking, for example.
Date syrup, on the other hand, is suitable for baking and as it’s also extracted from dates it shares some of date sugar’s nutritional properties.
I'm not following the above. Is date syrup okay for baking or not?? In one paragraph it is and the other it isn't
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Alice,
    Date sugar and date syrup are two different things even though they are both derived from dates. Date sugar isn't great in baking as it doesn't dissolve like sugar, date syrup on the other hand is perfect! Ania
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