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Innovative Ways to Incorporate Canned Fruit Cocktail into Your Recipes

Love it or hate it, there’s a decent chance you’ve tasted canned fruit cocktail at least once in your life. There’s an even better chance that the can you’ve got sitting in the pantry hasn’t seen the light of day in several years. Featuring tiny morsels of peaches, pears, pineapples, grapes, and cherries swimming in syrup, canned fruit cocktail tends to find itself confined to kids’ lunch boxes or particularly desperate sugar cravings.

But just like other underrated canned goods you should try (clams and beets, we’re looking at you), fruit cocktail deserves a moment in the spotlight. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of unexpected ways to use it. This compilation includes breakfast options like fruit-cocktail-topped oatmeal and fruit cocktail parfait, savory alternatives such as fruit cocktail dipping sauce, and, of course, plenty of crave-worthy desserts. So, instead of letting that can of fruit cocktail gather another speck of dust, experiment with one of the ideas on this list and rediscover the versatility of this often-overlooked pantry item.

Blend it into a smoothie

Colorful smoothie drinks in glasses

Fresh and frozen fruits typically steal the spotlight when it comes to ingredients for refreshing smoothies, but it’s high time that changed. Enter canned fruit cocktail. Boasting chunks of varied sweet fruits, this pantry staple will soon become the unsung hero in your smoothie repertoire. So, the next time you find yourself with half a can lingering in the fridge, don’t hesitate to toss it into the blender alongside your preferred choice of milk, yogurt, or juice.

What makes canned fruit cocktail so appealing in smoothies is its ability to let other ingredients shine. While fruit cocktail’s sweet and tangy notes make it a delightful standalone snack, it gracefully mellows out when combined with other flavorful elements. Take, for example, the combination of canned fruit salad with tropical ingredients like pineapple juice and frozen mango. The fruit assortment perfectly complements the pineapple’s acidity and the mango’s sweetness at the same time. Another benefit of using canned fruit cocktail in smoothies is that it allows you to control the sweetness of your drink. Opt for a lighter version by draining the syrup before blending, or leave it in to infuse your drink with a satisfyingly sweet addition. 

Freeze fruit cocktail into tasty ice cubes

Fruit frozen in ice

In terms of putting ice in drinks, it used to be that you’d have to choose between a lukewarm beverage and a diluted concoction. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case. This one ridiculously simple solution means you can say farewell to libation purgatory forever. Rather than subject your cocktails, mocktails, or iced teas to boring, watery ice cubes, turn your portable chillers into fruit cocktail ice cubes. 

Picture this: fruit cocktail goodness, complete with fruit and syrup, poured into ice cube trays and frozen until happy hour beckons. It sounds too simple to make a difference — but once these gems solidify, they work magic on any beverage they touch, turning it into a divine elixir. Not only do they efficiently chill your drink to the ideal temperature, but they also progressively infuse it with sugary sweetness and delightful fruit chunks that intensify with each sip. In essence, your drink becomes increasingly delicious as you savor it, rather than becoming a watery mess you gulp down out of obligation. 

Use canned fruit cocktail as an oatmeal topper

Woman eating oatmeal

While we have a soft spot for oatmeal, it’s fair to say that it doesn’t top the charts as one of the most thrilling foods. That’s probably why we’re constantly on the lookout for ingredients to help get more exciting oatmeal. Up to this point, we’ve sampled bowls adorned with nut butter, liquid sweetener, and chocolate. Heck, we’ve even experimented with savory ingredients like eggs, fresh herbs, and cheese. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not knocking any of these additions, it’s just that there’s a much simpler way to give oatmeal pizzazz, and it’s sitting right in the fridge.

The transformative ingredient in question? Leftover fruit cocktail. You’re already used to adding fresh and frozen fruit to your bowl, so is canned fruit isn’t that much of a stretch. This pairing works beautifully because the plainness of the oatmeal helps counteract some of the sweetness of the fruit. With that said, if you prefer an even sweeter breakfast, then feel free to stir some of the fruit cocktail syrup into your oats, too.

