Not only is dragon fruit— sometimes called pitaya, pitahaya, or strawberry pear— tasty, but its sweet flesh and tiny black seeds are also packed with nutrients. While its exotic-looking exterior may seem intimidating to cut, it's surprisingly easy to prepare. So in this step-by-step guide, we'll teach you how to cut dragon fruit, prepare dragon fruit, and how to store and enjoy the delicious and beautiful tropical fruit when you're finished.
What is Dragon Fruit?
Dragon fruit is a popular tropical fruit that belongs to the cactus family. It is known for its unique appearance, delicious flavor, and numerous health benefits. Dragon fruit typically has red or yellow skin with spiky, green scales on the outside and white or red flesh on the inside. In addition to its unique appearance and distinct flavor, the exotic fruit is known for its high price tag. Due to high demand and a long growing time, it's far pricier than other fruit on the shelf.
The strange-looking tropical fruit comes from the dragon fruit tree, a large cactus native to Central and South America. Today, dragon fruit is cultivated worldwide, including in Southeast Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, and North America. The exotic fruit is known for its lengthy list of health benefits. Though low in calories, it's packed with essential vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C, E, and magnesium.
What Does Dragon Fruit Taste Like?
Dragon fruit has a unique flavor profile. Unlike other tropical fruits, pitaya doesn't have a noticeably strong scent when ripe. Instead, it has a nice, light aroma that's a bit herbal.
The taste of dragon fruit can vary slightly depending on the variety, but generally, it has a mildly sweet and refreshing taste. Some may describe its flavor as a fusion between a kiwi and a pear, with subtle tropical undertones. The dragon fruit flesh is often compared to a melon in terms of texture, with a slight crunchiness from the tiny black seeds dispersed throughout.
Dragon fruit varieties
White-fleshed Dragon Fruit: White dragon fruit variety has a vibrant pink or yellow exterior with white flesh inside. Yellow dragon fruit is usually the sweetest among the dragon fruit varieties, and the pink dragon fruit variety has a mild, subtly sweet taste. The flavor is often described as a combination of pear, kiwi, and watermelon.
Red-fleshed Dragon Fruit: Some refer to this variety as red dragon fruit. The red-fleshed dragon fruit has a vibrant pink or deep red exterior with red or magenta-colored flesh inside. It tends to be slightly sweeter than the white-fleshed variety and has a more pronounced tropical flavor. Some people compare the taste to a kiwi, pear, and raspberry blend.
Yellow Fleshed Dragon Fruit: Yellow dragon fruit, it has a bright yellow exterior and white flesh inside. It is often considered the sweetest variety, with a flavor profile similar to a blend of tropical fruits such as pineapple, mango, and banana.
How to Choose a Dragon Fruit
When ripe, dragon fruit is brightly colored. While a few spots here or there are normal, they should be relatively even in color. Large blemishes and dark spots indicate the dragon fruit is overripe.
Gently press the dragon fruit with your fingers. Ripe dragon fruits should have a slight give or softness when you apply gentle pressure. However, if the fruit feels too mushy or excessively soft, it may be overripe. Unripe dragon fruit will feel very firm and dense and recommend that you let dragon fruit ripe first before eating.
Inspect the skin of the dragon fruit. It should be smooth and free from major blemishes or bruises. Minor scarring or small spots are generally harmless and do not affect the taste.
Check the stem or the remnant of the stem on the fruit. It is a good sign that the fruit is still relatively fresh if it looks fresh and has fresh green tips. Avoid dragon fruits with dry or withered stems.
Give the dragon fruit a sniff. Ripe dragon fruits often have a sweet and fragrant aroma. If it has a pleasant smell, it is likely to be ripe.
How to Cut a Dragon Fruit
While dragon fruit may look a bit daunting to cut, it's surprisingly simple to prepare. Whether you're a wizard with a sharp knife or a newbie in the kitchen, these step-by-step instructions on how to cut dragon fruit will make the task easier than ever:
Step One: Give It A Wash
First things first, you'll want to wash the fruit thoroughly before cutting.
