I hate gels.  When I first started running and started learning about fueling runs, the whole idea of sucking down lab-created maltodextrin and mysterious “natural flavors” didn’t sit well with me.  I became plant-based because I wanted to eat whole, unprocessed plants.  Gels don’t fit into that plan.  Still, when I picked up some free samples at a race expo, I thought I should at least try one.  So during a run, I ripped open a Clif gel and immediately gagged.  I felt like I had filled my mouth with sickly sweet vanilla toothpaste.  It coated my teeth and glued itself to my tongue.  Ick.  There had to be something better.

My first race foods were not gels at all.  I packed a Ziplock bag full of dried tart cherries or dates.  Tart cherries are good for inflammation and dates have a perfect balance of carbs and potassium.  Real, whole foods are still my first choice on a long trail run.  The only problem with using them while racing is I started being able to run faster.  Chewing and breathing at the same time wasn’t working out so well anymore.


So I tried blending the dried fruit with water and adding a little salt for the sodium.  Success!  Dates are a classic vegan standby for caramel and become close to fudge when you add cocoa.  The first of my gels were born:  Salted Tart Cherry Gel, Salted Caramel Gel, and my favorite, Brownie Batter Gel.  These are great options for racing and I filled my gel flask with Brownie Batter for the 2014 Chicago Marathon.


They have a thinner consistency than many store-bought gels, they taste great, and they are real food.   Be sure to blend very well with a decent blender to achieve a smooth gel.  If your dried fruit seems very dry, you can try soaking it in water the night before.

Brownie Batter Endurance Gels

Claire Bartholic
Real food endurance gels that taste like eating brownie batter!
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Cuisine Endurance gels, Sports Nutrition
Servings 4 gels


  • 4 medjool dates with the pits removed soaked overnight if not already soft
  • 4 ounces of water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon cocoa powder


  • Blend all ingredients very well. I prefer to use an immersion blender since that's the easiest to clean, especially for small quantities. Add more liquid as desired to create the consistency that you like. Once the gel is smooth, pour into a gel flask, food-safe silicone travel bottle, or seal in custom FoodSaver bags.

About Claire

Coach Claire has helped hundreds of runners chase their dreams and conquer big goals. Her coaching philosophy combines science-based training, plant-based nutrition, and mindset techniques to unlock every runner's true potential. She's an ASFA certified running coach, sports nutrition specialist, a 2:58 marathoner, mom, and borderline obsessive plant lover.

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  • I am so excited to try this! I’ve been thinking about dates…they seem to give me a side stitch and upset my stomach a little, but I’m wondering if part of that is the digestion process? Maybe pureeing them will help. I’m going to try and see! And what a fantastic idea with the food saver!

  • Thanks for these wonderful recipes. These gels sound really good. Do you have a recipe for salted caramel gel? Would love to try that.

    • For the salted caramel, omit the cocoa powder, and add 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract. If you try it, let me know what you think!

      • Thanks I didn’t actually make the gel yet but put some salt and vanilla extract inside a medjool date and it seems to have that caramel taste. Will try to make the gel as soon as I get an immersion blender.

        • Great! Any blender will work, but the immersion blender is nice for small quantities.

  • I’m so excited to try this on my long run tomorrow. My goal is to fuel my runs natural & stop spending so much on fuel that gives me GI distress ?

  • Very simple! I have gone from commercial gu’s and “natural” gels to making my own purees and have noticed that I don’t get tired of the taste towards the last half of a marathon as I did with the gels. This recipe seems much lighter and easier than the ones I have made. Time to give it a go!

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