prunes vs. plums

Prunes vs. Plums – What’s the Difference?

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Prunes are dried plums, but not all plums are prunes. As confusing as that may sound, there is a simple explanation for it. 

While every prune is a dried version of a plum, not all plum varieties can be dried into prunes. The plum fruit that we all love to eat comes from a different variant than the one used for drying into prunes.

Now since that is out of the way, let’s talk about the differences between prunes and plums and how they can be used in different recipes.

What’s the difference between prunes and plums? The main difference is in their taste and appearance with one being a fresh, juicy fruit with a pleasantly tart aftertaste, and the other a sticky and chewy dried version with a concentrated sweetness.

They both have several health benefits and are used in various types of cuisines all around the world. Read on to find out more.

What Are Plums?

Plums are fleshy and juicy fruit belonging to the same family as apricots, peaches, cherries, and nectarines, with the majority of them being grown in China, Romania, Serbia, and the United States.

They are round or heart-shaped and have a sweet succulent flesh wrapped in smooth edible skin. They have a stone (pit) at the center that must be discarded while eating since it is inedible.

There are several different varieties of plums grown throughout the world. They can be red, purple, green, or yellow depending on the variety.

Plums can be eaten in raw form as a healthy snack as well as cooked or baked as an ingredient in several sweet and savory dishes.

What Are Prunes?

Prunes are the dried version of plums. They are more commonly referred to as “dried plums” throughout the United States ever since they had their name officially changed to the latter.


The drying process gives them a wrinkled appearance and a darker color, with a deep, sweet taste and a sticky chewy texture.

As mentioned above, prunes are made by drying a specific variety of plums that are reserved for the process instead of being consumed as fresh fruit.

They are available all year round and can be eaten as a nutritious snack or incorporated into several sweet and savory dishes.

Prunes vs. Plums –Difference Between Them

The main difference between plums and prunes is that one is a fresh fruit while the other is a dried version of the same. Plums and prunes can be compared to grapes and raisins, but with a few key differences.

Most plums have red skins when they are ripe, similar to the color of blood, whereas prunes have dark blueish or purple skins.

When it comes to their shape, plums take a rounder shape, often resembling a heart, while prunes are oval-shaped and look like oversized raisins.

When ripe, plums are sweet and juicy with a delicious tart aftertaste, while prunes have a concentrated sweetness and are sticky and chewy.

prunes vs. plums

Both plums and prunes are packed with nutrients and important vitamins and minerals.

However, prunes contain more calories, fiber, and carbs than fresh plums, in addition to a higher sugar content that allows them to dry without fermenting.

Both plums and prunes are rich in antioxidants and promote heart and bone health, while also lowering your blood sugar levels.

Due to the difference in how they look and taste, plums and prunes are incorporated into our diets in different ways. Let’s look at the several ways they can be used in recipes and how they can be prepared and stored.

How to Cook With Plums

When picking the perfect plums for eating raw, you need to look for ones that are ripe and yield to gentle pressure. If their tip is slightly soft and they feature a rich color, it is a sign of them being in their prime and ready to be eaten.

You must also check for punctures, bruises, and signs of decay since these will reduce their shelf life and may make them rot before you even get a chance to use them in your recipes.

cooking with plums

Fresh plums can be eaten as is or used in a variety of recipes. If they are in the refrigerator, it is best to keep them out at room temperature for a while so that they can attain maximum sweetness and juiciness.

They are used as a perfect ingredient for summery desserts, while slightly underripe ones are more suited for savory dishes. Here are some top ideas of how to use plums in cooking and baking:

Pickled Plums

Fresh plums have a limited window of availability, which is why the next time you see your grocery store stocked with the juicy fruit, stock up on some and make pickled plums to enjoy over the next few months.

Pickled plums are made using a few simple ingredients such as fresh plums, granulated sugar, cinnamon sticks, apple cider vinegar, and a few cardamom pods packed into jars.

Once the flavors of all the ingredients are infused into the plum, you can enjoy the pickled plums with a delicious meat pie or roasted pork.

Caramelized Plums

Incredibly delicious and ready in minutes, caramelized plums are used as a great topping for ice creams, pancakes, cakes, and salads.

Similar to how caramelized peaches and apples are prepared, caramelized plums are made by browning fresh plum wedges on a skillet with butter, salt, and sugar (or honey).

Poached Plums

Another great topping for ice creams and other desserts, poached plums are a comforting food item with all the great flavors of fall.

Made using simple ingredients such as ripe plums, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and sweetened wine, you can serve your poached plums with absolutely any dessert of your choice.

Grilled Plums

Grilling plums is a perfect way to bring out their sweetness by caramelizing the sugars on the surface. Simply oil a hot grill, place the half-cut plums on it, and let the heat work its magic.

These can be served alongside salads, grilled lamb chops, pork, or sausages to add a sweet element to an otherwise salty and savory dish. Of course, they can also be served with ice cream or yogurt for dessert.

Plum Sauce

A sweet and sour condiment made using underripe plums and a few other ingredients, plum sauce is not only delicious but also versatile.

Popular in Chinese cuisine, plum sauce is used as a dipping sauce, a finishing sauce with roasted chicken, pork, or duck, a basting sauce, and also as a glaze for baked meats such as chicken, pork, and seafood.

