Chinese Chews

by Lana Stuart on December 14, 2012 · 22 comments

Chinese Chews from @NevrEnoughThyme

I guess we’re having a vintage-y kind of Christmas around here! First the Graham Cookie Bars, then the Haystacks, and now this old, old recipe for Chinese Chews. I remember my mother and grandmother making Chinese Chews every Christmas when I was a girl. They were and still are a tradition.

I did some searching on the internet for the origin of this recipe and it seems to have first appeared in the early 1900’s. However, no one really knows why they’re called Chinese Chews. There’s nothing particularly Chinese about them. Maybe back in that time, the dates seemed exotic and anything exotic was perhaps associated with the Far East? I dunno. What I do know is that these little bar cookies are very delicious. And they’re another recipe that has firmly withstood the test of time.

Start by preheating your oven to 325 degrees. Generously butter an 8×8 pan and set it aside.

Dry ingredients for Chinese Chews

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, dates, salt, and nuts. I used walnuts this time, but I really prefer pecans. They just have a richer taste, in my opinion.

Add eggs to mixture

Add the eggs and, using a sturdy wooden spoon, stir until the eggs are incorporated. It takes a little effort :-)

Chinese Chews mixture spread in 8x8 pan

Now spread the mixture into the pan you prepared at the beginning.

Baked Chinese Chews

Bake for about 30 minutes and check for done-ness. A knife inserted in the middle should come out clean.

Cutting Chinese Chews

Let the pan cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Then turn the whole thing out and cut it into small pieces. You want them to be about 1 to 1 1/2 inches square.

Dust with powdered sugar and…


Chinese Chews
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A very old recipe for a traditional Christmas bar cookie featuring dates and nuts.
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 2 eggs
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting)
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8x8 pan and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking, powder, dates, salt, and nuts. Add eggs. Stir until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  3. Spread into prepared pan.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
  5. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan, cut into small squares and dust with powdered sugar.
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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kay December 14, 2012 at 8:30 am

They look great! And I don’t even like sweet stuff.


2 Lana December 14, 2012 at 8:42 am

Thanks, Kay! They’re a really old-fashioned bar cookie that I remember having every Christmas when growing up. I hadn’t thought about them in a long time but I’m glad I did!


3 Kay December 14, 2012 at 8:45 am

Might just find the courage to make them with J-man. You know how I am about baking :)


4 Cookin' Canuck December 14, 2012 at 8:55 am

I don’t think I’ve ever tried Chinese chews, but I must say they look really, really good. And I love the simplicity of the recipe!


5 Lana December 14, 2012 at 9:06 am

I think you’d enjoy these, Dara. It’s one of those really quick and easy recipes which is so great for this busy time of year.


6 Robyn Stone | Add a Pinch December 14, 2012 at 9:00 am

One of my very favorite bars, Lana! Love these!!!


7 Lana December 14, 2012 at 9:08 am

Thanks, Robyn. I really enjoy keeping these old, traditional recipes alive. I saw your post for Chinese Chews so I know you must feel the same :-)


8 Rosemary December 14, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Thanks soo much, Lana! Have searched my beloved Mother’s recipe box repeatedly for this very recipe. Reminds me so very much of Christmas and her! You have definitely brought another demension to my world.


9 Lana December 15, 2012 at 5:56 pm

I hope you’ll make them and enjoy them, Rosie!


10 Rosemary December 14, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Pardon the typo . . . dimension!!! lol


11 Miss P December 14, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Make some for Polly. She loves them.

Miss P


12 Lana December 15, 2012 at 5:56 pm

I know! I thought about that the whole time I was making them.


13 Sandra December 15, 2012 at 5:52 pm

My mother used to make this recipe all the time!!!! She passed away in 1997, and being the dolt that I can be at time, I never asked Mum for the recipe!!! Thank you so much for taking a culinary trip down memory lane!!!!


14 Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking December 16, 2012 at 11:43 am

These look really yummy, Lana! Love the addition of chopped dates… great holiday sweet!


15 Nancy@acommunaltable December 17, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Wow, I haven’t thought of these (or had them for that matter) in ages!! So glad you posted these – with all the new cookie creations on the web, its refreshing to see the old tried and true recipes !!!


16 Lana December 17, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Thanks, Nancy. I truly enjoy keeping the old recipes alive.


17 Laurie March 19, 2013 at 1:19 pm

my grandmother used to make these. i had a craving and decided to look at her recipe, and because her hand written recipes were, let’s say, sketchy, i decided to look it up online, and this is exactly it! Yum. Do you remember congo bars and blondies? :)


18 Lana March 19, 2013 at 2:19 pm

I do remember congo bars now that you mention them! I’m going to have to look up a recipe and make some soon. Also, there’s a blondie recipe here on the blog. Just do a search and you’ll find it :-)


19 Janine rose September 1, 2013 at 4:44 pm

I haven’t had these for forty years. I was so happy to see your recipe. Excellent results, exactly the same cookie thank you so much.


20 Becky June 9, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Hello Lana,
This recipe looks wonderful but I do no care for dates. Do you think dried apricots or dried cranberries might work?
When sending you an original recipe, how should I get it to you? I really like your web site. The red and white background just makes me grin in its familiarity. Becky


21 steve July 3, 2014 at 10:51 am

We have an old family recipe for Chinese Chews. It probably originated in England about the time of yours. BUT- this one has chopped ginger, which is fairly noticeable in the eating, and I have always assumed that is why they are “Chinese”. I am guessing that at some point an American thought the ginger was too spicy and modified the recipe away from the original English one (English had lots of spices from the Empire!) and maybe it has stuck in its modified form.


22 Lana Stuart July 3, 2014 at 12:23 pm

I’ll bet you’re right, Steve. Very interesting!


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