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Dried fruit (Recipe: sweet potato, lentil and raisin stew) {vegan, gluten-free}


For a short time during high school, I was an addict.

A fruit leather addict.

An apricot fruit leather addict.

After tennis practice, on my way home from school, I'd dig into my backpack and pull out a roll. Every bite tickled the back of my mouth, and I couldn't get enough of it.

My addiction to apricot leather lasted only a few months, but I loved -- and still love -- almost every type of dried fruit, and I always have raisins, craisins (Ocean Spray's clever name for dried cranberries), dried cherries, prunes, figs and apricots in The Perfect Pantry.

Dried fruits are available all year round, not just in fruit season, and drying concentrates the flavor and natural sugars in the fruit. Since high concentrations of sugar ward off bacteria, dried fruit can last up to a year without refrigeration.   

Sulfur (or sulphur) dioxide is sometimes added to fruit to improve its shelf life and color. If you're allergic to sulfites, or if they give you a bit of the rooty-toot-toot, be sure to read ingredient labels carefully. Look for unsulfured dried fruit at health food stores, at Trader Joe's, and sometimes in the organic product aisle of your local supermarket. Or, try boiling dried fruit for a minute or so, then draining off the liquid, to mitigate the strength of the sulfur.


Dried fruits lend their concentrated sweetness to both sweet and savory recipes.

Sweet potato, lentil and raisin stew

A wonderful vegan main dish, this recipe, which also can be made with butternut squash and chickpeas, serves 6.


1/2 cup brown lentils
1 onion, finely chopped
1-1/2 cups water
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp harissa, or more to taste (I use lots more -- up to 2 Tbsp)
1 tsp paprika
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp honey or agave nectar, or more to taste
1 tsp kosher salt, or more to taste
3/4 tsp black pepper, or more to taste
2 sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup golden raisins
Grated zest of one lemon, or rind of one preserved lemon, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon, if needed
4 tsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley


Rinse the lentils in a sieve. Place in a Dutch oven with onion and 1 cup water. Cover and bring to a simmer over low heat, and cook for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, in a small nonstick frying pan, heat the oil over low heat. Add garlic, saute for 15 seconds, then add cumin, turmeric, harissa, paprika, tomato paste and sugar, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes until it forms a dark, aromatic paste. Add the spice paste to the lentils, along with salt and pepper.

After the lentils have cooked for 15 minutes, add the sweet potatoes and raisins, plus an additional half cup of water. Continue cooking for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the potatoes from sticking. Add the lemon zest and half of the parsley. Cook until lentils and sweet potatoes are done (add more water if necessary). Taste and adjust seasoning with lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper as needed. Garnish with remaining parsley, and serve over couscous.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Lentils with spinach and preserved lemon
Pumpkin stew
Tagine of chicken with prunes and almonds
Split pea, sausage and preserved lemon soup
One-of-everything lentil soup

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I love the use of raisins, I think more people should use them in savory items.

I love cooking with dried fruits during the winter..dried raisins, figs, dates, cranberries, blueberries, cherries. They go wonderfully with anything from baked goods to meats to that delish recipe you posted. I still have some sweet potatoes from Wayne at farmers market, so this recipe is a welcome sight this morning!

Oooo . . . there's that preserved lemon. This looks great Lydia! What could be better than potato and lentils and then beautiful dried fruit. ;0) I have all those same dried fruits in my pantry. And I have a batch of them soaking on my counter in rum for so . . . oh goodness, surprise: bread!

Dried fruits have a place in so many traditional foods because by January that was the only fruit available in some areas. Eastern European, North African, and Argentine cooking all have signature dishes made with dried fruit. Your recipe seems to combine some of the themes from various cultures -- sounds great!

You know, I think during one time in our life we get addicted to dried fruit. And I love dried fruit in savory dishes like this!

I love dried fruit - I'm particularly fond of using dried cherries in biscotti. And, I"m always looking for another recipe for lentils, one of my favorite fall dishes!

This looks great! Especially since I have a bushel of sweet potatoes that need cooking. I love the warm Moroccan spices.

I'm a sucker for dried fruit, too, Lydia! And dried apricots... I have a bag at home. I'll be nibbling on them when I get there. :)

L, I think I am going to make this stew to replace the regular honey glazed sweet potato for this year Thanksgiving!
Me too... looooooove dried fruit!

I had never heard of craisins until I went to the states a couple of years ago! I was wondering what the hell they were! It is very clevar marketing alright by Ocean Spray!

A fruit leather addict? Sounds much healthier than my high school addiction to the shoe leather variety of beef jerky. (God help me, I used to eat that stuff by the canfuls. It's a wonder I'm still alive and kickin'.)

I love adding dried fruits to quick breads, salads, and cookies, especially dried cranberries and cherries. Must be something to do with the C's...

A stew like this never would have crossed my mind but it sounds absolutely delicious. I also love dried fruits (especially dried figs to get me through the non-fig season :o ).

I adore dried fruits but was never a big fan of fruit leathers, it's probably a textural thing. Love that you sneak extra harissa into your recipe, that's the kicker for me!

Oh my goodness that looks amazing. I loved hearing of your addiction too, it's strange to think back on the foods we loved so much back when. :-) I was addicted to hot chocolate from 7-11--mm, powdered hot drink.

