Currants, Raisins and Sultanas

  • 01 of 04

    Basics of Dried Fruits

    Raisins, currants, and sultanas separated into small servings.
    Elaine Lemm

    Pick up any baking recipe where dried fruits are involved and there is no way of avoiding the three stalwarts of raisins, sultanas, and currants. There are other dried fruits such as dried cranberries, mixed peel, dates, and prunes but these three are the ones used extensively in traditional British and Irish cakes and puddings. You will find them in many guises but not least, they are the main players in both a Christmas cake or Christmas pudding, and Mince pies would be nothing without them. You will even find them in chutneys and curries, so without a doubt, they are one of the most versatile ingredients in the kitchen.

    So what are these and are they interchangeable? Surely they are simply the same thing but a different color are all questions asked on the differences. But the answer is no. They, in fact, very different things and each brings their qualities to the baking party.

    Plus, if you add to this the issue that different countries use different names and it can become even more confusing. 

    Continue to 2 of 4 below.
  • 02 of 04


    Dried currants

    Firstly, the currants talked about here are a dried fruit and should not be confused with soft fruit currants such as blackcurrants.

    Here, currants are the dark, black currants so popular in cakes, you will find them in a classic, Spotted Dick or an Eccles cake and they are, in fact, dried, dark red, seedless grapes, often the Black Corinth grape. The grapes are dried to produce a black, tiny, shriveled, sweet flavor-packed fruit.

    The grapes were originally cultivated in the south of Greece and most often from the island of Zante, hence the name Zante Currant in the US.

    The name currant comes from the ancient city of 'Corinth'  Other names for currants are Zante currants, Corinth raisins, or Corinthian raisins, but in the UK and Ireland, simply called currants.

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  • 03 of 04


    Scott Ehardt//WikiMedia Commons

    Raisins are dried white Moscatel grapes. They are dried resulting in a dark, dried fruit like a currant, dense in texture yet bursting with sweet flavor. The main producers of the Moscatel are the USA, Turkey, Greece, and Australia

    A raisin can (unlike currants) soak up other flavors, which is why it is popular to soak raisins in flavored alcohols such as brandy, or almond-flavored Amaretto before using in cooking. The raisins can hold the flavor making the finished dish even tastier.

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  • 04 of 04


    Agriculture Food -- Sultanas
    Umid Mamadaminov//

    A sultana is a dried white grape, but this time from a seedless variety. Sultanas are golden in color and tend to be much plumper, sweeter, and altogether juicier than other raisins. Turkey is the main producer of sultanas.

    Also known as golden raisins, sultanas will absorb other flavors, but not as well, so it is better to use the regular raisin.