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What is another name for dried plums?


Dried plums are a popular snack and ingredient, but they actually go by another common name – prunes. Prunes are made by drying plums, which removes most of their water content and concentrates their flavor. The drying process allows prunes to be preserved for much longer than fresh plums. While the terms “dried plums” and “prunes” are sometimes used interchangeably, there are some subtle differences between the two. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what prunes are, how they are made, and how they differ from regular dried plums. We’ll also discuss the history of prunes, their many uses, and their health benefits.

What Are Prunes?

Prunes are dried plums that have had their moisture content reduced. The drying process allows the plums’ sugars to become concentrated, giving prunes a very sweet taste and sticky, chewy texture. Compared to a fresh plum, prunes are smaller, darker, and much more wrinkly. They also last much longer than fresh plums, thanks to the reduced water content. A single plum produces one dried prune. Any type of plum can be dried into prunes, but the most common types are European and Japanese plums. The most prized prune varieties include Italian and French prunes.

Drying Process

Plums are dried either by sun drying them or using mechanical dehydrators. Sun drying depends on warm temperatures and steady airflow to remove moisture gradually over 2-3 weeks. With mechanical dehydrators, plums can be dried in as little as 24 hours at temperatures up to 185°F. The drying times and temperatures vary based on factors like the variety of plum, desired moisture content, and whether the prunes will be high-grade or low-grade. Once pruned, they are classified by counts (the number of prunes produced per pound). The higher counts indicate smaller, drier prunes.

Sugar Content

The drying process concentrates the natural sugar (fructose and glucose) in plums. Prunes end up with very high sugar content – 66-75% by weight. This makes them extremely sweet and gives them an almost candylike sticky texture. The extent of moisture loss determines the final sugar concentration. Drier prunes have even higher sugar content than prunes allowed to dry to a more pliable state.

Plum Variety Sugar Content of Raw Plum Sugar Content of Prune
Italian 10-13% 67-75%
French 8-11% 65-73%
Japanese 9-12% 63-72%

Prunes vs. Dried Plums

While prunes are indeed dried plums, not all dried plums can be called prunes. Here are some of the main differences:

  • The term “prunes” implies the plums have been dried to a specific moisture content and sugar concentration. Prunes have a smooth, wrinkled appearance and very sweet flavor.
  • “Dried plums” is a broader term that can refer to plums dried to varying levels. They may be slightly softer and not as intensely sweet as prunes.
  • Traditionally, prunes are made from European plum varieties like Italian plums and French plums. Dried plums can come from any plum variety.
  • By FDA standards, prunes can contain no more than 23% moisture. Dried plums can have higher moisture contents.
  • Prunes are graded by counts per pound. There is no standard grading system for dried plums.
  • Prunes tend to be smaller due to shrinking during drying. Dried plums may be closer in size to fresh plums.

In everyday usage, the two terms are often used interchangeably. However, in a technical sense, all prunes are dried plums but not all dried plums can be called prunes. Prunes imply a very specific kind of intensely sweet, wrinkled dried plum.

History of Prunes and Dried Plums

Drying plums and other fruits to preserve them has been practiced since ancient times. Archaeological evidence indicates people were drying plums as early as 6,000 BC in the Near East. Prunes were later mentioned in writings by both the Romans and Greeks as a popular dried fruit. As cultivation of European plum varieties spread, prune production expanded across Europe.

California Prune Industry

In the mid-19th century, French dried plum varieties were brought to California, sparking the beginnings of a thriving prune industry. By the early 20th century, prune production in California outpaced the rest of the world. The California climate, with its hot, dry summers, proved excellent for prune production. At its peak in the late 1900s, California produced nearly 40% of the world’s prune supply. While prune production has declined from its peak, California still produces about 1/3 of the world’s prunes today.

Name Change to Dried Plums

In 2000, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled that prunes could be marketed as “dried plums.” This was an attempt by the California Prune Board to distance the fruit from the unpleasant connotation of the word “prune.” While “dried plums” quickly became an accepted term, “prunes” remains the most recognized name. Both terms are still used today to refer to the same product.

Uses for Prunes

Thanks to their intensely sweet taste, prunes are versatile and can be used in either sweet or savory applications. Here are some of the most common ways to enjoy prunes:


Prunes are commonly eaten as a convenient, healthy snack. They provide fiber, antioxidants, and nutrients like vitamin K, manganese, and potassium. Due to their high sugar content, prunes can boost energy levels. Prunes are also easy to transport and don’t require refrigeration after opening.


Prunes work very well in cooked dishes. Slow braises and stews are enhanced by the sweetness and body that prunes contribute. They also pair well with meats like pork and lamb. Prunes can be blended into smoothies, sauces, or homemade energy bars and bites.

