What is the Difference Between Prunes and Dried Plums?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

There really is no difference between dried plums and prunes in most cases — it's just a new name for a classic product. Prunes have become associated with achieving regularity in bowel movements, and in some cases, the have a reputation as a food frequently served to the elderly in convalescent or rest homes. They have also been marketed specifically for their use as a “health food” for older people.

Fresh prune or plum.
Fresh prune or plum.

In order to appeal to a younger market, the California Prune Board began to pressure the Food and Drug Administration to change the name of prunes to dried plums. The name change became official in 2000, so any products marketed with this name in the US are actually prunes with a new name. They are usually of the European type, called the d’Agen plum, the European or the Italian plum.

Prunes are dried plums.
Prunes are dried plums.

Plums of the Japanese type are usually eaten fresh, but if they are dried, they are dried plums, not prunes. This has nearly always been the case. The dried prunes from Japanese plums are quite different in taste from what most people in the US think of as plums. They are usually not partially reconstituted, as are prunes, after the drying process.

Prunes may be eaten to help relieve constipation.
Prunes may be eaten to help relieve constipation.

The name change is only relevant in the US at this point, in part because the European diet tends to welcome and include prunes. The fruit does not have the same connotations in Europe as it does in the US that would make them unappealing to younger consumers, so there's no need for a change.

Prunes and dried plums have a reputation for being eaten by elderly individuals.
Prunes and dried plums have a reputation for being eaten by elderly individuals.

A similar renaming helped change the way customers perceive the Chinese gooseberry. Once it was renamed as a kiwifruit, sales went up, and people responded to the now popular fruit. The name change for prunes has also led to increased sales among younger people in the US. So, if Shakespeare wondered “what’s in a name?”, it appears he could have been answered that dried plums may taste as sweet as prunes but are more popular.

Dried plums are considered prunes.
Dried plums are considered prunes.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


Anon 965854 said "There is a distinct difference between a prune and a plum and it's not just that it's dried..."

Nope! I live in the San Joaquin valley. Gramps has a (big) farm. He grows plums, and makes 'dried plums' (prunes) himself from his harvest each year. They are the same thing! plum=dried plum=prune. Period. Funny how anon 965854 completely missed the actual article explaining this before posting.


There is a distinct difference between a prune and a plum and it's not just that it's dried. You can put the two side by side and see the difference. The plum is round. The prune is oval shaped and much smaller than a plum. The plum has a reddish-purple color to it. The prune has a dark bluish-purple color. The plum's flesh sticks to the seed but the prune's flesh does not. The plum has a sourness to it just under the skin whereas the prune is very sweet. Every part of it is very sweet, including the skin. So, tell me again just how much they're the same? They may be in the same family but they're not the exact same thing.


What is the difference between a dried fig and a dried plum? To me, they both have a brown color and kind of a bland taste. I don't ever see young people eating dried plums, but for some reason, associate dried plums, or prunes with older people.


I didn't know that kiwifruit was really Chinese gooseberry. I must say this does sound much tastier, and I can see how sales went up after changing the name.

I like to eat dried fruit and often make a trail mix with dried cranberries and nuts. I don't mind the taste of a prune as long as I am eating it with another food. I don't like to eat them alone, but combined with something else, they aren't so bad.


Wow, I never realized they did this to increase sales of the prune. It is funny how everyone has different tastes. I love eating a fresh plum, but can't hardly stand to eat a prune. I don't think they are nearly as sweet as a plum.

There are several kinds of dried fruits I really like, such as strawberries, bananas and mango, but plums is not one of them. Just changing the name doesn't do anything different for me.


@anon286607 -- I agree that it is so much healthier to stay regular by eating a prune, or a dried plum than popping a pill to get the same result. My sister often has trouble with this, but if she eats just one dried plum a day, she doesn't have any problems. Since she doesn't mind the taste of them this works out OK for her, as long as she remembers to eat them.

If she gets busy and forgets, then she starts having problems again. I really don't like the taste of dried plums, so if I had this problem, I think I would have to find some other natural way to take care of it.

I know some people drink prune juice but for me, that is even harder to get down than eating a dried plum. It is easy for me to gag on them and I can understand why they changed the name to make them sound more appealing.


Either way, it's better to have either prunes or plums in order to not overload on chemicals in pills or powders to stay 'regular' any age as more of our food is processed and making us ill.

We are much healthier and feel much better when we don't have to feel like women pushing out babies to get a tiny bowel movement, amen? I said do I hear an Amen? Yep, you betcha when you 'been there,' 'done that' and it alleviates hemorrhoids well. So, just read a newspaper and/or do Suduko while 'waiting' for your delivery after you took prunes or plums to ease the way. --Gwenne


In Denmark we also distinguish between the types of plums in our language. Sveskeblomme is used for drying and become sveske (prune). There are several varieties of plums suitable for drying but the sveskeblomme types I know are all dark and drop-shaped. Other blomme (plums) of all colours and shapes are not traditionally used for drying but at health food stores making them is encouraged as a substitute for candy.

We also regard prunes as a means to regulate bowel movements for the elderly. --Sus


Holy cow. No wonder they insist on the government taking care of us. They're too dense to know that a prune is a dried plum!


If you look at the packaging it will say "Pitted Prunes" in small letters and the "Dried Plums" in larger print. On the ingredients of most "Dried Plums", it states: "Ingredients: Prunes, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative)"

Either way they are delicious. Not only do they keep you "regular", and are a great source of potassium and Vitamin A, but they are also great for your skin because they are a great source of antioxidants.

Antioxidants are great for the skin because one of the biggest causes of skin aging is attack by substances called free radicals, that break down healthy skin tissues. Antioxidants help neutralize these free radicals before they can do any damage - and prunes are the fruit containing the absolute highest level of antioxidants. Blueberries are a close second. Eat five to six prunes daily to get a great health boost. ~Heidi


Did the “California Prune Board” change its name at the same time to the “California Plum Board”?


When i was growing up we had prune trees, as an adult i also have a prune tree, so why in the world are the dried prunes now referred to as plums, when they aren't? Do we change the name of an apple to a peach, not! It makes no sense at all.


in German speaking countries like Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Plum is a Pflaume and not used in drying, a Prune is called a Zwetschge, only this one are being dried.


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