14 Types Of Dates And What Makes Them Unique

Brown and wrinkly, dates don't really score any points for appearances. That shouldn't put you off, though. These sticky and creamy beauties are exceptionally delicious, with a caramel-like flavor and notes of chocolate, toffee, and butterscotch. From muffins to cakes, bread, cakes, syrup, and sauces, you can use dates in practically every dessert. However, that's not the only reason why this sweet fruit is getting so popular.

Medical News Today notes that dates are packed with antioxidants, dietary fiber, and potassium, which makes them a superfood. In fact, dates are filled with so many nutrients that a study in the "International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition" posited that they would make the perfect all-purpose food for the future. The protein in dates has a wider variety of amino acids than the protein found in other fruits.

Dates also contain natural date sugar, making them a healthier option to sweeten your dishes as opposed to refined sugars. When it comes to dates, there are literally dozens of varieties. But not all of them can be used in the same way. If you are looking to limit your refined sugar intake and switch to using dates, here is a tour of the 14 best types of dates you can eat and ways to use each type in your everyday meals.

1. Medjool dates

All rise for The King of Dates, the Medjool date. Yes, that's actually one of the nicknames of this variety of dates. Medjool dates were once reserved to be consumed solely by royalty and for celebrating lavish events, which gave rise to names such as "The King of Dates" and "The Diamond of Fruits" (via Nakheel Palestine). Native to Morocco, these popular dates are now grown in warm regions such as California and the Middle East.

Medjool dates are large, chewy dates with a deep, amber-brown color and wrinkled skin. They have a single pit surrounded by soft, sticky flesh of heavenly sweetness. With hints of cinnamon and wild honey, these dates have a caramel taste and melt in your mouth. According to Eating Bird Food, they are harvested, cleaned, and packed immediately without processing, which preserves their natural flavor.

When it comes to benefits, Medjool dates are just as impressive. While they are a natural source of sugar, they don't elevate blood sugar levels due to their low glycemic index, per "Nutrition Journal." Additionally, they are rich in antioxidants that have anti-cancer and heart-health benefits (via Healthline). The high amount of carbohydrates in these dates also makes them a great energy source for a pre-workout smoothie.

You can eat these dates whole as a quick snack or stuff them with delicious fillings, including nuts, peanut butter, or jellies. Either way, they make a great treat. They also taste great in milkshakes and desserts.

2. Deglet Noor dates

Oasis Date Gardens notes that Deglet Noor dates were first cultivated near the city of Touggourt in the Algerian Sahara in the 17th century. Deglet Noor dates are typically not very sweet, with flavors similar to cashews and browned butter. They are available in the late summer and autumn periods and are one of the most commonly found dates.

When it comes to appearance, Deglet Noor dates are small and dark-colored. They belong to the semi-dry variety, with a slightly crunchy skin and soft flesh inside. According to Specialty Produce, these dates are a rich source of fiber and contain iron, flavonoids, potassium, vitamin B, and antioxidants. All these nutrients provide several health benefits, from improved digestion to better cardiovascular health.

Due to their firmness, Deglet Noor dates can be chopped up into salads and retain their shape without getting all mushed up. They are also a great natural substitute for chocolate chips in desserts like cakes, bread, and cookies.

3. Ajwa dates

Closely tied with Arabic dining culture, Ajwa dates are considered the "Holy date" of Medina and are brought along as souvenirs by the pilgrims of Hajj from Saudi Arabia. Their history goes back to 5,000 BC when they were used in medical practice and considered to ward off all forms of illness and black magic (via Arab News). These dates are almost black and possess a prune-like taste with a dry yet soft texture.

Considering their use in the olden times, it is unsurprising that Ajwa dates are highly nutritious. Bateel notes that Ajwa dates contain significant amounts of calcium and phosphorus, which contribute to bone health. The natural sugar content is also beneficial for patients with type 2 diabetes as it does not dramatically raise blood sugar levels. 

Bateel suggests that taking two to three Ajwa dates daily between meals can satisfy snack cravings. Besides being consumed raw, these dates are typically used in baking and desserts to add a naturally sweet taste.

4. Sukkary dates

Also known as "royal dates," Sukkary dates are a date variety. In Arabic, ”Sukkary” means "the sweet one." These are premium quality dates with honey-like sweetness, which makes them sweeter than most types of dates. They are grown and harvested in the Al Qassim region of Saudi Arabia, from where they are exported worldwide.

