Indulge in these naturally sweet and nutritious Date Nut Ladoos, made with fresh Medjool dates, crunchy nuts and seeds, and aromatic cardamom. Whether they're a healthy snack or a festival delicacy, these 15-minute ladoos are a delightful way to satisfy your sweet cravings.
This post is sponsored by our friends at Natural Delights Medjool Dates. I had the unique opportunity of joining them for the date harvest in Yuma, AZ in September 2023 and learned so much about Medjool dates! All opinions are my own. Thank you for continuing to support the brands that make Masala and Chai possible.
One thing I share in common with my dad is our love for Indian sweets. Our family owns a sweet shop in Aligarh in India. If there's one thing my dad will do, it's keep our fridge stocked with sweets from Aligarh.
Lately he's been loving ladoos made of dates, nuts, and seeds with strong notes of ghee and cardamom. He insisted that the family recipe for Date Nut Ladoos needs to be shared on Masala and Chai, so here it is!
We absolutely love Medjool dates in our family due to their natural sweetness, caramel flavor, and nutritious, heart healthy profile. They provide a long-lasting energy boost so we'll enjoy a ladoo as an afternoon snack.
Why you'll love this Recipe
In case you needed reasons to make this recipe...
- There is no added sugar or gluten in this ladoo. The Medjool dates provide a natural caramel flavor that binds all the ingredients together.
- It's a quick and easy recipe with ingredients that are most likely already in your pantry. Friends and family will enjoy it for any occasion. It's also a nutritious, energy-boosting snack to keep in the fridge.
- Who doesn't love a no-bake dessert? This recipe just requires a few minutes on the stovetop, mainly for roasting the nuts and tossing everything in ghee.
- These date and nut ladoos are a great source of heart healthy fats, fiber, and nut protein that will keep you fueled throughout the day.
What is a Ladoo?
Ladoo, or laddu, is a type of sweet dessert from the Indian-subcontinent and can be identified by their round shape. They come in several different variations and ingredients - usually consisting of flour, sugar, dry fruits, seeds, or ghee. Some of the most popular are motichoor ladoo, coconut ladoo, besan ladoo, and boondi ladoo.
Ladoos are typically given out during celebrations. They especially make an appearance during religious festivals associated with Ganesha, where devotees offer him ladoos.
Ingredients - Notes and Substitutions
- Dates - Medjool dates are the best variety for date ladoo. They're large, soft, and naturally sweet compared to other varieties. There are many health benefits to adding them into your diet, such as added vitamins and minerals and high fiber (WebMD). They're available pitted at the grocery store by brands like Natural Delights which makes this recipe quicker.
- Ghee - Substitute ghee with unsalted butter. However, ghee is a type of clarified butter so it has a unique flavor profile that is unmatched for desi desserts. To make these ladoos vegan, use a vegan butter.
- Nuts - We use pistachios, almonds, and cashews for this recipe. Feel free to add your favorite nuts such as walnuts, peanuts, or pecans.
- Dried Fruit - Golden raisins are the only dried fruit in the recipe but you can also add dried apricots and dried figs.
- Seeds - Sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds are used for this recipe. Melon seeds, or mingi in Hindi, are unique to Indian dessert. The seeds of a melon are removed, washed, dried, and cracked open. You can also add sunflower seeds and poppy seeds.
- Cardamom - Freshly ground green cardamom adds a ton of great flavor to these ladoos.
- Edible silver leaf - Entirely optional, but edible silver leaf is a classic look that adorns a lot of Indian desserts.
How to make Date Nut Ladoos
The first step to making these ladoos is prep!
Soften the Medjool dates in two ways:
- Soak the dates in warm water for 10 minutes.
- Wrap the dates in a damp paper towel and warm them up in a microwave for 10 seconds.
Next, roughly chop the almonds, pistachios, cashews, and any other nuts you choose to use. Freshly grind the green cardamom pods with a mortar and pestle.
Melt a tablespoon of ghee in a pan. Add the cashews, pistachios, almonds, raisins, melon seeds (optional), pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds into the pan. Roast everything for 4-5 minutes on a low to medium heat.
The aroma will be nutty and the nuts and seeds will turn a shade darker. Transfer this mixture to a plate. Set it aside while we work on the dates.
