8 Spectacular Uses for that Lone Can of Fruit

by Linsey Knerl on 21 November 2008 13 comments
Photo: Thomas

I'm not really sure how I ended up with those strange assorted cans of fruit in my cupboard. Was it a gift from Grandma? A dented-can special? Maybe I grabbed the mango instead of the pineapple by mistake. Whatever the reason for my fruit folly, now I must do something with it. Here are eight surefire tricks for using it up in a yummy way today!

Meatloaf and meatballs. Fruited meats are a tricky thing. If not done correctly, they can seem more appropriate as a dessert than a main course. My favorite way to use up those cheap cans of cranberries (that often go on sale this time of year) is as a topping for meatloaf or meatballs. Just mix some brown sugar, a bit of lemon juice, and a can of whole cranberries (the gelled stuff will work, also) and spoon it over your loaves before baking. So delicious, no one ever guesses that it is made from cranberries! 

Dump cake. This oddly-named dessert is a breeze to make, costs less than a few dollars, and tastes heavenly. Use any variety of canned fruit, a yellow cake mix, and a few other affordable ingredients to create this goof-proof specialty. See all of our dump-cake recipes in an earlier post. 

Sweet and Sour. My favorite make-ahead dish is a sweet and sour chicken. I use this recipe for the sauce most often: 

1 sm. can cut pineapple
2 tbsp. cornstarch
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. vinegar
1 clove garlic (optional)
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. Ginger 

If I don't have pineapple on hand (which is often), I substitute most any canned sour fruit with amazing results. We have used cherry-flavored fruit cocktail, tropical fruit mix, and peaches. I also add sliced green pepper (which is stored in my freezer from the gardening months) and big chunks of red and white onion. Another yummy version of this is a Polynesian Sausage dinner, where instead of chicken, I use cut-up polska kielbasa and the tropical fruit blend (mango, pineapple, and pears.) Everything is served over rice. 

Stuffed chops and breasts. White meat works really well for “stuffing.” You can play around with your favorite boxed stuffing, (by adding canned cherries, apples, or pears) or go with a homemade rendition. Just slice the meat into two horizontally, and spoon generous portions of your stuffing into the meat. Bake a few minutes longer than you normally would, and be sure that you cover it with a lid or foil. It's a nice, moist main dish that takes little skill to pull off. 

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

Pancakes and waffles. Do you really think that places like IHOP and Denny's have a “secret” to their amazing fruit-topped breakfast creations? Most restaurants just used food-service grade canned fruits as toppers, and jazz up the presentation with nuts, creams, or crumbles for effect. Pancakes and waffles are a dirt cheap meal that you can have most any time of day. Just top with canned apples, cherries, or any pie-worthy filling for the yummiest stack ever! 

Compote. This one's a bit too fancy for most evenings at the Knerl house, but it is a fantastic way to rid your cupboard of the truly strange canned fruit varieties (i.e. plums!) I've heard several versions of this recently, but it's very simple to prepare. This version is very standard, and this extra special dish uses a little alcohol for kick! So what's a girl to do with compote? Eat it alone, top it with whipped or sour cream, or serve it alongside rich meats. 

Jello. Yeah, I said it. It may be a little too reminiscent of your cafeteria lunch days, but most every kid I know likes Jello. (And it's a fantastically cheap way to stash some canned fruit nutrition into a perfectly-squared snack.) Just avoid the tropical fruit medley in your Jello. (The acidity of the mangoes can keep the Jello from setting up properly.) 

Bread. I used to think that you can only use dried fruits in a bread machine recipe. I have since found out that for a quick bread or sweet bread setting, canned fruit can work for some tasty varieties. Just check out this pineapple cranberry bread or peaches and cream recipe. 

The next time you're tempted to pass off that odd can of fruit onto your local food pantry, consider how you can create an incredible dish with your canned dilemma. Then donate a nice turkey or ham to your shelter, instead. They could really use it!

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Guest's picture
Catana

Since you mentioned cranberries, I kept thinking about them while I was reading the article. And I wonder if a can of whole cranberries could be substituted for bananas in banana bread. It could be delicious -- or it could be a total disaster. I'll have to make a note to myself to try it.

Guest's picture

My (and particularly my son's) favorite thing to do with a can of fruit is to blend it up, add in a few things (light veg and salad is easily hidden, for tart fruits honey and coconut milk sweeten very well) and pour over cereal instead of milk makes a very nice start to the day. 2 cans usually lasts in a pitcher for about a week.

Myscha Theriault's picture

I haven't done the kielbasa, pineapple and green pepper thing in years. Thanks for the reminder, Linsey. The compote idea sounds interesting too.

Guest's picture
Carrie

... takes me back. When we ran out of milk when I was a kid, my mom would open a can of fruit cocktail and put that over our cereal instead. We LOVED it of course -- what kid wouldn't prefer heavy syrup to milk?

Linsey Knerl's picture

The cereal thing blows my mind.  I learn something new every day!  Thanks for sharing!

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture
steve

Cranberries are way to tart to sub for bananas in banana bread Plus, they are not sweet. You would end up with bread that tastes like cranberry sauce. EEEW! You could mix a few into the banana bread batter, though. That would probably be tasty and add counterpoint to the bananas. Although Blueberries sounds better to me.

Guest's picture
Catana

The point of it is for the bread to taste like cranberry sauce. Besides, canned cranberries are sweetened, at least in my country, and the recipe also contains sugar.

Guest's picture
Olivia

Neat ideas. I got this great deal on whole cranberry relish and now we're going away for the meal. Now I know what we can do with it.

Guest's picture

Great tips and tricks from the post and comments! Will definitely try some out. I wrote a post for a cheap and easy pancake recipe a week or two ago. Once you know how to make this batter, it makes you wonder how IHOP can charge so much for pancakes.

Guest's picture
Erika

We have a toddler who loves her fruit so we have tons of canned fruit (mostly peaches, pears, and mixed fruit). I make fruit pancakes buy mixing my normal batter, dumping the canned fruit in my pan, adding a little butter, alot of cinnamon and/or nutmeg. I let the fruit cook until the liquid turns into a thick syrup. I spread the fruit around in pan so it will be evenly distributed. Next I pour my batter onto the fruit and make my pancakes as normal. You can also make the pancakes and fruit syrup individually and top the pancakes after cooking.

Linsey Knerl's picture

That is really cool, Erika.  Thanks!

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture
Guest

How about eating the fruit straight from the can? I have enjoyed many a canned fruit lounging around. Saves on water and you've made space on the cupboard.

Guest's picture
Guest

blend with milk and sugar for a cheap fruit smoothie!