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If you’re late to the prune game, don’t worry. Plenty of people are just discovering the latest research surrounding prunes and their potential health benefits. Prunes show promise in multiple areas of health, from weight management to bone density to gut health. And that’s making prunes a star when it comes to total, lifelong health. So, why aren’t you cooking with prunes yet?
Prunes pack a strong nutritional punch, too! A serving of prunes (that’s roughly 4 pitted prunes) provides a plethora of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, with noteworthy mention going to the 3 grams of dietary fiber (or 11% of the daily value), 23 mcg of vitamin K (or 20% of the daily value) and 0.1 mg of copper (or 10% of the daily value).
While prunes are commonly associated with either the juice or pureed baby food form, they offer so much more potential. In fact, the fruit makes a wonderful addition to both sweet and savory recipes. According to registered dietitian Lauren Manaker, nutrition expert and author of Fueling Male Fertility, “Prunes are an easy snack to eat when on-the-go, as these fruits are perfectly portable and don’t require refrigeration. Including prunes in dishes like baked chicken or oatmeal can be fun ways to reap these health benefits too.”
Not convinced quite yet? Try experimenting with prunes in your kitchen with these five tried-and-true creative cooking ideas!
1. Sweeten smoothies
Smoothies offer a convenient, portable way for Americans to get more fruits and vegetables into their daily diets. With recent data showing only about 10% of Americans are eating enough fruits and vegetables, it’s important to focus on simple, realistic ways that’ll make it a breeze to consume more produce. And tossing a few prunes in a smoothie is a great way to reap the benefits of this fruit while also adding natural sweetness. Plus, you can easily kill two birds with one stone and toss in the produce from your fridge that’s seen better days to reduce food waste as well!
Prunes pair well with fruits like pears, apricots and apples, so consider adding these fruits into smoothies to pack a flavorful punch.
Try This Recipe: Morning Energizing Smoothie
2. Elevate appetizers
Goat cheese, blue cheese and ricotta offer a robust flavor profile that compliments prunes, especially when paired with your favorite artisan meats. For a simple appetizer, consider stuffing a prune (similar to this) with your cheese of choice, a walnut or almond, and wrapping it in prosciutto. It’s simple but sophisticated – and it’ll wow guests!
For a more robust appetizer, you can also pair prunes with other complimentary appetizer fare (think apricots, walnuts, pears, salami and crackers) and make a charcuterie spread! Drizzling the prunes and cheese with a little honey brings the sweetness forward and offers a beautiful blend to these foods.
Try This Recipe: Charcuterie Salad
3. Lighten up dressings & sauces
Thanks to their natural sweetness, prunes work well in savory dressing and sauce recipes that pair with heartier protein dishes (think beef, duck, game meats, chicken and turkey.) Plus, their texture provides a wonderful body to these styles of recipes!
A simple BBQ sauce can become transformed with a prune puree, while a salad dressing can be naturally sweetened with their powerful sugar profile. Balsamic dressing is taken to a whole new creamy level when you consider pureeing prunes into it.
Aside from the flavor, the best part is when you add prunes into your condiments and dressings, the added sugar that usually takes its place is reduced, creating a better-for-you topping.
Try This Recipe: Prune BBQ Sauce
4. Spice up sides
Cultures around the world have incorporated prunes into their cuisines for years. In Morocco, prunes are cooked into both main dishes and sides, offering both sweetness and body to dishes. You’ll often find carrot-based salads complimented with prunes, as well as stews with root vegetables, prunes and meat.
Point being, prunes are easy to toss into your savory recipes too! If you’re not an adventurous eater, start small with something you’re more familiar with. A simple salad is a great way to think outside the box as you begin to add more prunes into your diet!
Try This Recipe: Prune & Nut Rice Pilaf
5. Better-for-you sweet treats
If you’ve tried dates in your favorite homemade energy bars or bites, then consider using prunes in the same ways. Prunes can impart a similar sweetness and texture that’s just like what you’re used to from dates.
When baking with prunes, since they do provide that deep, dark purple hue (hello, antioxidants!), you may want to consider using them in chocolate recipes that already have a beautiful deep, dark color. Chocolate cakes, brownies and cookies become even more moist and decadent when you add prune puree into them!
Just keep in mind that prune puree works as a replacement for either part of the sugar or fat a recipe calls for, but not both. If you’re new to swapping with better-for-you ingredients, try starting with reducing the sugar or the fat a recipe calls for by ⅓ when you add in the prune puree. It will take some experimenting until you feel comfortable, but I promise, your future self (and health) will thank you!
Try This Recipe: No Bake Brownie Protein Bars