What’s the difference between a raisin and a golden raisin? That’s easy, you say. Regular raisins are made from red grapes and golden raisins are made from green grapes.
Manufacturers do use different types of grapes in the raising making process. However, the majority of regular raisins and golden raisins in the U.S. are made from seedless green Thompson raisins.
So what is the actual difference? There has to be one. There is definitely a difference in look and flavor between the two varieties.
Let’s find out.
Regular Raisins vs Golden Raisins
First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. Regular raisins are the small brown dried fruit treats in the little red box that your mom used to put in your lunchbox.
Golden raisins are basically the same size and shape. However, they are a light gold color and are typically plumper and juicier than their brown counterparts.
You may have also heard the term sultana. This is the same thing. In the U.S. this sweet treat is called golden raisins or sultana raisins. In the UK, Australia, and other places they are called simply sultanas.
The U.S. is the top producer of raisins, with most of them coming from the San Joaquin Valley in California. In fact, 50% of all the raisins in the world come from California.
Health Benefits of Raisins
Since they come from the same type of fruit, the nutritional content of raisins and golden raisins is virtually the same. Both are rich in fiber and potassium and contain an array of antioxidants.
As with all dried foods, the caloric content is higher than you’d expect. That’s because removing the liquid makes the fruit considerably smaller, making it easy to eat more than you realize.
For the same reason, the fruit has a high natural sugar content. There is no added sugar, but grapes are already a sweet fruit and concentrating the fruit means concentrating the sugar.
If golden raisins and regular raisins come from the same variety of raisin, then why the difference? Here’s your shocking revelation.
It has to do with how they’re made.
Regular raisins are made using good old-fashioned solar power. The grapes are laid on paper and left to dry in the sun. This process takes about three weeks, during which time the fruit turns brown.
Golden raisins, on the other hand, undergo a more sophisticated process. Huge dehydrators are used to control the heat and humidity as the fruit is drying. The plumpness and juiciness of the fruit can probably be attributed to this more controlled process. The raisins are ready in about 24 hours rather than three weeks.
Additionally, the fruit is usually treated with an antioxidant called sulfur dioxide that acts as a preservative and helps the fruit retain its color. Some folks are sensitive to this additive. It can give them a rash, stomach cramps, or even asthma attacks. If you have this allergy, check the label carefully and know that most golden raisins will have sulfur dioxide in them.
Uses for Raisins
The most obvious use for raisins is as a healthy snack. Both types are delicious and easy to carry around with you for when hunger strikes. In the same vein, you can mix raisins with nuts or add them to other snack foods like trail mix.
They can also be turned into delicious candies that make a delightful treat. Find out more about that here.
Raisins are also excellent for baking. In fact, they are an essential ingredient in the ever-popular oatmeal raisin cookie. You can also use them in countless cakes, muffins, sweetbreads, and much more.
Cooking with raisins goes far beyond just baking, though. Try tossing them in your oatmeal, adding them to a salad, or use them to offset the flavors in a savory dish like curry or chutney.
The sky is the limit so don’t be afraid to get creative with this delicious snack. Either variety works well and they are interchangeable in a recipe. Keep in mind that golden raisins are a little plumper and juicier, making them a more delicious addition to certain types of dishes.
To plump them even more (or to plump regular raisins) try soaking them in a liquid before use. Any type of vinegar works well or juices like orange or lemon. In a pinch, you can even use water.
Choosing and Storing Your Raisins
The plumping trick is nice to have up your sleeve, but it’s also nice to start with a juicy raisin. Try shaking the box when you’re buying raisins. If it makes a rattling noise, those raisins are already quite dried out.
Once you open a container of raisins, they need to be stored in a cool, dry place. If you live in a hot, humid area, consider storing them in the refrigerator for best results. They’ll stay fresh for up to a year this way. You can also put them in the freezer to extend the shelf life to about 18 months.
Regardless of whether you choose golden raisins or regular ones, you can’t go wrong. Both are delicious and healthy and are an excellent way to get a serving of fruit, even when your day is full.
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