The World’s Most Unsexiest Recipe? Yes. Stewed Prunes.

by Matt on May 12, 2009


I remember reading her words like it was yesterday. Molly once said that prunes were among the few foods with their own built-in laugh track. And gosh darnit, she’s right. I still giggle when I think about them, even when people were saying they were delicious and I should try them. And you know exactly what this boy is talking about, quit trying to be coy and pretend you don’t know.  We’re friends here.

Luckily I can now tell you that I no longer laugh as hard as I once did when I say the words prune and I can also tell you that I no longer put the palms of my hand to my lips and make mega-sounds.  And why? Because scattered among the yards and yards of breakfast items on the buffet table at Club Med in the Bahamas were bowls of stewed prunes. Looking around I noticed people helping themselves to the prunes without the slightest smirk or giggle. How could this happen? How come no one was laughing or joking about them?

Must be the French.

Ok, back to that unsexy headline. I suppose the you could look at stewed prunes as the choice of the Matlock set but this boy really learned to appreciate them in the Bahamas. They were silky and sweet with just the right amount of body and a touch of tartness.  They were divine on top of oatmeal or warm breakfast cereals and made for a really delightful breakfast. Since the trip I’ve enjoyed them a few times at home with a variety of spices and I must say you can’t really mess them up. Unless you soak them for too long which renders them pretty much useless; they’ll just disintegrate. And then you can continue making jokes while holding a bowl of what looks like, well, nevermind.

Stewed Prunes adapted from The Joy Of Cooking

1 lb dried prunes
1 to 1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup of sugar
1/2 sliced lemon
1 stick cinnamon

Combine the water and dried prunes and bring to the boiling point.  Reduce the heat and gently simmer, about 20 minutes. Add the sugar and cook for an additional 10 minutes. At this point you can add the lemon, cinnamon, a vanilla bean, whatever you’d like.

Matt’s notes: Some recipes recommend soaking your prunes for 24 hours. I’ve had luck with that method and also a disaster. Go figure.


37414890_0e1ba87c60Tomorrow we’ll be heading back down south to the land of Quilmes, Maté and Parillas with a group of our best friends. We’ve been to Argentina several times before and I’m just as excited to return as I was during our first visit. Buenos Aires is definitely a favorite place of mine.  I’ll do my best to update between working and playing (I have a little assignment)  but you can always follow me on Twitter.  I hope to meet a few of you when I’m there!

{ 2 trackbacks }

Memories of Mom: Prune Balls | Running At the Speed of Life
August 28, 2010 at 10:50 pm
Don’t Giggle! They’re Wonderful! Tea-Stewed Prunes
October 3, 2011 at 9:05 pm

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

cindy espinoza May 12, 2009 at 11:55 am

Hi Matt! I love your blog and have been following you for a while. (just found you on twitter too….where i mentioned La Cabrerra restarante en BA. specializing in steaks of course, its in the neightborhood of Palermo and is one of the best i have ever been too. they start off with many many ramekins filled with delicious treats….and a beautiful wine list. claro! (they even serve you wine and champagne on the sidewalk while waiting for your table. (there usually is a crowd) I bet you have been there, but if not, its one you dont want to miss. BA is one of my favorite cities too, thats why i couldnt resist commenting. have fun!

melanie May 12, 2009 at 12:06 pm

I make prunes the same way although I never added cinnamin–nice touch!!
Have a great time.

desiree May 12, 2009 at 12:15 pm

No. Polenta.


this sounds delish

Anne May 12, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Matt, only you could make stewed prunes look beautiful in a photo. Have a wonderful vacation and tell us all about it when you get back!

MakiB May 12, 2009 at 1:51 pm

I agree. Prunes are right there, alongside beans, in my knee-jerk reaction of smirking. Cuz bean are magical fruit, you know :)

meleyna May 12, 2009 at 1:53 pm

I’ve been calling them “dried plums” for forever, and my boyfriend still hasn’t caught on…

kitchenbeard May 12, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Prunes, taragon, vanilla custard, a walnut crust, a fluted tart pan, an oven, a happy kitchenbeard.

lisa (dandysugar) May 12, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Hi Matt,
Reading your blog always makes me smile and laugh!. Your lovely photo has me wanting to try this recipe. Those stewed prunes absolutely glisten in that bowl of oatmeal!

Figtree May 12, 2009 at 7:32 pm

My 1st visit to your blog and what do I find..PRUNES?? I love it. I look forward to furture posts..Thanks Figtreeapps

Richard Schillen May 13, 2009 at 8:36 am

There are some Latin American meat stews that call for prunes. You won’t believe how good they are! Add to the above a prune tart with a dollop of whipped cream, and who is going to complain? Don’t underestimate the little prune, it’s a great item from every vantage.

Wendi May 13, 2009 at 1:35 pm

I read about stewed prunes in Molly’s book and though they sounded interesting. Now thanks to your utterly lickable photo, I must put them on my list of things to make soon.

Kevin May 14, 2009 at 8:23 am

This made me laugh, even though, of course, great entry. My grandmother, 94, just reminded us that she gave us prune juice when we were younger, and that she still has a glass daily. It could be the secret to her longevity. I’ll chance it and NOT try that glass each day…

matt wright May 14, 2009 at 1:33 pm

You have just made prunes look sexy. HOW????

kissmyspatula May 14, 2009 at 4:29 pm

That’s it…I’m having prunes for dinner tonight!

