Better-than-Bacon Wrapped Dates: Use Prosciutto!
Confession… I’m eating these dates while writing this. They are so good!
My dad introduced me to prosciutto-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese several years ago. Caramelized sweet dates. Creamy goat cheese. Salty prosciutto. They were quickly devoured.
Now, every time he asks, “what can I bring?” I request these dates. Really. Every. Time. Well, except for when I ask him to pick up ice cream.
He shared his easy dates recipe with me, so I can make this tasty appetizer whenever I want… and now, so can you.
They are the perfect combination of salty and sweet. Your guests will love them. And you will love how easy they are to make with just three simple ingredients.
Make these lovely dates as an appetizer for dinner parties and special occasions, from football season to the holiday season.
So let’s get into why prosciutto-wrapped dates are so much better than bacon-wrapped dates or feel free to jump ahead to the recipe.
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Why Prosciutto-Wrapped Dates are Better Than Bacon
The internet abounds with recipes for bacon-wrapped dates. There is no denying that they are delicious. But there is one major problem with these bacon recipes.
Bacon is too thick. Thick-cut bacon. Thinner bacon. Turkey bacon. It all takes longer to cook than the dates. The bacon is left undercooked or you have crispy bacon with burnt dates.
You can fix this dilemma by precooking the bacon a little, settling for overcooked dates or limp bacon….
OR, you can simply use prosciutto. It’s delicate, super thin, and flavorful.
Prosciutto is not simply thinly sliced bacon. Bacon comes from the fatty belly of the pig. Prosciutto comes from the leg and is lower in cholesterol and fat than bacon.
Aside from tasting amazing and being healthier than bacon, prosciutto heats up in perfect harmony with the tender dates and goat cheese. Everything is ready at the same time… and fast.
Plus, doesn’t prosciutto simply sound more impressive than bacon?
Types of Dates: Medjool Dates vs. Deglet Noor Dates
While date connoisseurs may feel strongly about this issue, most of us are unaware that different types of dates exist. When searching for dates at the grocery store, you will most likely find either Medjool dates or Deglet Noor dates.
Medjool dates are larger, sweeter, and more expensive than Deglet Noor dates.
Conversely, Deglet Noor dates are smaller, less sweet (but still sufficiently sweet for this sweet & salty recipe), and more affordable than Medjool dates.
This simple recipe is written for Medjool dates, but you can also use Deglet Noor dates. I personally decide based on whichever carries a gluten-free label when I am shopping.
Either way, I highly recommend pitted dates to keep this appetizer recipe quick & easy.
Deglet Noor recipe adjustments: As Deglet Noor dates are smaller than Medjool dates, expect to make approximately 18 bite-sized appetizers with 18 Deglet Noor dates, 3 oz of prosciutto (cut into 18 pieces) and 2-3 oz of goat cheese. Bake 10-12 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°.
There is flexibility with this temperature.
There are two purposes behind baking these dates. 1) Warm the cheese and dates. 2) Seal the prosciutto to the dates, holding everything together. (Dry-cured prosciutto doesn’t actually have to be cooked.)
Those purposes can easily be accomplished anywhere from 250°-450° by adjusting your time.
Feel free to adjust the time and temperature, if you have something else in the oven. Keep an eye on the dates to remove quickly if cooking at a higher temperature.
Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper, silicone mat, or foil for easy cleanup.
This recipe can get a little messy. Caramelized, sweet dates, oozing cheese, and a bit of prosciutto drippings are no fun to clean up.
Lining your sheet pan is the best way to make cleanup a breeze.
Gently reopen the dates along the seam left behind by the factory pitting process.
Take a moment to open all the dates, to streamline the process of stuffing them with cheese.
The pitting process at the factory leaves behind a nice little seam along the length of each date. Because the dates are so sticky, the sides of the opening tend to stick together. You can push on the ends of the date to help it pop open. Or use a butter knife to gently open the dates.
Stuff each date with approximately 1 teaspoon of goat cheese.
Use goat cheese that has been softened at room temperature for 30 minutes. It will be creamy and easy to work with.
I like to use a tiny, demitasse spoon to quickly and easily fill the dates with a little goat cheese. A teaspoon or any small spoon will work well, too.
With a sharp knife, cut each prosciutto slice lengthwise into 2 strips.
Paper-thin slices. The very thing that makes prosciutto the perfect wrap for your dates, also makes this step the hardest part of the recipe.
Thankfully, there is a very simple solution.
Packaged prosciutto comes with paper separating each delicate slice. Keep each slice on its paper throughout the cutting and wrapping process. It’s the easiest way to keep the prosciutto from bunching up and sticking to itself.
Using a sharp knife will also make cutting the prosciutto slices much easier.
Take one slice of prosciutto at a time, and cut it into 2 long strips. Remember to keep it on the paper. The strips of prosciutto will be about the width of the Medjool dates. (If using smaller Deglet Noor dates, cut the prosciutto into 3 long strips.)
If your prosciutto strips aren’t perfectly straight or they start to tear, no worries! They don’t have to be precise to turn out beautiful and delicious dates. When the pieces of prosciutto seal to the dates in the oven, any imperfections will disappear.