Plum Jam

Plum jam is not only a delicious sandwich spread but is also a great way to use your overripe plums that are about to go bad.

When plums get overripe and soft, they might not taste that great and may not be your first choice for eating raw.

These plums, which are already starting to get mushy, can be broken down and mashed into a lovely plum jam to be enjoyed at breakfast, or any time during the day.

Desserts and Baked Goods

Plums can be used in a variety of desserts, both as a topping and an ingredient. You can make delicious cakes, tarts, waffles, ice cream, dumplings, and much more.

How to Cook With Prunes

Prunes are sold in transparent containers either already pitted or with their pits. The type you choose depends on your personal choice and recipe requirements.

When purchasing prunes, make sure you thoroughly evaluate them for quality and select the ones that are shiny, plump, relatively soft, and free of any sort of growth.

Make sure the packet is tightly sealed so that no moisture is lost and the prunes haven’t dried out even more. Try to get prunes that are free of harmful preservatives such as sulfites.

For prunes that are, or have become extremely dry, soaking them in hot water for a few minutes could help soften and refresh them.

soaking prunes

If you are planning to cook the prunes, soaking them in water or juice prior to cooking will help speed up the process.

Prunes are used in a variety of both sweet and savory dishes and they pair very well with complex flavors such as chocolate, coffee, and chilies.

Also, since prunes are naturally sweet and have a high moisture content, you can replace some sugar and oil from your baking recipes if you plan on using prunes.

Some of the easiest ways to incorporate prunes into your diet are by:

  • Eating them alone as a healthy snack,
  • Adding them to your breakfast cereal or oatmeal, 
  • Mixing them with other dried fruit, nuts, and dark chocolate,
  • Adding them to baked goods such as cakes, cupcakes, muffins, and cookies,
  • Blending them to make drinks or smoothies,
  • Pureeing them to enjoy prune jam or butter, and
  • Adding them to a savory stew.

Related questions

After taking a look at the differences between prunes and plums, you’re probably bound to have a few more questions for us! Let’s take a look at some other info on these two foods.

Can You Freeze Plums?

Yes, you can easily freeze plums using a few simple steps and preserve the perfectly ripe summer fruit for later use during the year.

For starters, you’ll want to make sure that the plums are at the peak of their freshness when you put them in the freezer. You can check one plum for softness and ripeness, or bite into one before preparing the whole batch.

Wash them properly, cut the plums into wedges, and carefully pit them. You can remove the skin if you want to or leave it as is.

Place the wedges on a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap in a way that they are spaced apart and not touching each other. 

Place the baking sheet into the freezer for an hour, or until the plum wedges are frozen solid, after which you can transfer them in a freezer bag and store them in the freezer for about 6 months.

Can You Freeze Prunes?

Yes, prunes can be frozen in the same way as other dried fruits such as dried apricots and raisins.

The first step is to remove the prunes from their packaging and separate them into individual serving sizes and into freezer bags.

Make sure to squeeze out all the excess air inside the bags and seal them shut. Label each bag with the date and place them in a freezer container.

Store the containers in your freezer for up to 1 year.

When you wish to thaw the dried plums, make sure you take out only as much as you need to use since constant defrosting and refreezing may cause the flavor and texture of the prunes to deteriorate.

What Is the Best Way to Store Plums?

Fruit matures at a faster rate when it is kept in a warm environment, which is why plums that are not yet ripe must be left out at room temperature for a day or two, depending on how hot it is and the ripeness of the plum.

Make sure to keep checking on them so that they do not become overripe. Once they are ready, they can be transferred to the refrigerator for a couple of days.

What Is the Best Way to Store Prunes?

Prunes must be stored in an airtight container in a cool and dry place, where they will be fine for 3-4 months. Since they are dehydrated, prunes have a longer shelf life than plums.

If the room temperature is higher than usual, such as during extremely hot days in the summer, it is best to store prunes in the refrigerator. This will allow them to remain fresher for longer and will keep for about 6 months.

Whether you keep your prunes in the refrigerator or your kitchen pantry, make sure to reseal the container tightly when you open it to prevent the prunes from losing moisture.

What Are the Best Substitutes for Fresh Plums?

For times when plums are out of season and you don’t have frozen ones to rely on, you need to look for substitutes that can work just as well in place of fresh plums.

As a general rule of thumb, one stone fruit can easily be substituted for the other, making apricots, peaches, and cherries great alternatives.

When making jams, you can replace plums with apricots to get the perfect balance of sweet and tart. Make sure to use twice as many apricots since they are half the size of fresh plums.

For savory dishes that call for sweet sauces to accompany them, you can opt for prunes or figs. For sweet and tangy sauces, you can use golden yellow peaches to complete the meal.

For desserts such as ice creams and pies, you can substitute plums with cherries and blueberries for the perfect amount of sweetness paired with just the right amount of tanginess. Other options include peaches and tangerines.

What Are the Best Substitutes for Prunes?

Prunes are one of the plumpest dried fruit with a high level of sweetness brought about by the drying process of turning plums into prunes.

They are sticky and chewy and make for a great ingredient in a variety of recipes. But what if you don’t have prunes? What can you use instead of them?

When it comes to size, chewiness, and flavor, figs are the best substitute for prunes. Raisins and dates are good options as well, but some varieties are not as sweet.

Other alternatives include dried cherries, cranberries, blueberries, apricots, and persimmons.

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