coconut date balls and a gluten-free dinner on vashon island

While my family is know for some specific family dishes, Parick's family is known for their snack items both savory and sweet. This year Patrick's mother prepared peanut butter stuffed crackers that were then dipped in chocolate, fruit cake cookies, pretzel rolos cookies, and my personal favorite, date balls. I had to have the recipe. When I found out we were doing Let's Lunch on festive treats, I thought it would be the perfect one to share.

Now if you've never seen a date ball, I would describe it as a a crunchy brown and white snowball. On second thought, I should just show you a picture.

After trying the date balls one year, I couldn't imagine why coconut and dates aren't used together more often. They pair extremely well but somehow I can't imagine them in any other dessert. The texture of the date balls are unlike any other cookie that I've had. The flaky coconut, the crunchy rice cereal, the nuts, the chewy dates... They are amazing. And they are the perfect snack for a cold winter day, such as the one we had en route to Vashon Island recently.

Together with Patrick's sister and her boyfriend, we boarded the ferry bound for Vashon.

Once on the island, we met up with a few of our gluten-free friends at The Hardware Store.

From left to right: Lisa and her husband Tim (and two cute pups Lulu and Phoebe) from Gluten-Free Canteen, Jeanne from The Art of Gluten-free Baking, Patrick and me of Zest Bakery (duh), and the adorable Lu and her mom Shauna of Gluten-free Girl and the Chef. Not featured is Shauna's amazing husband Danny who, at the time, worked as a chef at the Hardware Store and prepared us all the amazing gluten-free food! THS has an extensive gluten-free menu. For the first time, we weren't eyeballing the plates on other tables wishing we could nab a forkful. We loved the gluten-free calamari, fried chicken, and fish and chips. Honestly we couldn't tell any of the items were gluten-free. Truly an amazing feat. And for dessert, of course we sampled some gluten-free pies in flavors of pecan and pumpkin.

Back home, I can't stop salivating over that dinner and remembering the wonderful company. Now every time I make these coconut balls I will remember that evening and the wonderful time we had visiting friends and family in Seattle.

coconut date balls

**Special thanks to Patrick's mom Donna, for this recipe! 


  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 16 oz chopped dates
  • 2 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup nuts, chopped such as pecans (optional)
  • 4 cups gluten-free crispy rice cereal (we love the one by Attune Foods)
  • 4 cups sweetened coconut


Bring butter and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add 8 oz chopped dates and stir, about 2-3 minutes. In a heat-safe bowl, mix together egg, milk, vanilla, and salt. Temper the eggs by whisking in 1/4 cup of the butter sugar mixture. Whisk fast so the eggs don't cook. Add the egg mixture back into the butter and sugar, whisking constantly. Remove from heat. Fold in nuts (optional) and rice krispies. Scoop out spoonfuls, and roll into small balls. Roll balls in sweetened coconut. Store in an airtight container to keep fresh.

Can't get enough? Check out what the other Let's Lunch-ers made:


The coconut-date balls look lovely, almost Middle Eastern in style. Say to Lulu and Phoebe for me!

These sound so intriguing. I've never had them before, but I kind of wonder why now. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

What a great thing you're doing for gluten free folks! These look scrumptious.

I started eating dates, really sort of all the time, earlier this year when they were being sold on the streets of Paris during Ramadan. I love them, and these sound delish!

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