Crisp apples and sweet, juicy pears are abundant at the market this time of year, but otherwise, the fresh fruit that autumn has to offer is a bit limited—too late for peaches and blueberries, too early for the best citrus. So we turn our attention to dried fruits to fill the gap—raisins, apricots, cherries, cranberries, dates, and more. Their concentrated flavor and sweetness can lend a unique character to sweet or savory dishes, and their chewiness is a handy asset for adding interesting texture. Try them in these 17 fall-friendly (or, really, any-season-friendly) recipes, from apple strudel and date rum cake to apricot-yogurt smoothies and roast pork with a bourbon-fig sauce.
Cinnamon-Raisin Puff Pastry Waffle
Sweet raisins and spicy cinnamon are frequent companions in oatmeal cookies and raisin toast, and they're nothing short of terrific in this crispy, flaky puff pastry waffle. Just roll the two ingredients up with softened cream cheese in store-bought puff pastry dough, then press in a waffle iron for a no-fuss filled dessert. Our step-by-step photos will help you master the rolling technique.
Spiced Vanilla Hot Cross Buns
I'll be honest: Before Stella published this recipe, I'd never really contemplated hot cross buns as a real treat that existed outside of the nursery rhyme. Turns out they're not only real but delicious—fluffy and tender, lightly sweetened, studded here and there with chewy nubs of dried fruit to bite into. Here, we use a mix of light and dark dried fruit, such as apricots and cherries, plus candied orange peel, coriander, allspice, and nutmeg to make the buns richly aromatic.
Cheat-y recipes for this traditional Austrian dessert often call for phyllo dough or puff pastry to wrap the fruit filling. Instead, we surround warmly spiced apples, raisins, and hazelnuts with our own homemade unleavened dough, which we knead by hand rather than in a mixer so as not to overwork it. The result is a soft, supple layer of dough that's almost thin enough to read through.
Plum, Date, Banana, and Maple-Bacon Salad
As a phrase, "fruit salad" rarely makes a food lover's pulse quicken, but it doesn't have to mean a sad bowl of melon chunks and grapes. Try approaching it as you would any other salad by reaching for a variety of flavors and textures. In this recipe, we use creamy bananas, chewy dates, juicy plums, and crispy pecans, and dress it all with a mixture of sweet maple syrup and smoky bacon drippings (or butter, to keep it vegetarian-friendly). But think of it more as a template than a recipe, and swap ingredients in and out to your heart's content.
Winter Apple and Dried-Fruit Pie
Though we love a good old-fashioned apple pie, an easy way to make it a little more interesting and unusual is to add dried fruit, like raisins, currants, cranberries, cherries, or figs. Any or all will add tartness and chewiness to the pie—combine a few different kinds to get the most complex flavor.
Homemade Fig Newtons
Unlike moist fresh fruits, dried fruit can produce a concentrated filling that won't leak and bubble out of its pastry shell in the oven, which is exactly why we use dried figs to make these DIY Fig Newtons. In the real deal, it's the cake, not the filling, that's scented with orange, so we add a glug of orange juice and a teaspoon of orange zest to the dough. "Aging" the finished treats by steaming them slightly in a plastic bag when they're still warm from the oven will result in more of a true "fruit and cake"–like feel.
No-Bake Oatmeal Raisin Bars
No matter what type of oatmeal bar you're making, you need a binder to hold all those oats, nuts, and seeds together. Here, we rely on sticky raisins—blitzed with oats and walnuts in a food processor, they turn into a kind of glue to bond the other ingredients, and provide sweetness and chewiness besides. Shredded coconut and nutty sunflower seeds lend extra contrast.
Date Rum Cake With Walnuts and Coconut
This cake combines some elements of Christmas rum cake (walnuts and dates) with a few from Caribbean rum cake (coconut and dark rum), while its intense vanilla flavor comes from a secret ingredient: vanilla pudding mix. After it's baked, we drench the cake in a boozy rum-butter sauce—so, uh, maybe don't serve this one first thing in the morning.
Chunks of high-quality dried apricots give these biscotti pops of intense fruit flavor, complemented by a few teaspoons of vanilla extract. The apricots should be soft and plump—if you can only find drier ones, rehydrate them first in boiling water. We prefer to under-bake our biscotti just slightly, so they're a little easier to bite through.
Irish Tea Brack (Tea-Soaked Raisin Bread)
This Irish bread takes a little forethought—soaking raisins in tea overnight is an essential step. But once that's done, it's just a matter of mixing the raisins and the soaking tea with flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and egg, and baking it all into a brown, hearty, gently honey-flavored loaf. Sprinkling the top with thick-cut oats adds a nice bit of texture and a rustic look.
Dried-Apricot and Pineapple Jam
We may be well past peak canning season, but, with year-round access to dried fruits and imports, you can still make a deliciously fruity homemade jam. Cooking down fresh pineapple and dried apricots with lemon juice and sugar produces a spread that's as sunny-looking as it is summery-tasting.
Easy Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin With Bourbon-Soaked Figs
Pork tenderloin is a great option to always have on hand for a main dish: It's just as elegant as a Sunday roast, but cooks up quickly enough for a weeknight dinner. Here, we serve it with a rich pan sauce, sweetened with bourbon-soaked figs and reduced into a syrupy glaze. Definitely add the figs and booze to the pan off the heat; you don't want burning your house down to be part of the evening's excitement.
Roasted Cauliflower With Pine Nut, Raisin, and Caper Vinaigrette
Like other brassicas, roasted cauliflower is best when subjected to intense heat, which leaves it nutty and sweet, with crispy edges. We like to cut the cauliflower thick for maximum contrast between the tender interior and the browned exterior. It can be served with nothing more than olive oil and lemon, but to go a step further, try it with a complex vinaigrette made with pine nuts, raisins, capers, and honey.
A kind of variation on mango lassi, this creamy smoothie is made not with mango but with dried apricots and orange juice. In a nod to the Middle Eastern apricot drink qamar al-din, we also blend in orange flower water—it's very potent stuff, so you'll need only half a teaspoon for two smoothies.
Kefir Date Shake
Rich, caramelly date shakes are a California specialty, a formula marred only by the fact that they can be a bit too sweet sometimes. In this recipe, blending frozen yogurt and tangy kefir with the dates helps to keep the sugar level in check.
Fig and Balsamic Soda
This tangy spritzer turns the classic combination of figs and balsamic vinegar into a simple nonalcoholic drink. The base is a homemade fig syrup made with both dried and roasted fresh figs. We add just a quarter teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and a couple of ounces of seltzer to finish off this refreshing drink.
Apricot and Averna Bourbon Sour
Like the fig syrup used above, the homemade apricot liqueur we start with here is made with a mix of fresh and dried fruit. The sweet liqueur helps balance the lemon juice in this bourbon sour, while bitter Averna rounds out the flavors.