A seasonal favourite gets a healthy holiday makeover

Photos by Bruce Murray, VisionFire Studios

I honestly don’t know what has come over me.
Since the temperature dropped, I have become obsessed with sticky toffee pudding. No joke, I have made it at least five times in the past three weeks.
I think the trigger was around Thanksgiving. I was shopping at a local grocer, collecting ingredients for the big family feast when I came across a prepared toffee pudding. I picked up the package, looked at the list of ingredients and immediately put it back down. There were far too many unpronounceable ingredients for my liking.
After returning home and unloading all my goods, I couldn’t shake the thought of indulging in a big ol’ mouth-watering bite of sticky toffee pudding. Yum.
The seed had been planted.
During my time at cooking school at the Natural Gourmet Institute, we spent a significant amount of time on recipe conversions. This meant taking a traditional recipe and turning it into something more health supportive. This conversion stuck with me over the years; it’s almost like a little game. In my mind, I wonder, “how can I take this decadent dessert — that tastes so good, but may not be the healthiest — and turn it into something that contains health promoting ingredients?”

Holly makes a beautiful garnish but don’t eat it. It is toxic if ingested.

If you decide to embark on this recipe conversion journey, be warned there is a lot of trial and error involved and sometimes you must be willing to throw out an entire batch in the name of discovery.
Luckily, there are many health supportive pioneers out there that are willing to share their experiences and their recipes. In this case, I decided to opt for the quick fix, since my craving for sticky toffee was on overdrive, which is when I discovered Arman Liew’s recipe. I followed his suggestions to a tee, and I am absolutely thrilled with the outcome. I promise you it will be delightfully warming on a cold winter’s day.

Sticky toffee pudding (vegan, gluten free)
Recipe adapted from The Big Man’s World by Arman Liew


1 cup dates pitted
1 cup milk of choice (I used unsweetened almond milk)
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp water
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup vegan butter (or regular butter if preferred)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups self-rising flour gluten free, if needed *See notes
For the toffee sauce
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp golden syrup **See notes
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2/3 cups vegan butter (or regular butter, if preferred)


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Grease six, 4-inch ramekins and set aside.
  2. Add the dates, milk and water into a saucepan and simmer until the dates are softened. Remove from heat and add the baking soda. Mix into the mixture and let cool.
  3. If you are making your own self-rising flour, prepare it now. (*See notes)
  4. In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar and butter until smooth and creamy. Slowly add the date mixture and mix well. Gently add the flour until fully combined. Transfer the pudding mixture amongst the greased ramekins.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until just cooked and a skewer comes out clean.
  6. Prepare the sauce by first making the golden syrup recipe. (**See notes)
  7. Combine the golden syrup, sugar and butter in a saucepan; heat and let simmer for about five minutes.
  8. Poke holes over the tops of the puddings and pour half the sauce over each one (I use a syringe for this step) to soak the puddings. Flip the puddings on plates or leave it in the ramekin (your choice), pour extra sauce over each one. Serve with ice cream if desired. I choose to keep it festive and used fresh holly to garnish.
    (Note: Holly itself is toxic if ingested; beautiful garnish but don’t eat it!)


* To make your own self-rising flour you’ll need 2 cups all-purpose flour,
4 tsp baking powder and 1/8 tsp salt. Gluten free (GF) self-rising flour is possible if the GF flour contains Xanthium gum. Set aside until needed in recipe. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for up to six months.
** To make golden syrup, you’ll need 2 cups white sugar, 1 ¼ cups water,
1 tbsp lemon juice. In a saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil, stirring regularly to ensure it doesn’t burn. Once boiling, add the lemon juice and reduce heat to very low. Do not stir the mixture anymore; let it simmer for around 50 minutes until it is a golden amber colour. The syrup should be thick. If too thin, continue to simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for 10 minutes before transferring to a jar or bowl.

TO STORE: Leftover pudding cups can be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for up to one week. Keep the remaining toffee sauce in a separate container.
TO FREEZE: Place each pudding in a Ziploc® bag and the toffee sauce in a freezer-friendly container. Store in the freezer for up to six months.
TO REHEAT: You can reheat the puddings in a preheated oven and the sauce in a saucepan over the stove. (Note: I have not tried reheating using a microwave, but according to the recipe you can reheat the puddings in the microwave for 30 seconds, add the sauce and then microwave for a further 30 seconds.)

“This sticky toffee pudding is truly the best ‘healthier version’ of the traditional sticky toffee pudding recipe that I have ever tried. It has simple ingredients and is sure to impress.”