11 Canned Fruit Hacks You'll Wish You Knew Sooner

Canned fruits with sorbet and smoothie
Canned fruits with sorbet and smoothie - Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty

Canned fruit might very well be the unsung hero of the home pantry. Not only is it inexpensive, easy to find, and convenient, but it's surprisingly versatile — so long as you know how to use it creatively in the kitchen. For starters, an easy, common way to upgrade canned fruit is to add other ingredients like spices and citrus juice, which provide extra flavor. Citrus juice is especially helpful, as it adds brightness while complementing the sweetness of the fruit.

However, you're not limited to eating canned fruit as is, and it's possible to use the product as a delicious shortcut in sweet and savory recipes alike. The trick is to be mindful of the liquids that the fruit is packed in, whether it be juices or heavy syrup. Using too much of the liquid can make the finished dish too watery or sweet, so take the time to properly drain (and pat dry, if needed) the fruit before moving forward. But don't be so quick to toss the juice or syrup because they can be used in unique ways as well. Not convinced? Read on for the best-canned fruit hacks, plus ways to make the shelf-stable ingredient more interesting and tasty.

Read more: Vinegar Cooking Hacks You'll Wish You Knew Sooner

Mix Up A Whipped Dip

Strawberry and whipped cream
Strawberry and whipped cream - Debbismirnoff/Getty Images

When it comes to dips, most recipes are savory and meant to be eaten with ingredients like vegetables and pita bread — but why limit yourself? Thanks to the juice or syrup from canned fruit, you can transform whipped cream into a sweet and decadent dessert dip. Simply drain the liquid from the fruit, then fold it into the whipped cream. It's the perfect partner for crunchy snacks like pretzels and graham crackers, though if you love the fruit theme, feel free to pair it with strawberries, grapes, or peach chunks on toothpicks.

The key to making a successful whipped cream dip is to be mindful of the type of liquid; otherwise, you might end up with an overly sweet creation. Specifically, the juice from canned fruit works great in both store-bought and homemade whipped cream as it doesn't have added sweetener, while heavy syrup is best for the stuff made from scratch. That's because store-bought whipped cream already contains sugar, so adding heavy syrup from canned fruit might yield an overly sweet confection. Alternatively, by making whipped cream from scratch, you can use heavy cream instead of honey — a secret ingredient for amazing homemade whipped cream — as a sweetener.

Regardless of your approach, using the "leftovers" from a can of fruit is a clever way to infuse whipped cream with a natural flavor. Just be sure to avoid overmixing the whipped cream, as it can become watery and thin if it's handled too much.

Make A Fruit Sauce

Fruit compote in bowl
Fruit compote in bowl - Esin Deniz/Shutterstock

With a stash of canned fruit in your pantry, you'll be able to make a delightful compote at a moment's notice. If you're unfamiliar with compote, it's a basic fruit sauce made by simmering fruit and a sweetener. You can also add spices — like cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger powder — for extra flavor. Even a bit of vanilla extract will work well in a compote, as the fragrant notes of vanilla would pair beautifully with fruit.

To hack your canned fruit and turn it into compote, start by considering your desired sauce consistency. (On that note, compote is different from jam, as the latter is spreadable with a gel-like texture.) For a smoother compote, drain the fruit and set aside the juices. Next, finely chop the fruit and add it to a pot on the stovetop, along with its juices and a sweetener. You can add the canned fruit, juices, and all directly to the pot for a chunkier compote. Simmer the mixture until the fruits are syrupy and soft, then enjoy your homemade compote on top of ice cream, yogurt, oatmeal, or pastries like pancakes or waffles. If you prefer the savory route, try it on pork chops or ham.

