Old-Fashioned Date Nut Bread Recipe

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This date nut bread recipe is easy to make, and packed with rich, sweet date flavor.  In fact, this recipe for date nut bread my mom's family's recipe, and my weathered recipe card notes that the date nut bread recipe has been a family favorite since the late 1800s.

Loaf of date nut bread on a cutting board on a wooden table, surrounded by whole dates and walnuts.  Text overlay reads "Grandma's Date-Nut Quick Bread."

What is Date Nut Bread?

Have you ever tasted the deliciousness that is date nut bread?  It's old fashioned and not terribly common these days, but I absolutely love it.    It's a quick bread--a bread made without yeast; instead, it depends on chemical leaveners like baking soda and baking powder.  This date nut bread recipe could also be called a tea bread, or a date nut loaf cake, since it's a sweet quick bread.

Our old family recipe even says things like "Bake in a moderate oven," a phrase not used since the days of wood-fired ovens without temperature gauges.  But I've figured out what that means for today's modern oven, and I'm sharing this family favorite recipe with you today.

Date Nut Bread ingredients on a white weathered wood background.

Date Nut Bread Recipe Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dates, cut small
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 Tablespoon shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 1/2 cups flour

Dates for Date Nut Bread soaking in a bowl of water.

How to make Date Nut Bread:

Pit and chop your dates into small pieces (or buy them already pitted and chopped up).  Sprinkle the baking soda over the dates, and pour the cup of boiling water over the dates and soda.

Cream the shortening, egg, salt, and brown sugar.

Add the walnuts, date mixture, and flour, and mix into a batter.

Collage of unbaked and baked date nut bread loaves.

Pour the batter in a greased bread pan.  Don't worry about the light color of the batter.  You did it correctly; it will bake up into that beautiful mahogany color, I promise, no matter how blond it looks before it is cooked.

Loaf of date nut quick bread sliced on a wooden cutting board.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour (that "moderate oven").

Can you Make Date Nut Bread in a Can?

The quick answer is yes, you can certainly bake this classic date nut bread recipe in a can.  (Be sure to grease it really, REALLY well, because it's a lot harder to get it out of a can than a loaf pan!)  But a more interesting question is why that became a tradition.

Vintage advertisement for Dromedary Date-nut bread in a can.

It's almost certainly because of the popularity of pre-made, canned date nut bread in the mid-20th century.  Brands like Dromedary and Crosse and Blackwell made convenient, ready-made cans of this classic quick bread.

Vintage Crosse and Blackwell advertisement for canned date nut bread.

Canned date nut bread is no longer manufactured (at least as far as I've been able to find), but there's nostalgia for the shape of the round slices of this mid-century convenience food.   There's no real reason to bake date nut bread in a can unless you want that vintage style.

Date nut bread tea sandwiches.

How to Use Date Nut Bread

Date nut bread and cream cheese sandwiches were incredibly popular in the mid-20th century in New York City.  Here's a great article from Politico about the history and tradition of this particular food.  The tangy cream cheese pairs really well with sweet slices of date nut bread.

My favorite variation is to use homemade strawberry cream cheese.  It makes and absolutely incredible tea sandwich.

My family's classic way of serving date nut bread is with a simple smear of butter.  

Date nut bread surrounded by dates and walnuts on a wooden cutting board.

Of course, date nut bread is so delicious that it doesn't need anything, really.  Just cut me a slice and I'm happy.

Printable Old Fashioned Date Nut Bread Recipe:

Want a one page, printable, PDF version of this date nut bread recipe?  Click on the image below to print the recipe or download it to your device.

Navigational image leading reader to printable, one page version of the old fashioned date nut bread recipe.

Other Quick Bread Recipes You Might Like:

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Other Recipes Featuring Dates that You Might Like:

Navigational image leading reader to recipe for sticky toffee pudding made with dates.

Nicole Wills, creator of Tikkido

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