Not only is dragon fruit— sometimes called pitaya, pitahaya, or strawberry pear— tasty, but its sweet white 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 and 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. The ovular fruit typically has red 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 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?
You can eat dragon fruit raw, and it's the most common way to enjoy the delicious fruit. When ripe, dragon fruit is slightly sweet and slightly crunchy. Its flavor is often described as a combination of a pear and kiwifruit. Underripe or off-season fruit often lacks flavor.
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.
How to Choose a Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit comes in three varieties:
- White dragon fruit— pink skin with white flesh
- Red dragon fruit— pink skin with red flesh
- Yellow dragon fruit— yellow skin with white flesh
Though they may look different, all three varieties have the same slightly sweet taste and crunchy texture.
Dragon fruit is in season during the summer months, from June to September. Most varieties are in peak season— meaning they'll taste the best and cost the least— during August and September.
These days, you can find dragon fruit year-round at most grocery stores. If you can't find any at your usual shop, try looking at an Asian grocery store. Alternatively, you can order them online.
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 are an indication that the dragon fruit is overripe.
The skin should feel firm to the touch with a little giving. Skin that feels mushy or looks wrinkly signifies that the fruit is past its prime.
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 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:
First things first, you'll want to wash the fruit thoroughly before cutting. Once you've dried it, grab out a cutting board and a large, sharp knife. Place the dragon fruit on the clean cutting board and slice down the middle and cut dragon fruit in half lengthwise or widthwise.
Then, use a large spoon to scoop out the middle. Slide the spoon in between the skin and the flesh, scooping out the middle just as you would an avocado.
When it comes to chopping, you'll need to determine the best size for your desired end result. 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.
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 leftover in an airtight container or tightly-sealed plastic bag. Whole, uncut fruit will keep for around two weeks in the refrigerator, and once cut, it'll only last for three to four days.
If you love smoothie bowls and tropical sorbets, it's worth freezing a few ripe dragon fruits. 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, 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
Once you scoop out the flesh, throw away the outer skin. 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 a bit of lemon juice on top to keep the fruit from browning.