Amanda @ Mrs.W's Kitchen May 14, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Come to think of it I recall stewed prunes at the breakfast table at a posh South African B&B a few years ago… the ever-popular prune lives on! Er, I mean, dried plum.

I love ‘em. Even make them at home from time to time (without the added sugar–I find them tasty without). I even toss them into curries. Prunes is good food.

Marieta May 15, 2009 at 3:22 am

I’ve been loving prunes for so so very long…and had been embarassed about the fact.
Until I moved to France.
Here you can find prunes stuffed with — figure this — prunes ! drenched in armagnac.
No one laughs about the prune here.
Adieu my embarassement.
Thanks for this daring post !

Mel @ May 15, 2009 at 3:29 am

*chuckle* I think it’s rather sexy on oatmeal… honestly.

kristina May 15, 2009 at 9:21 am

I thought I was the only one who had that reaction to prunes. In Italian PRUGNA (prune!) is a plum, indeed, and well I can never bring myself to buy them, but you’re right. They are always on the swank breakfast buffet.

I thought tho, that you were going to say you stopped laughing because you had some at ClubMed then had an accident when you laughed too hard…

Nanciful May 16, 2009 at 11:56 pm

I love any type of stewed fruit on my oatmeal. Especially ones with a little tartness. Enjoy Argentina and can’t wait for your updates!

Siren May 17, 2009 at 11:42 am

Drenched in armagnac sounds divine as above poster said. But the photo is what draws you in.

I don’t really like oatmeal b/c I don’t indulge in breakfast too much. But, let’s say i trapped myself in an Irish cottage with some peaty scotch (yeah, I’d drink scotch in Ireland, so what!) and got down to writing The Novel. I’d eat oatmeal with stewed prunes in the mornings. It sounds romantic the way you’ve layed out the dish here.


Sneh | Gel's Kitchen May 18, 2009 at 3:13 am

You giggled? seriously? then you need to share that inside joke with Nick, coz you should see how his nose wrinkles and his features formulate themselves into this godawful frown whenever anyone mentions “Prune” … that aside, this looks wonderful and I might try it soon. Promise it is delicious?

Catherine May 18, 2009 at 8:22 am

Thanks for the commentary and recipe on stewed prunes, Matt. I just got back from a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat (, where every morning they served us stewed prunes and yes, they are delicious! Wanting to maintain this breakfast habit, now that I am home, a recipe was needed – thanks for the valuable comment that “Since the trip I’ve enjoyed them a few times at home with a variety of spices and I must say you can’t really mess them up.” Good to know; this allows for the culinary creativity to flow a little easier (not to say I wouldn’t experiment regardless!).

Bon appetit.

LM May 18, 2009 at 8:37 am

I never really thought much of prunes until I moved to Geneva. My grandfather always used to joke that what he really wanted was a glass of prune juice, and then laugh. He couldn’t believe that there was a market in the stuff. However, here they are very common and very delicious. I will have to see if I can come up with a sexy prune recipe.

heather May 20, 2009 at 7:10 pm

no no, stewed prunes is ABOUT AS SEXY AS THEY COME!!



Marc May 28, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Dessert at our wedding: wint-stewed prunes in mascarpone. Sexy!

c May 28, 2009 at 4:59 pm

so sexy we had them stewed with red wine on top of marscapone for dessert at our wedding!

Caroline June 4, 2009 at 4:03 am

Hey, I’m French and I don’t get it. What’s so funny about prunes? Can someone explain??

Gourmet Mama June 5, 2009 at 1:38 am

I’ve always muttered an incomprehensible “No, thank you,” to offers of prune dishes, desserts etc. The title made me want to read the rest of what you had to say because I totally agree that prunes are so unsexy. That photo however makes me want to rethink my way of thinking.

Alta June 12, 2009 at 8:11 am

So, this looks really tasty on top of oatmeal. Think if I stewed up a bunch, they would keep for gentle reheating in the microwave throughout the week? (I usually do some steel-cut oats for the week – since I get to work at 7am and don’t eat breakfast until I get there) Would love to add these atop my oatmeal each morning!

Misha October 20, 2009 at 7:29 pm

Hello Matt,
Because I don’t have a copy of JOC and I sometimes confuse instructions in recipes, can you please clarify “1/2 sliced lemon” for the Stewed Prunes recipe? I am thinking you mean “1/2 of a lemon, sliced”, rather than “1/2 of a slice of lemon, but I’m not always right. Please clarify.

Bill Stein March 10, 2010 at 9:38 am

I’ve been reading your thoughts on prunes, I’d like to add this:
Berthillon, who is reputed to have the best ice cream in Paris, offers as one of their many flavors PRUNE! I’v stood in line for about 20 minutes just to get a scoop of their prune ice cream – it was very very good. Of course I like prunes, so if you doubt my word- go to Paris and try it yourself.

kris June 6, 2010 at 7:28 pm

My father (92yrs) has been getting constipated because of medications, I told him I remembered his mother’s stewed prunes the cure all, thanks for the recipe I’ll make him some for father’s day!!

Alan October 24, 2010 at 12:44 am

I grew up on stewed prunes on biscuits for breakfast. Still one of my favorite meals. I’ve raised my two boys on the same and they love them too. I find it humorous to make an old recipe out of my grandmother’s Betty Crocker cook book called Prune Cream Pie and bring it to potlucks and such. The looks I get when I tell them what it is LOL! But it is really really good.

Simon August 31, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Forget the water & sugar – try apple juice

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