Wrap prosciutto strips securely around the dates.
With each strip of sliced prosciutto still on the paper, wrap the strips tightly around the stuffed dates. The prosciutto will stick nicely to itself, keeping the dates and cheese wrapped up like neat little packages.
Place dates on the prepared baking sheet, and bake for 12-15 minutes at 350°.
12 dates will fit easily on one baking tray. They are small and don’t need a lot of space.
If doubling the recipe, you can still easily fit 24 dates on top of one baking sheet with room for heat to circulate around each date.
A word about the baking time. I tend to leave my dates in the oven for the full 15 minutes. The extra time makes perfectly caramelized crispy prosciutto at the base of the dates. But 12 minutes is plenty of time to fully cook the dates, cheese, and prosciutto, and to combine all of the flavors. It’s up to your preference.
Allow dates to cool for five minutes. Serve warm.
While you may be tempted to eat one of these fabulous dates right out of the oven, you will burn your mouth. Ask me how I know.
Give them five minutes to cool, then serve immediately. They are at their best warm, with gooey cheese, sweet dates, and salty prosciutto melded together into the best salty-sweet combination.
While these sweet and savory dates are amazing as is, here are a few great options for recipe modifications:
- Feta cheese
- No cheese – While I personally can’t imagine eating these dates without stuffing them with goat cheese, my son is not a fan of creamy cheeses. So, I make a few unstuffed dates for him. Less work for me, and he’s happy. Win-win.
- Almonds – Stuff an almond inside the date with or without goat cheese.
- Walnut pieces – Sprinkle on top of the goat cheese before wrapping in prosciutto.
- Dried cranberries – For a holiday party favorite, mix cranberries into goat cheese before stuffing the dates.
- Honey – Drizzle on top of the cooked dates.
- Balsamic Reduction (this is a thick glaze, not balsamic vinegar) – Use by itself or with honey for an over-the-top honey-balsamic drizzle.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Looking for make-ahead holiday appetizers?
Because these are so good right out of the oven (or rather five minutes out of the oven), I don’t recommend baking them ahead. But you can prep ahead and leave the baking for the last minute.
Stuff the dates with goat cheese, wrap with prosciutto, and store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two days.
Bake when you are ready to serve.
As a celiac, every recipe on Go Gluten Freely is 100% gluten-free. While the three basic ingredients in this recipe are naturally gluten-free, there are a few important considerations for each ingredient, particularly dates.
Dates themselves are naturally gluten-free. However, there is some risk of cross-contamination if they are processed on the same equipment as gluten-containing products.
Recently, I discovered that a brand of dates that used to be labeled gluten-free now contains the following voluntary “may contain” warning: may contain egg, milk, peanut, soy, tree nuts, and wheat.” This is not unusual for dates. I’m so grateful when companies include these voluntary statements that keep allergen-avoiding consumers safe.
Because of this risk, I personally opt to purchase dates with a gluten-free claim.
Here are a couple of brands that I use and are currently gluten-free, according to their manufacturers:
Joolies Medjool Dates are labeled gluten-free. I have seen them at Sprouts, Whole Foods, Amazon, and Thrive Market.
Hadley Deglet Noor Dates are gluten-free according to the company website. They are sold on Amazon.com. But they are a steal at Costco.
Most pre-packaged deli meats do not contain gluten, but it is possible that gluten ingredients are added. This is true for prosciutto. You can read the label to confirm no gluten ingredients or purchase one of the brands that state gluten-free on the package.
Purchasing freshly sliced prosciutto from the deli counter is not recommended for those with celiac disease, due to the risk of gluten cross-contamination.
I use and recommend the following brands of prosciutto which carry a gluten-free claim on the label: Applegate Prosciutto and Boar’s Head Prosciutto. Always read the label at the time of purchase for the most current and accurate gluten-free status of a product.
Gluten-Free Goat Cheese
While goat cheese is unlikely to have a gluten-free claim on the label, plain goat cheese is also highly unlikely to contain gluten.
In fact, I have not personally ever encountered plain goat cheese with gluten ingredients. And I read a lot of labels.
If you have celiac disease, it is always recommended to check labels.
I don’t hesitate to pick up any readily available brand at the store, after verifying there are no gluten ingredients. My frequent purchases are the following brands of goat cheese: La Bonne Vie Goat Cheese and Kirkland Goat Cheese. The latter is ideal when you need a large quantity.
Now that you have your ingredients, let’s get to the fun part. You are 30 minutes away from being able to eat this delicious sweet and salty treat.
By the way, my kids just came home from school and brought a friend. Between them and me, all of the prosciutto-wrapped dates have disappeared! Happens every time.
Prosciutto-Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese
- 12 pitted dates (Medjool)
- 3 oz prosciutto (approx. 6 slices)
- 3 oz goat cheese (room temperature)
- Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper, silicone mat, or foil for easy cleanup.
- Stuff each date with approximately 1 generous teaspoon of goat cheese.
- With a sharp knife, cut each prosciutto slice lengthwise into two strips. Wrap prosciutto strips securely around the dates.
- Place dates on the lined baking sheet, and bake for 12-15 minutes.
- Allow dates to cool for five minutes. Serve warm.