These Malai Stuffed Dates are a delicious, sugar-free Indian-ish dessert inspired by malai-filled Gulab Jamun that you get in Indian sweet shops. Sweet Medjool dates are filled with a luscious mixture of creamy rich malai, aromatic spices, and topped with crunchy pistachios. They're done in 20 minutes and are perfect for any special occasion or festival.
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.
As a huge fan of Gulab Jamuns, I may be an even bigger fan of these Stuffed Dates! They're filled with a delicious creamy malai made with the milk powder, just like gulab jamuns made without khoya (milk solids). The malai is also mixed with rosewater, cardamom, and saffron as an ode to the syrup the jamuns are soaked in.
Funnily enough, a lot of feedback I get from friends that are first trying gulab jamun is that it's like biting into a soggy donut. The fresh Medjools dates are juicy but introduce a familiar texture for some.
And because we're using Medjool dates, there is no sugar added into this recipe! We rely entirely on the natural sweetness of Medjools.
Why you'll love this Recipe
If you love Gulab Jamuns, especially the oval-shaped jamuns filled with malai, then you're going to loooove these Stuffed Dates.
- The Medjool dates are naturally sweet, and there is no sugar added in the malai.
- It's a great heart-healthy option as opposed to gulab jamun which is fried in ghee or oil, and then soaked in syrup.
- It's a quick, no-bake dessert that's perfect for a get together or festivals, such as Holi or Diwali.
- The filling tastes a lot like classic Milk Barfi.
Ingredients - Notes and Substitutions
- Dates - Medjool dates are the best variety for stuffed dates. 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.
- Milk - Use whole milk for the best outcome. Another alternative is full-fat coconut cream.
- Milk Powder - Use full-fat milk powder. It's a great alternative for making Indian desserts when khoya, or milk solids, is not readily available.
- Aromatics - Saffron, green cardamom, and rosewater are typical additions to flavor the syrup in gulab jamun.
- Pistachios - Pistachios, cashews, or sliced almonds are great for topping the dates for a little crunch.
How to make Stuffed Dates
Thankfully, this recipe is super easy! The malai mixture will just 10 minutes to make over the stove, and then it's as simple as piping it into the dates.
To prep, I like to rinse off the dates in some cool water. If your dates are older and a bit dry, I like to plump them up a bit first.
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.
1. How to make the Malai
- Add the whole milk and whole milk powder into a nonstick pan on low heat. Stir it together until the milk powder is rehydrated and the lumps are smoothed out.
- Keep stirring the milk on low heat for about 5 minutes. Periodically scrape the sides and mix the cream back into the milk.
- At the 5 minute mark, the mixture should be reduced by about half way. At this point, stir in the freshly ground green cardamom, rosewater, and saffron.
- Keep simmering for another 3-5 minutes.
Pro Tip: It may be some arm work, but don't forget to keep stirring so that the milk doesn't scorch in the pan.
The cream mixture will have reduced down to about 1 - 1.5 cups. At this point, it's done! Remove the pan from heat.
2. Stuffing the Medjool Dates
Once the malai mixture is done, we're ready to fill the dates! If your dates aren't already pitted, cut open the date on one side and remove the pit.
A 12-inch piping bag should suffice. The easiest way to fill a piping bag if you're new to it is to put it in a tall glass and pull the edges over the cup. Then, spoon the mixture into the piping bag and cut about ½-inch off the tip.
Pipe about a tablespoon of the mixture into the date, until it's full to the top. Close the date, leaving a bit of a gap for the malai to peek out.
Repeat this process with the rest of the dates.
Pro Tip: If you have some of the malai mixture leftover, use it as a topping on pancakes, ice cream, pound cake, a vanilla protein shake, etc.
Use an offset spatula to scrape off any excess malai coming out of the date.
Sprinkle the chopped pistachios over the malai and press them in so they stick. A few dried rose petals are great for a pop of color or edible silver leaf is always stunning on Indian desserts.
Serve the Malai Stuffed Dates at room temperature or chilled.
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.
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.
The piping bag. If you don't have a piping bag, use a half gallon Ziploc bag!
These stuffed dates are a great make ahead dessert! They can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Unfortunately, these will not do well in the freezer. While it can absolutely be frozen, once defrosted, the consistency of the malai filling will be a lot drier.
More Recipes with Dates to try
Malai Stuffed Dates
- Slice the Medjool dates down one side and remove the pit.
- In a nonstick pan on low heat, add the milk and milk powder. Stir it together until completely combined and there are no lumps. Simmer the milk for 5 minutes, continuously stirring to prevent scorched milk. Every minute or so, scrape down the sides of the pan to mix back in the cream that has coated the sides of the pan.
- Once the quantity has reduced by half and is still a bit liquidy, add the ground cardamom and rose water into the pan. Crush the saffron in your hand and add into the pan. Stir the additions into the milk mixture.
- Continue to simmer for another 3-5 minutes, continuing the stirring technique in Step #2. Once the mixture is thick, remove the pan from heat.
- Spoon the malai (cream) mixture into a piping bag. Cut the tip. Pipe the malai into the center of each date until it's full. Squish the date on both sides so that it "closes" a bit, but leaves the a bit of the malai mixture in view.
- Press pistachios into the malai. Serve the stuffed dates at room temperature or chilled.