In terms of appearance, Sukkary dates are light golden brown with a small cone-shaped body with chewy flesh and firm, wrinkly skin (via 7DVariety). They are a good energy source and rich in dietary fiber, which helps with digestive issues. Sodium and potassium present in these dates can help maintain water balance and blood pressure. Additionally, they have an analgesic effect that relaxes the brain, thereby improving sleep, according to Life In Saudi Arabia.

Because of their small size, Sukkary dates can be used to make stuffed one-bite desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth. They are also perfect for adding to oatmeal and smoothies for a delicious and healthy start to your day.

5. Mazafati dates

Mazafati dates are native to Bam, the southern part of Iran, and are also called Bam dates. These dates are medium-sized with high moisture content. When ripe, Mazafati dates are dark purple with soft and sweet flesh. Alipour Inc. notes that Mazafati dates are one of the tastiest and most popular date varieties.

Mazafati dates contain several nutrients, including vitamin C and magnesium. The phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium present in these dates can help guard against osteoporosis. Researchers suggest eating wet dates like these with dairy products is excellent for overcoming fatigue, per Tehran Times. These dates can also help improve brain health and the nervous system, increasing alertness and memory.

The seeds of Mazafati dates are known as "the blessed seed" due to their curing properties and anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects (via Alipour Inc.). Mazafati dates can be made into energy-packed snacks and delicious syrups, ice creams, candy bars, and puddings.

6. Sayer dates

Locally known as Stamara dates, Sayer dates make up the majority of date palms in Iran and are the most popular kind of Iranian dates. Containing less than 17% moisture, Sayer dates belong to the semi-dry variety with 75% sugar content making them one of the sweetest kinds of dates, per Pirooz Date Products. These dates have gained popularity in European countries and North America due to their high quality and long shelf life.

Sayer dates are generally reddish or amber-colored with an elongated shape and soft, sticky flesh covered by thick skin. They taste like caramel candy and are great for desserts like ice creams and pastries. These dates are often exported due to their high quality, durability, and reasonable prices worldwide, making up 40% of Iran's total date exports (via Sajjad Dates).

There are numerous health benefits of Sayer dates, as they are high in fiber, minerals, and other nutrients. They are also a natural sugar substitute for regulating blood sugar levels in people with diabetes (via Healthline).

7. Halawi dates

Halawi is an Arabic word that literally means ”sweet." These dates are native to Hella in Iran and are grown in California. They have a similar appearance to Deglet Noor dates, with golden brown skin, but are differentiated by their caramel and buttery flavors. Halawi dates are picked at different levels of ripeness depending on the desired flavor. According to Specialty Produce, Halawi dates are suitable for those with sugar sensitivities as they contain comparatively less sugar than other dates.

These dates contain a wide range of nutrients, including antioxidants, B vitamins, iron, and potassium. Like most date varieties, they are also high in dietary fiber.

Halawi dates are great for stuffing with cream cheese and nuts or coating in chocolates. Their firm consistency also makes them great for adding to salads and cookies. You can use Halawi dates to replace chocolate chips in this chocolate chip cookie recipe for a healthier dessert option.

8. Thoory dates

Thoory dates originate from Fougala, on the edge of the Sahara in Algeria. They are also called ”bread dates” as their flesh is somewhat bready in texture. With a nutty, peanut-like flavor, these dates are medium in size and possess a golden-brown color when ripe. Their skin is firm while the flesh is chewy and is of the semi-dry variety. Thoory dates are grown in California.

Thoory dates provide several health benefits, including keeping your heart healthy and acting as a great source of fiber for good digestion. They contain 50% more potassium by weight than bananas and significant amounts of vitamin B5 and B6. The dates are also beneficial for intestinal health and anemia (via Oasis Date Gardens).

You can add Thoory dates to trail mix, muesli, or granola bars. They make a perfect high-energy snack for your workouts. You can puree them to drizzle over ice creams and brownies.

9. Barhi dates

Barhi dates are one of the most well-known types of dates. Their specialty is that they are edible in all three stages of ripening, the semi-ripe (khalal) stage, fully ripe (rotab) stage, and dried (tamr) stage. These dates are native to Iraq and are of the soft variety. Their name is derived from the word Barh which translates to ”hot winds," which refers to the climate where they are grown.

Also known as "Khalal" in Arabic and "Doka" in Sindhi, Barhi dates are a rare delicacy valued for their caramel flavor and creamy texture. During the khalal stage, these dates are yellow with thick flesh and a rounded body. They are most popular during this stage as this is when they taste the best. After ripening, the dates turn reddish-brown and wrinkled and dark brown colored when they are dry (via Asia Foods International).

