12 Best Ways To Use Canned Fruit In Savory Dishes

Anyone who's enjoyed hot honey on their fried chicken, figs and balsamic on their pizza, or candied bacon on their chocolate cupcakes knows that the combination of savory and sweet flavors is elite. It offers a pleasing contrast that is both subtly intriguing and pleasantly bold. This is perhaps why chutney pairs so perfectly with robust savory dishes, or why we choose to sweeten our salad dressings and marinades. Salty, fatty, sweet, and acidic flavors, in combination, create a balanced mouthfeel, but when both the savory and sweet factors are intensely recognizable, the sparks really start to fly. Fruit is a top-tier way to sweeten a dish, because it typically carries a unique depth of flavor beyond sugar, and there are endless varieties to choose from. In fact, canned fruit can come in handy when working with meats and other savory dishes. But not all fruits are created equal, so to avoid making a mismatched pairing, we're listing the very best ways to use canned fruit in savor dishes to spark some culinary inspiration.

And while it's easy to assume that using fresh fruit is always best, we have reason to believe that canned fruit, especially when it's preserved in its own juice or syrup, can actually add to the quality of a dish. So if you're not used to stopping by the canned fruits section at the grocery store, you'll have to make a little diversion during your next shopping trip.

1. Include canned pineapple in your baked beans

Depending on where in the world you live, baked beans can be considered either a savory food or a sweet side dish. In the United States, where we just love adding sugar to just about anything, baked beans are typically made with pork, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, seasonings, and quite a bit of brown sugar. In fact, anything related to barbecuing typically has a sweet component to it, including marinades, glazes, and of course, barbecue sauce itself. But that doesn't mean you have to load on white or brown sugar. Using fruit to sweeten barbecue sauce is a common practice in some households, and you have several varieties to choose from.

However, pineapple seems to be a clear winner in the barbecue department, whether you're grilling it on its own, adding it to a barbecue burger, mixing it in your barbecue sauce, or adding it as a sweetener to smokey baked beans. Canned pineapple works particularly well for baked beans because it's often softer, and you can use the juice it comes in as a liquid in the recipe. In fact, you should combine canned pineapple and baked beans to create the ultimate barbecue side dish this summer. It will be sure to tantalize your guest's tastebuds and have them asking for your secret recipe. Leave small chunks of pineapple in the mix, and replace the brown sugar or maple syrup with pineapple juice for tangy sweet undertones.

2. Use canned cherries to glaze your roasted duck

Roasted duck and dark cherries go together like peanut butter and jelly. Well, perhaps a little more gourmet than that, but you get the point. They complement each other in a pleasing way because duck is so fatty, gamey, rich, and meaty that a sweet flavor provides balance. Cherries and other dark stone fruits are often used because of their tart sweetness, and undertones of almonds which provides a nutty and rich flavor. Cherries, in particular, are intensely succulent and sweet, which helps them to keep up with the robust notes from this poultry. Their canned version is often softer, and sweeter which is a bonus when creating a glaze for roasted meats.

Use the syrup from canned cherries to create a sweet glaze for crispy roasted duck. Stuff your poultry with the dark cherries, and leave some around the base to mingle with the herbs, spices, and drippings. Consider blending some of the soft canned cherries right in with the glaze to give it added intensity and thickness. Don't be scared to include butter, garlic, thyme, and other savory ingredients in your recipe. This will only add to the savory-sweet contrast that we love so much. Even just a light cherry glaze will help to create a bold flavor, so don't go overboard when it comes to dousing on the sauce. Cherries are sweet and bold, so beware of overpowering the duck.

3. Add canned pear to your salad

Yes, we are aware that salads are known for featuring fresh, crisp ingredients. But that doesn't mean you can't mix up your salad game every once and a while. If you're used to only using raw vegetables in your leafy side dish, then it's time you expanded your horizons. Toasted nuts, aged cheeses, roasted meats and vegetables, and seeds all deserve a spot in the bowl. In addition, canned fruits, when selected properly and used in moderation, can make quite an impact. Because produce is typically seasonal, using canned fruit gives you the chance to enjoy unique varieties all year round.

Pears are crisp yet soft and buttery with almost honey-like notes. They pair beautifully with dairy products like cheese and ice cream and are enjoyed both hot and cold. This is why recipes like roasted pear and manchego salad, or sliced pear on prosciutto pizza are so popular. And when it comes to salads, pears are no strangers. Consider adding canned pear to your salad, and include plenty of salty and savory additions like nuts, cheeses, and crispy cured meats. Use the syrup from the can to sweeten your dressing and create consistency throughout the dish. In fact, you're not going to want to waste any of that pear juice — thanks to its honey-like flavor, it's delicious in cocktails, marinades, and even added as a sweetener to baked goods.

