Ever wondered how to make sugar plums? Nuts, dried fruit and holiday spices are at the core of these easy to prepare, bite-sized Christmas treats that can be stored for weeks in the refrigerator.
When you hear "sugar plums" do you think of Clement Clark Moore’s famous poem where “children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugarplums danced in their heads…” or the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from Tchaikovsky’s The Nut Cracker?
Sugar plums have become synonymous with the holiday season but what exactly is a sugar plum?
What are sugar plums?
- Sugar coated plums?
- A confection made of dried fruit and nuts rolled into balls?
Well the answer is - all of the above.
You see there are in fact plums called sugar plums but that’s not what’s being referred to in the poem or ballet.
And while fresh plums can and are indeed often candied in sugar, again that’s not what being referred to when we talk about sugar plums.
This Christmas-time confection is not a plum at all, nor is it required to consist of any. In fact its closest relative today would probably be a Jordan almond. So technically it is a candy, but here’s the thing, over time sugar plum also came to mean anything sweet, so in essence all candy and confections were once considered sugar plums.
Now just when you thought things were confusing enough enter the modern day confection we have come to associate with the term "sugar plums" which primarily contains dried fruits and nuts combined with holiday spices. Think of them as the original energy balls with a little holiday flair. If someone offers you a sugar plum today it will be one of these.
If you’d like to make your own sugar plums this holiday season, rest assured the process is easy. If you’ve ever made date balls or energy balls you can make sugar plums. The whole thing is just a matter of assembly since there’s no baking involved, and sugar plums can be made ahead of time and stored for weeks, which is perfect during the holiday season.
What you’ll need to make sugar plums:
- Nuts – I’m using lightly toasted walnuts for best flavor.
- Dried Fruit – Any combination of dried fruit will work, and yes you can use dried plums but you don’t have to. I’m using apricots, dates and raisins.
- Spices – I’m using cinnamon and allspice but feel free to experiment with your favorite holiday spices.
- Orange Zest – a bit of zest pairs well with the cinnamon and allspice.
- Jam – A spoonful of jam helps the balls stick together. I’m using a naturally sweetened apricot jam.
- Sugar or Coconut For Rolling – Sugar plums are traditionally given a sparkly finish with a roll in sugar but maple sugar or shredded coconut works well for a healthier, refined sugar-free version.
How to make sugar plums:
- You’ll start by lightly toasting the walnuts, then letting those cool before giving them a quick pulse in the food processor.
- Next up is the dried fruit which is also quickly chopped with the spices and zest before being added to the walnuts.
- A spoonful of jam brings everything together, and then everything is rolled by hand into bite-sized balls before being coated with the sugar of your choice.
Serve them with coffee or tea for an afternoon or after dinner treat. Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season!
More homemade holiday sweets:
Nuts, dried fruit and holiday spices are at the core of these easy to prepare, bite-sized Christmas treats that can be stored for weeks in the refrigerator.
- 1 cup/120g walnuts
- ½ cup/113g dried apricots
- ½ cup/80g raisins
- 4 large medjool dates, pitted
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- 1 Tablespoon/18g apricot jam
- Sugar (either cane or maple) or shredded coconut for rolling
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread walnuts on a parchment lined baking sheet in a single layer and toast in oven for 3-5 minutes or until fragrant and lightly golden.
- Let cool for a few minutes then pulse the walnuts in the food processer until finely chopped, remove from bowl and set aside. Place the dried apricots, raisins, dates and spices in the processor and pulse to finely chop. Add the apricot jam and chopped walnuts to the bowl. Pulse lightly until just combined (do not overprocess).
- Scoop and roll mixture into 24 balls. Roll the finished sugar plums in either sugar and/or shredded coconut and store in single layers between sheets of parchment paper in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.
VARIATIONS: Substitute your favorite nuts and dried fruit (except for dates which are necessary to hold the mixture together)
STORAGE: Store in an airtight container between layers of parchment in the fridge for up to one month.
DIETARY INFO: Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Vegetarian, Vegan, Paleo (if using maple sugar or coconut for rolling), Egg-Free, Dairy-Free
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 83Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 11mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 1gSugar: 9gProtein: 1g
Nutritional information for recipes contained on this website, such as calories, fat, carbs, etc. are only estimates and are not guaranteed to be accurate.
Sylvie Shirazi is the recipe developer and food photographer behind Gourmande in the Kitchen. For the last 10 years she's been making eating more healthfully easy and accessible with gluten-free, grain-free, paleo and vegan recipes that are free from processed ingredients.