Fold Into Cream Cheese

Cream cheese on bagel
Cream cheese on bagel - 4kodiak/Getty Images

If you've never customized your own cream cheese flavor, you'll love this sweet take on the breakfast staple. Simply blitz some canned fruit in a food processor or blender until pureed, then fold it into softened cream cheese with a spatula. Single fruits like peaches, apples, and blueberries would be delicious, but you can also use a fruit cocktail if you're feeling adventurous. The best part? If you follow a vegan diet or are lactose intolerant, you'll still be able to enjoy this canned fruit hack. Just replace standard cream cheese with your go-to dairy-free version made of tofu, cashews, or almonds.

Once you've whipped up your fruity cream cheese, spread it on bagels or toast. If you're feeling fancy, use the sweet concoction to make stuffed French toast for a winning weekend breakfast. Alternatively, if you love herbaceous flavors with fruits, try adding herbs like thyme or rosemary and serving the cream cheese as a dip with crackers.

Bake Canned Fruit In The Oven

Baked peaches
Baked peaches - Denizunlusu/Getty Images

Baking fruit is a simple, no-fuss way to upgrade it. The process caramelizes the sugars in the fruit, adding depth of flavor and concentrating its natural sweetness. While the technique is usually done with fresh fruit, it's possible to bake with canned fruit, too. It's a canned fruit hack to get a deeper flavor from your nonperishable produce item. Just be sure to use fruit in juice, as canned fruit in syrup can become too sweet once baked.

The first step is to drain the canned fruit and pat it dry. You can do this by spreading it on a plate, cutting board, or wire rack and gently pressing a clean cloth or paper towel on top. Next, transfer the fruit to a greased baking sheet and bake until the fruit becomes brown at the edges. From there, serve the baked fruit on top of ice cream or yogurt or enjoy it on its own as an inexpensive dessert.

Make Instant Homemade Sorbet

Peach sorbet in bowl
Peach sorbet in bowl - Veliavik/Shutterstock

The idea of making homemade sorbet might sound intimidating, but it's surprisingly easy to do when you have canned fruit. After all, sorbet is made of nothing more than fruit and sugary syrup — which is exactly what you get in a can of fruit. That being said, it's essential to use the variety packed in syrup, as the heavier mixture will serve as a thickener in your homemade sorbet.

To make homemade sorbet with canned fruit, transfer the fruit (syrup and all) to ice cube trays. Place in the freezer, and when solidified, puree the cubes in a high-powered food processor until smooth and uniform in consistency. You might need to pause every now and then to scrape down the sides and ensure everything is evenly mixed. Another option is to freeze the canned fruit in silicone freezer trays designed to store soup or broth, then roughly chop up the blocks before running them through the food processor. Once pureed, the frozen fruit will transform into a sweet, cool dessert.

Use It In Smoothies

Pineapple peach smoothie in jars
Pineapple peach smoothie in jars - Bhofack2/Getty Images

If homemade smoothies are part of your regular rotation, it's worth keeping a can (or several) of fruit in your pantry. The ingredient makes it easy to create smoothies with fruit that's out of season, such as pineapple or mango, during the winter months. Likewise, if you're low on fresh or frozen smoothie ingredients and you don't feel like heading to the store, canned fruit can be used as a last-minute substitution.

To use canned fruit in a smoothie it's as simple as adding it to the blender with frozen fruit and its juices. Alternatively, you can drain the fruit (and reserve the juice for another smoothie or recipe) and blend it with the milk of your choice. If you're using canned fruit with syrup, avoid using too much of the liquid and consider skipping additional sweeteners; the combo can be excessively sweet. Canned fruit cocktails in syrup can have up to 33 grams of sugar per cup, which is a lot. Another trick is to pour the canned fruit, including its juices, into an ice cube tray. Essentially, you'll use the sorbet-like cubes in place of frozen fruit or normal ice, the latter of which can water down the smoothie.

Bake A Cobbler With Cake Mix

Blueberry cobbler in pan
Blueberry cobbler in pan - Rudisill/Getty Images

Cobblers are delightfully easy to bake from scratch, but with this canned fruit hack, you can make the process even simpler. The secret is to use canned fruit (instead of simmering fruit and sugar in a pot) and boxed cake mix (instead of preparing your own biscuit or dumpling batter). Choose canned fruit in syrup, preferably chopped, and spread it in a casserole dish or cast iron pan and layer the cake mix on top, making sure it completely covers the fruit. Finally, top with melted butter or pats of butter; in either case, make sure it's evenly spread across the cake mix.

