Seductively sweet and pleasantly fragrant, both peaches and nectarines top our list of favorite fruits. Which is why we excitedly haul home a big bag of them whenever we come across these juicy gems piled high at the farmer’s market during peak season. But what’s the difference between these two tasty stone fruits, anyway? Is one healthier than the other? And which one makes the best cobbler? Here’s the scoop on both types of fruit, so the nectarine vs. peach debate can be put to bed once and for all.
Nectarine vs. Peach: What’s the Difference?
Nectarine, peach, tomato, tom-ah-to...Is there actually a difference between these two stone fruits? Answer: There is, but it’s slight. In fact, the nectarine is technically a member of the peach family. But nectarines differ from peaches in that they are the family fruit that inherited a recessive gene—namely, they have a negative allele while peaches have a positive allele. Here’s what all that means for your snacking and baking needs.
According to the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at Ohio State University, “the only genetic difference between peaches and nectarines is the lack of fuzz on the nectarine skin.” That distinction is fairly easy to spot, but there are usually a few more. Per the CFAES, nectarines also tend to be smaller, redder and more aromatic than peaches.
2. Nutritional value
Whether you choose to sink your teeth into a ripe peach or a juicy nectarine, you’ll be doing right by your body. Both types of stone fruit are excellent sources of vitamins A and C as well as potassium. That said, it’s worth noting that nectarines have an edge over peaches in that they contain considerably more potassium and twice as much vitamin A, per the CFAES.
Nectarines and peaches have a very similar flavor profile, but there are some subtle differences. As previously mentioned, nectarines tend to be more aromatic; they are also slightly sweeter than peaches. (Note: Sweetness also has a lot to do with ripeness, and the good news is that you can assess this without heavy petting.) Still, these two types of stone fruit taste incredibly similar—so much so that you probably wouldn’t be able to tell them apart in a blind tasting.
The parallel flavor profiles of peaches and nectarines mean that they can be used interchangeably in recipes. Enjoy either fruit fresh, smothered in cream, or baked into pies and tarts. Bottom line: It doesn’t matter whether you pick up peaches or nectarines at the farmer’s market—just go for whichever ones are ripest. (Note: If the fruit you scored isn’t quite ready to eat, some stone fruit storage tips can get it right where you want it, stat.)
So, there you have it—the answer to the nectarine vs. peach question is decidedly different than comparing, say, apples and oranges. The takeaway? Unless you’re attached to fuzzy skin on your fruit, there’s little practical need to pay attention to the differences between these two when you’re in the produce aisle.
Cooking with Peaches and Nectarines
Both types of stone fruit are often featured in baked goods and other sweet concoctions, but that doesn’t mean you have to start churning out cobblers as soon as the season strikes. In fact, these stone fruits really sing in savory dishes, too—so with that in mind, check out these scrumptious recipes (and yes, you can totally use nectarines and peaches interchangeably in all of them).
- Grilled peach, prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich
- 20-Minute burrata salad with stone fruit and asparagus
- Skillet roast chicken with peaches, tomatoes and red onion
- Balsamic peach sauce
- White sangria with peaches and berries
- Pearl couscous with chickpeas, eggplant and peaches
- Linguine with bacon, peaches and gorgonzola