Dragon fruit is a vibrant, somewhat bizarre-looking, delicious tropical fruit that can add some variety to your regular routine. Not only will it be a flavor change-up, but it is full of vitamins and minerals that everyone needs.
What Is Dragon Fruit?
Dragon fruit, also called pitaya or strawberry pear, looks a bit like a child's drawing come to life. The most common variety is a bright pink oval with green-tipped scales, but the inside is bright white with hundreds of tiny black seeds. Dragon fruit grows on the Hylocereus undatus cactus that blooms for one night per fruit cycle, a climbing cactus native to southern Mexico and northern Central America.
What does dragon fruit taste like?
While it looks exotic, its flavor is almost familiar. It's been described as a sweet blending of kiwi and pear.
Different Types of Dragon Fruit
All dragon fruit looks a bit outrageous, and there are many varieties of dragon fruit you can find on the market.
- Pink Skin with White Flesh - This is the most well-known variety of dragon fruit, but it's also the least sweet. Varieties with this appearance and flavor are Alice, Cosmic Charlie, and Guyute.
- Pink Skin with Red or Pink Flesh (red dragon fruit)- This variety is larger in size and sweeter and can be found in grocery stores under the names of Red Jaina and Bloody Mary.
- Pink Skin with Purple Flesh - This dragon fruit tastes similar to the other dark flesh varieties and is called American Beauty.
- Yellow Skin with White Flesh - Often just called Yellow Dragon Fruit, this variety is the hardest to source but tastes the sweetest. This variety often has thorns on the fruit, but the skin of the dragon fruit isn't eaten anyways.
Picking The Perfect Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit is only in season from summer to early fall. Although you might find it in stores during other times of the year, it will not be as sweet (or as affordable!) as when it's in season.
Like other tropical fruits, the color of the fruit is a good indicator of its ripeness. The green scales will remain green, but the color of the rest of the fruit will become a deeper and deeper pink or yellow as the fruit ripens.
Although the green scales will not change color, they also are a good indicator of ripeness. The fruit is probably ripe once those scales start to droop and wither. Try to buy a dragon fruit with green scales that have begun to brown and dry out.
Perfectly ripe dragon fruit should feel similar in texture to a ripe mango or avocado, and it should feel soft and yield to light pressure. If it's too firm, it's not ripe. If it's mushy, it's too far along.
How to store dragon fruit
Avoid cutting your dragon fruit until you’re ready to eat it. Once it’s cut, it needs to be refrigerated in a tightly sealed container. This fruit can pick up the flavors and odors of other food, so protection is necessary. It can remain fresh for a day, possibly a little longer, depending on how ripe it is. Once the flesh begins to turn brown and get mushy, it’s time to toss it.
Ripe dragon fruit can sit on the counter for a few days. To store it longer, place the fruit in a sealed container and store it in the refrigerator.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Dragon Fruit?
Dragon fruit is low in calories and fat-free, but it also scores many other nutritional points. It is filled with essential vitamins, is high in fiber, and promotes good bacteria. Here are many potential health benefits:
Dragon fruit is fiber-rich! The daily fiber recommendation for adults is a minimum of 25 grams, and dragon fruit takes care of 7 grams of that in a single 1 cup serving. Fiber aids gastrointestinal and cardiovascular health and keeps you feeling satiated longer, and this can help you lose weight.
Dragon fruit is packed in vitamins and minerals. It contains a full 18% of the recommended daily magnesium intake, which is important for cell function.
Dragon fruit is full of vitamin C, which helps absorb iron and boost the immune system.
And speaking of iron, a cup of dragon fruit contains 8% of the daily recommendation of iron. Iron is important for healthy blood and increased energy. Iron, present in dragon fruits, is great for boosting the hemoglobin levels in anemic individuals. It also aids in the production of red blood cells (RBCs), which then helps in proper oxygenation of vital organs.
Antioxidants protect cells from unstable molecules that are linked to chronic diseases and aging. Dragon fruit contains betalains, hydroxycinnamates, lycopene (only in red flesh dragon fruit), and flavonoids. Many of these increase heart health.
Some studies have shown that dragon fruit promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in our guts. All nutrition begins in the gut, and a healthy gut microbiome lets you digest and uses as many nutrients as possible from the foods you eat.
Animal studies have suggested even further health benefits, specifically reduction in insulin resistance and fatty liver. (1, 2)
How Do You Eat Dragon Fruit?
The outside appearance of dragon fruit may look intimidating, but it's really very easy to cut into it and eat it, and it's rather similar to an avocado.
- Choose a ripe dragon fruit. It should be slightly soft with evenly colored skin. If it's too firm, leave it on your counter to ripen for a few days. If it's proving to be a struggle to find dragon fruit in your grocery store, try looking in an Asian market instead.
- Use a sharp knife to slice the fresh dragon fruit in half simply.
- Use a spoon or a melon baller to scoop out the flesh and discard the skin. The seeds are perfectly fine to eat, just like the tiny black seeds in kiwi.
It can then be eaten however you'd like. Most people eat dragon fruit like they'd eat any other fresh fruit. You can top salads with it or add them to a Greek yogurt parfait. Some even throw it on the grill, similar to pineapple. It pairs particularly well with fish, such as cod, tuna, and mahi mahi. You can add it to smoothies and cocktails or use the juice to make dragon fruit juice.