Papaya Date Balls

by Dr. Hennie Fisher

For this recipe one needs dried papaya cubes. But they should not be totally rock hard – they should have a nice little chew to them, but dry enough on the outside that the papaya will remain food-safe inside the date balls. Cube the papaya into medium dice. Lay them out in a single layer on a silicone mat on a baking sheet. Place them in an oven at 100°C for at least two to three hours. Check them regularly, ensuring that they do not dry out too fast, but also turning them over, so that the bottom also dries when they are facing up. They should be completely dry to the touch, but they should retain a little softness when squeezed.

This is an adaption of a much-loved South African favourite, but the papaya added to the recipe is a sure winner – it provides a little additional fresh fruitiness that is not found in dates alone. Even though these date balls are probably fairly healthy (dates have a good health track record) they are somewhat sweet – the papaya breaks the sweetness and adds an additional nutritional component. The recipe does not make too many balls, but you could easily double the quantities. The date balls are rolled in untoasted desiccated coconut, but for a little additional flavour you could dry-toast the coconut to a nice golden colour.

Ingredients for around 12 – 15 walnut sized balls

125 g butter
75 g sugar
250 g dates – stones removed, chopped roughly
30 g dried papaya cubes
1 egg, beaten
5 ml vanilla essence
Pinch of salt
150 g Tennis biscuits, roughly crumbled
Desiccated coconut to roll the balls in


Melt the butter and sugar together in a medium pot. Add the dates and cook on low heat for a little while until the dates are somewhat soft. Remove from the heat, add the papaya, egg, vanilla, salt and mix together. Add the crushed biscuits and mix everything together well. Cool the mixture and roll walnut-sized balls. Roll the balls in coconut and store in an air-tight container.