Apricots might be less popular than other stone fruits, but they are no less delicious! First domesticated in China as early as 2000 B.C., the fruit is now cultivated globally and utilized in many cuisines. These delicate orange-hued fruits are tart and firm, smaller than peaches, and easily snackable.
The tart nature of an apricot makes it an excellent pairing for many different types of foods. You can find apricots everywhere, from pastries to savory dishes such as Persian lamb stew. Qamar al-Din is a drink made from apricot juice (or paste) consumed across the Middle East and North Africa. Qubani ka meetha is an Indian dessert made from dried apricots.
If you’re looking to learn more about apricots, take a look at our most frequently asked questions below.
In season: May to September, with peak season being June through August
Varieties: Clingstones and freestones
How to store: Store in a loosely sealed paper bag for 1 to 3 days to ripen; store in the fridge to halt the ripening process
When are Apricots in Season?
In the United States, apricots are generally in season from May to September, though the peak season spans June through August. Most commercial varieties are grown in California and Washington state, preferring dry, warm climates and cooler nights.
Apricots vs Peaches
Though both stone fruits look similar in appearance, apricots and peaches are part of different species. Peaches are larger, sweeter, and juicier than apricots. Despite their difference, peaches and apricots pair well together in desserts and drinks because of their complementary flavors.
There are many varieties of apricots. Royal Blenheim is one of the most popular kinds with blush-pink and orange hues and a delicate, sweet flavor. Apricot varieties can differ in aroma, sweetness, and firmness. Some have white coloring, while others are a deeper orange.
As with peaches and nectarines, apricots have two distinct varieties of their inner stone (or pit): clingstones and freestones. Clingstone apricots are harder to remove the pit from the flesh, while freestones freely separate. Clingstones are more difficult to neatly pit and slice, so keep that in mind when purchasing them for cooking.
Where to Buy Apricots (and How to Choose a Ripe Fruit)
You can purchase apricots from various vendors, such as your local grocery store, farm stand, or farmers market.
Picking a ripe, flavorful apricot can be more challenging than other fruits. If you’ve ever tasted a mealy apricot, you may find it less than impressive. Where possible, I would recommend heading to a farmers market. Better yet, if you can find a nearby orchard to pick your apricots, you can obtain the freshest quality.
Look for an apricot with a deep orange color and a firm, slightly soft (but not mushy) texture. The "redness" of the apricot does not indicate ripeness, so be sure to pay more attention to the yellow-orange colors. Ripe apricots will have a strong aroma. Keep in mind that apricots bruise very quickly, so make sure to handle them as gently as possible.
If all else fails, and you’re struggling to find suitable, fresh apricots, you can always purchase the dried variety. Dried apricots are traditionally used in many savory dishes and have a sweet flavor and chewy texture.
How to Store
To quickly ripen apricots, keep the fruit at room temperature in a loosely sealed paper bag for 1 to 3 days. Once the fruit fully ripens, store it in the fridge to halt the ripening process.
How to Prep and Cook
Generally, you will need to remove the pit to cook with apricots. To do so, slice around the seam of the apricot (the part that meets the stem), then firmly twist the fruit open and take out the pit. You may also need to peel the skin, depending on the recipe.
Apricots pair well in a variety of sweet and savory applications. The most common sweet dishes with apricots are jam, galettes, tarts, pies, cobbler, bars, or cocktails. For savory dishes, I recommend pairing apricots with meats such as chicken, duck, or lamb. Or try adding them to salads or rice dishes.
And, of course, a juicy apricot is also perfectly delicious on its own.
How to Freeze
Follow these easy steps to freeze apricots.
- Prep the apricots: You can freeze apricots with or without skin on, but either way, you should boil them in water for 30 seconds to prevent the fruit from getting too tough. If removing the skin, slit an ‘X’ across the bottom of the fruit with your knife. Add whole fruit to a large pot of boiling water. Let boil for 30 seconds. Strain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool.
- Peel the fruit (optional): Peel the skin off the apricots if desired.
- Slice the fruit: Halve and pit fruit.
- Add lemon juice to prevent browning: Toss fruit in a mixture of lemon juice and water for 5 minutes. I use 1 tablespoon lemon juice per 1 cup of water. Use enough water to coat fruit thoroughly. Alternatively, you can use ascorbic acid.
- Freeze: Using a slotted spoon, lay fruit in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze for at least 4 hours up to overnight. Finally, transfer to a Ziploc bag. Apricots should last about 3-4 months in the freezer.
In addition to the dry freezing method above, it is also common to freeze apricots in sugar or syrup. These methods help maintain the textural quality of the apricot.
Looking for inspiration to cook with apricots? Take a look at some of these tasty recipes below:
- Rosemary Duck with Apricots
- Rustic Apricot Tart
- Apricot Hamantaschen
- Apricot Cherry Galette
- Apricot Berry Cobbler
- Roast Chicken with Apricot Berry Glaze
- Lamb Stew with Almonds and Apricots
- Couscous with Pistachios and Apricots