You often hear fruit referred to as "nature's candy." But let's be real: Sometimes you simply want a handful of crunchy, curiously delicious banana Runts—and the taste or texture of an actual banana just won't compare. What if there was a way to make your favorite fruits taste like candy, without a ton of processed ingredients?
For instance, as a kid, my brothers and I used to pick fresh rhubarb from my grandparents' garden and dip the raw stalk in sugar—I swear it tasted like the OG Sour Patch Kids. While eating sugar by the spoonful with your fruit isn't an idea we'd recommend on the regular, experimenting with clever ways to transform fruit once in a while can be fun. We turned to pastry chefs for their tips and tricks on turning fruit into healthy-ish, candy-like treats.
Peaches = Peachie Os
Chef Randall Matthews of Ada’s on the River in Alexandria, Va., shares his version of this sweet and tangy gummy candy: Cut a very ripe peach into round slices, removing the pit from the center as you go (keep the skin on). Place them in a pan and cover with simple syrup, simmering on low for 10 minutes. Remove the peaches and let them cool and dry. Then, combine one part sugar with two parts sumac and half-part citric acid, roll the cooled peaches in the mixture and enjoy.
Orange = Orange Jelly Slices
James Beard finalist and Top Chef winner Nick Elmi of The Landing Kitchen outside Philadelphia, Pa. is known for his brilliant manipulation of flavors—particularly when it comes to fruit. His method for turning this popular citrus fruit into “candy”? First scrub, then cut blood oranges into 1/4-inch thick slices. In a pot, make a simple syrup using equal parts sugar and water, then add the orange slices and simmer for one minute. Drain the slices and spread out on a wire rack atop a sheet pan coated with non-stick spray, then sprinkle with crushed pink peppercorn and bake at 150° F for 20 to 35 minutes, or until crisp. Allow them to fully dry before eating.
Grapes = Grape Runts
You’ll need a dehydrator for this technique from Elmi. First, grab a bunch of grapes (any color will do) and use a pair of scissors to cut them into smaller bundles so you have six to nine grapes per bunch. Whip a few egg whites together, then dip the grape bunches in the egg white (three whites will cover about 50 grapes). Lightly dust the dipped grapes with granulated sugar, then dehydrate at 125° F for 1 1/2 to 3 hours depending on humidity—you’ll know they’re done when the sugar has a hard texture.
Mangos = Lollipops
Originally from southern California, Chef Bryant Haren of Barca Pier & Wine Bar in Alexandra, Va., grew up eating a variety of Mexican candies, including Vero Dulce Mango Lollipops. His simple trick for DIYing these sweet treats? Get the best mango you can find and squeeze fresh lime on all sides, then sprinkle with Tajín seasoning. You can add a stick to make it fancy or dive in with a fork.
Blueberries or Strawberries = Fruit Roll-Ups
Vegan chef Mimi Williams of Counterpart Vegan and Bardonna in Los Angeles, Calif. has a clever trick for turning berries into this nostalgic lunch box snack. Blend a pound blueberries or strawberries (ideally fresh, but frozen works, too) with a splash of lemon or lime juice, a teaspoon of honey or agave, and a pinch of salt in a blender. You can use more sweetener if you like, depending on how tart your berries are. Spread the puree on a sheet pan lined with a silicone mat or wax paper and bake for 8 hours at 165° F (yes, you’ll have to be patient with this one!). After the fruit leather has cooled, slice it into your desired length and width and roll it up. “It’s the perfect fix for candy cravings for all ages,” says Williams.
Apples = Sour Gummi Rings
Chef James Honore of The Farm at Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand uses a Kiwi favorite, verjuice, for turning apples into a candy-like confection. Made from the juice of unripe grapes, verjuice is non-alcoholic and often pressed with crab apples and other sour fruit, which gives it a puckery flavor (you can get it fresh in New Zealand, but there’s a domestic variety for $21 on Amazon). To make Honore’s version of sour apple gummi rings, wash and slice four Granny Smith apples into 1/4-inch rounds (leave the skin on). Remove the core of the slices with a small ring cutter to form a ring shape, then place them into a bowl and toss with a mixture of 1/3 cup verjuice, the juice of half a lemon, 5 teaspoons sugar and 1 teaspoon citric acid. Place apples in a single flat layer in large Ziploc bags and divide the liquid evenly; seal bags tightly and chill for at least 2 hours before enjoying.