Fresh vs. Frozen Peaches: When to Use Each Type

Peach season is short, but good news: It's possible to substitute frozen or canned peaches for fresh ones. Use our guidelines to decide when you can make the swap.

It’s hard to beat a fresh-off-the-tree peach. When timed correctly, these peaches are tender, juicy and full-flavored. Unfortunately, an underripe peach presents the exact opposite experience. Grocery store peaches are pale and lifeless in the winter, presenting you with a tasteless, unnecessarily crispy bite.

Luckily, you have options if you want to make your favorite peach recipes when the fruit isn’t in season. Alternatively, if you have a go-to peach dessert or savory recipe that calls for canned peaches, it’s possible to make it with fresh or frozen peaches. While each type of peach is best suited for certain recipes, it’s easy to make substitutions if you understand the difference between the three.

When to Use Fresh Peaches

Depending on where you live, fresh peaches are in season between May and late September. They’re ideal for any recipe that calls for fresh fruit, especially when the fruit is enjoyed raw. The texture of a fresh peach is firmer and less mushy compared to frozen or canned peaches, so they’re the way to go for grilled peach or fruit salad recipes. Baked goods with peaches have a more vibrant color and robust texture compared to the same recipe made with preserved peaches.

Most fresh peach recipes call for peeling, slicing and pitting the fruit before cutting it into halves or slices. This does add to the prep time, but peeling peaches is truly easy when you know how. If you’re substituting fresh peaches for canned or frozen, plan on three medium peaches, 2-1/4 cups chopped or 3 cups sliced peaches for every can or pound in the recipe.

What to Make with Fresh Peaches

When to Use Frozen Peaches

Frozen peaches are uncooked—just like fresh peaches—so they’re a perfect substitute for fresh produce when it’s out of season. They’re particularly great for smoothies, but you can use frozen peaches in any baked recipe as well. Some cooks prefer to work with frozen peaches (even during peach season) because they’re already peeled and pitted, so they require significantly less prep time.

To substitute frozen peaches for fresh peaches, plan on using one pound for every three peaches called for in the recipe. Most baked recipes can be made directly with frozen peaches, so you don’t have to plan ahead and thaw them. For uncooked recipes like salsa or parfaits, thaw the peaches overnight in the refrigerator. Resist the urge to speed up the thawing time in the microwave, which can lead to mushy peaches. Drain the excess liquid and use the thawed peaches as if they were fresh.

What to Make with Frozen Peaches

When to Use Canned Peaches

If peaches aren’t in season and you don’t have any frozen peaches on hand, you can use canned peaches for most baked recipes. Keep in mind that canned peaches are cooked (even if they’re raw packed), so they’ll be softer and more tender compared to the texture of a fresh or frozen peach. Most canned peaches are sliced, but they’re sometimes packed halved or diced.

Peaches are generally canned in 16-ounce (1-pound) cans. You’ll want to use one can for every three peaches in the recipe. There are several varieties of canned fruit, so read the label before heading to the checkout line. Peaches in heavy syrup contain water, corn syrup and sugar, whereas light syrup is made from water and sugar only. You can also find peaches canned in juice (a fruit juice concentrate mixed with water) and peaches packed in water, which contain the lowest sugar content.

When making substitutions, choose the best canned peach to go with your recipe. For example, if your recipe calls for fresh peaches and has sugar as an ingredient, the recipe would probably turn out too sweet with peaches in heavy syrup. You’ll either want to use sugar-free peaches packed in water, or you can reduce the recipe’s sugar content when using a syrup-packed peach.

What to Make with Canned Peaches

Using Fresh vs. Canned vs. Frozen Peaches

How many fresh peaches equal a can of peaches?

Peaches are generally canned in 16-ounce (1-pound) cans. You’ll want to use three peaches for every can called for in the recipe.

How many frozen peach slices equal a fresh peach?

Every three peaches make a pound of frozen peaches. So, if your recipe calls for a specific number of peach slices, you’ll want to turn to the scale. About 1/3 pound (or 5.3 ounces) of peach slices will equal one fresh peach.

Do you need to thaw frozen peaches before using them?

Frozen peaches don’t need to be thawed before adding them to baked dishes because the oven’s heat will gently defrost them as the recipe cooks. You may want to add extra thickener to absorb the excess liquid, though, or let the recipe bake for an extra 5 minutes to cook off the extra moisture. If you’re worried about excess liquid, place the frozen peaches in a colander and let them sit at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes before adding them to your recipe.

Do you have to drain the liquid from canned or frozen peaches?

Canned and frozen peaches have more liquid than fresh peaches, so it’s important to drain the liquid before substituting them in fresh peach recipes. After thawing frozen peaches, toss them in a colander and let them drain for a minute before adding them to the recipe. For canned peaches, open the can a quarter of the way and drain the liquid before opening the can all the way.

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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.