How To Dry Plums

how to dry plums

Of all the fruits I preserve in some way – freezing, canning, or drying – dried plums are probably my family’s favorite. They are simply a wonderful chewy-tart snack that we eat almost as fast as I can dry them.

And they are NOT prunes – they don’t have that off-putting texture or smell, nor that distinctive prune-like flavor. And I don’t care that the people who make prunes got together a few years ago and decided to call them “dried plums.” The dried plums I make don’t taste anything like their packaged product, so theirs are still prunes in my book.

When you start with Italian plums which are naturally drier (and more sweet-tart) than traditional round plums and dry them to a pliable, yet fully dry stage they are like small pieces of fruit leather. They may look odd (my teenage daughter’s friends all comment on how they look), but they are packed with flavor.

Drying plums is also one of the easiest preservation methods there is. I can fill my food dehydrator in about half an hour and then it’s a matter of checking, turning, and bagging the plums as they dry over the next 10 or so hours. The hands-on time is ridiculously minimal.

steps for drying Italian plums

Here are the easy steps to dry Italian plums with a dehydrator:
  1. After washing, slice the plums in half all the way around the pit.
  2. Grab each half of a plum and twist gently to separate the halves. Remove and discard the pit.
  3. Place halves cut side down on the dehydrator tray (or cut-side up for less sticking – I can fit more in my dehydrator this way, that’s why I put them cut-side down). It’s OK to pack them close together.
  4. Dry according to manufacturer’s recommendations (I use an Excaliber dehydrator which I run at the maximum temperature of 145 degrees). Depending on the size of the plums, start checking them in 4 to 6 hours, turning trays as needed for even dehydrating. Once they are looking more dry, flip them over to complete drying (they’ll release from the trays the drier they are – leave them if they are too moist). Check every 2 hours, removing and packaging up any that are fully dry – showing NO moisture when touched, but are still pliable- and leaving the rest to complete drying.

When fully dried, pack the plums in glass jars or thick freezer baggies (using the straw trick with baggies to remove as much air as possible).

I store mine in our cupboards and have never had a problem with them molding, probably because we really prefer them on the drier side. My brother-in-law (who first introduced me to dried Italian plums) doesn’t dry his as long as I do, so he stores his in the freezer, just to be sure.

If you’re in doubt, a good test is to package your dried fruit up and leave them on the counter for a day or so – if there is any condensation at all in the jar or baggie, the fruit was not dried completely. Then you can choose to dry them some more or freeze them for longer storage.

Longer storage? That just doesn’t happen in our house. Last year I dried more than ever in an effort to have them longer than two months and we ate the last dried plum in January. No matter how we try, it’s hard to eat just one. Or even two…six…whatever.

Go ahead and try these – I dare you to eat just one.


This is linked to Pennywise Platter.


  1. Rachel says

    I love these! I was so happy to discover them a few years ago. They make great jam too, by the way. Anyhow, I prefer to place them cut side up on the tray – then the tray stays cleaner and there is zero sticking. I think they actually dry faster that way too. Maybe we should do an experiment (every other tray up or down). Or do you already know?

    • Jami says

      I used to dry them cut side up all the time, but when I did I could only fit three trays in my dehydrator. Otherwise the plums on the lower trays would get pushed all over the place when sliding in the upper tray. I also like how they dry flatter and more uniform when cut side down. But you’re right – there is less sticking. I should’ve mentioned that it doesn’t matter – ’cause it doesn’t. :) Do what works for you!

      As for speed, I have no idea! If you run a test, be sure to let us know. :)

  2. says

    I don’t have a dehydrator yet, but I was wondering if I could just use my oven
    set at that temp. for that same amount of time? Thanks so much for sharing, trying to
    build up my storage as fast as I can before winter hits..

  3. JanF says

    Have you tried this? Utterly delicious… Polish take on dried plums. Insert almond into center of dried plum, coat with melted dark chocolate!!

  4. Jessica Murray says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! You are among the few who recognize that plums and prunes are two different fruits!! My father grew up on a prune ranch (they also grew wine grapes) in northern California, and he would get so mad when he’d hear people say that prunes are plums! They are not!

  5. Kimberly says

    I saw your comment about plums and prunes being different fruits and I can’t find much online that verifies that statement. Pretty much everything I found says that prunes are dried plums. I have an “Italian plum” tree in my backyard and when I researched that years ago, I came to the conclusion that it was the type of plum that prunes are made from. I guess maybe I’m wrong? I did find ONE sentence online that said, “A prune is a particular type of plum that can be sold fresh or dried. Typically, fresh prunes have an easy to remove pit and fresh plums have a hard to remove pit.” The fruit I have in my yard has a pit that’s extremely easy to remove. Does that mean I probably have an actual “prune” tree in my yard? I’ve used them in cakes, made jam from them and this year I’m dehydrating some for the first time. I hope someone has some insight for me, even though I’m leaving this house after 10 years next year (and thereby leaving my prunes/plums too) ! :-)

