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Raisins vs. sultanas vs. currants

What’s the difference?

Though raisins, sultanas, and currants are all types of dried fruit, many wonder how they differ. Here's the difference between raisins, sultanas, and currants.

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Last updated on January 1, 2023, and last reviewed by an expert on November 25, 2022.

Raisins, sultanas, and currants are all popular types of dried fruit.

More specifically, they are different types of dried grapes.

Packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, they’re used in different cuisines worldwide in both sweet and savory dishes.

Despite their popularity, there is still a lot of confusion regarding these tasty treats.

This article explains the difference between raisins, sultanas, and currants.

They are different types of dried grapes

Simply put, raisins, sultanas, and currants are different types of dried grapes.

However, understanding the differences between the three can be confusing, particularly for raisins and sultanas, as their definitions vary in different parts of the world.

In the US, the term “raisin” is applied to raisins and sultanas. Sultanas are referred to as “golden” raisins to distinguish the two.

Internationally, it’s a different story. In most countries, including the UK, raisins and sultanas are differentiated by the type of grape and the processing method used.

The term “currant” also applies to berries of the gooseberry family, such as red and black currant.

To avoid confusion, this article will refer to raisins and sultanas according to international definitions.

Raisins

Raisins are a type of grape that has been dried for around three weeks. Grapes darken as they dry, which gives raisins their dark brown color.

A range of grape varieties is used to make raisins. The size, taste, and color depending on the grape type.

In the US, raisins are typically made from the Thompson Seedless variety.

However, in Australia, raisins are made exclusively from larger grape varieties, including Muscat, Lexia, and Waltham Cross, and are often larger than sultanas.

Raisins are dark in color, have a soft texture and a sweet flavor, and are typically larger than sultanas and currants.

Sultanas

Sultanas are made from green seedless grapes, particularly the Thompson Seedless variety.

Unlike raisins, sultanas are typically coated in an oil-based solution before drying to speed up the process. For this reason, they are often lighter in color than raisins and currants.

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In Australia, some sultanas are made without a drying solution. These grapes take longer to dry — up to three weeks — and are dark brown in color. They are often referred to as “natural” sultanas.

In the US, sultanas are referred to as “golden raisins” or “sultana raisins.” These grapes are treated with a preservative called sulfur dioxide to retain their lighter color of the grape.

Sultanas are typically smaller than raisins, sweeter, juicer, and lighter in color than raisins and currants.

Currants

Currants, also known as “Zante currants,” are tiny, dried grapes.

Despite their name, currants are made by drying a variety of small, seedless grapes called “Black Corinth” and “Carina.”

Currants are dried for up to three weeks.

Due to their small size, they have a sweet, tangy, and intense flavor and add texture and sweetness to both sweet and savory dishes.

Summary: Raisins, sultanas, and currants are all types of dried grapes. Raisins and sultanas are soft, sweet, and juicy, while currants have an intense, sweet, and tangy taste. Raisins are typically the largest of the three.

Their nutrient profiles are similar

Raisins, sultanas, and currants are highly nutritious.

This is due to the drying process, which reduces the water content from 80% to 15%.

The grapes shrink during this process, leaving a small, nutrient-dense dried fruit. In fact, by weight, dried grapes contain up to four times the fiber, vitamins, and minerals of fresh grapes.

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The list below compares the nutritional differences between 1 ounce (28 grams) of raisins, sultanas, and currants.

Nutrient profile of raisins

Nutrient profile of sultanas

Nutrient profile of currants

As you can see, the variations between the three are slight. All are high in natural sugar, containing around 60–75% sugar.

They are also packed with fiber and potassium and are a great source of plant compounds, including powerful antioxidants.

On the downside, the vitamin C and vitamin K content is significantly reduced from the fresh varieties when the grapes are dried.

Summary: Raisins, sultanas, and currants have a similar nutrient profile, as all are high in fiber, potassium, and antioxidants. On the downside, they are high in sugar and have a lower vitamin C and K content than fresh grapes.

They may offer the same health benefits

Raisins, sultanas, and currants benefit your health in several ways.

All three are excellent sources of antioxidants, including polyphenols.

Antioxidants help protect cells from the harmful damage caused by free radicals and oxidative stress, which contribute to inflammation and many diseases, including cancer.

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What’s more, raisins, sultanas, and currants are rich in fiber. One ounce (28 grams) contains between 1–2 grams of fiber, which is 4–8% of your daily requirement.

Studies suggest that a diet high in fiber-rich fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

Studies also show that eating raisins may:

While the health benefits of sultanas and currants have not been explicitly studied, they likely result in similar health effects due to their comparable nutrient profiles.

Lastly, although raisins, sultanas are currants can be a healthy choice, it’s important to remember that dried fruit is high in sugar and calories and can be easy to overeat.

For this reason, dried fruit should only be eaten in small amounts, preferably along with other nutritious foods such as nuts, seeds, or yogurt.

Summary: Raisins, sultanas, and currants may improve your digestive health and blood sugar levels, decrease inflammation and lower your blood pressure. On the downside, they are also high in sugar and calories and should be eaten in moderation.

They have similar uses in the kitchen

Raisins, sultanas, and currants are all incredibly versatile and can be eaten alone, as a snack, or added to rice dishes, stews, salads, oatmeal, and baked goods.

Despite their slight differences in size and taste, each can be used in many of the same recipes and can be easily substituted for one another.

Here are some ideas for how to incorporate them into your diet:

Store raisins, sultanas, and currants in a cool, dry, dark place, such as in the pantry. Place them in a sealed bag or store them in a glass jar.

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Summary: Raisins, sultanas, and currants are incredibly versatile foods. They can be eaten plain or added to sweet and savory dishes ranging from muffins and cakes to curries, salads, and cheese platters.

Which type should you choose?

Raisins, sultanas, and currants are all highly nutritious and make suitable substitutes for one another.

At the end of the day, it is best to choose on a case-by-case basis, depending on the recipe or dish and your taste preferences.

It is also essential to remember that some manufacturers add a preservative called sulfur dioxide to retain the color of the fresh grape. It is mainly used for sultanas or “golden raisins.”

Some individuals are sensitive to sulfur dioxide and experience symptoms such as stomach cramps, skin rashes, and asthma attacks after eating it.

If you are sensitive to sulfur dioxide, look for this preservative on the label.

Summary: Raisins, sultanas, and currants are all highly nutritious and can be used as a substitute for each other in several recipes. Look for sulfur dioxide on the label if you are sensitive to this preservative.

Summary

Raisins, sultanas, and currants are different types of dried grapes rich in fiber, potassium, and antioxidants.

Raisins are made from a range of grape varieties. They are dried naturally and are usually the largest of the three.

Sultanas are made from seedless green grapes. They are often dipped in a solution before drying, which speeds up the process. They are often the juiciest and lightest in color.

Currants are made from small grape varieties. They are dried naturally and are the smallest and darkest of the three.

At the end of the day, all are good choices that may even benefit your health. Your choice depends on the recipe in question and your taste preference.

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