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Dried Dates vs Fresh Dates: How Do They Differ?

Maria Foster
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by Maria Foster

Dates are tiny fruits that are naturally sweet – they are considered to be one of the sweetest fruits in the world! Their name, a Greek word for “fingers,” alludes to their shape.

They’re one of the rare fruits that are part of almost every culture’s cuisine — from Spanish and British to Middle Eastern. This is something we really love about dates!

Still, the main question we frequently get about dates is: Is there a difference between fresh and dried dates? Well, let’s find out!

Difference Between Dried Dates and Fresh Dates

Their moisture content is the primary distinction between fresh and dried dates. There are two types of fresh dates: unripe, also known as Khalal, with 80% moisture content, and ripe, also known as Rutab, with a moisture level of 50% to 70%.

Fresh Dates
Fresh Dates

Due to being dried under direct sunshine, dried dates, also known as Tamr, have the lowest moisture content of just 10%. They are sometimes referred to as “sun-dried dates” for this reason.

Dried Dates
Dried Dates

These dates differ in more ways than their moisture content, like in their harvesting period, size, color, flavor, texture, and shelf life.

Harvesting period: Dried versus fresh dates are not different types; rather, they are simply harvested at different maturity levels.

Fresh Khalal dates are harvested while they are still immature. They are the rarest dates available, but they are also the freshest. Nevertheless, you won’t be able to enjoy their freshness unless you live in a place where dates are grown during the period in which they are harvested, which is in August.

Fresh dates achieve their peak maturity during the Rutab stage, at which point their texture, flavor, and appearance are very different from Khalal dates. Rutab dates are left on the trees to mature for a little longer and are harvested in September and October.

Both of these fruits will eventually become dried dates, which are considered to be their “final” form. Dates are at their driest during this period because they’re left to dry in the Sun until December, also known as the Tamr stage. Tamr or dried dates are the most widely distributed kind worldwide.

Size: Dates start to dry up and shrivel as they mature. Hence, dates are their largest size at the unripe stage of harvesting. Fresh ripe dates are slightly smaller than fresh unripe dates, whereas dried dates are the smallest.

Color: As dates get older, they darken. Pale yellow is the hue of fresh, unripe dates. Light brown is the color of fresh, ripe dates, while dark brown is the color of dried dates.

Flavor: The flavor of fresh, unripe dates is moderately sweet and reminiscent of apples and coconuts. Fresh ripe dates are substantially sweeter. At this point, the date starts to taste like caramel. The sweetest dates are dried ones. They have a more pronounced chocolate taste reminiscent of toffee and butterscotch.

Texture: Fresh, unripe dates have a crisp, firm flesh that resembles the feel of a pear. They become soft and very juicy as they mature, to the point of nearly melting on your tongue. Dried dates aren’t as juicy, but they are nevertheless tender and have a meaty mouthfeel.

Storage & Shelf life: Both fresh and dried dates must be stored in an airtight container to maintain their best quality. Fresh dates lose their freshness faster than dried dates do. Fresh dates may be refrigerated for up to 8 months and frozen for one year. Dried dates may be refrigerated for up to one year and frozen for up to five years.

Dried Dates vs Fresh Dates Comparison Table

CategoryDried Dates (Khalal & Rutab)Fresh Dates (Tamr)
Harvesting periodKhalal dates: when unripe Rutab dates: when fully ripeWhen fully dried under direct sunlight
Harvesting months:Khalal dates: August Rutab dates: September: OctoberDecember
Moisture contentKhalal dates: 80% moisture Rutab dates: 50-70% moisture10% moisture
SizeKhalal dates: the biggest Rutab dates: smallerThe smallest
ColorKhalal dates: pale yellow Rutab dates: light brownDark brown
FlavorKhalal dates: mildly sweet (similar to apples and coconuts) Rutab dates: much sweeter (similar to caramel)The sweetest (similar to toffee and butterscotch)
TextureKhalal dates: hard and crunchy, similar to pears Rutab dates: juicy and soft, almost melts in the mouthMeaty mouthfeel, soft, but not as juicy
StorageSealed in an airtight containerSealed in an airtight container
Shelf lifeRefrigerated: up to 8 months Frozen: up to 1 yearRefrigerated: up to 1 year Frozen: up to 5 years

Nutritional Content Breakdown: Which One Is Healthier?

Looking at the nutritional table below, we can see that dried dates have more calories than fresh dates. The reason why fresh dates are less caloric is due to their higher moisture content.

On the other hand, dried dates have a higher calorie value because as dates’ moisture content falls, their natural sugar content rises, increasing their caloric content and sweetness.

Therefore, if you’re managing your calorie intake to lose weight, you should choose fresh dates. But if you want to gain weight or are craving something extra sweet, dried dates may be a better option.

Speaking of macronutrients and micronutrients, dates — both fresh and dried — are packed with them! Dried and fresh dates have zero fat and are marginally different in protein. However, dried dates have higher carbohydrate and fiber content than fresh dates.

Iron, magnesium, and vitamin A are among the nutrients they have in equal amounts. Dried dates are also superior sources of calcium and potassium.

Dried Dates vs Fresh Dates: Nutritional Profile

Category (1 date)Dried DatesFresh Dates
Vitamins & Minerals
Vitamin A1.7μg1.7μg

Can I Substitute Dried Dates for Fresh Dates and Vice Versa?

Unripe Khalal dates cannot be substituted for any other types of dates, or even other fruits, to be honest. However, you can absolutely substitute dried dates for fresh ripe dates without the need to modify the recipe in any way!

Recipe Ideas to Substitute Dried Dates for Fresh Dates and Vice Versa

Cooking with dates
Cooking with dates

The freedom to substitute dried dates for fresh dates and vice versa is something we are all here for, but that information would be nothing if we don’t know in which recipes you could swap them one for the other!

Dried and fresh dates can easily substitute one another in the following ways:


Dates are back on the scene, and people are starting to appreciate how tasty they really are! They are healthier treats compared to empty-calorie sweets and are packed with nutrients and natural sugar!

To summarize, dates are harvested in three stages: fresh unripe, fresh ripe, and fully dried. Khalal dates are fresh unripe dates with a crunchy flesh and a pale yellow appearance. They are very juicy, have a low sweetness, and contain a lot of moisture.

The fresh ripe dates, known as Rutab, are light brown, super juicy, and sweet. In this stage, they have a chewy texture and a taste reminiscent of caramel.

Dried dates, or Tamr dates, are very distinct from fresh ones. They have the lowest moisture content and are not at all juicy. They are, however, the sweetest and tastiest of all!

Overall, unripe dates are best used as healthy fresh snacks. There aren’t many more uses for them, or at least not that we can discover.

However, ripe and dried dates may be used almost interchangeably, and we’ve shared some great ideas on how to enjoy them, so whether you’ll use them in stews and smoothies or add them as natural sweeteners in baked goods, the choice is up to you!

About Maria Foster
Maria Foster
Maria Foster is a mother of 3 and she and her husband of 23 years share their home with 2 faithful dogs. Besides being CEO of the household and active in her community, Maria is the lead contributor to Food Champs and loves to try new food ideas and kitchen accessories to make easier and more delicious meals.
Maria Foster
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