Recipes » Desserts » Chinese Chews

Chinese Chews

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5 from 9 votes
Chinese Chews, with their crispy tops and chewy centers, are a very old traditional bar cookie featuring nuts and dates.
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Chinese Chews on a vintage silver tray.

Dating from 1917, Chinese Chews, with their crispy tops and chewy centers, are a very old traditional bar cookie featuring nuts and dates. Bake a batch and enjoy the same treat your grandmothers probably had for the holidays.

Chinese Chews on a vintage silver tray.

We’re having a vintage-y kind of Christmas around here! First I made some Graham Cookie Bars, then Haystacks, and now this very 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. They bake up with a beautifully crispy top and a chewy center. Perfect with your afternoon tea or coffee.

Knowing that this is a very old recipe, I did some internet research on its origin and read in several sources that it first appeared in the June 1917 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine. And that was all I could find.

The historian in me just couldn’t let that go without looking further. So I kept searching until I found a digitized copy of that issue. And, guess what! The recipe is right there on page 78 of Good Housekeeping. Published in June 1917. Submitted by Mrs. L. G. Platt of North Bend, Oregon. (And I’m getting right on those Lemon Dumplings on the same page, too!)

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Still, no one really knows why they’re called Chinese Chews. There’s nothing particularly Chinese about them. My guess is that in those times, the dates seemed exotic and anything exotic was perhaps associated with the Far East? I can’t say for sure.

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.

Some recipes for Chinese Chews call for vanilla, some use brown sugar, and some even add coconut. As far as I can determine, those are later additions. The version passed down from my grandmother is the same as Mrs. Platt’s and uses only dates and nuts. And the only fat comes from the eggs!


  • It’s truly a heritage recipe.
  • Very easy to make – one bowl, one spoon, one pan, that’s it!
  • Uses common ingredients.
  • Perfect for holiday gifting.

Ingredient Notes

  • Chopped Dates (If you can’t locate chopped dates, buy whole dates and chop them into small pieces.)
  • All-Purpose Flour (To use self-rising, simply substitute the same amount and omit the baking powder and salt.)

You’ll find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe at the bottom of this post.

How to Make Chinese Chews

Let’s Go Step-by-Step

I always like to show you the photos and step-by-step instructions for my recipes to help you picture how to make them in your own kitchen. If you just want to print out a copy, you can skip to the bottom of the post where you’ll find the recipe card.

Preheat the Oven and Prep the Pan

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

Measure Dry Ingredients

Mixing bowl containing flour, sugar, baking powder, dates, salt, and nuts for the recipe.

In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, granulated white sugar, baking powder, dates, salt, and nuts.

COOK’S TIP 
In this batch, I used walnuts but I do prefer pecans. They just have a richer taste, in my opinion.

Add Eggs

Flour, sugar, baking powder, dates, salt, and nuts with eggs added and stirred into the mixture.

Add the eggs and, using a sturdy wooden spoon, stir until the eggs are incorporated.

COOK’S TIP 
This step requires a bit of effort :-) Since there’s no other liquid or fat in the recipe, the dough is fairly stiff. You can mix this in a stand mixer or a food processor if you like. I do it by hand because I’m lazy and don’t want to clean up those appliances.

Add to Baking Pan

Mixture spread into an 8x8 square baking pan.

Spread the mixture into the pan you prepared at the beginning. Again, it’s a stiff dough, so you’ll need to persuade it gently to go into the corners.

Bake

Finished Chinese Chews cooling in baking pan.

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

Cut and Serve

Finished recipe cut into squares on a cutting board.

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

Dust the tops of the bars with powdered sugar.

Storage

  • Store: Store in an airtight container (a plastic container with a tight fitting lid works best) at room temperature for about a week.
  • Freeze: Chinese Chews may be frozen in an freezer-safe plastic container for up to two months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before adding confectioner’s sugar and serving.
Chinese Chews on a vintage silver tray.

Have you tried this recipe? I’d love for you to give it a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating in the recipe card and/or in the comments section further down. You can always stay in touch on social media by following me on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest and Sign Up to Get my Newsletter, too!

Recipe

Chinese Chews on a vintage silver tray.

Chinese Chews

Chinese Chews, with their crispy tops and chewy centers, are a very old traditional bar cookie featuring nuts and dates.
5 from 9 votes
Print It Rate It
Course: Desserts
Cuisine: Southern, Vintage
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 42 pieces
Calories: 56kcal
Author: Lana Stuart

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 2 eggs
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8×8 pan and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking, powder, dates, salt, and nuts. Add eggs. Stir until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  • Spread into prepared pan.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
  • Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan, cut into small squares and dust with powdered sugar.

Notes

Ingredients:
  • If you can’t locate chopped dates, buy whole dates and chop them into small pieces.
  • To use self-rising flour, simply substitute the same amount and omit the baking powder and salt.
  • In this batch, I used walnuts but I do prefer pecans. They just have a richer taste, in my opinion.
Mixing the batter does require a bit of effort :-) Since there’s no other liquid or fat in the recipe, the dough is fairly stiff. You can mix this in a stand mixer or a food processor if you like. 
Storage:
  • Store in an airtight container (a plastic container with a tight fitting lid works best) at room temperature for about a week.
  • May be frozen in a freezer-safe plastic container for up to two months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before adding confectioner’s sugar and serving.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1 | Calories: 56kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 8mg | Sodium: 27mg | Potassium: 38mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 13IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.

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— This post was originally published on December 14, 2012. It has been revised with additional information..

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43 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Just like I remember at my Grandma’s when I was a kid. I even used pecans from her yard that she shelled and froze herself 24 years ago. They keep for ages. I miss her.

    1. I can only assume that you are questioning whether there should be butter in the recipe. There is no butter in this recipe. As I said in the post, the only fat comes from the eggs.

  2. My mom made these growing up (we are from New Jersey living in the South). No one here in Mississippi knew what they were but liked them. She added green and red candied cherries cut in halves and also coconut. I may try to make these this year since it has been so long since I’ve had one!

  3. 5 stars
    Hi Lana – I made these yesterday and had to hide them from hubby today so there will be some left for C’mas.
    We only had whole dates so I cut them in half and chopped them in the food processor. Since hand mixing has gotten hard for me I went ahead and put the remaining ingredients in there too and it mixed up fine. Made an easy recipe even easier.
    Thanks,
    Sheila

  4. Interestingly Lana, your recipe is identical to the one I’ve been following for over 50 years. It’s from the historic Culinary Institute of America. I inherited my mother’s cookbook, and when it began to fall apart, I bought my own. Imagine my surprise to see Chinese Chews on the Internet! (Actually, I was looking for nutritional info.)
    Thanks for sharing!

  5. I have an old family recipe for Chinese Chews and make these bar cookies every year. But the recipe I have is much richer so I will try your lighter version the next time. My recipe: 1c butter, 1 egg, 1c flour, 1c sugar, 1c chopped dates, 1 c chopped nuts( I use walnuts) 1T vanilla, 1tsp salt. Spread in greased 9×9 pan, bake 325 oven , top rack, for 45-50 minutes, cut while hot, when cool roll in powdered sugar. I bet some people had this recipe from family as its been in our family since early 1900’s.

    1. They really are great, Sues. It’s an old, old recipe – one that my grandmother always made and she just passed away in September at 101 years old.