What are Raisins?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

Raisins are essentially the dried and preserved version of grapes. Just as there are many types of grapes — green, purple, red, globe, and champagne grapes to name a few — there are just as many types of raisins. They are produced and consumed all over the world, from Eastern Europe to the West Indies, from the Mediterranean to the Americas. Each culture that consumes them cooks with them in different manners, resulting in a large variety of dishes.

Golden raisins.
Golden raisins.

The most common type of raisins are made from Thompson seedless grapes, which are green. These range in color from dark plum to black. Golden raisins, which are generally yellow in color, are made from green grapes also, and are treated and processed differently to retain the golden-green color.

Raisins are the dried and preserved version of grapes.
Raisins are the dried and preserved version of grapes.

One of the oldest ways of preserving food is to dry it. In years past, before refrigeration, salting and smoking methods, and the use of other preservatives in foods, it was very difficult to keep food from spoiling. Meats and dairy products could go bad in as little as a day. Fruits and vegetables might last as long as a few weeks, but not beyond that. In order to preserve the bounty of a successful hunt or harvest, humans learned to dry fruits and meats. By removing most of the moisture from food and then storing it in a dry space, mold and other bacteria are not as likely to take over.

Oatmeal raisin cookie.
Oatmeal raisin cookie.

Therefore, dried foods such as raisins have been responsible for keeping our ancestors alive through harsh seasons when the land becomes barren. Raisins are especially good in such circumstances as they offer vitamin C, an essential element of nutrition that is often not available in winter months. They are also a good source of iron, potassium, and antioxidants.

Ginger molasses bread made with raisins.
Ginger molasses bread made with raisins.

As dried fruits go, raisins are generally the least expensive of the lot; dried apricots, mangoes, and even cranberries are often much more expensive. Raisins are a healthy and inexpensive kitchen staple that can be added to many dishes to add extra nutrition. They can be added to breads, muffins, cakes, and pies. They also add sweetness to salads or be added to chutney. Of course, the fruit can also be enjoyed on is own. Oatmeal raisin cookies are a traditional favorite that are both delicious and easy to make. In fact, recipes cookies are printed on the backs of many oatmeal packages and raisin boxes.

Raisins are occasionally used to add sweetness to chutney.
Raisins are occasionally used to add sweetness to chutney.
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments


I need to know, please, in appearance, how can you tell the difference between dried cranberries and raisins (any kind)? Thank you!


Raisins are very good for you and they are very good.


When I was growing up my mom would make sour cream raisin pie with real cream from a family who had some cows. This was my favorite way of eating raisins and my most requested dessert. Years later as an adult, I ordered this at a restaurant and wasn't nearly as pleased with the taste. I really missed the taste of the real cream my mom used when making raisin pie.


I am not one to snack on a handful of raisins but do like them mixed in with other foods. They taste wonderful mixed in with my oatmeal in the morning and I also like to include them in my homemade granola.

If want someone in your family to eat more raisins, you might try the golden raisins. I think these are sweeter than the black ones and have a better taste to them. The golden color is also a little bit more appealing.

I don't buy the sweetened cereals for my kids, but they do like golden raisins on top of their cereal. This adds some sweetness and good nutrition at the same time. In the winter it is hard to get enough vitamin C, so I try to get them to eat raisins as often as possible.


I love raisins and think they are one of the easiest snacks to pack for myself and my kids. I actually keep raisins in the car all the time so there is always something healthy to snack on. I don't have to worry about them spoiling no matter what the weather is.

I have been feeding raisins to my kids since they were able to chew them, so that might explain why they like them so well. I know a lot of other kids turn up their noses at raisins. If I am packing a lunch for someone, I usually include a little box of raisins. They have just enough sweetness to satisfy a sweet tooth without adding too much sugar or calories.


@OeKc05: I feel the same way your husband does. I love any type of grape but don't care for raisins at all. I am not really a fan of any kind of dried fruit, but raisins top my list. I think there is a huge taste and texture difference between eating a grape vs a raisin.


I love eating raisins in my rice pudding. They plump up while cooking and take on extra flavor and sweetness. I've never loved raisins more than I do in this pudding.


Raisins have benefits besides just their nutrition content. They can be carried and stored just about anywhere without going bad.

I like to go hiking, and there are many foods that I cannot take with me, because I can't carry a cooler. Raisins are easy to take along and are very satisfying.

I mix them with some nuts and pretzels to make a trail mix. The protein and the vitamins give me energy to carry on to my destination.


I like tossing raisins into salad. They are good in both sweet fruit salads and those with a mix of greens, nuts, and fruits.

Carrot shavings and raisins taste good together, particularly when combined with applesauce. Also, chopped apples, bananas, pineapple, oranges, and raisins make a good combination. The juice is a sort of dressing that ties all the flavors together and gives the raisins a touch of moisture.

Raisins add a nice sweet surprise to salads made with spinach. I like putting them in grilled chicken salad on top of spinach and mixed in with strawberries and blueberries. A raspberry dressing ties everything together very well.

I've never tried using raisins in a totally savory salad with tomatoes and cucumbers. I don't think those flavors would mingle very well. Raisins are best paired with other fruits and with neutral greens.


I find it strange that my husband likes grapes but not raisins. He will snack on grapes all day long, but if he is offered a raisin, he cringes!

He says that they taste like fermented grapes. To him, they have the flavor of spoiled fruit.

Whenever he accidentally eats a bad grape, he says that it tastes like a raisin. He won't eat oatmeal raisin cookies or any other dish into which I try to sneak raisins.

I guess I should be glad that he is getting plenty of nutrition from the grapes. He really doesn't need the raisins for health reasons.


i just started to eat raisins today. i'll check it out after one week to see if it works to help me gain weight. i'm only 41kg. I hope raisins are useful to help me gain weight.


you can gain weight by consuming anything that has any calories. if you eat enough it and not compensating with activity. if something had one calorie and you consume 1000 of them a day you would gain a pound every three days or so if you did not work it off. so even a hundred raisins a day would make you gain a lot of weight if you did not work out.


yes, you can.

even though raisins are not a significant source of fat, they are essentially pure sugar, which is very high in calories. eating lots of raisins without doing enough activity to burn those calories can easily lead to weight gain.

i actually have a friend who gained 30lbs. by eating a dozen apples a day.


can you can gain weight by eating raisins as a snack in high quantities?

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