Layer it into a breakfast parfait

Breakfast parfait in kitchen

Goskova Tatiana/Shutterstock

Parfait originates from the French word meaning “something perfect” — and it’s a fitting description for this versatile breakfast or snack. While the French version typically features custard, the American adaptation consists of a creamy base adorned with an array of toppings, ranging from seeds to chocolate shavings. Just as there are countless toppings available, so too are there many bases. You’re just as likely to find yogurt and ice cream as you are to see whipped cream or pudding.

Once the foundation is established, the real fun begins with experimenting with toppings. Among many tips to build a better parfait, canned fruit cocktail makes an excellent addition. Its sweetness serves to balance the richness of the creamy base, while the medley of fruits adds visual interest. To truly push the boundaries of what fruit cocktail can bring to a parfait, consider sandwiching it between two creamy layers to accentuate its vibrant colors.

Use it for buko salad

Buko salad in bowl

With a taste similar to ambrosia fruit salad, buko salad is a Filipino dessert that is a staple of Christmas gatherings. It’s made by combining shredded young coconut (aka buko) with canned fruit, cubes of gelatinous coconut or pineapple, and condensed milk. Beyond these ingredients, each Filipino household infuses its unique twist into the dessert, with some choosing to include lychees, citrus, cubed cheese, corn kernels, and additional canned fruits.

While you may need to venture to an Asian market for some ingredients, having canned fruit cocktail in your pantry puts you well on your way to creating this colorful masterpiece. Canned fruit cocktail can act as the backbone of this dessert. Without it, buko salad would just be a creamy dressing scattered with shredded coconut. Although fruit cocktail is an essential ingredient, careful attention is required when incorporating it. Specifically, draining the syrup is crucial to preventing undesired sogginess.

Turn it into popsicles

Person preparing homemade popsicles

Is there anything better than savoring a frosty popsicle on a scorching summer day? No, there isn’t. Now that we’ve settled that, let’s discuss elevating your popsicle experience. For starters, forget the store-bought varieties, which offer no possibility of customizing your icy treats. If you ask us, that’s a pretty serious dessert offense.

The solution is making popsicles at home. All you need is a popsicle mold and your preferred fillings. Although it may seem unconventional, canned fruit cocktail isn’t the wildest addition we’ve heard of (that honor goes to pickle popsicles). Adding fruit cocktail to your next batch of homemade popsicles is an ideal way to infuse them with texture, flavor, and color. To make the most of this unique ingredient, we suggest evenly distributing the fruit cocktail syrup among the molds, placing some fruit into each slot, and finishing off each one with a splash of fruit juice.

Add fruit cocktail to gelatin for a no-bake dessert

Assorted fruit and gelatin

Creating a delightful dessert doesn’t get much simpler than fruit gelatin, but occasionally, you might want to elevate your quivering confection to something slightly more interesting. While it’s been established that you should avoid using fresh fruit when making a Jell-O mold, canned fruit cocktail is also a great way to liven up a basic bowl of gelatin.

For lack of a better term, we’re calling this unexpected mashup fruit cocktail gelatin. True to its name, this treat combines gelatin with sweet pieces from the fruit cocktail. The preparation process is the same as regular gelatin, but the twist comes when, after adding the cold water, you incorporate fruit pieces and syrup into the mixture. This addition not only imparts an extra burst of sweetness but also alters the texture, transforming it from slippery cubes to substantial, fruit-infused bites. What’s more, the addition of the fruit cocktail brings a splash of vibrant color to the gelatin, elevating it into a visually appealing treat that easily surpasses its plain counterpart.

A new take on sangria

Two glasses of red sangria

Your classic sangria recipe requires you to wash and dry every piece of fruit, remove cores and pits, and slice. If spending 15 minutes on fruit prep just to make a happy hour cocktail is your jam, then by all means, go ahead and stick with your favorite recipe. However, if the idea of saving time and making a more interesting drink appeals to you, then try infusing your next batch of sangria with canned fruit cocktail.

