What Is Dragon Fruit and How Do You Eat It?

Here's what you need to know the next time this striking fruit catches your eye in the produce section.

pieces of dragon fruit on table
Photo: TaynaPanova/Getty Images

You may also know it as a pitaya or strawberry pear — dragon fruit is a beautiful tropical fruit with a mildly sweet flesh, not to mention a nutrient powerhouse. Get to known dragon fruit, including where to buy it, how to use it, and more.

What Is Dragon Fruit, Exactly?

dragon fruit growing on cactus
Surot Tenvong/EyeEm/Getty Images

Dragon fruit gets its name for its pointy scales that resemble a dragon (or some might say an artichoke). Most commonly, dragon fruit has a pink skin and a white flesh, but you can also find red, purple, and even yellow-fleshed varieties (the latter has a yellow skin to match). All have tiny black seeds that are edible, much like a kiwi.

The fruit actually comes from a cactus of the genus Selenicereus, also known as moonlight cactus, which includes over 20 species of cacti native to Central and South America. The name "moonlight" refers to the large, night-blooming flowers of the plants, which often only last a night and are pollinated by moths.

Today however, dragon fruit is mostly associated with Asia. This is because the French brought the fruit to Vietnam in the early 1800s, and it remains the leading exporter of dragon fruit to this day.

What Does Dragon Fruit Taste Like?

These brightly colored fruits have a mildly sweet taste, sometimes described as a cross between a kiwi and a pear. The flesh is creamy and full of tiny edible seeds. Don't be disappointed if its flavor isn't as vibrant as its exterior hue.

Dragon Fruit Nutrition and Health Benefits

At just 60 calories, dragon fruit is considered a highly nutrient-dense fruit. Here are just some of the nutrients and health benefits this tropical fruit can provide:

  • Fiber: Dragon fruit contains 7 grams of fiber per one-cup serving (out of a recommended 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men). This keeps you feeling fuller longer and helps aid in digestion.
  • Prebiotics: Dragon fruit contains prebiotics, a type of fiber that promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut.
  • Vitamin C: Its high vitamin C content makes dragon fruit great for fighting infection.
  • Iron: Dragon fruit's high iron content paired with its vitamin C content, which helps your body to absorb iron, makes it great for combatting iron deficiency.
  • Magnesium: One cup of dragon fruit provides 18 percent of your recommended daily intake of magnesium, which plays a crucial role in over 600 reactions in your body, including energy production.
  • Antioxidants: Dragon fruit is also rich in antioxidants, which help protect cells from free radical damage.

On top of all this, dragon fruit is lower in sugar and has fewer carbs when compared with other tropical fruits.

Where to Buy Dragon Fruit

Although its peak season runs June through September, dragon fruit can be found in stores year-round. If its not available at your local supermarket, try specialty stores or Asian markets.

How to Choose Dragon Fruit

Look for a fruit that's mostly free of blemishes, too many can mean its overripe. A ripe dragon fruit should give a little when you apply pressure, but it should not be mushy. If it's too firm, you can leave it on the counter to ripen a few days.

How to Cut and Prepare Dragon Fruit

quartered dragon fruit on cutting board, two with skin peeled off
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Despite its intimidating exterior, dragon fruit is not all that difficult to prepare. There are two ways to go about getting to its sweet interior.

Method 1: Scoop Out the Flesh

The simplest way to prep dragon fruit is to simply scoop out its flesh with a spoon, much like you would an avocado. Start by cutting the fruit in half, then run a spoon around the edge of the flesh and use it to separate the flesh from the skin. Once you've lifted the flesh out of its outer shell, you can then slice or cube it as you please.

Method 2: Cut Into Quarters and Peel

Start by cutting the dragon fruit right down the middle to form two sections. Then repeat with each section until you have four quarters. Use your fingers to peel back the skin from the corner. Slice as desired.

How to Use Dragon Fruit

Dragon fruit is typically served raw, seeds and all, although it can be preserved as a jam. Its soft, scoopable flesh is just begging to be pureed for use in smoothies, sorbets, or cocktails. When chopped up, it is a striking addition to a fruit salad or a yogurt bowl. It also pairs well with seafood, try it served with other tropical fruits in a salsa with mahi-mahi or cod.

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, such as in recipes for margaritas and salads. Browse our library of kiwi recipes and imagine the possibilities!

How to Store Dragon Fruit

Ripe dragon fruit is highly perishable, so you'll want to keep it refrigerated in a sealed bag (this protects it from absorbing neighboring food odors) for up to five days. Once cut, it should be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for a few days, depending on how ripe it is. If you have an overly firm dragon fruit, you can let it sit on the counter at room temperature for a few days to ripen.

Favorite Dragon Fruit Recipes

dragon fruit agua fresca
Pictured: Agus Fresca de Pitaya (Dragon Fruit). Yoly

From cake to cocktails, these recipes will inspire you to put dragon fruit to use.


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