What’s the Difference Between Peaches and Nectarines?

updated May 14, 2022
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peaches vs nectarines

Summer is when I eat my weight in peaches and nectarines.  And whether they’re for fruit cobbler or simply for snacking,  my toddler and I make sure to stock up at the farmers market on weekends. We don’t really care whether we’re buying peaches or nectarines, we just buy what looks, smells, and tastes good. But it did get me to thinking, are there differences between these two stone fruits? Yes, but they’re more subtle than you might expect.

The Difference Between Peaches and Nectarines

Peaches and nectarines are nearly identical genetically, but there is actually a gene variant between the two that results in slight physical differences:

  • Skin: Peaches have a fuzzy coating, whereas nectarines are smooth.
  • Size and Texture: Nectarines tend to be smaller and firmer than peaches.
  • Flavor: While some claim that nectarines are juicier and sweeter than peaches, I really haven’t found that to be consistently true.

When selecting peaches and nectarines at the farmers market, the same guidelines apply to both. Give the area around the stem a gentle squeeze — if the skin gives a little, they’re ripe and ready for eating. If firm, they likely need a bit more time. 

The bottom line: When in doubt, check the skin. If it’s fuzzy, it’s a peach. If it’s fuzzless, it’s a nectarine.

What are Peaches?

Peaches have a dominant allele (variant form of a gene), which results in the soft, fuzzy coating on the outside. They can be freestone, which means the pit falls easily away from the flesh, or clingstone, where the pits stay stuck to the flesh. Peaches can come in yellow or white varieties. 

How to Use Peaches 

Whether savory or sweet, peaches work well in plenty of recipes from pies to cobblers to barbecue sauce. Here are some of our best ways to cook with them.

Credit: Igor Normann

What are Nectarines?

Technically, nectarines are a type of peach. However, they express a recessive gene that results in no fuzz growth on the outside, and smooth skin. They tend to be smaller, firmer, and more aromatic than peaches, but they can also be more susceptible to diseases. Like peaches, their pits can be freestone or clingstone, and they also come in white and yellow varieties. 

How to Use Nectarines

From a refreshing frozen dessert to a savory summer appetizer, there are plenty of delicious ways to use nectarines in recipes. Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy them.

Can I Substitute Nectarines for Peaches in Recipes? (Or Vice Versa)

Absolutely! Peaches and nectarines can be used interchangeably in your favorite crisps, cobblers, crumbles, summer salads and more.  Either way, the differences between peaches and nectarines are really quite subtle, so try not to sweat them too much. I’d much rather shop by what looks best at the market!