This simple swap is brilliant for several reasons. Firstly, the fruit comes pre-chopped and ready to use, eliminating the need for any preparation. Secondly, the fruit varieties are similar enough to traditional ingredients, meaning you won’t ruffle too many feathers with sangria purists. Furthermore, the fruit-infused syrup serves as an almost seamless substitute for orange juice. Depending on your sweetness preference, you might even be able to avoid adding extra sugar to the pitcher.

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Spice up instant pudding

Homemade vanilla pudding

Like fruit gelatin, instant pudding stands out as a marvel among modern desserts. With a bit of milk and a few turns of the whisk, the powdered pudding mix transforms into a luscious, creamy dessert. But despite our affection for the convenience of instant pudding on its own, certain occasions call for a slightly more elaborate treat. Once again, fruit cocktail proves itself as a dependable dessert-making ally.

Instant pudding and canned fruit cocktail make a perfect team because they’re both prepped and ready to go, saving you time in the kitchen. On top of that, their flavors complement each other, with the creaminess of the pudding balancing out the sweetness of the fruit and the fruit adding a new layer of flavor and texture to the pudding. But it’s not just the fruit doing the heavy lifting. When added to this combo, the fruit cocktail syrup can be a secret ingredient holding everything together.

Bake leftover fruit cocktail into a cake

Chunks of fruit-filled cake

With its simple ingredients and no-nonsense directions, boxed cake mix might seem rigid. But the truth is that you can experiment with simple ingredients that take boxed cake mix to a new level of deliciousness. Add mayo for moisture, throw in ground coffee for a rich kick, or even experiment with unconventional ingredients like bacon and mashed potatoes.

Given the number of ways that we can play with cake mix, why not experiment with canned fruit cocktail as well? You have the option to leave the fruit pieces intact or dice them into smaller morsels. From there, the fruit pieces, syrup, and cake mix can come together with shaved coconut and eggs before heading to the oven. Not only is the preparation super easy, but it’s lighter than traditional boxed cake because the fruit cocktail syrup can replace the vegetable oil. But more than a substitute, the syrup keeps the cake ultra-moist while simultaneously infusing it with a subtle sweetness. 

Add it to a fruit compote

Fruit compote cooking on stove

Compote might not be as familiar as other fruit-based treats, but we promise you’ll become a fan after trying it. Typically crafted with fresh or frozen fruit, making compote involves simmering fruit and sugar together until it’s syrupy. Since regular fruit cocktail conveniently contains both of these elements in one can, it’s a simple swap that leads to amazing results.

There are a few things to consider when making compote with fruit cocktail. First, you get to choose your own adventure when it comes to the fruit you use. Take out the cherries, pineapples, and grapes for a classic peach and pear compote. Or, keep all of the fruit and discover the unique flavor profile you create, along with any other additions you may choose. Beyond customizing the fruit blend, you also get to fine-tune the texture. Leave the fruit pieces whole for a chunkier compote, or chop them up for a smoother final product. Once prepared, spoon the compote over breakfast treats like pancakes or waffles, or use it to add flair to ice cream or parfaits.

Use fruit cocktail in a party dip

Fruit-based dip and crackers

In a snack universe dominated by crowd-pleasers like spinach and artichoke dip and Buffalo chicken dip, it’s easy to assume that all dips must be savory. However, that’s not the case. Fruity dips, while less conventional, are just as delicious and versatile as their salty counterparts. In particular, dip made with fruit cocktail is a unique take on festive spreads that will challenge everything you know about party snacking.

This unexpected dip starts with thoroughly drained fruit cocktail. Unlike many recipes, where a bit of syrup clinging to the fruit is acceptable, this one requires dry fruit. To that end, consider dabbing the fruit with a paper towel after draining to avoid a soggy final product. Once dried, finely chop the fruit pieces and mix them with softened cream cheese, orange juice concentrate, chopped walnuts, and other fruit pieces that you feel like experimenting with. Let the mixture chill overnight, then serve with crackers for a colorful, slightly sweet, and oh-so-delectable treat.

