June 14, 2016

It's one of the oddest-looking items you'll find in the produce section, but it's worth getting to know the dragon fruit. Cloaked in skin as bright red as a dragon's fire, it's shaped something like an oddball artichoke. The tropical fruit, also known as pitaya, is high in vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. Plus, it tastes great, especially when served chilled on a hot summer day. Here is all you need to know to choose, prepare, and eat this tropical treat.

Dragonfruit halves. Photo by Meredith
Photo by Meredith

What is Dragon Fruit?

Dragon fruit got its start in the western hemisphere. Europeans carried the climbing cactus to Asia, where it acquired its name. The quick acceptance of the tropical fruit in places such as Malaysia and Vietnam probably had something to do with its stunning appearance. When split open, the roundish fruit reveals custardy white, pink, or magenta flesh, crammed with tiny black seeds. It looks and tastes like a kiwi, although its sweetness is slightly muted. Don't be disappointed if its flavor isn't as vibrant as its exterior hue.

Now Asian countries are sending dragon fruit back to the Americas. Its newfound popularity is owed partly to it's impressive health benefits: The 60-calorie fruit contains twice as much vitamin C as rhubarb, and is considered a good source of iron. A single serving also provides 10 percent of your recommended daily allowance of fiber.

Shopping for Dragon Fruit

Dragon fruit is highly perishable. Look for one that isn't overly firm; the spiny leaves should be green, not browning. Store it in the refrigerator, but don't stash it too far in the back: Even when stored properly, it should be eaten within a few days.

Whole dragonfruit. Photo by Meredith
Photo by Meredith

Enjoying Dragon Fruit

The soft, spoonable texture of dragon fruit makes it an ideal ingredient for smoothies and sorbets. Its skin isn't edible, but it's fine to eat the seeds. When chopped up, it is a striking addition to a fruit salad or a frozen yogurt bowl.

Like other tropical fruits, dragon fruit is almost always served raw, although it can be preserved as a jam. Combine it with other summer fruits in this cooling dragon fruit milkshake, or impress your guests with an unusual cocktail, a dragon fruit colada.

You can substitute dragon fruit anywhere you see kiwi, in recipes for margaritas and salads. Browse our library of kiwi recipes and imagine the possibilities!

Try adding dragon fruit to one of our fruit salad recipes.