The best part of making cobbler with canned fruit and boxed cake is the endless flavor possibilities. For example, go for canned pineapple and Funfetti for a bright and tropical cobbler, or make a decadent cherry-chocolate iteration with canned cherries and chocolate cake mix. Love autumn flavors? Use canned pears or apples with pumpkin spice cake mix for a fall-infused dessert.

Roll A Cheese Ball

Pineapple cheese ball on plate
Pineapple cheese ball on plate - Joe Dillard/Tasting Table

The next time you need a quick party appetizer, make a cheese ball with canned fruit. Drain and roughly chop canned fruit like pineapple or peaches, then mix with chopped nuts, herbs, shredded cheese, and chopped meat such as crumbled bacon or diced ham — though you can leave out the meat to make it vegetarian-friendly. Next, fold the mixture into goat cheese or cream cheese and roll it into a ball or log.

For a bit of heat, take a tip from this bacon jalapeño pineapple cheese ball recipe and add chopped jalapeño peppers. Keep them raw (and add some of the seeds) for a hotter flavor profile or, for a more subdued heat, briefly sauté the peppers first. Other spicy options include red chili flakes, paprika, or even a drizzle of sriracha or your favorite hot sauce. Just be sure to wear gloves when you're molding the cheese ball, and wash your hands before touching your face!

Flavor Drinks With Canned Fruit Juices

Iced tea in glass
Iced tea in glass - Pjohnson1/Getty Images

Using canned fruit typically involves draining the juice or syrup, but don't be so quick to dump that liquid down the drain. The juice or syrup from canned fruit is super flavorful, so consider using it to upgrade ordinary drinks. For example, mix the juices into water (or add it to your favorite infused water recipe) or seltzer for a customized bubbly drink. You're also not limited to plain seltzer, as the juice from canned fruit can complement different flavored seltzers. For example, add the juice from canned peaches to a mango seltzer for an instant summery beverage. Or take a tip from Jamie Oliver, who suggests using leftover juice from canned peaches, one of his favorite underrated pantry staples, to flavor champagne.

Likewise, heavy syrup from canned fruit can also be used to elevate plain drinks — think water, seltzer, or unsweetened tea. Canned fruit syrup is especially great for sweetening iced tea; it will mix better than plain sugar, which tends to clump up on the bottom. Just be sure to start with the unsweetened kind, as the combination sweetened tea with heavy syrup might be cloyingly sweet.

If you enjoy making cocktails, canned fruits and their liquids are about to become your new secret weapon, especially when you want to enjoy a fruit but it's out of season. You can muddle the fruits for extra flavor and color, or use the juices to add an unexpected twist to a mixed drink.

Turn It Into Salsa

Mango fruit salsa
Mango fruit salsa - Catherine Brookes/Tasting Table

Canned fruit is an excellent shortcut for making a quick fruit salsa at home. The version in juice works best, as fruit in heavy syrup will be too sweet for the dish. To make salsa with canned fruit, start by draining the fruit and roughly dicing it up. In a bowl, add fresh cilantro (or parsley if you're not a fan of cilantro), salt to bring out the fruit's sweetness, and a splash of lime juice. You can also add diced red onion, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red bell peppers, or jalapeño peppers for extra crunch and flavor.

With so many ingredient combinations to choose from, you can create a fruit salsa that fits your dietary and flavor preferences. For instance, if you're craving a bit of tropical flavor, make a mango salsa with lime juice and mild red chili peppers. Regardless of the ingredients you choose, be sure to chill the salsa in the refrigerator before serving to let the flavors meld together. Enjoy it with tortilla chips, on tacos, or as a unique filling in burritos.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.