These nut free chocolate energy balls were tested and approved by a class of Grade 6 students. If these snacks get the thumbs up from tough critics like that – they must be good! Gotta love no-bake recipes that are nut free, easy to make and include ingredients you can feel good about – oats, seeds, dates, cocoa and dried cranberries.
We love these energy bites. They’re super easy to make, require no baking, can be stored for a long time (freezer friendly), taste great and offer healthy fats, filling protein, gut friendly fibre and complex carbs. That’s a lot of goodness packed in a little bite!
What Kind of Dates to Use
Dates are the key ingredient in these energy balls or energy bites. They act as the glue that holds everything together while also providing sweetness. Dates are the best way to make energy bites when nut butters are not an option. It’s a technique very similar to how Larabars (store-bought energy bars) are made.
The good news is you can use just about any kind of dates you have access to for this recipe. But it’s best if you choose fresh, plump dates. Read on to see which is my favourite.
Dates are the fruit of date palm trees that typically grow in the Middle East and in the US (since 1890’s). They are a stone fruit (have a single pit in the middle) that grow in drooping clusters high up in the tree. A ripe date is soft and brown with wrinkly skin – just like you buy in the container. Unlike raisins, which are dried grapes, dates aren’t dried. Dates are just dates – what you see is the ripe fruit that comes from the date palm tree.
Just like you get different varieties of apples or grapes, there are different varieties of dates. You may see them labeled as Dayri, Barhi, Medjool, Deglet Noor, Halawy, etc. Each variety varies a little in size, sweentess, texture (more or less fibrous), dryness, etc. Try different ones and see which one you like best.
Like many people, I prefer Medjool dates – they’re bigger, softer, more caramel-like and sweeter than other dates.
How to Select and Buy Dates
Date season is late fall to early winter. That’s when you’ll see dates on sale and promoted in the fresh fruit section of your grocery store. Remember, even though they look dried, they’re fresh fruit, so you won’t find them next to dried cranberries or apricots – they’ll be in the fresh produce aisle.
Choose whole or pitted dates. Removing the pit is as easy as slicing the date open and pulling out the pit. But buying pitted dates is even easier and there’s usually no price difference.
Look for dates that are plump, have a nice shine, are intact with minimal rips and tears, are separate (not one big clump) and not too sitcky or crystallized.
How to Store Dates
Because dates are so high in sugar and low in moisture, fresh dates keep for a long time. But, they eventually do dry out and become harder and more crystalized. Still good and safe to eat, just not as soft and fresh. The best way to keep fresh dates, soft and fresh is to store them in an airtight container in the fridge for about 30 days.
For even longer storage, store them in an airtight container in the freezer. Thanks to their low moisture content, they’ll last a long time.
Can I use Crystalized Dates?
If you have dates that are dry and crystallized, you can still use them. There are a couple of ways to soften them, depending on how dry they are.
If they’re just starting to form a little white coating of crystalized sugar on the outside, wrap them in in a damp paper towel and microwave for 5 seconds at a time until they plump up.
If they’re quite hard and stuck together, place in a bowl, add boiling water to cover and soak for 10 minutes. Drain the water and use as needed.
Pro Tip: When making this recipe with a group of pre-teens or teens – call them energy bites not balls!
Recipe Nut Free Chocolate Energy Bites
Nut Free Chocolate Energy Balls
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds
- ½ cup sunflower seeds
- ½ cup oats
- 1 Tbsp ground flax seeds
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup pitted fresh dates packed (~115 g 3.9 oz)
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
- 1-2 Tbsp water
- In a food processor, combine all ingredients except water.
- Process until ingredients are a fine crumb.
- With food processor running, slowly drizzle in only as much water as needed to bring ingredients together to form clumps.
- Scoop out one tablespoonful at a time. Using slightly damp hands, roll into ball shape about 3/4 to 1 inch in size.
- Place ball on tray or plate and cool in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
- Store in fridge or freezer for maximum freshness for several weeks.
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
Looking for slightly different versions? Try these:
Chocolate Almond Energy Bars – a nutty version with instructions for shaping into bars, which you could do with this recipe as well
Coffee Lover’s Energy Bars – intense coffee flavor
Have you tried making your own energy bars or balls? Do you have a favorite flavor combo? I’d love to see your energy bars or bites – take a photo, post it on Instagram and tag #getgettys so I can see it and like it!
Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist, speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas. She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.