    • says

      I didn’t mean to confuse you, Kimberly – I know that prunes are dried plums, I was simply trying to express that when you dry Italian plums like I outline, they don’t taste anything like the prunes you buy, at all. I don’t know why they don’t – but even when they’re halfway dried (like a store bought prune) they don’t taste like those. It’s weird, actually! But I wanted people to try this even if they don’t like traditional prunes, so that why I emphasized the difference. Have fun with your tree this year – ours didn’t produce very much, so I’m on the hunt for them somewhere else. :)

  6. Kimberly says

    Ok, yeah I found the website from some super famous prune place in Europe that explained how they dry their plums to a certain hydration point, etc. I put mine in the dehydrator last night and the smaller ones are looking mostly dried, so I think I’ll stick them in the freezer for a bit to pasteurize them and then see how it goes! Wish we lived closer, my plum tree went bonkers this year and I have tons! But I got only about 5 plums off the yellow plum tree and I usually make at least 50 pints of jam every year from it so I know how it goes. My apple tree didn’t produce this year either. I guess they’re mad at me for not pruning them. Thanks for responding!

  7. Anthony says

    I have a lot of plums this year and I am grateful to have found your website. I don’t have a dehydrator and so I used my convection oven. The lowest setting I could set it at was 170 degrees F. I set three trays into my oven and rotated the trays from top to bottom every three hours. I opened the oven door every hour or so to let the steam out. I dried the plums halved and pit side up for 10 hours and then left them overnight in the oven with it turned off. This morning I reduced everything onto one cooking sheet and set aside the plums that I thought had sufficiently dried from the larger ones that had not and dried them for another 3 hours. I am happy with the success. I plan to leave them out on the counter for a day and then bag them using the straw technique. Thanks for your advice.

  8. says

    hi there –

    this is my first summer in Oregon. I just picked 10# of some kind of red-black plum, not a freestone variety, though, and pretty juicy. Was going to dehydrate some, but what do you think, oh you with plum experience – ??

    • says

      Sounds like a Damson plum, Megan, and they’ll make great dried plums! They’ll be just harder to cut because of the non-freestone pit – you’ll maybe want to try cutting smaller pieces, maybe, to not spend so much time on the preparation!

  9. JACK says

    I have 2 yellow plum trees and Italian prune trees.
    I just put the yellows in the dehydrator. Very hard to pit them so I just cut the flesh off in 4 directions and do not mess with pitting. I may try to do it with the Italian prunes but they are not as juicy and easier to pit.

    • says

      I only use the Italian plums, Jack – they dry easier and depending on the variety the pits slip right out. We like them dry and chewy, so the Italian plums produce that kind of result for us. :)

  10. Carol says

    I have a VERY old , small dehydrator Jami- and will be buying a new one soon– saw your reference to the Excalibur…Can you tell me which model you have, and if you’re pleased with it ? Thank you so much !

    • says

      I actually bought an old Excalibur on ebay that I think is from the 70s – it’s exactly the one I had been borrowing from my mother-in-law (who had the nerve to want it back, ha!), so I was familiar with it. I do have to rotate the trays, as it heats better at the back, but I’m sure the technology is better now. :) I do like the size and the trays – it’s very easy to use and clean up. Hope that helps some!

  11. Stephanie says

    This is the first time I’ve tried dehydrating and I’ve had plums in my dehydrator for 12 hours now. They are still not dry and I’m tired and want to go to bed! I would like to know where people put their dehydrators while it’s running. My house is so warm right now and it’s a little loud. I didn’t want to put it out in the garage where it’s dirty. thanks!

    • says

      I keep mine in the laundry room now, but for many years it lived on our kitchen counter when it was being used, Stephanie. They will take longer, but I only leave it to run overnight when I’m just starting the drying process (or just a few hours into it) – I wouldn’t let it run overnight after it’s run for 12 hours, as some of the plums may be too dry in the morning. I like to check and will remove the plums that are dry enough and let the others continue drying – which I can’t do while I’m sleeping. 😉

      • Stephanie says

        Thank you! I missed the key point of starting them before bed! Before bed I turned the oven on, transferred the plums to a cookie sheet, put them in the oven, and turned off the oven. This morning they were cool and stuck to the sheet so I turned on the oven to 170 where I’m watching them. Is it safe to let them cool and then try to dry them out again?

  12. says

    I’m looking forward to trying this with my Santa Rosa plums. It’s a new tree that we planted last year so we’re hoping to get some fruit next year.

  13. Katia Chantiri says

    Dear Jami,

    I enjoyed reading your article and comments. I miss the real fresh prunes. I wonder if you have few pits or a little tiny prune tree I can purchase from you. I have been in USA over 25 years and never had a prune.



  14. Paula says

    My plums will not give up the pit. Can I dry them with the pit in and then take the pit out after they have dried?

    • says

      Oh, I’ve had that clingstone variety before, Paula. Boo. I didn’t try to dry them, though. I think you may be able to, but it will take longer. You’ll have to play around with that. When I had those, I sliced around it and dried the plum in quarters, as an FYI. :)


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