Barhi Dates: The Rich, Caramel-Flavored Iraqi Drupe

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Barhi dates are a type of palm fruit with a rich, deeply sweet flavor and a soft, creamy texture. Known for their unique taste and texture, Barhi dates are a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine and are also enjoyed as a sweet snack.

What is a Barhi Date?

Barhi dates are a type of date fruit, specifically a cultivar of date palms (Phoenix dactylifera). They are also known as “Barhee” or “Barhi” dates and are believed to originate from Basra in Iraq. They are one of the few date varieties eaten fresh and not usually dried.

Barhi dates have a distinct appearance compared to other date varieties. They are small and round, typically measuring about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. The fruit has thin, soft skin, usually golden yellow to amber. The fruit’s flesh is soft and tender, with a creamy texture and sweet, caramel-like flavor.

Barhi dates are usually harvested when still in the khalal stage and are still yellow and crunchy. At this stage, the fresh dates have a slight astringency and a more complex flavor profile reminiscent of tropical fruits like pineapple and mango. However, as they ripen, they have a sweeter caramel flavor. They can be a natural sweetener in many sweet and savory dishes.

Some common types of Barhi dates include:

  • Halawy dates
  • Khadrawy
  • Zahidi dates
  • Deglet Noor Dates

The History of Barhi Dates

Barhi dates are a fruit initially from Iraq but are now mainly grown in the Coachella Valley, California, which has a hot and dry climate. After becoming a test site for test production in the 1900s (selected by the United States Department of Agriculture), The Coachella Valley became known as the Date Capital of the United States.

Barhi dates are also grown in other countries such as Mexico, Africa, the Middle East, and India. The Barhi date variety was introduced to the United States in 1913 by Paul Popenoe, an agricultural explorer who brought palm offshoots from Iraq and Bagdad to California. 

An International Festival of Dates has also been held since 1921 in Indio to celebrate this trendy fruit. It eventually merged with the Riverside County Fair, receiving even more visitors.

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Barhi dates grow on the palms in these distinct clusters.

What Does a Barhi Date Taste Like?

A Barhi date is a fruit consumed when fully ripe and soft. When raw, Barhi dates have a crunchy texture and a sweet, caramel-like flavor. Some people describe the taste as honey-like with a hint of butterscotch.

You can use Barhi dates in various recipes, including desserts, pastries, sauces, and chutneys. 

Roasting Barhi dates can enhance their flavor and texture, bringing out their natural sweetness and caramelization. They can be stuffed with nuts or cheese, wrapped in bacon or prosciutto, and served as a tasty appetizer or snack.

How to Tell When Barhi Dates Are Ripe

Here are some tips on how to tell when Barhi dates are ripe:

ColorRipe Barhi dates will be a deep golden or amber color.
TextureThe skin should be soft and easily breakable but not mushy.
FirmnessThe fruit should feel plump and firm but not hard.
ScentRipe Barhi dates will have a sweet and fragrant aroma.
Smoothness/RoughnessThe skin should be smooth and without blemishes.

Note: Different date varieties may have slightly different characteristics during each phase of their aging process.

The different phases in a date’s aging process and ripeness are:

KhalalDuring this phase, the dates are still green and hard, and the flesh is crunchy and astringent.
RutabThis phase occurs when the dates turn soft and have a juicy, honey-like texture. The flesh is still sweet but less astringent than the Khalal stage.
TamrThe final phase is when the dates are fully ripe and wrinkled. The flesh is very sweet, has a chewy texture, and has lost all its astringency.

Can I Eat Raw Dates?

Yes, you can eat raw dates. Raw dates are delicious and nutritious and can be eaten fresh from the tree or after they have been harvested. Many people prefer eating dates raw, as they are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

However, it is essential to note that raw dates are less sweet than dried ones. They also have a higher water content, making them more perishable. If you want to eat fresh dates, store them in the refrigerator and consume them within a few days to prevent spoilage.

Cooking with Dates

Barhi dates are a delicious variety of date fruit popular in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. They have a soft, caramel-like texture and a rich, sweet flavor, making them a versatile ingredient in many dishes. Here’s how you can prepare Barhi dates for cooking:

  1. Wash the dates. Rinse the Barhi dates under running water to remove dirt or debris.
  2. Remove the seed. Cut the date lengthwise and gently remove the seed with your fingers. You can also use a small knife to cut around it carefully.
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Caramelized date paste is a delicious way of preparing Barhi dates.

Once the Barhi dates are prepared, you can use them in various dishes. Here are a few examples:

Tahini-Date Salted Caramels: These Tahini-Date Salted Caramels are the perfect balance of sweet and savory, with a dash of raw goodness thrown in for good measure. The combination of luscious dates and nutty tahini creates a delicious flavor explosion in your mouth.

Easy Date Paste: Whoever said that simple is boring never tasted this Easy Date Paste. With just four ingredients, you can transform ordinary dates into a versatile paste that adds a natural sweetness to any dish.

Oatmeal Date Cookies: Packed with juicy dates, chewy oats, some other dried fruit, and the perfect blend of sweet spices, these cookies are a wholesome snack that will satisfy your cravings without leaving you feeling guilty. Just be warned – they’re so addictive you might want to make a double batch!

Tropical Breakfast Bowl with Barhi Dates: with a vibrant mix of fresh fruit, crunchy coconuts, and sweet, juicy Barhi dates, it tastes incredible and is also loaded with nutrients that will give you the energy you need to conquer the day.

How to Store Dates

Barhi dates can be stored at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, for 3-4 days. To keep Barhi dates longer, refrigerate them in an airtight container or zip-lock bag. In the fridge, Barhi dates can last 2-3 weeks. 

Barhi dates can be frozen for 6-8 months if stored in an airtight container or freezer bag. Lastly, Barhi dates can also be dried and stored in an airtight container for up to a year. 

These dates are more susceptible to spoilage than the fully ripe Tamar variety. To ensure that your Yellow Barhi Dates remain fresh and tasty for as long as possible, we suggest refrigerating them. 

Nutritional Benefits of Barhi Dates

Barhi dates are a type of date fruit that offer several nutritional benefits and is packed with antioxidants. They are an excellent source of dietary fiber, which helps promote regular bowel movements, maintain a healthy digestive tract, and helps to regulate blood sugar levels.

Barhi dates are also rich in potassium, an essential mineral that helps to balance the fluids in our body, maintain healthy blood pressure, and play a crucial role in muscle function and nerve transmission.

Barhi dates also contain copper, which is essential for maintaining a healthy nervous system, while magnesium regulates blood pressure and promotes healthy bone development. The manganese in dates is also beneficial for promoting the growth and repair of connective tissue.

Barhi dates are also a good source of vitamin B6, essential for maintaining brain function and producing hemoglobin in red blood cells.  While they are not exceptionally high in iron or vitamin C, they still contain some of these essential nutrients.

Where to Purchase Dates

Fresh Barhi dates can be purchased in specialty stores, gourmet food shops, and farmers’ markets during the peak season. Dried Barhi dates can be found year-round in grocery stores, health food stores, and online retailers. 

It’s also possible to find Barhi dates at Middle Eastern or Mediterranean specialty stores, as they are a popular fruit in those regions. Fresh Barhi dates can be found from August to October, and dried Barhi dates can be found year-round.


Alexandra is a passionate writer who reveres exploring exotic fruit from far-off lands. While she’d like to one day live in a tropical paradise, she reserves that for her palate for now: from the tartness of the tamarind to the sweetness of the mangosteen. She invites others to join her on this journey of discovery, where every fruit is a new adventure.

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