Step Two: Place the dragon fruit on the cutting board
Once you've dried dragon fruit with a towel or paper towel, grab out a cutting board and a large, sharp knife.
Step Three (Optional): Slice off the ends of the dragon fruit
Place the dragon fruit on the clean cutting board and slice off a small portion of both end pieces. This will create stable, flat surfaces for cutting.
Step Four: Make The Cut
Hold the fruit firmly, slice down the middle, cut dragon fruit in half lengthwise or widthwise, and cut through. Cutting dragon fruit into thick or thin slices depends on your preference.
Step Five: Cut or Scoop Out The Flesh
From here, there are a few ways to remove the flesh, and it all depends on your desire. Slice it into quarters or large semi-circles if you're snacking on plain dragon fruit. Chop it into large cubes for fruit salads, smoothies, and desserts. Or scoop the flesh out with a spoon or a small melon scooper. Slide the spoon between the skin and the flesh, scooping out the middle just as you would an avocado.
Step Six: Serve Dragon Fruit
You can enjoy the delicious sliced dragon fruit as is and place it in yogurt, acai bowl, ice cream, and more. Or blend dragon fruit flesh into smoothies or salad.
Cut Dragon Fruit In Half Lengthwise Or Widthwise
Slicing a dragon fruit in half lengthwise or widthwise can produce different presentations and experiences.
When you slice a dragon fruit lengthwise, you create two halves that reveal the inner flesh and seed pattern. This method is commonly used for serving dragon fruit as halves or scooping the flesh from each half.
Lengthwise slicing showcases the vibrant colors of the fruit and allows you to see the full extent of the beautiful white or colorful flesh with its black seeds. It provides a larger surface area for scooping or cutting the flesh into different shapes, such as cubes or wedges. This slicing technique is great for presentation purposes, as it highlights the unique visual appeal of the fruit.
Slicing a dragon fruit widthwise results in circular slices or rounds and also yields smaller, bite-sized pieces of fruit. If you desire thin, circular pieces of dragon fruit, this method proves especially handy.
Widthwise slices are commonly used for incorporating dragon fruit into recipes, such as adding them to fruit salads, smoothies or as a topping for desserts. These slices can be easily layered or arranged on plates or platters, creating an attractive visual effect.
How to Store Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit tastes best when fresh, so only slice as much as you can use within the next day or two. Store any leftovers in an airtight container or tightly-sealed plastic bag. Whole, uncut fruit will be kept in the refrigerator for around two weeks, and once cut, it'll only last for three to four days.
It's worth freezing a few ripe dragon fruits if you love smoothie bowls and tropical sorbets. Roughly chop the fresh fruit and toss them in an airtight container or freezer bag. Once frozen, dragon fruit will stay fresh for up to three months. But note that once thawed, it won't have the same crunchy texture as it did before. It's best to use frozen dragon fruit in smoothies, acai bowls, and frozen blended drinks.
How to Eat Dragon Fruit
You can eat raw dragon fruit, and it is actually usually eaten raw. Throw away the outer skin once you scoop out the dragon fruit flesh. Unlike the sweet flesh inside, dragon fruit skin is not edible.
Dragon fruit makes a delicious snack, and you can enjoy dragon fruit plain as it is. The easiest way to enjoy the fruit is by scooping it right out of the skin with a spoon. Or, chop the fruit into bite-sized pieces and use the skin as an Instagram-worthy serving bowl. Try tossing a few chunks of dragon fruit into iced tea, lemonade, or tropical alcoholic drinks for a refreshing beverage.
Chopped dragon fruit makes a great addition to a tropical fruit salad or smoothie bowls. It pairs particularly well with other tropical fruits like banana, mango, pomegranate, kiwi, pineapple, and papaya. Squeeze some lemon juice on top to keep the fruit from browning.