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What’s the difference between dried plums and dried prunes?

Dried plums and dried prunes are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two. Prunes are actually a type of plum – specifically, they are dried plums. However, not all dried plums can be called prunes. Confusing? Let’s break it down.

What Are Plums?

Plums belong to the genus Prunus and are stone fruits closely related to peaches, nectarines, and apricots. There are over 2,000 varieties of plums, with different shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors.

Some common types of plums include:

  • European plums – small, oval shaped with blue or purple skin
  • Japanese plums – larger, rounder, and sweeter
  • American hybrid plums – heart-shaped red or purple skin
  • Damson plums – small, oval, and tart purple skin

Plums can range in taste from tart to sweet. Their flesh also varies in color – it may be yellow, green, red, or light pink. The skin color runs the gamut from red, purple, black, or yellow. Inside the plum is a hard stone or pit.

What Are Prunes?

Prunes are dried plums. They are made by dehydrating plums to remove most of the water content. The process of drying plums to make prunes originated centuries ago as a way to preserve plums after harvest.

Prunes can be made from any type of plum, but certain varieties of plums are better suited for making prunes. The best prune plums are freestone varieties, which means the pit is easy to remove. Some common prune plum varieties include:

  • French (Petite d’Agen)
  • Tulare Giant
  • Sutter
  • Muir Beauty

These varieties have a high sugar content and dry down nicely to make soft, sweet prunes. Other plum varieties may produce prunes that are dry and tough.

Drying Process

To make prunes, plums are washed and dehydrated whole with the pits still inside. They are placed on trays and into a dehydrator or heated room where warm, circulating air slowly draws out the moisture over 24-36 hours.

As the plums lose moisture, their sugar content becomes concentrated, giving prunes a sweet flavor. The drying process also activates enzymes in the plums that continue to break down the fruit’s pectin, cellulose, and hemicellulose. This results in prunes that are soft and pliable.

Once dried, prunes may be further processed by treating with steam, syrup, or other solutions to rehydrate them before packaging.

Nutrition Differences

Both plums and prunes are nutritious and packed with antioxidants. However, their nutrient profiles change slightly during the dehydration process.

Here is a nutritional comparison of raw plums vs. prunes (per 100g):

Nutrient Raw Plums Prunes
Calories 46 240
Fat 0.28g 0.38g
Protein 0.59g 2.18g
Carbs 11.42g 63.88g
Fiber 1.4g 7g
Sugar 9.92g 38.13g

As you can see, prunes contain significantly more calories, protein, carbs, fiber, and sugar compared to raw plums. However, the nutrient density increases as the plum shrinks down into a prune.

Prunes are considered an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamin K, potassium, copper and manganese. They also contain vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and iron.

Health Benefits

Both plums and prunes offer important health benefits:


  • Provide antioxidants like polyphenols
  • May boost heart health
  • Help regulate digestion
  • Support bone health
  • May aid blood sugar control


  • Rich in fiber to improve digestion
  • Promote healthy bones and muscles
  • May help manage blood pressure
  • Reduce cholesterol levels
  • Help regulate blood sugar

Overall, both make a healthy addition to your diet. Prunes offer the added benefit of being an excellent source of fiber. Just 1/4 cup of prunes provides over 3g of dietary fiber.

Uses in Cooking and Baking

Dried plums and prunes can be used in many of the same ways in recipes, but there are some differences:

  • Prunes have a sticky, chewy texture compared to dried plums, which are drier.
  • Prunes tend to be larger in size than dried plum pieces.
  • Prunes are sweeter with a more concentrated flavor.
  • Dried plums may have a firmer, crunchy texture.
  • Prunes work well in baked goods like muffins, cakes, breads to add moisture.
  • Dried plums go nicely in savory dishes, compotes, chutneys.

Some ways to use prunes and dried plums:


  • Make oatmeal more nutritious
  • Blend into smoothies
  • Bake into cookies, bars, or granola
  • Cook in meat stews and braises
  • Make prune butter or jam
  • Chop and add to yogurt or cottage cheese

Dried Plums

  • Toss into trail mix or cereal
  • Make chutney or compote
  • Mix into stuffing for chicken or pork
  • Use in chutneys, compotes, relishes
  • Make into plum sauce for meat
  • Bake into tarts

Cost Comparison

Dried plums and prunes have a similar price point by weight. Some cost comparisons:

Product Average Price
Prunes (1 lb bag) $5-7
Dried Plum Pieces (16 oz bag) $5-7
Pitted Prunes (16 oz tub) $5-8
Dried Plum Halves (16 oz bag) $5-8

Both can be purchased for roughly $3 to $4 per pound in bulk sizes. Organic varieties may cost a dollar or two more. Compared to fresh plums in season, dried plums and prunes are more expensive pound for pound.

Which Should You Buy?

Whether you choose prunes or another type of dried plum depends on how you plan to use them:

  • Prunes – best if you want ready-to-eat prunes, prune juice/butter, or using prunes in baking. Their sticky, chewy texture makes them ideal for incorporating into batters and doughs.
  • Dried plums – best for eating as a snack, making chutneys, using in cereals, stuffing blends, or grain dishes. Their firm, drier texture holds up better in these preparations.

Look for prunes and dried plums that look plump and soft with a shiny skin. Avoid any that appear hard, dry, or shriveled up. Store both in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Prunes and dried plums make a nutritious addition to your pantry.


While prunes are technically a type of dried plum, some key differences exist. Prunes go through a specific dehydration process to create their characteristic texture and sweet, sticky flavor. The drying process also alters their nutrient profile slightly. Both can add important antioxidants, fiber, and nutrients to your diet. Choose prunes for baking and dried plums for savory dishes or snacking to make the most of their unique qualities.