When it comes to the nutritional benefits of barhi dates, they are certainly impressive. They contain a high amount of dietary fiber, iron, potassium, flavonoids, and antioxidants, as noted by Specialty Produce. Barhi dates are incredibly versatile. From eating them raw to adding them to salads, barhi dates can be used in several ways. You can also use them in your milkshakes, stuffed desserts, and baked goods. Just make sure to use ripe barhi dates, though. They can also complement savory dishes such as rice and meat.

10. Dayri dates

These semi-dry dates are native to southern Iraq and are also called ”the monastery dates” because the place of their origin, Dayr, has a convent (via Oasis Date Garden). Dayri dates are very tender with a flavor profile similar to that of Medjool dates but are less sweet with a touch of earthiness, per Specialty Produce.

Dayri dates are brown-colored and large, which makes them great for adding stuffings. You can purée these dates for use in pies and smoothies and also spread them onto bread. Dayri dates, also known as "Dairi," can also complement savory recipes, including stews and soups.

You can use Dayri dates to satisfy your sweet tooth as a healthy dessert option. Specialty Produce notes that these dates are packed with several nutrients, including potassium, iron, folic acid, and B-vitamins. Furthermore, dietary fiber found in these dates can help improve digestive issues as well (via University of Rochester Medical Center).

11. Empress dates

Getting their name from their distinctive yellow crown, Empress dates are large with a narrow, oblong shape and a pointed tip. They belong to the soft variety of dates and ripen to a brownish color. Flavor-wise, they are neither too sweet nor strong and have a firm, chewy consistency, as noted by Slow Food. These dates were bred in the Coachella Valley in California and are descended from Thoory dates.

Like all dates, Empress dates are highly nutritious and rich in dietary fiber, vitamin B, folic acid, and iron. The firm consistency of these dates makes them suitable for being stuffed with cream and nut fillings. They contain less fiber than other dates, which makes them a better option for milkshakes, sauces, and purees. These dates complement the flavors of chocolate, cinnamon, nuts, cream, cheese, pork, and ginger (via Specialty Produce). You will typically find these in the fall.

12. Zahidi dates

Zahidi dates melt in your mouth, which is why they are also known as ”butter dates." They are medium-sized, oval, or rounded dates with a tan or golden color. These dates originated in Iraq in the 1900s and derived their name from the word ”Zahid” which translates to nobility (via Oasis Date Garden).

With a sugar content lower than that of Medjool dates, these dates have a nutty taste and subtle tanginess like dried apricots. They make perfect additions to baked goods, including cakes, cookies, and bread. They don't disintegrate into baked good like some softer date varieties do. Zahidi dates can also be eaten raw as a quick snack or added to savory recipes; they are a perfect fit for all. You can also whip up a delicious smoothie, ice cream, or batch of no-bake energy bites using Zahidi dates.

These dates contain almost all 20 amino acids, iron, flavonoids, antioxidants, and potassium, per Specialty Produce.

13. Honey dates

Staying true to their name, honey dates possess a rich, warm honey flavor and a caramel to deep brown color. These dates are of the semi-dry category and have a creamy texture. They are more round than most date varieties, originate from Iraq, and are currently grown in the Coachella Valley of California.

Honey dates are a good source of folic acid, along with other common nutrients found in dates, including potassium and manganese. These dates are available in late summers and winter (from Specialty Produce). They taste best when served chilled, which gives them caramel candy flavor. Honey dates also work amazingly when blended into purees and sauces, as they're quite soft.

The health benefits of honey dates are no less than any other kind of date. They can help overcome digestive issues, maintain heart health, and improve the immune and nervous systems. Additionally, consuming them during pregnancy may promote an easier experience during labor (via Healthline).

14. Piarom dates

Exclusively grown in Iran, Piarom dates are one of the most expensive dates on the market. This is primarily due to their high quality and their higher amount of nutrients than most date varieties. They are also called "Maryami dates" or "Chocolate dates" due to their dark brown skin and exquisite sweet flavor. Piarom dates possess a one-year shelf life and 15% moisture content, which makes them highly durable (via Nut Fruit Group).

Piarom dates contain a high amount of fructose and low glycemic index, which makes them ideal for diabetic folks. The unique flavor and texture of this variety add value to these export-quality dates, as noted by Green Diamond.

Piarom dates are usually added to cereals, bread, puddings, cookies, and candy bars to make snacks and healthy desserts. You can also stuff them with peanut butter and nut fillings or toss them into salads for a slightly sweet touch.