Dish Prunes pair well with
Stews, braises, tagines Beef, lamb, chicken, pork
Stuffings and meatballs Breadcrumbs, onions, herbs
Smoothies Bananas, Greek yogurt, oats


Prunes add moisture, sweetness, and a chewy texture to baked goods. They are excellent in items like cakes, muffins, bread, granola bars, and scones. Prunes work as a substitute for fat or eggs in some baked recipes. Chopped prunes maintain their shape during baking, while pureed prunes create a more uniform distribution.


Prunes can be used to make energy balls, fruit leathers, dark chocolate confections, and more. Their sticky texture helps bind other ingredients together. Spices like cinnamon and nutmeg complement the flavor of prunes in sweet preparations.

Health Benefits of Prunes

Prunes are highly nutritious and offer several potential health benefits:

Digestive Health

Prunes contain both insoluble and soluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps food move through the digestive tract, while insoluble fiber adds bulk. Together, these fibers promote regularity and alleviate constipation. Prunes also contain sorbitol, which is a natural laxative. Eating prunes can help maintain regular bowel function.

Bone Health

Research indicates prunes may support bone health and help prevent osteoporosis. Animal studies found they increase bone density and bone volume. This is attributed to their potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, and boron content. The nutrients in prunes appear to inhibit bone breakdown while improving bone formation.


Prunes contain a variety of antioxidants, including neochlorogenic acid, chlorogenic acid, cryptochlorogenic acids, and isochlorogenic acids. These antioxidants neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress in the body. This helps protect cells against damage linked to chronic disease.

Cholesterol and Heart Health

The fiber in prunes may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol by preventing cholesterol reabsorption in the intestines. In a 2011 study, people who ate 12 prunes per day for 8 weeks had significantly lower LDL cholesterol levels. Prunes’ antioxidants also relax blood vessels, which leads to lower blood pressure.

Blood Sugar Control

Despite their sweetness, prunes have a low glycemic index of 29 and do not appear to spike blood sugar levels. Human studies found no significant increase in postprandial glucose levels after eating prunes. Their fiber helps slow the absorption of sugars.

So while high in natural sugar, prunes do not substantially impact blood sugar control in healthy individuals. However, they should still be eaten in moderation by people with diabetes.

Other Benefits

Early research suggests prunes may help prevent liver damage and reduce liver enzymes. Their antioxidant content appears to reduce inflammation and protect liver tissue. Prunes also contain melatonin, which may support brain function and nerve health. More studies are needed to confirm these effects.

Selecting and Storing Prunes

When buying prunes, you can choose from various sizes, known as “counts.” The higher the count, the smaller the prunes. Common prune sizes include:

  • 30-40 count
  • 50-60 count
  • 70-80 count
  • 90-100 count

For cooking, the most versatile size is the 60-70 count prunes. For snacking, the largest 30-40 counts are ideal. Pitted prunes are also available for convenience, but they tend to be more processed.

Unopened, prunes will stay fresh at room temperature for 12-18 months. Once opened, they should be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator or freezer. Prunes can last for several weeks in the fridge and up to a year in the freezer without deteriorating.

To soften up dried out prunes, you can soak them in hot water or hot juice for several minutes until plump and tender.

Risks and Precautions

Prunes are generally safe when consumed in normal food amounts. However, there are some precautions to consider:

  • Prunes are very high in natural sugar. People with diabetes should avoid overeating them.
  • Due to their laxative effects, eating a lot of prunes can potentially cause diarrhea.
  • If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), excess prunes may make symptoms worse.
  • Prunes are high in oxalate, so people with kidney stones may want to avoid them.
  • Some prune varieties are sulfites to extend shelf life. This can trigger reactions in those with sulfite allergies.

As with most foods, prunes are best enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Around 1/4 cup (4-5 prunes) per day is considered a reasonable serving size. Larger amounts may cause adverse side effects in some individuals.


Prunes are dried plums that have had their moisture content reduced to concentrate their natural sugars and flavors. While the terms prunes and dried plums are sometimes used interchangeably, prunes refer specifically to plum varieties that have been dried to a sweet, wrinkled state. Originating in ancient Europe, prunes became a major export from California, which still produces about a third of the world’s supply. In addition to their sweet taste, prunes offer nutritional benefits from their fiber, antioxidants, and micronutrients. Potential health benefits include improved digestion, bone health, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar control. Prunes make for a convenient and nutritious snack but can also be incorporated into main and dessert dishes. Selecting plump, soft prunes and storing them properly ensures you can enjoy their unique sweetness and chewy texture for months to come.