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How to Make Bacon-Wrapped Dates by Aida Mollenkamp
How to Make Bacon-Wrapped Dates by Aida Mollenkamp
Let’s talk bacon-wrapped dates, an easy delicious appetizer by Aida Mollenkamp where California dates take the spotlight.
This sweet, savory bite is a major crowd-pleaser thanks to the contrast of the honey sweet dates with the crisp, smoky bacon. It’s one of the simplest appetizers out there, but a few key points separate the mediocre from the excellent (spoiler: it has to do with technique and ingredients)!
Read on for our tips for this must-make appetizer and to learn why it’s just one of the ways we like using California dried fruit.
Are They Bacon-Wrapped Dates or Devils On Horseback?
Before we go further, let’s clarify that bacon-wrapped dates and devils on horseback are two names for the same recipe. Specifically, it is a warm appetizer made with dried fruit (traditionally a date) wrapped in bacon. Over the years, variations have surfaced, be it using prunes instead of dates, prosciutto instead of bacon, stuffing the date with cheese or nuts, or even drizzling the baked dates with aged balsamic vinegar, hot honey, or brandy before serving.
The star of this dish is California dates, so let’s dive into them a bit. California produces 90% of the dates grown commercially in the United States, and the two main varieties are Medjool dates and Deglet Noor (both of which are excellent in this recipe). Dates provide natural sweetness and are nutritious, packed with fiber and essential nutrients like B vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, magnesium, copper, and manganese.
How To Make This Recipe
Pit The Dates
Either buy pitted dates or pit them by using a small paring knife to make a lengthwise slit on one side (don’t slice them in half) and discard the pit.
Stuff As Desired
Bacon-wrapped dates are delicious when they’re nothing more than bacon and dates; however, they’re even more decadent with stuffed. We have six ideas for bacon-wrapped dates below.
Wrap In Bacon
Okay, yes, all you’re doing is wrapping them in bacon, but too much and the bacon won’t get crispy, and too little, and the strips of bacon will shrink and fall off the date while cooking.
Many recipes for bacon-wrapped dates call for them to roast at 425°F, which results in unevenly cooked bacon. Instead, we bake it at 375°F for a more even result.
Ingredients In Bacon-Wrapped Dates
The main ingredient is California dates; any type will work so long as they’re pitted.
Fill the dates with cheese or California nuts like almonds, pistachios, or walnuts.
You want bacon slices long enough to wrap each date about 1.5 times to have a good ratio of bacon to dates. It can be thick-cut bacon or thin cut and any flavor. Or you can use Pancetta or Prosciutto if you’d like.
Tips For Making Bacon-Wrapped Dates
Season The Dates
Season the pitted dates with salt and freshly ground black pepper to help balance their sweetness.
Resist the urge to overstuff the dates; otherwise, the filling will spill out as they bake. The ideal amount of filling is about 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon, depending on the size of the date.
Microwave The Bacon
If you like your bacon just crisp, you can skip this. But, if you want the bacon really crispy, go ahead and par-cook it by putting it on a paper-towel-lined plate and microwaving it for about 1 to 2 minutes before wrapping. This will help render some of the fat resulting in crispier bacon and less greasy bacon-wrapped dates.
Wrap It 1.5 Times Max
Trim the length of your bacon so that each strip wraps around the date about 1.5 times, as this will give you good bacon coverage while ensuring the bacon gets crispy.
Wrap Ahead Of Time
Making this appetizer for a party? Go ahead and stuff and wrap the dates ahead of time and then bake them about a half hour before you want to serve them.
Six Variations On Bacon-Wrapped Dates
- Simply Bacon And Dates
- Stuffed With Cheese (Manchego, goat cheese, and Parmigiano-Reggiano work great)
- Stuffed With Nuts like California almonds, pistachios, or walnut.
- Blue Cheese, Walnut, and Balsamic Vinegar (See below for details)
- Pistachio Pesto And Cream Cheese (See below for details)
- Almond And Paprika Orange Goat Cheese (See below for details)
FAQs About Bacon-Wrapped Dates
Can you make bacon-wrapped dates ahead?
