Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
30 Oct

Primal Holiday Desserts

Halloween signals that the sugary season is upon us again, that willpower-testing time of year when bowls of candy and plates of baked goods seem to appear at every turn. If indulging at some point is inevitable, make it something that doesn’t divert too far from the Primal foods that will keep you feeling healthy during the holiday season. Enter Primal desserts.

You know what some of our typical dessert choices are; usually, the simpler the better. A square of (very) dark chocolate (dipped into almond butter, perhaps) or berries with whole cream don’t require a recipe and aren’t accompanied by a load of guilt. When holiday season is full swing, we’ve also been known to enjoy a mug of Primal Eggnog and a slice or two of Primal Pie.

This holiday season, we’re adding three more desserts to our rotation of holiday goodies: Coconut Macadamia Bark, Primal Chocolate Chip Cookies and Holiday Spice Balls. Just remember, the holidays are all about spreading the good cheer around, not hogging it for yourself. Whip up a batch of these desserts, then bring a goodie bag to the neighbors or your co-workers. It’s an easy way to get your fix without going overboard.

Coconut Macadamia Bark

Servings: 12 squares of bark or more

A simple recipe, and a few bites will both satisfy a sweet tooth and give you a hit of healthy fats. We’ve made a very simple version, leaving plenty of room for embellishment. Add dried fruit or dark chocolate chips. Swirl in some melted dark chocolate. What’s your favorite version of coconut bark?


  • 1 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • 2/3 cup roughly chopped macadamia nuts


Mix together oil, coconut flakes and nuts. Line a pan or plate with parchment paper.  Pour the oil mixture onto the parchment paper. Freeze for at least 30 minutes. Break apart into pieces of bark. Store in the freezer.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Servings: 1 dozen cookies

Who doesn’t love chocolate chip cookies? If you’re in the minority who doesn’t, add fresh blueberries or dried cranberries instead of dark chocolate chips.  These cookies are softer and moister than some, but will hold their shape well after baking.


  • 4 dates, pits removed
  • 1 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grind dates in the food processor until a paste forms, about 40 seconds. Add walnuts and pecans and blend until very finely chopped, about 35 seconds. Add baking soda and salt and pulse a few more times.

Warm the coconut oil so it is in liquid form. With the food processor running, drizzle it into the batter with the egg and vanilla. Stop mixing as soon as the egg and oil are blended in.

Scrape the batter into a bowl and stir in coconut and chocolate chips by hand. The dough will be sticky and wet. Drop 12 portions of the dough onto a cookie sheet, then flatten slightly with your fingers.

Bake 15 minutes, or until nicely browned.

Holiday Spice Balls

Servings: 12 balls

These Holiday Spice Balls are similar to Cocoa and Coconut Snacks, but the addition of cinnamon and cardamom are perfect for autumn. Using pumpkin pie spice, if you have it on hand, would be very autumnal as well.


  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 4-6 dates
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


Process everything in the food process until it comes together in a sticky paste-like consistency.

Form into balls and refrigerate.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Those cookies look amazing. I may make some for a Primal Halloween party I am having tonight. If anyone is in the ATX hit up our meetup group!

    Bryan Barksdale wrote on October 30th, 2010
  2. I love primal eating, but I will definitely be having some old fashioned pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. Then back to primal…

    John wrote on October 30th, 2010
    • Just this week made the pumpkin pie from the primal website. YUM!! Would highly recommend it. Did not make the crust….did it as a custard in a souffle dish. Just make sure you place the dish in a larger dish of hot water in oven. Served it warm with heavy cream. Husband thought he had died and gone to heaven.

      Karla wrote on October 30th, 2010
  3. Are dates necessary to make the chocolate chip cookies? Not only do i not like the taste of dates, but they are relatively high in carbs. Are there any suitable substitutes for dates? Perhaps a couple raisins, or maybe no fruit is necessary.

    pete wrote on October 30th, 2010
    • The dates are probably taking the place of sugar here since they are so sweet. You could just use some honey or whatever sweetener you prefer.

      Chris Hughes wrote on October 30th, 2010
  4. @Pete: I’ve made some things with that nuts/pecans combo. There really isn’t too much date taste to it, but the dates help bind everything together when you bake it. I don’t know if raisins would be a good sub, since the stickiness of the dates is what you’re really using them for.

    Austin Girl wrote on October 30th, 2010
    • Yikes. I meant “dates/pecans” combo. Sorry!

      Austin Girl wrote on October 30th, 2010
    • @pete Prunes may work, I have used them in other recipes. They are sweet, and sticky.

      Sue wrote on December 23rd, 2010
  5. i’ve used figs in place of dates and they are fairly sticky and lower in carbs than medjool dates. just make sure you pop the mixture into the fridge or freezer before you form the “balls”

    misathemeb wrote on October 30th, 2010
  6. Oh my gosh!! I bet that bark would make a good base for some peppermint bark :) So delicious!

    Tara wrote on October 30th, 2010
  7. Do you have a recipe for Primal Schwetty Balls? They are my all-time holday favorite!

    Joe wrote on October 30th, 2010
    • *like*

      Peggy wrote on October 31st, 2010
    • Alec?????
      Is Dat You?????
      Crackin’ us up over here
      Schwetty Betty Crocker

      Rox wrote on November 20th, 2010
  8. All looks so good!!!

