Cooking Tips

Why Plums Are My Favorite Stone Fruit

Plums are tangy, sweet, easy to prepare—and curiously overlooked. Here’s an enthusiast’s tribute, including our favorite recipes.   

Published Aug. 24, 2023.

I was raised on tart fruit. 

Sour cherries in pie, gooseberry jam on toast, fresh cranberries folded into pancake batter, and ultratangy dried California apricots by the handful.

More than anything else, I eat and cook with plums. They’ve got juicy snap and vivid jewel tones and are arguably the liveliest of stone fruits thanks to their abundance of acidity—in some cases, two to three times as much as peaches—as well as sugar. 

And yet, plums get a fraction of the summer stone fruit glory. 

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Why You Should Bake with Plums

I’ll take plum pie or cake over peach any day. The punchy fruit not only offsets the richness of the pastry or crumb but also stands up to flavorful whole-grain flours (whole-wheat or rye) and nuts that can give desserts next-level sophistication. One of my favorite examples is these financiers: Slipping a couple slices into each confection before baking gives the sweet, buttery, almond-rich crumb a jolt of color and brightness. 

Even plum skins have perks. Not only are they thin and tender enough to skip fussy peeling (looking at you, peaches), but they also hold the cut fruit intact, temper sweetness with their bitter tannins, and add lusty color. 

Other Ways to Use Plums

Because they’re so bright tasting and easy to work with, plums make an ideal sidekick—sweet or savory. 

Next time you’re grilling pork chops, do yourself a favor and throw a few halved plums on the fire. Once they’re tender, you can whip up this gingery plum chutney that will elevate those chops to knockout status. Also, why don’t more cooks cut plums into fruit salads? Their tang is the lynchpin in this one.

Or make plums the centerpiece. 

In this roasted-plum recipe, their sour sweetness concentrates and then spills into a wine-y syrup spiced with cinnamon that reminds me of the stewed Italian prune plums my mom makes every fall. Both feature tender fruit and retro vibes and are lovely with vanilla ice cream or yogurt.  

You don’t have to be a William Carlos Williams devotee to appreciate eating them out of hand. It’s thrilling to take a bite—the astringency of the skin that buzzes like the first sip of a freshly cracked Coke, the shock of color in red-fleshed fruits—and fun to suss out the nuances in different varieties. Last week I munched on a cherry plum that tasted like a rose backlit with green-apple tang. 


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