Tahini Date Caramel Cups

So, as per norm, first day back from another term at uni and one of the first things I do other than indulge in lots of delicious home-cooked food is.... hit up the kitchen! Of course. What else did you expect? While browsing through foodie sites and recipes (as I do on the daily) a few weeks ago, I saw an idea for the most mind-blowing spin on homemade chocolate peanut butter cups - tahini cups filled with a gooey, ever-so-slightly-salty date filling! I knew I had to make them.

And so I did.
With just a few, simple, whole food ingredients and an upwards of thirty minutes, you can have these decadent yet healthy, sweet yet salty, nice yet naughty tahini date caramel cups.

I feel like lots of whole food recipes nowadays tout many date-based sauces, fillings or frostings as salted caramel, but in all honesty, I don't think it's fair to say they are the same. Now don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that people who do title their recipes as such are wrong in any way. It's just for me, given that I love dates so dearly, I'd much rather just say it as it is. That said, all it takes is a little bit of imagination to cross the bridge between a luscious date paste and buttery salted caramel.

Back to star of the show - the tahini date cups. These are simply a superfood snack, dessert, quick breakfast. Healthy fats, a boost of protein, natural sugars for energy and all the wonderful superfood-y benefits that come from the tahini (sesame) and dates. Tahini is extremely versatile and wonderful in both sweet and savory recipes. Tahini is rich in minerals, calcium (!), has lots of protein and is an amazing source of unsaturated (good) fat! Dates are nature's candy and just great for health and well-being.

These treats are vegan and can be raw if you make sure to use a raw tahini!

And as for the taste (the part that matters most because let's be real - if something doesn't taste great, then why eat it?)... Well these, they simply blew me out of the water! I was worried the tahini may be too bitter and contrast the rich sweetness of the dates too much or that the saltiness would get totally lost in the date mixture... but I couldn't have been more wrong. The subtle bitterness of tahini  with the slightest hints of maple undertones all wrapped around a chunky, chewy, perfectly balanced date filling is a combination simply to die for. The two components complement each other in such impeccable harmony that it's hard to describe.
There's only one (not-so) problem. These are so crazy addictive - it'll take so much willpower to stop at just one.

I hope I've convinced you by now, but either way, the only thing left to do is go make these. Now.

Makes 9 cups
2/3 cup light tahini*
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
1-2 tsp pure maple syrup
1 cup pitted dates**
1/2 tsp sea salt

*Light not as in lower-calorie, but meaning tahini made from hulled sesame seeds. If you were to use the darker one, apart from a difference in appearance, the flavor of the tahini will be much more bitter and powerful. This recipe will be raw if you use raw tahini, as opposed to that made with roasted sesame seeds.
**If your dates have dried out or are quite hard, soak them in hot water for about 10 minutes.

Line a muffin tray with 8 paper or silicon muffin liners.

Blend (or stir-well) together the tahini, coconut oil and maple syrup.

Take about 1 tbsp of the tahini mixture and place in each prepared liner. Place in the freezer to harden.

In the meantime, blend together the dates and salt until a gooey paste is formed. Depending on your preference, you can make this as smooth or leave it as chunky as you like. I liked it somewhere in between.

Once the base tahini layer has hardened (~10 minutes), spoon a bit of the date mixture into each liner. Try to form as flat a layer as possible, but this can be quite tricky so don't worry too much! Work quickly so the base tahini layer doesn't melt.

Spoon the remaining tahini mixture over top of the date mixture (split between the 9 cups). Place back in freezer to harden.

Store in an airtight container in the freezer (NOT fridge, else the tahini layer will be too soft) for up to a week.

Enjoy (straight from the freezer)!

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