Recipe Spotlight

A Deep Dive into How to Cook and Bake with Stone Fruit

Get to know stone fruits and then head into the kitchen.

Published Aug. 11, 2023.

Depending where you live in the United States, you can generally find fresh stone fruit from late spring through early fall, but these fruits, named because they feature juicy flesh surrounding a pit, or stone, are at their peak from June through September.

Popular varieties of stone fruit include apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and plums. But nowadays you can also find many hybrids, such as pluots and plumcots.

What You Need to Know About Stone Fruits

APRICOTS: Fresh apricots have a sweet-tart flavor that makes them perfect for both snacking and baking. Look for ones that are dark orange, or even red, with a firm texture.

CHERRIES: Fresh cherries are typically available only mid-May through August. Sweet Bing cherries, which are reddish black, are the most common variety. Look for those with shiny skin. Lambert and Rainier cherries are other sweet varieties. And while sour cherries are less widely available, you might find Montmorency and Morello cherries in markets as well.

NECTARINES: Nectarines are similar to peaches but usually smaller and firmer and with smooth (not fuzzy) skin. Nectarines can be either freestone, meaning the flesh doesnt cling to the pit, or clingstone, meaning it does. You can find yellow or white nectarines.

PEACHES: Peaches can be freestone or clingstone and yellow or white. Yellow peaches have red-orange skin and golden flesh; white peaches have rosy yellow skin and lighter flesh. Select heavy, fragrant, slightly soft fruit.

PLUMS: Juicy plums range in color from black to red to yellow. Select those that feel soft when gently squeezed.

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How to Store Stone Fruit

Apricots, nectarines, peaches, and plums should be stored on the counter, where they’ll continue to ripen. Once they’re fully ripe, they can be stored in the fridge. Store cherries, which won’t continue to ripen, in the fridge.

Stone Fruit Recipes

Now that you know all about stone fruits, here are some of our favorite ways to use them.

Stone Fruit Shrubs and Cocktails

Shrubs began as a way to preserve fruits by mixing them with vinegar. Today, shrubs are the base of many refreshing beverages and cocktails.

We created a versatile shrub syrup that can be made with peaches or plums. For each iteration, the fruit is mashed with sugar and then refrigerated for 24 hours to let the sugar dissolve and the fruit macerate. Then the syrup is strained and vinegar is stirred in. (Any macerated fruit can be saved and used to top pancakes or ice cream.) The shrub syrups keep for 1 month.


Plum Shrub Syrup

An old-timey means of preserving fruit makes a popular refreshing beverage today.
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Fresh Peach Shrub Syrup

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Once you have a shrub syrup on hand, you can simply mix it with seltzer for a bubbly, fruity drink or whip up a cocktail. We like a Plum Reviver, featuring gin, Lillet Blanc, and an absinthe rinse, and a Peach-Basil Vodka Spritzer, which is like a vodka soda enhanced with sweet peaches.


Plum Reviver

Stone fruit takes the place of citrus in this invigorating cocktail.
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Peach-Basil Vodka Spritzer

A vodka soda with summer vibes.
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Stone Fruit Salads and Entrées 

Yes, tomatoes and corn scream “summer dinner,” but stone fruits do as well. Adding some stone fruit to a salad or entrée will instantly give it summer vibes.

Take our Peach and Cucumber Salad. Cucumber salads are great year-round, but when you add some peaches, you add sweetness and sunshine to your bowl. We combined these two ingredients with punchy fish sauce, chili-garlic sauce, ginger, and lime juice for a bold and lively summer salad. Handfuls of mint and cilantro make it superfresh.


Peach and Cucumber Salad

This refreshing salad offers a punched-up take on sweet peaches and cool cucumber. 
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When you pair peaches with the star of summer (tomatoes), you get a vibrant juicy salad. Salting the tomatoes reduces wateriness, while adding vinegar and lemon juice balances the sweet fruit. You’ll want to use perfectly ripe peaches and tomatoes for the best flavor in our Peach and Tomato Salad.


Peach and Tomato Salad

The key to making these summer ingredients sing in harmony is proper seasoning.
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For a simple spin on a favorite summer salad, the caprese, try swapping in peaches for the tomatoes. Our Peach Caprese Salad uses lemon juice instead of the traditional balsamic, as the citrus flavor better complements the peaches.


