The Simple Step That Makes Raisins More Delicious

Grapes can just about do it all. From fresh to fermented, they're able to steal the show or play a supporting role. But sometimes, their dried forms get less appreciation than they deserve. Raisins are worth celebrating — and not just for their designation as an ingredient that makes oatmeal cookies irresistible. They're versatile and bursting with flavor, able to balance both sweet and savory meals.

But best of all, with a little help, they can transform into an even more delicious recipe addition. Before cooking, simply rehydrate the fruit. Raisins will become plush and juicy, and you'll find yourself savoring more of the fruit's rich and syrupy notes.

Cooks and bakers will also appreciate the difference in texture and taste when they use the plumped fruit in recipes. The extra soak can magnify the inherent sweetness and complexity of golden and dark varieties. Plus, the rehydration step protects doughs and batters from drying out, as the fruit will be less likely to absorb moisture from your pastry as it cooks.

How to rehydrate raisins

The simple step is easy and doesn't have to take all night. Though you can allow golden or dark raisins to rest in the fridge for eight hours, you'll find that you can achieve the same plumping effect in minutes. It all comes down to the temperature of your soaking liquid.

For faster absorption, cover the dried fruit with boiling water or bring water and raisins to a boil on the stove before turning off the heat. You can even zap the liquid and fruit in the microwave for a few minutes. Then, allow the warmed liquid to permeate for 10-15 minutes before proceeding with your cook or bake.

Once you're done, you'll find yourself with leftover soaking liquid. This can blend into your sauce, salad dressing, or simple syrup (you can concentrate the flavor by adding additional whole raisins and blending the mix). Some people drink raisin water plain — though you could also experiment with adding it to tea or coffee. If you hydrate too many raisins, leave them to keep soaking in the fridge for up to three days and use them in another project.

Infusing flavor into plumped fruit

Though you might be tempted to treat the soak as a quick detour on the path to making dinner or dessert, we recommend approaching it thoughtfully. Water will always get the job done, but so will a multitude of other liquids that can bring a dose of extra tang, pucker, or warmth to your final dish.

Take alcohol, for example. We know whiskey is a huge game changer for rehydrating dried fruit, but don't stop there. Sweet rum and fortified wine can draw out the molasses-like notes of the fruit — while gin can amplify golden raisins' crisp, herbal aromas. This is a handy idea for savory, meaty braises. Instead of simply cooking with wine or vinegar, double down by soaking raisins in the same alcohol or acid before combining.

Bakers and salad makers don't have to confine themselves to alcohol. Although rum cake benefits from rum-soaked raisins, you'll find oatmeal raisin cookies and other baked goods taste even better when you soak the dried fruit in vanilla extract and egg. To draw out slightly bitter and floral flavors, submerge your raisins in black tea before baking bread. Or stick with juice to keep it fruity and sweet — orange juice soaked raisins would be delicious in pain aux raisins. For a sweet-tart salad topper, allow raisins to take on a pickled quality by soaking them in balsamic vinegar or lemon juice.