These festive sugar plums are a classic holiday treat. This version is made with all raw, healthy ingredients for a nutritious spin on the classic sugarplum recipe holiday candy.
*Note: this post for sugar plums was first published on 12/10/2011. The photographs have been updated and the recipe slightly tweaked for an even tastier little bite.
These festive treats come together in just minutes, are no-bake and yet filled with all those honey and spice holiday flavors you love. They’re perfect with a cup of tea in the afternoon but special enough to pass as dessert too. Hope you whip up a batch and try them out!
It’s December 10th, there are 15 days until Christmas and there isn’t a single decoration up in my house, a holiday card sent nor a present bought.
Usually, I’ll be cooking with a glass of wine and Christmas music on in the background this time of year.
Lately though, it’s just been the normal Pandora stations with that glass of wine. I have no idea why I’m not into the holiday season this year, but I’m not. Like, at all.
The thought of the mall sickens me. The thought of spending hours decorating makes me cringe and let’s not even talk about the the thought of cleaning up and having to put those decorations away come January.
If I wasn’t still into baking holiday treats like sugar plum candy I’d probably be googling some sort of holiday depression disorder to try and figure it all out.
But have no fear, that part of me is still alive and kicking! I think I just belong in the kitchen, not on HGTV. And I’m cool with that.
Have you ever heard of sugar plums? And no, not the kind in the Nutcracker that dance around all daintily on stage.
Funny side story on the Nutcracker actually…my grandparents took me to see the performance in NYC at Lincoln Center when I was pretty young, definitely elementary school age.
We got dressed up for the event and my grandmother let me wear one of her short mink fur coats. She was pretty short so it fit me at the age of 8 or 9.
We were walking in to Lincoln Center and all I remember is that there were a bunch of people with signs yelling at us because we were wearing fur coats. I apparently got really mad at them, having no idea who they were and why they were yelling at me and my grandmother so I yelled back telling them to “shut up!”
Many years later I found out it was a PETA group, which totally makes sense in retrospect but as an 8 or 9 year old, I had no idea who those people were and why they were yelling at me.
I was sassy as a kid. I still am.
Since I love a good ball, I decided to make my own healthier interpretation of the classic sugar plum holiday recipe with stuff I had on hand.
I’m not sure what I expected from these sugar plums but they taste how I imagine a fruit cake rolled up into a ball, coated in sugar would taste like.
Disclaimer, I’ve never had fruit cake before so I’m not totally sure of the accuracy of that statement but a quick google search tells me it’s basically a cake with a bunch of dried fruit in it (shocking) so I’m sticking with that comparison.
WHAT IS A SUGAR PLUM?
Sugar plums (or, sugarplums as they’re referenced both ways) are not actually sugar coated plums as in the fruit despite the name.
For some background on the historical Christmas treat, this article: “Sugar Plums: They’re Not What You Think They Are” is worth a read.
They seem to have morphed over time from a simple sugar coated seed, nut or spice (some say it was sugar coated coriander way back in the day!) into what they are today which is basically a combination of dried fruit, nuts and seeds rolled into a ball shape and coated in sugar.
For this healthier spin on a modern authentic sugar plum recipe, almonds, prunes, dates and raisins make up the base. Don’t be scared off by prunes, please. They’re delicious little gems that have an unfair bad reputation. Try this prune smoothie and you’ll change your mind.
Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom then combine with vanilla, almond and anise extracts for a holiday spiced treat.
I chose to use sugar in the raw for the coating on these sugarplums but another option is powdered or confectioners sugar for a more traditional look.
HOW TO MAKE SUGAR PLUMS
To make this easy holiday treat, combine all the nuts and fruit in a food processor and process until finely chopped and the mixture starts to form into a “ball” in the processor.
I chose to use almonds, prunes, dates and raisins in my version of sugar plums.
At this point, transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add all the spices, extracts and honey. Use clean hands to mix everything together and roll into balls.
Add the raw/coarse sugar to a shallow bowl and roll each sugar plum around in the mixture until completely covered in a sugar coating.
WHAT SPICES ARE USED IN SUGAR PLUMS?
Cinnamon, fennel seeds, cardamom and nutmeg are the primary spice flavors in these sugar plums.
Vanilla, almond and anise extract is also used for flavoring.
It all comes together for a wintery, aromatic vibe in each bite that’s incredibly cozy!
WHAT TYPE OF SUGAR TO USE TO COAT SUGAR PLUMS
If you have decorating sugar on hand, you can use that as it’s what is traditionally used. It’s a nice fine grain and has a pretty sparkle to it.
I chose to use raw/coarse sugar (also known as raw cane sugar/turbinado sugar because it’s what I had on hand. It works just as well for the sugar plum coating, it’s just a little bit crunchier than decorating sugar.
STORING SUGAR PLUMS
Sugar plum balls can be stored in an air-tight container for quite some time.
Refrigerated, they will last up to a month. At room temperature, they should be eaten with 2 weeks.
They taste best when eaten at room temperature as the flavors come through better.
While I’m not feeling a ton of holiday spirit this year, these are such a great little Christmas bite.
They’re no-bake, easy to throw together and bring all the flavors of the holiday into a healthier version of the classic candy treat.
If you’re looking for an indulgent holiday dessert you can always make this apricot brandy pound cake but for something traditional and a bit easier on the waist-line this recipe for sugar plums is a great option!
Love these sugarplums?
Don’t forget to check out all my Christmas recipes too for more inspiration!
Sugar Plum Balls
- 1/2 cup almonds
- 1/4 cup prunes about 5
- 1/4 cup pitted chopped medjool dates
- 2 tablespoons raisins
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/8 teaspoon anise extract
- pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/4 cup raw coarse sugar for rolling
- Combine nuts and fruit in a food processor and pulse until it becomes finely chopped but before it starts to form a ball.
- Transfer mixture to a medium bowl and add remaining ingredients. Combine/mix together with hands.
- Roll into balls and set aside.
- Add sugar to a shallow ball and roll balls in the sugar until completely coated.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.
Gina Matsoukas is the writer, founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients as much as possible. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.