Transform it into a dipping sauce

Pork skewers with dipping sauce

Instead of splurging on an expensive dipping sauce that might be disappointing, consider crafting your own sauce using fruit cocktail as an ingredient. If this unexpected twist makes you uneasy, bear with us. Fruit cocktail can form the foundation of a sauce, with additional elements like ketchup, vinegar, and soy sauce playing supporting roles. Rather than dominate the flavor profile, the fruit cocktail fades into the background while still providing sweetness and heft to the sauce.

To do this, start by draining the fruit cocktail, but hold onto the syrup for later use. Finely chop the fruit and set it aside. Combine other sauce ingredients (like sugar, ketchup, vinegar, soy sauce, and that fruit cocktail syrup) over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Introduce the fruit pieces to the mixture. While that’s simmering, create a paste with water and cornstarch and blend it into the fruit concoction. Let it simmer, then cool before serving. This homemade sauce pairs wonderfully with chicken, pork, or shrimp dishes.

Canned fruit cocktail is perfect for cobblers

Fruit cobbler on blue table

When time is in short supply, preparing a classic peach cobbler is downright impractical. Slicing peaches and assembling a topping can easily devour 15 minutes, a luxury not always available when you’re on a tight schedule. However, just because you’re pressed for time doesn’t mean you have to ignore your sweet cravings. You can speed up the process by substituting fresh fruit with canned fruit cocktail.

To make fruit cocktail cobbler, simply pour the entire can, syrup included, into a greased baking dish. Next, cover the fruit with either boxed yellow cake mix or a mixture of self-rising flour and sugar. Bake until the topping turns golden brown, then serve it warm with a scoop of ice cream. This substitution works well for many reasons. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, fruit cocktail must contain between 30% to 50% diced peaches, the largest percentage of any fruit in the mix. Therefore, you’re starting with a base that closely resembles the more time-consuming peach cobbler. Additionally, the pre-cut pieces save you considerable time, while the syrup adds essential moisture to this often-dry dessert.

Give your chicken salad something to smile about

Chicken salad with fruit

Boblin/Getty Images

There’s nothing wrong with limiting your chicken salad recipe to just chicken and mayonnaise. After all, this classic combination forms the foundation of many satisfying lunches. At the same time, there are plenty of flavor-enhancing tips to make the best chicken salad. For instance, introducing a pinch of brown sugar can help balance out the saltiness of the chicken and the tanginess of the mayonnaise. Similarly, incorporating fruit cocktail into your usual recipe introduces an additional dimension of flavor to an otherwise straightforward dish.

The first step to using fruit cocktail in chicken salad is draining the syrup. Be sure to remove as much as possible. If not, you risk diluting the mayonnaise, leading to a soupy chicken salad instead of a substantial one. Depending on your preferred texture, you can either leave the fruit pieces whole or finely chop them for a smoother salad. After chopping, combine them with the chicken and mayonnaise, stirring thoroughly. For an optimal balance of flavors, we recommend adding celery and a pinch of salt to counteract the sweetness of the fruit before serving.

Combine it with vegetables for an easy salsa

Chunky fruit salsa in white bowl

Mariha-kitchen/Getty Images

Although most people think of salsa’s flavor profile as tomatoey, spicy, and slightly citrusy, it’s important to note that fruit can be a delightful addition. Just look at mango, peach, or pineapple salsa as proof. In each case, the natural sweetness of the fruit helps balance the heat from the chili peppers and the acidity of the tomatoes. As you might expect, this concept extends to fruit cocktail salsa as well.

When making a batch, start by thoroughly draining the fruit. You don’t have to remove every trace of syrup, but do your best. If not, your salsa will end up runny and overly sweet. Next, you’ve got to decide on the texture you want. For a chunkier salsa, keep the pieces whole. Alternatively, dice them for a smoother sauce. Fold the fruit pieces into diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime juice, and a pinch of salt. The result is a slightly sweet fruit salsa, perfect for complementing tortilla chips or serving as a grilled chicken topping.

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