How To Peel Plums

Learn a foolproof technique.

How to Peel Plums
Photo: Diana Miller/Getty Images

While we love seeing fresh plums in our summertime pie, tart, and cake recipes, they're not always the easiest ingredients to work with. Because of their thin skins and juicy flesh, peeling plums is a notoriously tricky business. There's more than one way to skin a plum and, at first glance, conventional wisdom might point you to knife-based techniques for peeling apples, peaches, and pears. Not so fast! Those methods don't work well for our favorite purple fruit. Plums have an entirely different (softer and soupier) texture, and if you try to skin a plum with a knife, things will get really messy, really fast. All hope isn't lost, though: There's a foolproof, three-step technique for peeling plums that all home cooks should know.

1. Blanch Your Plums

The secret to peeling plums is the use of water at two temperature extremes: (1) a pot of boiling water, and (2) a bowl of ice-cold water. This allows the skins to be easily peeled away with little waste or mess. For the first step, here's how to blanch your plums:

  1. Put a pot of water on the stove and heat it to boiling.
  2. Make shallow, X-shaped cuts at the bottom of each plum. This will allow the water to loosen the skins.
  3. Blanch your plums by placing them in the pot of boiling water on the stove. Let the fruits sit there for a period of no less than 30 seconds and no more than 1 minute. You'll want to pull the plums before they get too waterlogged and start to become mushy.
  4. Remove the plums from the boiling water with a slotted spoon or heat-safe tongs.

2. Dunk Them in an Ice Bath

While you are waiting for your water to boil, prepare a bowl of ice water to have at the ready for this second step. Make sure that the bowl is big enough to accommodate all the fruit. Here's how to give your plums an ice bath and how to know when they're ready:

  1. Add the plums in the ice bath as soon as you pull them from the boiling water, completely submerging them under the water.
  2. Let the plums sit for 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Test to see if they're ready to peel by taking one out of the ice bath, patting it dry, and pulling the loose skin at the base of the fruit (where you sliced the X earlier). If the skin doesn't remove easily, it's not ready, and you may need to let it sit in the ice bath longer. The skin of the fruit should pull away easily and, in some cases, slide right off the plum.

3. Peel the Skin and Remove the Stones

Now you are ready to prepare your plums for cooking or baking by removing the skins and the stones from the fruit. Follow these easy steps to do this:

  1. As you gently pull each flap of skin from the plum, you may find that some small bits of skin remain. Use a paring knife to slice off any leftover skin at the surface, removing as little fruit as possible.
  2. Once peeled, slice completely around the circumference of the fruit from top to bottom. Give the plum a twist to pull the two halves apart.
  3. The stone may still be lodged on one side; use a spoon to scoop it out.
Peach-Plum Crumble Slab Pie
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Claire Spollen

Try Our Favorite Plum Recipes

Try making some of our favorite plum recipes with all that in-season fruit you have on hand. (Some recipes don't require removing the skin):

  • Our Plum Cake has a texture similar to that of a coffee cake, but is extra-moist because the baked plums become jammy and soft.
  • In our Plum Torte, juicy, jammy plums meet a dense, buttery cake for a dessert that will carry you from summer to late fall.
  • Our Honeyed Plum Gallette celebrates the natural sweetness of plums.
  • Ginger-Plum Slump is a cobbler-style dessert made on the stovetop.
  • Plum-Berry Cornmeal Sheet Cake, a best-of-all-the-rest summertime recipe, combines a delicious hodgepodge of berries and fruits into a crowd-pleasingly seasonal big-batch cake.
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