4. Roast your chicken with mandarin oranges

Mandarin chicken, the famous Chinese dish made with fried chicken and a mandarin orange sauce, is a great example of how the savory-sweet combination is popular just about anywhere in the world. Often, this sauce is made with quite a bit of sweetness to it, while the chicken itself salty and crispy. Typically, the mandarin chicken sauce is made with a basic orange juice, but why not go right for the mandarin oranges? These are classically found in the canned fruits aisle and can be easily blended into juice, as they are peeled and quite tender. Mandarin oranges look more like clementines or tangerines but are quite a bit sweeter. Because canned mandarins are most commonly made with the satsuma variety, which is tangy, delicate, and sweet, that's what you'll likely be working with.

Blend your canned mandarin oranges into a liquid and use it in place of orange juice in your mandarin chicken or orange chicken stir fry recipe for a sweet upgrade. You can also use it to glaze your basic roasted chicken, as chicken and citrus fruit tend to pair together nicely. Couple the orange-glazed poultry with sweet root vegetables like carrots, beets, and parsnips. Don't forget to load on the salt, pepper, herbs, and spices to intensify the sweet and savory contrast.

5. Mix canned plums into your chicken salad

Chicken salad fans, gather 'round! We've known all along that adding dried cranberries, currents, raisins, and grapes to a chicken salad can bring it to the next level, but there's another fruit that is a must-try in the flavor department. The fruity ingredient that will liven up your next batch of chicken salad is none other than plums. These deep purple and red stone fruits are incredibly juicy, and mellowly tart which creates a nice contrast with chicken without overpowering it.

Blend some canned plums with the juice from the can to create a syrupy, jam-like liquid that's rather smooth. Mix it right into the mayonnaise dressing for the chicken salad, and then include some finely chopped plums into the finished product along with your celery, onions, and other anterior ingredients. Be sure not to go overboard with the fruit, because although your goal is to create a sweet and savory dish, we also want to respect the balance. Plums are mellow but can be overpowering to ingredients like mayonnaise and chicken if used in abundance. You can also use your plum blend to glaze chicken, or even use halved canned plums alongside chicken while it's baking.

6. Make salsa with canned, diced mango

Taco making is an art that requires creativity. Yes, you can throw together beans, rice, shredded lettuce, and mild salsa, and stuff it into a shell topped with shredded cheese any day of the week and call it a taco. But why stick to basics when the possibilities are endless? When Taco Tuesday finally rolls around, you'll want to be prepared with statement ingredients, variety, and a diversity of textures. One way to do this is by switching up your sauces. Everyone loves a good pico de gallo or roasted tomato salsa, but why not add a little sweet heat to the mix?

Feature fruit in your next homemade salsa recipe. Try an easy mango salsa that includes the canned version. Canned mango is much easier to work with because not only can you forget about waiting for that colorful fruit to ripen on your countertop, but you also don't have to worry about peeling it. In addition, mango meat seems to love to cling to that massive pit that takes up most of the fruit, so having a pre-diced version to work with is a game-changer. Simply used canned mango along with onion, tomato, cilantro, lime, and hot peppers to create a beautiful balance of flavor that can be used on just about any taco or South American savory dish.

7. Glaze ham with canned apricots instead of jam

It's no secret that glazed ham is usually doused with oodles of brown sugar or honey to give it that crispy rich sweetness we so desperately crave around the holidays. This year, instead of sticking to basics, try something a little more unique that's loaded with layers of flavor beyond just sugar. Apricots are famous for pairing beautifully with pork, as they are sweet, floral, and often described as tasting like a cross between a peach and a plum. Instead of using apricot jam for a delicious apricot honey glazed ham, consider using mashed canned apricots.

Canned apricots are silky smooth in texture, and they often come in a syrup of their own juice. Pulse the juice and fruit in the food processor for a chunkier glaze or opt to blend it until smooth if you prefer a thinner, more subtle apricot flavor. Note that an apricot glaze will have a tangier flavor than a simple honey ham, which can be quite appealing to most palates. Apricots have a honey-like depth to them that will shine through, but you can certainly include honey in your glaze as well — if not brown sugar — to amplify the intensity of the sweetness. Include Dijon mustard and butter to add a salty and spicy balance that will help your ham to sing.

8. Top your pizza with canned figs

Artisanal pizzas are all the rage. Gone are the days of simply deciding between cheese and pepperoni because the options are now endless. And while mozzarella is still a staple in the pizza world, goat cheese, feta, ricotta, and even brie have made their way onto the scene. A fantastic way to complement the creamy and salty notes of cheese is with fruit, as we know from charcuterie boards. Fruit is a fantastic ingredient to add to pizza, as it tasks it from basic to artisanal in just seconds. You can even use this sweet addition of fruit to change your frozen pizza forever. However, it's important to pair your fruit with the proper cheeses and toppings to ensure a balanced mouthfeel, and to prevent an overloaded palate.

