When is a cookie not a cookie? When it isn't baked? Or when it's turned into a nutty hedgehog? When it uses no sugar, butter, or flour? ...I pondered all these things as I was making and sampling these. And yes, I concluded these are definitely still cookies :)
That is cookies that are a no-bake, fruit-sweetened, and most importantly amazing for tiny hands to make.
....or maybe they are just fancy-shaped date rolls after all, depending on how you roll with the recipe ;)
These no-bake cookies are really made from 2 main ingredients. Dates and almonds (or thick toasted coconut chips for a nut-free option -- see recipe notes), but these two main ingredients seem to lead to infinite possibilities in terms of cookie outcome.
The resulting "dough" is something like edible play dough, ready to be molded into a multitude of shapes and creatures. They're a wonderful creative outlet, suitable for different ages and skill levels. You can shape with these, do some light sculpting, or just roll them into a ball (or flatten into discs) and enjoy.
The end result is pretty tasty, of course -- can't go wrong with dates and nuts, but for me the process of making these has been a lot of fun. And somehow strangely therapeutic. I got started with the hedgehogs idea but then switched at random to hearts, and stars, other animal faces, and even a random fish (don't ask! haha).
I kept these designs intentionally kid-friendly, inspired by a certain play dough-loving girl I've been hanging around a lot lately. Somehow the act of shaping, reshaping, and creating with her hands all day seemed like such an enjoyable activity for her.
When I brought up these cookies as an edible alternative, and after showing her a heart-shaped cookie and telling her how it used to first be a bear's face, then a fox, then a mouse, etc. until I settled on a heart, she exclaimed she wanted to make them straight away with her mom :)
You can decorate these so many ways by using various nuts, seeds, cacao nibs, etc. You can use sliced almonds for scales or ears, slivered almonds for spikes, pistachios for large eyes (like in the fish), etc. You can press in with the nuts and seeds to create patterns (for example the fish's mouth above was done by pressing in half an almond, but that could also make for pretty scales, etc.). You can use cacao nibs or smaller pieces of nuts or seeds for eyes, noses, and so on.
Or you can switch to other looks, by sprinkling the cookies with powdered coconut milk for a snowy effect, or by dipping parts of them in some melted chocolate, drizzling with chocolate, frosting, etc. The snowy cookies were hands down my favorite.
Bottom line is there's a lot of room in this recipe for having creative fun with little ones.
And for the adults... roll them up into little balls or logs and enjoy a homemade version of date rolls ;)
A fun and creative no-bake cookie recipe made with only 2 main ingredients: dates and almonds. This recipe is vegan, gluten-free and grain-free, fruit-sweetened, and can be made raw and nut-free.
- 1 ½ cups soft pitted honey dates*
- 1 cup sliced blanched almonds (like these, but regular sliced almonds will work too)**
- 1 tbsp water
- ⅛ tsp salt
- optional: ⅛ teaspoon raw ground vanilla bean
- optional: ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Optional Extra Toppings:
- coconut milk powder for dusting*
- slivered almonds for hedgehog spikes, lightly toasted (you'll need about ¾ cup to make 4 hedgehogs)
- cacao nibs or chocolate covered amaranth balls for eyes, noses, etc.
- other chopped nuts or seeds, like pistachio for fish eye, or for other decorative purposes
- melted dairy-free chocolate for drizzling or coating
1. Briefly process all cookie ingredients in a food processor until the mixture sticks together (I used the small bowl of my food processor for this recipe due to the smaller quantity of ingredients). Note: it's important not to over-process the mixture so that it doesn't turn into a paste. When it's ready, it should look like this:
2. Divide the mixture evenly into 4 - 6 parts (depending on your intended cookie size) and lump into balls. From there shape cookies into desired shapes and decorate with any desired toppings (except for the coconut milk powder for dusting -- hold off on sprinkling that on until closer to serving****).
3. Let the cookies rest in the fridge on a tray / plate for 30 mins and enjoy! Keep leftover cookies refrigerated.
*Honey dates have a particular sweet and slightly gritty texture to them, while still being soft and sticky, which is why I used them in this recipe. Other dates, like medjool, might be a bit too soft / pasty, or if too firm (like deglet nour), might not be sticky enough. If you use another kind of date you might therefore need to adjust the recipe slightly -- i.e. if your mixture is too pasty / sticky, add more almonds or almond flour, or if too chunky and not moist enough add another tablespoon of water (or more as needed) to get to the right texture.
**For a nut-free alternative can use thick toasted coconut chips, like these.
***For the coconut milk powder, if using, be careful that the brand you purchase is actually dairy-free because some can contain dairy in addition to coconut. I linked in the ingredients list to a brand that’s vegan so you can see an example of what to look for.
****For sprinkling with the coconut powder, I recommend using a small sieve, like this one, to get an evenly distributed powdered look (and avoid clumping). Coconut milk powder will keep its pretty powdery look for some time, but will eventually dissolve due to the moisture in the cookies. That is why I recommend dusting the cookies closer to serving time, and after the cookies rest in the fridge, to ensure they keep that pretty powdery look about them for your guests.