What's the Difference Between Peaches, Nectarines and Apricots?

cut and whole nectarines, peaches and apricots scattered on speckled turquoise plate

Treehugger / Allison Berler

Suppose you have a craving for homemade peach and tomato salsa. You have the tomatoes and onions you need to make it, but no peaches. You do, however, have nectarines. If you substituted the nectarines or apricots for the peaches, would it make much of a difference? Aren't they basically the same fruit?

Peaches, nectarines and apricots are similar, but they aren't exactly the same. They're all part of same family, the Prunus family, a genus that's categorized by a hard shell that surrounds its seed in the center of the fruit. That hard shell and seed are often referred to as a stone, which is why the three fruits are commonly called stone fruits.

Peaches

bowl of fuzzy peaches in wooden bowl next to striped dish towel

Treehugger / Allison Berler

Peaches have skin with a soft fuzz. The skin is often removed before eating or using in a recipe because of the fuzz, but it's completely edible. Peaches are sweet and juicy when ripe. They're used in baked goods, salads, salsas, sauces, smoothies, jams, jellies and of course, eaten fresh, as is.

Nectarines

cut and whole nectarines with seed shown scattered on textured white surface

Treehugger / Allison Berler

Nectarines are almost genetically identical to peaches. There's only one gene that separates them, and that gene determines whether the skin has fuzz on it or not. The taste of a nectarine is very similar to that of a peach, and it's often difficult to tell them apart by taste alone.

They're used in baked goods, salads, salsas, sauces, smoothies, jams, jellies and of course, eaten fresh, as is.

Apricots

ripe apricots cut to show stone scattered on textured white surface

Treehugger / Allison Berler

Apricots look like a smaller version of a peach, about a quarter of the size according to Extra Crispy. They have fuzz on their skin and are similarly shaped and colored. They are not, however, as closely related to a peach as a nectarine is. Apricots are a different species of fruit than peaches and nectarines. They have more of a sweet-tart flavor when they're ripe, and they aren't as juicy.

They're used in baked goods, salads, salsas, sauces, smoothies, jams, jellies and of course, eaten fresh, as is.

Interchanging in a recipe

nectarines, peaches, and apricots crowded together onto speckled turquoise plate

Treehugger / Allison Berler

Clearly, the three fruits can be used for the same purposes, but can they be swapped out in any recipe?

Because peaches and nectarines are so closely related, they are easily interchangeable in recipes. So go ahead and use the nectarines in the peach salsa recipe if you want, or use a peach jam recipe to make nectarine jam without any other changes.

Apricots, however, don't sub in as easily for peaches. They have a different flavor, and more importantly, they have a different water content. In any recipe where the juiciness is important, say a salsa, or in a recipe where the fruit is cooked, the substitution will make a difference, and not in a good way.

However, if you have a smoothie recipe that calls for peaches, substituting apricots many change the flavor, but it will still work. The same if you're adding them to a green or fruit salad.