Melt two tablespoons of ghee in the pan on low heat. Add the softened dates into the pan.
As they start to warm in the pan, mash them with the back of a wooden spoon. Keep doing this until they reach a paste-like consistency. It should take around 5 minutes, and gets easier as the dates warm in the pan.
At this point, add the nuts and seeds back into the pan. Don't forget to add the freshly ground cardamom, too.
Mix everything together as thoroughly as possible. Be sure to break apart clumps with the spoon. Once the date has binded all the ingredients in the mixture together, switch the heat off.
Next, there's two ways to shape the ladoos.
- The traditional way is to coat your hands with a bit of ghee so that the mashed dates don't stick to your hands. Grab a few spoonfuls worth of the mixture into the palm of your hand and press it together. Rotate it in your hand by pushing it with your hand, and press it together. Continue doing this until you get a round shape.
- Brush a cookie scoop with ghee. Use the cookie scoop to pick up some of the mixture and plop it into your hand, compact it together, and then roll it into a ball.
Pro Tip: Compact the ladoo tightly so that it doesn't crumble at the touch. The dates will set as it cools and bind the mixture together.
Repeat the process with the remaining mixture.
If you're serving this for a party or religious function, a touch of edible silver leaf makes these ladoos especially gorgeous. Otherwise, they can be kept as is.
Tips and Tricks
The quality of dates. Use fresh, moist Medjool dates. There are several varieties of dates, but Medjool dates have more moisture, are typically larger, and have a natural sweet caramel flavor. In comparison, deglet dates have less moisture and are better for baking or cooking.
Chopping vs. blending. It may be tempting to blend the nuts, but then you run the risk of grinding it into a powder which is not the ideal consistency or texture
Plumping up the dates. Natural Delights Medjool Dates are dried to a certain percentage before it hits consumers, but contrary to popular belief, dates are not considered a dried fruit! They do benefit from a 10 minute soak in warm water or wrap them in a damp paper towel and microwave them for 10 seconds to soften them into juicy dates that are perfect for squishing in this recipe.
Keep the date and nut mixture warm. Once the mixture in the pan cools down, it'll be extremely difficult to make the ladoos. Work fast to make the ladoos. If it cools down, reheat the mixture in the pan for a minute or pop it into the microwave.
Use a cookie scoop. Brush ghee on to a cookie scoop and use that to scoop an even amount of date nut mixture. Then roll it into an even ball in your hands.
- Dry Fruit Ladoo - A different type of ladoo, you can also add dried fruits like apricots and figs into the mixture and cut back on the amount of dates used.
- Nuts - Most nuts will taste great in this ladoo! Feel free to add peanuts, walnuts, pecans, etc.
- Seeds - Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and poppy seeds are common mix-ins.
- Additional mix-ins - Other healthy ingredients that can be added are dried coconut, quinoa, chia seeds.
- Chocolate - Feel free to drizzle chocolate on the ladoo or add chocolate chips into the mixture.
Date nut ladoos have a long shelf-life and can last in the refrigerator for up to a month in a sealed container. Allow them 10 minutes at room temperature to soften before enjoying them.
They can also be frozen in the freezer for up to 6 months. To thaw, leave them at room temperature for an 3-4 hours, or until they've softened.
More Recipes with Dates
Date Nut Ladoo
- Soak the pitted dates in warm water for 10 minutes, or wrap them in a damp paper towel and microwave them for 10 seconds to plumpen them.
- Roughly chop the almonds, cashews, and pistachios. Heat 1 tablespoon of ghee in a pan on medium to low heat. Once melted, add the nuts, raisins, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and melon seeds (optional). Roast for 4-5 minutes, until you can smell their aroma and the color of the cashews turn a shade darker.
- Transfer the contents of the pan into a plate and set aside.
- Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee in the pan on a low setting. Add the dates into the pan and begin to mash them with the back of the spoon until it reaches a paste-like consistency.
- Add the nuts, raisins, and seeds back into the pan with the dates along with the ground cardamom. Mix everything together thoroughly.
- Coat your hands with ghee. Scoop about 3 tablespoons of the mixture into your hand and press it into a round ball. Repeat with the rest of the date nut mixture.
- Apply edible silver leaf to the ladoos (optional). Enjoy!