This recipe is a healthier take on classic date nut bread. Featuring all the usual suspects—dates, nuts, and a dash of booze—this bread is just as moist and much more flavorful than the classic. Enhanced with warm spices and sweetened with maple syrup (both of which are not traditional), this bread certainly shows up when it comes to flavor. 

a slice of date nut bread topped with butter on a white plate

What is date nut bread?

Date nut bread is a quick bread—a type of bread made with baking soda and/or baking powder instead of yeast. 

If you’ve never had date nut bread before, then you’re in for a treat! Made with chopped dates and nuts, most date nut breads are dense, moist, and pretty sweet. I’d say it’s a cross between banana bread and fruit cake.

This version is far less sweet (though still sweet enough to be an evening treat), moist but not nearly as dense, and more flavorful thanks to the addition of warm spices. 

brown bread studded with chopped dried fruit and nuts, set on a parchment-lined wood board set on a table with a butter dish and brown cups set around it

What you’ll need to make date nut bread:

  • White whole-wheat flour 
  • Baking powder and baking soda
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Ground ginger
  • Kosher salt 
  • Whole milk 
  • Eggs
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Olive oil 
  • Melted butter (optional, you can use olive oil instead)
  • Brandy or bourbon (also optional, but it adds great flavor)
  • Vanilla extract
  • Dates
  • Walnuts or pecans 
  • Turbinado or demerara sugar
small white bowls filled with ingredients set on a wood counter

How to make date nut bread

Just like any other quick bread, this date nut bread recipe is easy to make. No special equipment and no hard-to-find ingredients. 

  1. Combine the dry ingredients. 
  2. Whisk together the wet ingredients. 
  3. Add the chopped dates to the wet mixture and let sit 10 minutes (optional step, but I find this loosens up the dates, helping them better disperse throughout the batter).
  4. Fold the flour mixture into the wet mixture just until combined, some pockets of flour are OK. 
  5. Add the nuts and fold to combine.
  6. Spread the batter into a parchment-lined loaf pan, smooth the top and sprinkle with sugar. 
  7. Bake bread until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. 
  8. Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 
step-by-step grid of images showing how to make a quick bread batter
step-by-step grid of images showing how to prepare and bake date nut bread

Why olive oil and butter?

Almost all of the quick bread recipes I create and share are made with olive oil. Not only is it healthier, but it creates the most moist quick breads. Plus, when you use extra-virgin olive oil you’re also adding a great deal of flavor. 

This recipe is healthier than traditional date nut bread but it doesn’t skimp on traditional flavor. To maintain that lovely butter flavor associated with this bread, I add just 2 tablespoons of melted butter to the batter. It’s not a lot, but it does the trick.

If you want to use only olive oil, go right ahead! Just swap those two tablespoons of butter for 2 tablespoons olive oil (in addition to the ¼ cup the recipe already calls for). 

stack of bread slices with someone taking the top slice off

Make sure your dried dates are fresh

Sound like an oxymoron? To have the best results, it’s important to use fresh dried dates. What I mean by this—make sure the dried dates aren’t super dry and old. You want dates that are still very pliable and soft, almost like a homemade caramel

The softer your dried dates are, the more gooey they will be in the bread—which is ideal since they’re the star of the show!

If your dates are pretty dry, you can salvage them to make this bread! I recommend chopping the dates as directed, then soaking in hot water for 10–15 minutes. Drain the dates well then use as directed in the recipe.

Variations:

  • Add more warm spices like nutmeg, allspice, or clove
  • Replace a few tablespoons of the maple syrup with molasses (this will give the bread a classic deep dark color, similar to the date nut breads which used to be sold by Thomas or Neuman’s)
  • Finish the bread with a simple orange glaze or a simple cream cheese frosting
  • Top the bread with a quick oat streusel instead of turbinado sugar
  • Serve with a spread of cream cheese—very classic
  • Use brown sugar in place of the maple syrup
a fork picking up a piece of brown-colored bread form a white plate

If you give this bread a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @zestfulkitchen on Instagram. I love hearing about and seeing your ZK creations!

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brown bread studded with chopped dried fruit and nuts, set on a parchment-lined wood board set on a table with a butter dish and brown cups set around it

Healthy Moist Date Nut Bread

  • Author: Lauren Grant
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 ½ hours + 1 ½ hours cooling time
  • Yield: 1 loaf (10 servings) 1x
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American/Scotish
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

Deliciously moist, this healthy date nut bread (made with whole-wheat flour, maple syrup and olive oil) features pockets of gooey dates, crunchy nuts, and a sweet crisp topping. 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons white whole-wheat flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon ground ginger 
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅔ cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup pure maple syrup 
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon or brandy (optional to enhance flavor)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dried dates, chopped (6 ounces)
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado or demerara sugar 

Instructions

Heat oven to 350°F (176ºC) with rack set in middle position. Coat an 8½ × 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray. Line pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides; coat paper with nonstick spray.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl, set aside.

Whisk together milk, eggs, maple syrup, oil, butter, bourbon (if using), and vanilla until smooth. Stir in dates and let sit 10 minutes. Fold flour mixture into milk mixture with a rubber spatula until combined. Fold in nuts. 

Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Sprinkle turbinado sugar evenly over top.

Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of loaf comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 55–60 minutes.

Let bread cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn bread out onto wire rack to cool completely, at least 1 ½ hours. 

Store bread wrapped in parchment paper (I just use the paper from baking) and foil, or in a zipper-lock bag at room temperature for up to 3 days, though it’s best within 2 days. If you need to store it longer, pop it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.



Notes

Butter: if you’d rather not use butter, leave it out and add two more tablespoons of olive oil.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 slice (1/10 of the recipe)
  • Calories: 284
  • Sugar: 20g
  • Sodium: 139mg
  • Fat: 11g
  • Saturated Fat: 3g
  • Carbohydrates: 42g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Protein: 5g
  • Cholesterol: 45mg

Keywords: date nut bread, date nut bread recipe

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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Comments

  1. Wasn’t disappointed in this healthier version of date nut loaf and I’ll make again, perhaps adding grated lemon rind. Everyone’s oven is different but 55-60 minutes in mine was too long. Lightly toasted slices and spread with butter – delicious!

  2. Moist and flavorful date bread. Perfect to put in husbands lunch box. All the recipes I have tried from this website are keepers.

    1. Hi Karen! Thanks so much for your comment, I’m so happy you enjoy this bread recipe. It’s one of my favorites as well. Thanks for trying some of my recipes!