Walnut-Date-Cinnamon Smoothie

Remember those Russian nesting dolls? I completely forgot about them until I found a set tucked away in a box the other day.

A family friend gifted them to me so long ago I can’t remember any of the specifics, but I cherish them all the same. When it comes to Russian nesting dolls (aka Matrioshka dolls), these are minimalist — made simply with blonde wood, some burnishing, and a few embellishments of gold foil here and there. By Matrioshka standards I’m sure they’re nothing special, but, when I was little, I found them enthralling. The way each doll fit so perfectly into the next was fascinating to me. I mean the smallest doll is so micro that you might mistake it for a fava bean were it painted green.


This recipe is a bit like those nesting dolls because it’s a recipe within a recipe. It’s a walnut-date smoothie that’s inspired by the date shakes that are sold pretty much everywhere the Palm Springs area. But I wanted it to be more of a healthy start to the day than a decadent snack so, truly, it’s more smoothie than shake.

As for the nested part, well, to make the smoothie, you have to first make walnut milk. Ok, you don’t have to. You could use any milk you please from cow’s milk to soy or almond, but, you’d be missing out. The walnut milk has a subtle nuttiness with less sweetness than almond and more oomph than cow.

And it’s really satisfying. If I drink just a glass of this walnut milk, I’m full for hours at a time. And this smoothie? Well, it’s the big payoff being just a bit sweet, nutty, and so filling that you’ll have to try to not skip your next meal.


Walnut Milk Recipe

Walnut milk is so simple to make from scratch that it’s a mystery why it isn’t more common. Thanks to its nutritional benefits and rich, nutty flavor, it has quickly become a staple in my kitchen.

  • Makes 4 cups
  • Total Time: 5 minutes plus soaking time
  • Hands-On Time: 5 minutes


  • 1 cup walnut halves, rinsed (about 4 ounces)
  • 3 cups water, plus more for soaking the walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt


Place walnuts in a bowl and cover with water. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature to soak at least 1 hour to 12 hours (this helps remove some of the tannins and makes them blend smoother).

Drain walnuts and rinse thoroughly. Combine walnuts, 3 cups water, honey, vanilla, and salt in the carafe of a blender then blend on low until very smooth, at least 2 minutes.

Serve as is, or if you desire a smoother milk, pour through cheesecloth or a coffee filter to strain. (Will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator.)

Walnut-Date Smoothie

Whenever I visit Palm Springs, I always make time for a date shake. This smoothie version is a healthier choice that let’s you indulge in the regional specialty without making the trip. The walnut milk adds another layer of flavor and balances the dates’ natural sweetness. If you’re feeling indulgent, go ahead and use vanilla frozen yogurt in place of the yogurt and ice.

  • Makes: 2 to 3 servings
  • Total Time: Under 5 minutes
  • Hands-On Time: Under 5 minutes


  • 1 cup walnut milk (recipe above)
  • 1 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
  • 3/4 cup Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup ice (about 8 cubes)


Combine everything except the ice in the carafe of a blender and blend on high until the dates are broken up and the mixture very smooth, at least 1 minute.

Add ice and blend briefly on high until ice is just broken up. Pour into chilled glasses and serve immediately.

Fine Print: I work with the California Walnut Board to create recipes and share creative ways to cook with walnuts. This is one of the recipes I’ve created with them, for more recipes ideas, click here.

Photography by Holly Stewart and food styling by Lillian Kang

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