Peach Caprese Salad

This fresh take on an old standard should become a summertime classic in its own right.
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Any of the above salads make a lovely side or starter for a summer dinner, but if you want to make a heartier salad that serves as your whole dinner, we’ve got two great options for you to try.

Our Chicken and Arugula Salad with Cherries and Feta makes the best of cherries’ fleeting season. A simple white wine–Dijon vinaigrette dresses and flavors the peppery arugula and sweet cherries. Poaching the chicken ensures that it’s tender and shreddable. Some feta adds salty, creamy pops while coarse toasted bread crumbs offer crunch.


Chicken and Arugula Salad with Cherries and Feta

A simple vinaigrette, sweet cherries, and crumbly feta cheese dress up poached chicken and arugula.
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Prefer to grill? Then our weeknight-friendly Grilled Barbecue Chicken and Peach Salad is where it’s at. Bottled barbecue sauce brushed on the chicken while it’s cooking imparts flavor and helps it get sticky and charred, while grilling the peaches briefly warms them and caramelizes their sugars. The peaches get tossed in a barbecue sauce–enhanced dressing, along with mesclun, goat cheese, and red onion. Arrange the chicken on top, and you’re good to go.


Grilled Barbecue Chicken and Peach Salad

Adding barbecued chicken and grilled peaches to mixed greens results in a dinner-worthy summer salad.
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There are so many different ways to dress up grilled chicken, but if you’re looking for something sweet and spicy and a little fruity, then you’ll love our Peach-Glazed Grilled Chicken. A mix of peach preserves, grilled peach, and grilled jalapeño serves as the glaze for perfectly grilled chicken.


Peach-Glazed Grilled Chicken

Too many recipes for peach-glazed grilled chicken give you chicken that’s scorched or sickeningly sweet—or both. We wanted nicely glazed, unimpeachably peachy grilled chicken.
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Whenever we talk about pork tenderloin, we praise its mild flavor, which serves as a blank canvas in recipes. For our Grilled Honey-Ginger Pork Tenderloin and Plums, we make a honey-ginger butter and drizzle it over the grilled pork and plums for a flavor-packed, easy summer dinner.

Stone Fruit Desserts

While shrubs, cocktails, salads, and entrées are all fun, creative ways to use stone fruits, desserts are likely the go-to choice for most. And we have so many stone fruit desserts to choose from. Here is just a sampling.

How about a choose-your-own adventure stone fruit tart? We have three recipes with different pairings (plum and raspberry, apricot and blueberry, and peach and blackberry), but feel free to mix and match to make the stone fruit tart of your dreams. You’ll start by making a buttery, flaky crust. You’ll roll it out, mound the fruit (sweetened with sugar) on top, fold up the edges, and bake. And that’s it . . . easy summer dessert is served.


Easy Apricot and Blueberry Tart

With no top crust and no fussy crimping, making this rustic tart is easier than pie.
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Do you yearn for roadside peach stands, fragrant with the scent of frying peach fritters? With our recently developed Glazed Peach Fritters recipe, you can bring that experience into your own kitchen. The bite-size fritters are studded with peach chunks and drizzled with a peach juice–spiked glaze for peachy flavor in every bite.


Glazed Peach Fritters

A fruit-packed treat that doesn't skimp on the peach flavor.
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Cherry season is short, so many of our cherry dessert recipes call for frozen cherries for consistency and accessibility, but if you can get your hands on some fresh sweet cherries, don’t wait to make our Cherries Jubilee. This seemingly old-fashioned dessert is back in vogue. With a few safety tips at hand, you can flambé quickly and fearlessly. Then you just need to decide whether you’re spooning your cherries over ice cream or pound cake.  


Cherries Jubilee

A dessert that's fit for a queen . . . and also your dinner-party guests.
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Did we save the best for last? Most definitely. Our Brown Sugar Pavlova with Stone Fruit uses all the stone fruit you can get your hands on. This showstopper dessert takes traditional pavlova and swaps in brown sugar for some of the granulated sugar in the meringue to introduce caramelly notes. The crispy meringue, with its marshmallowy center, is then topped with 2 pounds of stone fruit (minus the stones) that’s been tossed with brown sugar and left to sit for a half-hour to bring out the fruits’ natural juices. Adding sour cream and brown sugar to the whipped cream topping balances the fruit with a little tang.


Brown Sugar Pavlova with Stone Fruit

This dessert is as airy as a ballerina’s tutu, but it tastes way better.
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Happy stone fruit season!

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