    Ahmed Serag wrote on October 30th, 2010
  9. I am trying to eat primal/paleo, but I just can’t even imagine eating these deserts. They look good, and I am sure are delicious, but I don’t think I will be able to digest them :)

    Sergey wrote on October 30th, 2010
  10. I just found this website If your trying to be super good and primal don’t go there, but if you enjoy your 20% it’s an awesome place to find sugar free/grain free sweet treats.

    Marie S. wrote on October 30th, 2010
  11. Coconut bark, especially w/ dark chocolate, yes, yes, yes. Peppermint and chocolate? Even better.

    I’m not crazy about dates and have found a good basic cookie recipe w/ a modest amount of sweetener, here:

    I’ll skip the spice balls, thanks– no chocolate. Though I guess that would be up to me, huh?

    Primal Onahill wrote on October 30th, 2010
  12. As good as these look: Holidays happen once a year – enjoy it. I just keep the indulgence to the day of only and enjoy it without guilt. It’s hard sometimes beforehand but reminding myself of the good food in my near future keeps me on course…but that’s me.

    Ryan Ransom wrote on October 30th, 2010
  13. I made the cookies last night and they are very good. Since I don’t have a food processor I used my blender, which worked great. The cookies look exactly like the picture and are extremely quick and easy to make. Surprisingly delicious, I was a little skeptical. And I do not like dates at all, but they have zero taste in the chocolate chip cookies.

    Amanda wrote on October 31st, 2010
    • I just made them too. They’re GREAT! They even taste like there’s brown sugar in there too. Yum.

      Austin Girl wrote on October 31st, 2010
  14. Oh Coconut Bark, I think you are calling my name :-p

    PrimalStyle-Real.Yummy.Food wrote on October 31st, 2010
  15. These all look so delicious! :) Do you have any primal-style holiday desert recipes for those of us allergic to nuts?

    Cate wrote on October 31st, 2010
    • Are you allergic to the coconut? If not, you could make the coconut back with dried blueberries, dried raspberries or chocolate chips instead of macadamia nuts. :)

      gilliebean wrote on November 1st, 2010
      • Great idea! Thanks! :)

        Cate wrote on November 1st, 2010
  16. Yumyumyumyum… Nomomomom…

    gilliebean wrote on November 1st, 2010
  17. Can’t wait to try the coconut bark….looks great! I like the other suggestions too.

    Brooke wrote on November 1st, 2010
  18. What a great post!! The next best thing would be a Primal Desserts Cookbook (hint hint)

    Tracee wrote on November 1st, 2010
  19. The picture for spice balls shows almonds, but none are listed in the recipe. Was it missed?

    CNYmicaa wrote on November 3rd, 2010
    • I think those may be dried apricot pits?

      Kristen wrote on December 15th, 2010
  20. You are a brilliant Sisson. Just brilliant. I will try all of these recipes.

    Clarence wrote on November 4th, 2010
  21. I make a decadent flourless chocolate torte for birthdays and I realized it is fairly primal – 1 pound bittersweet chocolate, 6 eggs, 1 cup butter. I tried a little slice at a recent party and it didn’t bother my stomach at all the way something with added sugar or flour would have.

    Erika wrote on November 5th, 2010
  22. I’ve only been “surfing” around the Primal world for about a week now… I made the Holiday Spice Balls this week, and have been using them to replace my normal dessert of ice-cream and other crap. They are great!

    Allison K wrote on November 5th, 2010
  23. Wow these all look great (dying to make the holiday spice balls)! Just made some amazing spiced chocolate fudge by adding pumpkin pie spice to this Cacao Pecan Fudge recipe (just scroll down the page):…YUMMMM!!!

    Michelle wrote on November 9th, 2010
  24. Oops, here’s that link again:
    Enjoy! :-)

    Michelle wrote on November 9th, 2010
  25. Just made the Chocolate Chip Cookies (only with cranberries instead of the chocolate). Absolutely LOVE them!!! It took willpower to not eat them all at once.

    Carol wrote on November 10th, 2010
  26. That Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe is THE best I’ve tried, hands-down, and I have tried a LOT. Try not to over process the nuts (they should be crumbly and NOT nut butter.) Also you can skimp a little on the coconut oil – the nuts are oily enough.

    Julie wrote on November 11th, 2010
  27. I just made the cookies with dried cherries instead of chocolate and then another batch and added a few more dates, half a dropper of Stevia, and a scoop of pureed persimmon. Both were absolutely amazing. My thirteen year old loves them and she is NOT easy to please!

    Izzylu wrote on November 11th, 2010
  28. I second all the comments about the Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe being awesome. I made it for our Thanksgiving potluck at work and couldn’t believe how well they turned out. Almost indistinguishable from regular CC cookies.

    ThePrimalBrett wrote on November 17th, 2010
  29. These are hitting the table on Thursday thats for sure!!

    Tony M wrote on November 20th, 2010
  30. Here’s my report of our experience making the primal chocolate chip cookies:

    Don Matesz wrote on November 23rd, 2010
  31. The Bark was a super easy and super great recipe. Wonderful stuff that’s a keeper.

    Rich wrote on November 24th, 2010
  32. Made the bark using sliced almonds. Lined an 8″x8″ pan with foil and allowed bark to harden in refrig. Cut into 16 pieces, wrapped each in a bit of waxed paper, and stored in covered container in refrig.

    Especially enjoyed having a treat without any added sweetening. These are a good subs for a slice of butter when you’re looking for fat.

    1/16th of recipe yields —
    calories 116, fat 13g, carb 1g, fiber .5g, protein 1g

    Pokey wrote on November 25th, 2010

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