Don't Say You 'Hate Raisins' If You've Never Tried Them Savory

Raisins are a much-maligned ingredient in the culinary world, especially in baked goods. For example, this ingredient may show up uninvited in carrot cake or when you unwittingly pick up a chocolate chip cookie only to realize it's oatmeal raisin. You claim to hate raisins. However, as your mom probably advised, you should try things before saying you don't like them. Have you tried raisins in their savory form? 

Savory applications for this fruit are numerous, and raisins have origins dating back thousands of years. This ingredient is known for its longevity, usually accomplished via sun-drying, a method of food preservation used for millennia, which allowed raisins to spread throughout trade routes. As a result, they're a common ingredient in many cuisines, including Sicilian, which was influenced by the Arabic cultures that settled there. This is why you occasionally see raisins nestled amongst eggplant and tomatoes in a sweet-salty-sour caponata. 

Raisins can add a sweet, tangy contrast to dishes where your palate needs relief, like in turmeric-spiced rice flecked with golden raisins. Needless to say, this ingredient extends far beyond its reputation as a dreaded Halloween treat from your health-conscious neighbor.

Savory raisin dishes deserve a place in your recipe book

If you're ready to explore the savory — and dare we say, the better side of raisins — you should start by delving into a few specific cultures and cuisines. Besides caponata, raisins appear in myriad Sicilian dishes, such as pasta with sardines or braciole. Or, you can explore Thalassery biryani from the Kerala region of India. Unlike other chicken biryani recipes, Thalassery biryani is flecked with raisins and cashews. These ingredients play nicely with the spice from the biryani masala and impart a sweet burst of flavor. 

If Mexican food is more your speed, consider giving chiles en nogada a chance. It's quite an involved dish, but well worth the effort to taste the contrasting, sugary pop of raisins alongside flavorful ground beef and pork, subtle heat from poblanos, and a rich cream sauce made from walnuts. 

If you're unsure if you can finish a whole serving of biryani or pasta, try this method: Toss raisins in melted butter and salt and roast them in the oven until they become soft and a little plump. From there, they can be eaten as a snack or tossed with other ingredients as part of a fresh garden salad. Raisins can even create an agrodolce sauce for numerous types of proteins, from pork chops to fish.