IT sounds very tasty. I am a very recent convert to sweet potatoes, but I love them now.

Thanks for including the food photos. It really brings the recipe to life.

Peabody, Marcia, Patricia: I love dried fruits with savory dishes, because of the whole sweet-tart thing.

MyKitchen, is there anything you can't make into bread?! You are an amazing baker!

Mae, now I am curious about Argentinean dishes with dried fruits, so I'm off to hit the cookbook library. Thanks for that info.

Veron, I think my first real addiction was to raisins, and I'm still addicted to them.

TW, dried cherry biscotti sounds wonderful. Chocolate biscotti, by any chance? I think that's one of the combinations that really appeals to me.

Julia, Gattina, Kalyn: sweet potatoes are a relatively new passion for me. I think I avoided them because of the childhood associations with the marshmallow-topped casseroles we always had on holidays. Oh, too sweet for me. But the raisins add a bit of the tart to the sweet potatoes -- it's a great combination.

Niall, they're called "craisins" because they are dried cranberries that look like raisins. I think it's a very smart marketing idea -- and now everyone calls them craisins!

Sandie, beef jerky? Really? That's one thing I could never learn to love -- must be not as popular here in the Northeast.

Mike, I posted a turkey meatloaf with fig sauce last year -- a wonderful holiday recipe that's replaced roast turkey on our Thanksgiving table. You might like it.

Neil, I am a hot sauce fanatic, and will up the heat level on any dish if left to my own in the kitchen!

Cakespy, I share your childhood addiction to hot chocolate -- my favorite was Swiss Miss, from the packet.

Susan, I try to include food photos when I can, and when they come out looking like, well, food. I'm always trying to improve my photography.

This sounds great! I love lentils and I love sweet potatoes...perfect combo!

I hear that admitting you have a problem is the first step....
I love dried fruits too. This looks like a great vegan dish - the daughter (in law?) must be visiting!

This is a great recipe. So great that, when made with butternut squash, I actually enjoyed the squash for the first time in my life! Who knew that was even possible!

For your search: Some recipes for Argentine Carbonada Criolla use fresh fruit, some use dried apricots or prunes. "The Book of Latin American Cooking" by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz (1979) offers several meat-dried fruit dishes from Argentina, Columbia, and elsewhere.

I love dried fruits, especially apricots and raisins. We just tasted some excellent raisins from our farmer's market.

You should enter this recipe in the My Legume Love Affair roundup.

Maris, wish I'd learned that sooner -- I love the combination, too. And wish the spices? Yum!

Natashya, right you are -- the vegetarian daughter is coming in a couple of weeks, and this will definitely be on the menu.

Lucia, never thought I'd see the day! But it really was delicious, wasn't it?

Mae, I'm heading for the library to find this book -- I'm so curious now about South American recipes that combine fruit and meats. Thank you for educating me.

Nate, thanks for the heads-up.

Lydia, my daughter is just as into the fruit leather as you were! I'm always finding a new flavor at the bottom of her backpack. Thanks for this warming recipe, perfect for right now - it looks like a keeper.

I would like this dish - it seems to have a lot of indian flavor!

Marilyn, maybe it's an age thing -- I was so in love with apricot leather when I was in high school. But I never liked any other flavor, though I think I would now. Only now, my dentist wouldn't be thrilled if I gnawed away at fruit leather!

Tigerfish, it definitely has Indian notes in it -- I think you will like it.

I'm definitely a fruit leather addict as well. Love the idea of putting dried fruit in this stew. Looks delicious!

This sounds delicious!

You've reminded me of an early cooking adventure, using the Time-Life Foods of the World, Latin America, author Jonathan Norton Leonard with Ortiz as consultant. 2 Argentine recipes: Sweet spiced beef pie with peaches and meringue topping; Baked pumpkin with beef, vegetable and peach filling. Not dried fruit but sweet and savory, such an eye opener in 1968! We made the pie and loved it.
...I kept looking for chick peas in your recipe, now realize they are the golden raisins. Maybe tomorrow, much friendlier to my veg tastes now.

Marc, I feel a support group coming on....

Christine, it is! Try it, please.

Susan, I find I'm combining sweet and savory more and more these days. I'm not much for sweets per se, so having the sweet/tart flavor of salsas or chutneys mixed in with dishes has real appeal for me. Chickpeas are great in this stew, too, but they're not one of personal favorites, so I always go for lentils or white beans.

This looks delicious. Thank you!

And thank you for the tip on mitigating sulfites. I usually cannot eat dried fruits (which I adore) because the sulfites give me migraines. I will look at Trader Joe's for some non-sulfur products and/or boiling them as described.

This looks like SUCH a hearty dish Lydia! I would love some of this stew. Perfect for fall!

Great recipe - I substituted some really big natural crimson raisins for the golden raisins (with no sulfites), and served over quinoa instead of couscous. I couldn't find harissa easily, so I substituted siracha. What a great meal!

Does this freeze well?

AC, potatoes don't freeze particularly well. The taste will be okay, but the texture can be a bit mealy when you defrost potatoes. If that doesn't bother you, you can certainly freeze this.

Hi Lydia!

Do you think this would work flavor-wise without the harissa? I have a picky eater who's not fond of spiciness (for both taste and heart burn reasons), unfortunately!

Amanda, of course. It will be a much sweeter stew, and quite delicious. I'm certain!

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