Are you wondering if sugar plums are real? Here's how to make the traditional sugar plum candy and everything you need to know about sugar plums!
Here's the scoop: sugar plums are a traditional holiday candy made of dried fruit, toasted nuts and crunchy sugar. They are completely delicious and incredibly easy to make. Taste one, and you'll find most of the holiday flavors you love are wrapped up in one bite!
So, why are they called "sugar plums" anyway?
Way back in the 17th century, folks wrapped seeds or nuts in a hard sugar coating, which took days to produce and special skills, since nothing was mechanized and sugar work was done by eye. The process is called "panning"- and the modern day Jordan almond would be a good example of that. The resulting sugar-coated treats were round but not perfectly circular, similar to the shape of... wait for it... a plum. Due to the cost of the ingredients and the time to make them, sugar plums were only enjoyed by wealthy folks. Boiling fruit with sugar was also the most popular way to preserve fruit - including plums.
"Full of sugar plums" actually came to mean that someone was rich, and "mouth full of sugar plums" meant someone spoke sweetly but probably meant something else - similar to "bless your heart" in the South. I may start calling people sugar plum while delivering side eye. You've been warned.
Fast forward about 200 years, and candy making, food preservation and language had all taken big leaps forward. Sugar was easier to find, fruit and nuts easier to dry, and "plum" meant "good" in addition to meaning a fruit. That's where Sugar Plums 2.0 make their debut. This is the candy we've come to love during the holiday season.
Here's what sweet dreams are made of:
Sugar plums are made of dried fruit (including prunes, which are specific varieties of dried plums), toasted nuts, warm spices and a crunchy sugar coating. Anyone who tells you that they don't include dried plums or a crunchy coating is an idiot. You can tell them I said it. Alton Brown agrees with me.
In addition to the prunes, nuts, spices & sugar, I use cranberries and apricot preserves, because I like the sweet/tart contrast they bring.
So, how do you make them?
I'm glad you asked. Making sugar plums is pretty easy. You chop up some dried fruit, and toast some nuts and nut flour/meal. Then you dump all that in a food processor with spices and a bit of fruit preserves or honey and blitz it up. Then you roll it in balls, and then roll the balls in sugar. Sound like energy balls/bliss bites/power balls? Exactly. It's exactly the same method and ingredients, minus the sugar. So you can feel pretty good about eating several of these, and feeding them to your kids too.
Pro tip: everyone freaks out about prunes and pooping. The real truth is this: prunes have fiber, like all dried fruit. They are great for gut health and bone health too. The U.S. is the only country that considers them the poop fruit - they're simply delicious in other countries, which is why you find them in French, British & Italian desserts and lots of Indian & Middle Eastern cuisine. The recommended serving is 4-5 prunes per day, and your won't hit the danger zone unless you eat 10+ in one sitting. Why do I know this? My family grows prunes. Plus I read.
Once you've made your own sugar plums, try my friend Meg's Sugar Plum Cookies and this Warm Sugar Plum Cocktail. Start impressing your friends and yourself with all the holiday goodness, people.
Try my Prosciutto Wrapped Prunes and Christmas Candy Chocolate Bark too!
Traditional Sugar Plums Recipe
- food processor
- ½ cup California Prunes about 3.25 oz
- ½ cup walnuts toasted & coarsely chopped (about 2 oz)
- ¼ cup dates pitted & chopped (just over 1 oz, about 5) or dried figs
- ¼ cup dried cranberries about 1.25 oz
- ¼ cup hazelnut meal or almond meal* toasted (or hazelnut or almond flour) (see note to use whole nuts)
- 2 Tablespoons apricot preserves or honey
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 pinch fine sea salt
- ½ cup sugar I use coarse sugar for crunch
To toast the walnuts and hazelnut or almond meal:
- Preheat the oven to 350 F
- Spread the nuts out in a single layer on one side of a sheet pan, and pour the nut meal in a pile on the other side, and flatten with you hand or a spatula so it's an even layer, about ¼ inch thick. Place the sheet pan in the oven for 8 minutes, then remove and allow to cool.
To make the Sugarplums:
- Put the chopped prunes, walnuts, dates and cranberries in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the ingredients are chopped into small, even pieces. Stop before the mixture becomes a ball.
- Add the toasted nut meal, apricot preserves, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and salt. Pulse several times (you may need to stop to scrape down the sides) until the ingredients are fully combined and the mixture will hold itself together when rolled into a ball. (You should still see some texture from the fruit & nuts.)
- Line a tray or container with wax or parchment paper. Scoop the mixture into heaping 1 tablespoon portions and roll into 1 inch balls, and place on the paper.
- Roll the sugarplums in the sugar just before serving.
Photos: Meg van der Kruik
Once you made Sugar Plums: try these!
Get ready for your new favorite winter cocktail: the Warm Sugar Plum!
Sweet dreams are made of.... spiced rum. Well, spiced rum, orange & prune juices, and some spices. You won't believe the incredibly Christmas-y smell this warm winter cocktail fills your home with. And your friends will be begging for the recipe!
More prune goodness: Prosciutto Wrapped Prunes
Looking for an incredibly delicious easy-to-pull-together appetizer? This Prosciutto Wrapped Prunes recipe is a great choice!
Frequently Asked Questions about Sugar Plums:
Yes. Sugar plum candy is made of dried fruit, toasted nuts, warm spices and sugar.
A sugar plum is a sweet treat made of dried fruit, nuts and warm spices coated in crunchy sugar. It tastes of the warm flavors found in many holiday treats, cinnamon, cloves, and sweet with a bit of tart.
Sugar plums are one of the healthiest holiday treats, since they are made predominately of dried fruit and toasted nuts, flavored with warm spices. While they are traditionally rolled in coarse sugar, the sugar plum base is essentially the same as an "energy bite" or "bliss ball" and is loaded with protein, vitamins and minerals from the fruit and nuts.
Sugarplum is the flavor of dried berries, fruit and toasted nuts with warm spices, like cinnamon and clove.
Yes. Traditional sugar plum candy is made of dried fruit and toasted nuts with warm spices, rolled in sugar.
A sugar plum is a candy traditionally eaten during the holidays. A plum is a fresh stone fruit.
Prunes are dried plums, made of specific varieties of plums. While all prunes are dried plums, not all dried plums qualfiy to be called prunes.
The recommended serving is 4-5 prunes per day to support gut health and bone health.
Recipe created for California Prunes (post is not sponsored). My opinions are my own, thank you for supporting the brands that support G-Free Foodie. And extra thanks for supporting the products my family grows.
I found the article interesting until you became very condescending. You are not special because you read. You actually sounded like a bit of a jerk. I simply wanted a recipe for sugar plums, not get berated for not knowing what is in one. You may have a stronger "fan" base if you lose the superiority complex.
finn gibson says
wow i think that it was nice tbh
K.C. Cornwell says
Thanks Finn - you clearly get me 🙂
K.C. Cornwell says
Rebecca - that's why we explained exactly what they are and how they came to be at the top of the post - because most people don't know and we don't expect them to. I will, however, as a fifth-generation farmer whose faily produces prunes among other things, continue to take issue with anyone to says prunes don't belong in sugar plums, as a lot of inauthentic recipes so.
Liz McCoy says
Thinking of giving in treat boxes. How long will these last once they are rolled in sugar?