Red Dates in Sweet and Savoury Soups

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Red dates are one of those Chinese herbs that you can throw into a soup to make it sweeter. 

This does not mean that red dates are only used in sweet soups. Use it in savoury soups too.

Also known as jujubes, red dates are widely considered as the "living vitamin pill" by the Chinese. It contains Vitamin B, C, E, P, phosphorus, calcium, iron and more.

Scientists have also found that cyclic adenosine monophosphate found in red jujubes can slow down the growth of cancer cells.

Dried red dates. Photo by Phoebe Lim

Tonic soups made from a combination of Chinese herbs like red dates, astragalus, dried goji berries, ginseng, and dang gui were fed to those recovering from surgery to improve immunity, strengthen the body and prevent relapses.

Red dates must be cored before cooking. The piths make it heaty. 

Try using red dates in your cooking starting with the 3 recipes here.

1. Red date longan soup 红枣桂圆汤

This recipe is very simple and can even be done on the move. Both dried longan and red dates are very sweet. It is therefore not necessary to add additional sugar to the soup. 

Red dates 红枣 (hong zao) is good for an easily irritable stomach.

Dried longan 桂圆 (gui yuan) is longan fruit 龙眼 (long yan) that has been dried. It is also known as 龙眼干 (long yan gan) which is more literal. I personally prefer the name 桂圆 as it is more poetic. : )

Dried longan. Photo by Phoebe Lim

It helps blood circulation and is good for ladies who feel cold during their menstrual cycles.


  • 1/2 tablespoon dried longan
  • 7 red dates
  • 500ml water


  1. Wash and core the red dates
  2. Separate and flatten the dried longans
  3. Wash and soak briefly in warm water
  4. Place the longans and red dates in vacuum flask
  5. Add 500ml boiling water
  6. Close the lid tight and let everything steep for about 2-3 hours
  7. Pour into a small cup to serve
  8. Remember to bring a spoon so that you can eat the rehydrated longan and red dates

Wanna make this soup on the move?

Add the red dates, dried longan and very hot water into a vacuum flask and bring the vacuum flask to work. By mid morning, you will have a nice hot flask of sweet soup for your morning break. heeheehee.

2. Lily bulb and lotus seed soup 百合莲子汤

This lily bulb soup with lotus seeds is a light refreshingly sweet soup. It is good for those feeling irritable and uncomfortable due to the hot weather.

Dried lily bulbs. Photo by Phoebe Lim.


  • 50g dried lily bulb
  • 50g lotus seeds
  • 20 pieces Chinese yam
  • 20 red dates
  • 20g cloud ear fungus
  • 1/3 cup rock sugar


  1. Wash the dried lily bulb, lotus seeds, red dates and cloud ear fungus
  2. Soak them for about an hour
  3. Add 1000ml water to a pot
  4. Add the dried lily bulb, lotus seeds, Chinese yam, red dates into the pot
  5. Bring to a boil and maintain a cheery bubbling for about 15 minutes
  6. Add the cloud ear fungus
  7. Cook till the cloud ear fungus is soft
  8. Add the rock sugar and stir to dissolve (add according to taste)
  9. Serve

3. Chicken soup with red dates and milk

A Chinese chicken soup recipe with milk? Weird right? But this recipe for red dates and milk makes a good combination for nourishing the skin.

Use skim milk if you are concerned about the fat content of full cream milk. Do not overboil. Remove the ginger from soup before serving.

There are so few ingredients, this should be an easy chicken soup to make.


  • 1 free range chicken
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 1 litre fresh milk
  • 5 red dates, cored
  • 5g ginger slices
  • salt to taste


  1. Cut the chicken into big pieces and parboil
  2. Place the parboiled chicken, red dates and ginger in a big soup pot or crockpot
  3. Add the chicken stock and milk
  4. Bring everything to a boil
  5. Lower heat quickly, cover and simmer for 2 hours
  6. Add salt to taste and serve

Red dates is a very common ingredient in Chinese soups. I have quite a number of soups that contain red dates. To find the other recipes, ENTER "red dates" into the search box at the top right corner of this page.

Happy Souping, Phoebe