A great place to start is with figs, and we like to use canned fresh figs because they are simply juicier, and more accessible. Dried figs just don't cut it when it comes to pizza, in the flavor or aesthetics departments. Pair figs with soft cheeses like buffalo mozzarella, goat cheese, or brie. Include caramelized onions to boost the overall richness and sweetness, and top your baked pie with fresh arugula and balsamic reduction to pull it all together.

9. Include canned grapefruit in a spinach salad

Grapefruit is one of those hit-or-miss citrus fruits that people either love or can't fathom eating raw. Red grapefruits are the sweetest variety, but overall, the aromatic fruit is intense, tangy, and a bit tart for some palates. Those who jump in spoon-first — no brown sugar or broiling necessary — fully appreciate grapefruit's intensity and potential. And if this fruit is on your radar in any capacity, whether it be as a breakfast food or a juiced cocktail mixer, you should consider adding it to your summer salads. Canned grapefruit is quite tender, and tends to blend better into a salad than one that's been peeled and sectioned. If you cut chunks out of a grapefruit, you risk losing quite a bit of the juice, so make your life simple and grab a can opener instead.

Mix some of the juice into the dressing and pair it with fresh and mild ingredients like cucumber, delicate leafy greens, arugula, avocado, sweet red pepper, shallots, and mint. Try including roasted ingredients to help balance the texture and tartness of the citrus, like adding roasted fennel to your spinach and grapefruit salad. Stick to light vinaigrettes, preferably with a citrus base and a smooth sweetener like honey.

10. Make vegan pulled pork with canned jackfruit

If you don't know what jackfruit is, then you're not alone. It's only recently gaining popularity in Western cuisine but has taken off with force due to the vegetarian and vegan movements. This is because, as hard as it is to believe, this fruit makes for an incredible pulled pork replacement. Fruit as pork? You heard us correctly. This is due to its texture, which is just about as close as you can get to roasted, juicy pulled pork without including the hog. And while jackfruit does have a slight sweetness to it, this could be considered a benefit when pairing it with barbecue sauce, which is smoky, sweet, and sometimes spicy all at once.

To make a basic jackfruit barbecue sandwich recipe, grab a can of young jackfruit. The canned version is much easier to work with, and it's unlikely that you'll be able to find a whole jackfruit at your local grocery store. (Even if you do, they are quite large and difficult to process, so you may want to spring for the canned version anyway.) Shred the chunks of jackfruit, and let them marinade in your barbecue sauce, drizzle with oil, and broil in the oven until you notice the ends starting to crisp up, just like you would expect from pork. Load it all up onto a bun, add some coleslaw, and enjoy this vegan meat alternative.

11. Whip up some chicken Marbella using canned prunes

Prunes are famous for helping to, well ... move things along in the digestion department. So when consuming them in any dish, just be aware that if your body isn't used to a lot of fiber, then start slow. However, prunes do much more than help keep us regular — they are intensely loaded with a flavor reminiscent of molasses, chocolate, balsamic, and raisins. These dehydrated plums hold a powerful concentration of sweet flavor and can be bought as a dried fruit, or canned in liquid. The canned version is much juicier and more tender and gives you the ability to use the syrup or juice that it comes preserved in.

Chicken Marbella often calls for dried prunes, but using a canned prune can result in a juicier textured fruit, along with an opportunity to include undertones of prune in the sauce at a higher concentration, using the syrup. And although some may find prunes to be an unusual ingredient in chicken Marbella, it's actually quite common to pair stone fruits with meat, especially poultry.

12. Mix in canned apples to sausage sage stuffing

Come stuffing season, we are always looking for a way to stray from our basic boxed stuffing mix. Why must every Thanksgiving spread taste the same when you could test your culinary boundaries and find a dish that is unique? It's one of the most popular holiday side dishes, so let's start enjoying it all season long instead of once a year. One variation of the classic stuffing recipe includes sausage, sage, and apples. Other ingredients like bread, butter, broth, onions, and celery remain the same. We even recommend adding a spoonful or two of your mashed potatoes to keep things nice and moist. But consider including these three accent ingredients to help add flavor and variety.

While fruit isn't typical in such a dish, we believe that it's one of the best ingredients you can add to your stuffing because it creates a subtly sweet balance of flavor to all of the savory goodness. When selecting apples, spring for the canned version. These will be much softer than freshly sliced apples, and will almost melt right into the bits of bread. Be sure to choose canned apples that are unseasoned and packed in water, rather than syrup, to avoid over-sweetening the dish. The purpose of the apples is to complement the sausage and sage, not to become the star ingredient. Add just a handful of canned apple chunks and let the oven do the rest.