A tray of lemon-coconut date balls.

Last Thursday after yoga class, my friend Martha said she had something for me. As we walked out the door, she pulled from her pocket a little baggie holding a single, coconut-dusted ball, which she handed to me, and which I ate immediately.

The little treasure disappeared quickly, but I played my favorite game—guess what’s in it!—even so, identifying coconut, lemon, and dates. When I got stumped, Martha filled in the blanks: ginger, vanilla, and coconut manna, also known as coconut butter, an ingredient I had never before used.

Coconut butter was new to Martha as well, but after spotting the recipe for these “lemon pie” date balls in The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook, she made the trek to Honest Weight Food Co-op for the manna and hasn’t looked back since. Neither have I.

These no-cook date balls are so tasty and easy to throw together, too: purée pitted dates, coconut butter, ginger (fresh or powdered), fresh lemon juice, and vanilla (bean or extract) in a food processor; portion the mixture into balls; then roll the balls to coat in a mix of shredded coconut, lemon zest, and sea salt, which is incredibly delicious and pretty to boot.

What is Coconut Manna?

You may be wondering how coconut manna differs from coconut oil and if you can use the two interchangeably. Unfortunately, you cannot:

  • Coconut oil is the oil that has been extracted from the coconut meat.
  • Coconut butter is made from the flesh that has been ground into a spreadable paste.
  • Coconut oil is best used for cooking (sautéting, roasting, and baking).
  • Coconut butter is best used with foods that are already cooked.

Note: Per Martha’s suggestion, I store these balls in the freezer and find it nearly impossible to walk by without sneaking one. They’re not too sweet, nicely chewy, and completely satisfying. I think you’ll approve.

Ingredients to make lemon-coconut date balls on a board.
A bowl of lemon zest and coconut.
A bowl of lemon zest and coconut mixed together.
A board with pitted dates aside pits.
A board of fresh ginger, peeled.
A jar filled with coconut manna.
A food processor filled with the ingredients to make lemon coconut date balls.
A food processor with a purée of lemon-coconut date ball batter.
Lemon coconut date balls on a sheet pan.
A tray of lemon coconut date balls.
A tray of lemon coconut date balls.
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Lemon-Coconut Date Balls

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This recipe has been adapted from The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook. You will need coconut manna also known as coconut butter, which is a new ingredient for me. I ordered mine from Amazon, but your favorite local health food store likely will carry it.

How, you might be wondering, does coconut manna differ from coconut oil? Coconut oil is the oil that has been extracted from the coconut meat, whereas coconut butter is made from the flesh that has been ground into a spreadable paste. You cannot, unfortunately, substitute one for the other. Coconut oil is used for cooking (sautéting, roasting, and baking), and coconut butter is used with foods that are already cooked.

Notes from The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook: In order to measure the coconut concentrate, it is best to soften it in a warm-water bath before use, as it is solid at room temperature. (I did not do this.) If you find yourself sensitive to vanilla bean seeds, scrape out the seeds and just use the pod.


  •  Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups dates, pitted (about 28, soft ones are best)
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger or a small knob of fresh ginger
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, minced or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons coconut butter, see notes above


  1. Combine the lemon zest, coconut flakes, and sea salt in a shallow bowl and set aside.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a food processor, and pulse to process until a “ball” forms. If the mixture is still too dry, add 1 tsp of water at a time until it does form a ball.
  3. Roll the mixture into approximately 25 to 30 small balls—I use a #100 scoop for this—then roll through the lemon zest mixture to coat. Place on a plate, and transfer to the freezer for 5 minutes to harden. Then transfer to an airtight container for storage in the refrigerator or freezer—I store in the freezer in a quart container.
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Cookie
  • Method: No-Bake
  • Cuisine: American