Written by: Natalie Pirolli, MS, RDN, LDN, RYT | December 14, 2023
What's amazing about these energy balls, besides how delicious they are, is that there is actually no caramel in the recipe. The sweetness of the vanilla, taste and texure of the dates and sunbutter, and touch of maple taste come together to give you the sense of a caramel dessert. The salt helps to balance the sweetness and provides that salted caramel feel, which in my opinion is only made better by chocolate chips and coconut.
All of the tastes and textures also make them SUPER satisfying. Plus, they're pretty nutrient dense providing some protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamin E, iron, magnesium, selenium, potassium, zinc, and more.
These energy balls are also gluten-free, dairy-free, and nut-free (except for coconut*) making them suitable for most people. They're a great snack for kids--you can pair them with a glass of milk and some fruit for a heartier snack or have them be enjoyed on their own. I really love them with a cup of tea or latte, as a side to my yogurt, or as a dessert. However you choose to eat them, I hope you enjoy them as much as my husband and I do!
*Coconut is actually a fruit but has been lumped into the "tree nuts" category by the FDA. Coconut allergies are rare and tend to exist separately from tree nut allergies but if you have a tree nut allergy, you should consult with your doctor or allergist before eating coconut.
2 Cups Pitted Dates (or 1 8-oz package of pitted dates)
1/2 Cup Sunflower Butter
6 Tbsp Warm Water
1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
1 1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 3/4 Cup Rolled Oats
1/3 Cup Mini Chocolate Chips (heaping cup)
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Shredded Coconut (heaping cup)
1.Highly recommend halving your pitted dates before combining them with the other ingredients. Even though they are "pitted" small pieces of pit may still remain inside (so I've learned!). It's a quick step just to ensure your safety.
2. Combine dates, sunflower butter, water, maple syrup, salt, and vanilla extract in a food processor or blender. Combine until mostly smooth or when dates are in small bits. (See image below)
(Note: you may need to add more water if using a blender/nutribullet/ninja. I've made these both ways and the food processor blended a bit easier. There were a few larger pieces of dates after using the blender but I could easily smash them when mixing in the next step.)
3. In a large bowl, combine the mixture with the oats and chocolate chips.
4. Put coconut shreds in a separate small bowl or on a plate for rolling.
5. Line a small baking sheet, tray, or plate (one that can fit in your freezer) with parchment paper.
6. Use a tablespoon to scoop out a heaping spoonful of the mixture and use your hands to roll into a ball.
(Note: they're sticky! I found it helpful to wear latex gloves for this part. You can dampen your hands or gloves periodically to help minimize the sticking.)
7. Roll the ball in the coconut to evenly coat it.
8. Place the coconut ball on the parchment paper and repeat steps 6-7 until you've used up the mixture. Makes about 26-36 balls. (Depends on how big you choose to make them or in my case, how quickly you lose patience so begin making larger and larger balls :) )
9. Place the tray of coconut-coated energy balls in the freezer. After a couple of hours (or once they've slightly hardened) you can transfer to a Tupperware and keep them in the freezer to enjoy for up to 3 months.