They're like big raisins, but way better.
Chicken Thighs With Sweet Potatoes and Prunes
Credit: Real Simple / Greg Dupree

When you hear the word "prune," what do you think about? Your fingertips wrinkling in the bathtub? A bowl of flavorless gruel studded with chunks of mysterious, wizened fruit? The dad from Calvin & Hobbes who is constantly insisting that his son does miserable things to build character? Problems with your gut?

Prunes have a reputation for being the kind of food that's good for you but doesn't necessarily taste great. They're often filed in the same mental category as "unseasoned oatmeal" and "Metamucil." So strong is the association with these unglamorous things that, in 2001, plum growers in the US got the FDA to authorize the change in packaging from "prunes" to "dried plums" to entice reluctant customers. (This year, the California Dried Plum Board pivoted back to just plain "prunes" again.) But that's a shame, because, health benefits aside, prunes are actually really delicious, and you should consider cooking with them more often.

Prunes are just dried plums, putting them in the same category as raisins, dried apricots, dried figs, Craisins, and whatever other dried fruit you like. They're sweet and jammy, and go really well with milder-flavored meats, like pork and chicken. Pork and prunes is a classic combination, particularly paired with port or red wine. They're great thrown into a chicken braise with olives and capers. Stew them in red wine and spices and serve them along with mascarpone for dessert, and I guarantee no one will think that they're being served health food.

Watch: How to Chop Dried Fruit

Prunes are also really delicious in salads—use them where you might otherwise use raisins. You can chop them up finely to more easily distribute them throughout the salad, if you want. They're also really nice in cakes, particularly cakes that have a kind of custardy crumb to them, since the chewiness of the dried fruit adds a textural element to an otherwise soft dessert. I've even had luck tossing them in with roasted brussel sprouts, lemon zest, toasted nuts, and parmesan for a side dish, served with a sprinkling of flakey salt to make their sweetness pop.

Yeah, prunes are good for you—they have fiber, potassium, and Vitamin A. But more importantly, they taste good too. Don't let bad jokes get in the way of using a super-tasty ingredient.