The best bet is to assemble the dates up to 1 day ahead of time and store them covered in the refrigerator until ready to bake.
Can you serve bacon-wrapped date at room temperature?
Sure, but they taste best when warm. Let them sit for just a few minutes when they come out of the oven so you serve them warm but not so hot they burn your mouth.
Can you reheat bacon-wrapped dates?
Yes! Place the dates on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and heat them at 200°F until warm.
Is Medjool or Deglet better for bacon-wrapped dates?
Any type of date will work in this recipe. The Medjool brings more honey notes and is melting soft when baked, while the Deglet Noor is slightly less sweet and firmer.
Basic Bacon-Wrapped Dates Recipe
- 20 dates
- 10 slices of bacon
- 10 walnuts or whole almonds
- 20 slices of blue cheese
- 3 ounces softened goat cheese
- 1/3 cup pistachio mint pesto
- 3 ounces softened goat or cream cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- zest from one orange
- 2 teaspoons chopped thyme
- For 20 servings, you’ll need 20 dates, ten pieces of bacon, and, if desired, ten walnuts or whole almonds.
- Heat an oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the upper third. Cut 10 pieces of bacon in half crosswise to make 20 strips of bacon, place on a paper-lined plate, and microwave until it lets off part of the grease but is still pliable, about 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
- Meanwhile, pit the dates or buy pitted dates. Season the insides of the pitted dates with a pinch of salt and a few cranks of freshly ground black pepper. If stuffing, add a walnut or a couple of almonds or pistachios.
- Wrap the cooled bacon around the date (ideally, it will wrap around 1.5 times) and secure it with a toothpick. Repeat to wrap all the dates in the bacon, place on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes. Carefully remove from the oven, turn the dates (to help the bacon cook evenly), and continue to cook until the bacon is crisped to your desired doneness, about 15 to 20 minutes more. Top with flaky sea salt and serve immediately.
Variation 1: Blue Cheese + Walnut
- Fill each date with one small slice of blue cheese and one whole walnut before wrapping. Drizzle with aged balsamic vinegar before serving.
Variation 2: Pistachio Pesto + Cream Cheese
- Mix together 3 ounces of softened fresh goat cheese or cream cheese with 1/3 cup pistachio mint pesto. Fill the dates with the mixture (no more than one teaspoon per date) and a couple of pistachios before wrapping and baking.
Variation 3: Almond+ Paprika Orange Goat Cheese
- Mix 3 ounces of softened fresh goat cheese or cream cheese with 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, the zest from one orange, and, if desired, 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme. Fill the dates with the mixture (no more than one teaspoon per date) and a couple of almonds before wrapping and baking.
More Recipes With California Dates
In search of more creative ways to use California dates? Here you go!
California Date Shake Recipe
California’s Coachella Valley is the epicenter for date cultivation in the United States, and it’s also home to this classic milkshake known as a Date Shake. Our version includes California nuts and nut milk for even more California Grown produce.
Cinnamon Spiced Date Walnut Smoothie
Looking for a healthier version of a date shake? Check out this smoothie version where Greek yogurt and homemade walnut milk replace the ice cream.
Mint, Date, And Goat Cheese Gougères Tea Sandwiches
These creative, vegetarian tea sandwiches are made with French cheese puffs (aka Gougères) filled with goat cheese, mint, and an easy date spread.
Roasted Root Vegetable Salad With Balsamic Date Vinaigrette
This balsamic date vinaigrette is a dressing we turn to time and again for its sweet-sour combo that makes everything it tops taste even better!
Coconut Cacao Nib Date Balls
This Coconut Cacao Nib Date Balls Recipe is our modern take on old-fashioned date balls meets a healthier take on chocolate truffles. Translation? It’s a healthy sweet treat you’ll adore.
Aida is a food and travel expert, author, chef, Food Network personality, founder of the travel services company, Salt & Wind Travel, and has made her career in food travel media and hospitality and has crisscrossed the globe to search out the best food destinations. Her cookbook, Keys To The Kitchen, is a go-to for home cooks who want to become more adventurous cooks and the Travel Guides For Food Lovers series she co-authored are beloved among food travelers.
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