Orange, Cranberry Fruit and Nut Balls (aka Sugar-Plums)

 Easy to prepare no-bake, make-ahead fruit and nut truffles.

fruit and nut truffles, fruit and nut balls, pistachio cranberry balls, sugar plums

Pin It

The word sugar-plum, evokes a quaint sense of old-world whimsy and yuletide celebrations gone by.

We think of Clement Clark Moore’s famous poem where “children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads…” or the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from Tchaikovsky’s The Nut Cracker.

But what exactly is a sugar-plum?

fruit and nut truffles, fruit and nut balls, pistachio cranberry balls, sugar plums

While some may conclude by the name alone that it refers to a plum of a similar name, this Christmas-time confection is not a plum at all, nor is it required to consist of any.

While the true origins of the term sugar-plum has unfortunately been lost over time and faded into historical obscurity, it is thought to once have referred to any dried fruit or sweet confection.

The confection we have come to associate with the word sugar-plum today primarily contains dried fruits and nuts combined with holiday spices.  It signifies everything simple, sweet and delectable about the holiday season.

fruit and nut truffles, fruit and nut balls, pistachio cranberry balls, sugar plums

While sugar-plums were a mainstay of holiday seasons of past they have fallen out of favor in recent years in favor of cookies and other sugar-filled sweets.   I think they may be due for a comeback.

Wholesome and easy to prepare, they can be made in less than 15 minutes with a food processor.  These no-bake, make-ahead fruit and nut “truffles” can also be stored for weeks in the refrigerator, perfect during the entertaining season.

Here nuts, dried cranberries, orange zest and dates are finely chopped, held together by a splash of Cointreau and finished with a light coat of chopped pistachios. At first bite a melting and subtle sweetness leads to the fragrant almost floral taste of orange peel and Cointreau swiftly followed by the tartness of cranberry.  These maybe simple in content but are complex on the tongue.

fruit and nut truffles, fruit and nut balls, pistachio cranberry balls, sugar plums

Serve them with coffee or tea for an afternoon or after dinner treat.  Needless to say, if you were to choose to drizzle these with a little melted chocolate I would not be opposed.  I’ll leave that up to you.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday.

Orange, Cranberry Fruit and Nut Truffles (aka Sugar-Plums)

Yields makes about 20 balls

Easy to prepare no-bake, make-ahead fruit and nut truffles.

20 minPrep Time

Save Recipe


  • ½ cup / 60g raw pistachios
  • ¾ / 90g cup raw almonds
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 6 large, soft pitted medjool dates
  • Zest of half an organic orange
  • 1-2 tsps Cointreau or Grand Marnier (for an alcohol-free version substitute same amount of orange juice)
  • ¼ cup / 30g dried cranberries


  1. Place a ¼ cup of the pistachios in a food processor and process until finely ground. Set aside in a small shallow bowl.
  2. Put the almonds and remaining ¼ of pistachios in the food processor with the salt and process until finely chopped.
  3. Add the dates, orange zest and Cointreau and process again until the mixture begins to clump together. Add the dried cranberries and pulse briefly until just mixed. Small chunks of cranberries should still be visible.
  4. Scoop about 1 Tablespoon of the mixture into the palm of your hand and squeeze and roll into a ball. Repeat until all the mixture has been formed into “truffles.”
  5. Roll each ball in the ground pistachios and chill for at least 1 hour before serving to firm.
  6. Store in a sealed container for up to one month in the fridge or a few months in the freezer.


Gluten-Free, Grain-Free,

What are your favorite holiday food traditions?


    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. says

    I’ve heard of sugarplums but never knew what they actually were. Thanks for enlightening me and making them so visually appealing. Always love seeing your stunning photography!

  2. says

    I can’t wait to try them, being gluten free I always look for sweets that I can devour. These are so pretty as well.

    Happy Holidays to you too!

  3. says

    Mmm, these look beautiful. I love making dried fruit and nuts into little snacks like these, all year long for my kids. But mine are usually very simple, I love the orange flavor you added – it sounds fantastic.

  4. says

    Yeah for non chocolate truffles!! Not that I have anything against chocolate of course, but I am a bit on overload right now and these truffles sound just right!
    Gorgeous photos as always … your work is always such a pleasure to look at Sylvie!!

  5. says

    I saw these this morning and by this afternoon they were going home with my neighbors in their holiday gifts bags.Home cured bacon, cranberry liqueur, wood butter for utensils and these. I normally make cookies but have been so overwhelmed with so much I didn’t have any for them. This recipe, so easy, to the rescue. So good too!

    I did double it and still only got about 20. I obviously need to resize a bit huh? Thanks a bunchy!

    • says

      I’m so glad you liked them Barbara and I hope your neighbors do too! The yield really can vary based on how big or small you roll the balls I’ve gotten anywhere from 12 average sized ones to 20 smallish ones.

  6. says

    I always wondered what sugar plums were, so thanks for sharing that Sylvie. Your truffles look beautiful. I love the crushed pistachios on the outside. They are so pretty!

    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  7. says

    Seems super healthy. Bookmarked the recipe. I am truffle gifting person and love to collect different kinds of truffle recipe. Haven’t come across anything quite like this one before.

  8. says

    When I read sugar plums, I was expecting plums in the recipe!!!! Sylvie, you really have a knack for producing a healthy twist on what are normally sinful treats 🙂

  9. says

    the truffles look amazing! the best part about them also is that they are actually healthy, just made of nuts and seeds and fruit, so there’s no guilt in reaching for more (:

  10. says

    These look gorgeous, and a lovely alternative to chocolate truffles, especially after all the indulgences of the holiday season! I think they definitely deserve a comeback over less traditional cookies.

  11. says

    WOW..these are real treats not just for eyes but for tastebuds too…:), and as you say, a little drizzle of molten chocolate over these truffles…simply divine and way healthy too

  12. says

    I am so happy that you told us what Sugar Plum means….I never knew! I believe these simple truffles are my favorite recipe of yours yet (though I love them all!)

  13. says

    Happy holidays sweet Sylvie. What a great story and connect to Tchaikovskys The Nut Cracker. I love how simply these come together, how complex yet addictive the flavour equation might be. MUST try and whip up some…you have me eating out of your hand!!

  14. says

    I always wowed by your photos! How do you do it?
    This sounds wonderful because everything I like is in it minus liqueur. I have all the ingredients in the pantry to make it tomorrow. Yes!

  15. says

    What delicious looking delights. We’ve read “The Night Before Christmas” every year since I can remember, and gone to the Nutcracker more times that I can count, but I’ll admit I never knew what sugar plums were. Now that I know, they will become part of our Christmas tradition. Your recipe looks super easy and tasty. And as usual, your photographs are amazing. Merry Christmas!

  16. says

    I could easily pop back a few of these tasty bites. You’ve put together a beautiful flavor combination; truly holiday worthy. Have a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year!

  17. says

    I agree, these are due for a comeback! Gorgeous and “healthy” to boot. It looks like the perfect bite with an afternoon tea.

    Lucky me, all ingredients are already in my pantry. 🙂


  18. Naomi says

    I’m embarrassed to admit, I never quite knew what a sugar plum was. These look and sound delicious! I love pistachios and love the green color they leave on this!

  19. says

    this is something really different and interesting, they look delicious the whole combination of flavors is great and I love that they don’t have any chocolate