Exotic Fruits to Try ASAP
How well do you know your exotic fruits? Look over this exotic fruit list and let me know how many of them you’re familiar with!
I don’t know about you, but for my kids and me, the most exciting part of the grocery store or farmers market is the exotic fruit section. Many times we have looked at these spectacular fruits, only to wonder what’s inside.
We’re lucky enough to have a wonderful selection at our local farmers market, grocery store, and farmers markets while traveling. Let’s look at the ultimate list of exotic fruits we love.
Where to Buy Exotic Fruits
Exotic Fruits List
This big beautiful exotic fruits list is filled with eye candy and information. Let’s get started!
1. Passion Fruit
Origin: South America (Brazil)
Passion fruit grows on beautiful flowering vines. The fruit itself is about the size of a small oblong tennis ball and turns from green to deep purple. Wait until the fruit has wrinkled before eating. To eat passion fruit, cut in half and scoop or slup out the flesh and seeds. Here’s how to make passion fruit juice.
2. Pitaya (Dragon Fruit)
Origin: Mexico and Central America
Pitaya, also known as dragon fruit and strawberry pear, grows on the Hylocereus cactus and comes in several different varieties. The white dragon fruit is sweeter with larger seeds, while the pink and red dragon fruit is milder in flavor.
Origin: South and Central America (Brazil)
Acai (pronounced ah-sah-yee) berries grow on palms, often along the Amazon, and have long been an important food source for people there. These berries are very high in antioxidants and have also been used medicinally. In the U.S., berries are easiest to find sold as frozen puree, which is perfect for making smoothies and Acai Bowls.
Origin: South America or the Caribbean
Soursop (Annona muricata) is a large tropical fruit that grows on Annona muricata trees. It’s now cultivated in Florida, Hawaii, and other tropical regions. The fruit has many seeds inside, and the flesh is eaten raw or used to make juice or desserts.
5. Cherimoya (aka Custard Apple)
Origin: Ecuador and Peru
Like the soursop, cherimoya is also in the Annona family. It’s a smaller, heart-shaped fruit with a scaly green exterior and creamy sweet flesh. Many believe cherimoya is the tastiest of the Annona fruits.
Wait until it softens just a bit and skin begins to darken, then cut in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon, avoiding the seeds. Cherimoya tastes like a very creamy pear with tropical floral notes similar to lychee.
Origin: Borneo and Sumatra
Known for its intense and unique odor, durian is a popular fruit in Southeast Asia, and one of those things people either love or hate. The smell is so overpowering it has even been banned from several types of public transportation.
Weighing up to 7 pounds, durian is often referred to as the “king of fruits.” It’s usually eaten very ripe, and the flavor and smell have are difficult to describe. Though Anthony Bourdain was a fan of the fruit, his description was, “Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.”
Origin: Rainforests near India or Malaysia
Ripe jackfruit, which is sweet, is best eaten raw and in desserts, while young green jackfruit that you might find in a can is best cooked. Young jackfruit is often used in plant-based recipes similar to pulled pork, and can be found canned in many grocery stores including Trader Joe’s.
8. Thai White Guava
About the size of a baseball, the Thai white guava has a sweet creamy interior that can be scooped out and eaten raw. It’s also often used to make preserves.
9. Pineapple Guava (Feijoa)
Origin: South America
My favorite type of guava and very common here in Santa Barbara where it ripens in late fall, feijoa grows on a beautiful tree with edible pink flowers. The fruit grows to around 3 inches long. The flesh is delicious cut in half and scooped out with a spoon. The flavor is sweet, floral, tropical, and slightly tangy.
While quince looks like a pear or apple, it needs to be cooked before eating. In its raw state, even ripe, it’s very tough and astringent.
Quince is often made into a paste or other preserves, but you can cook slices simply on the stove with a bit of water and sugar until softened.
Origin: South China
Pronounced lai-chee, these round, bumpy little fruits grow in clusters on trees in tropical locations. Peel the thin rough skin and enjoy the sweet juicy flesh. There is a single seed in the middle.
Lychee has a sweet, almost floral flavor, and is a little like a firm grape in texture. They make a delicious snack or addition to cocktails.
Origin: Malaysia and Indonesia
Like the lychee, the rambutan is part of the Sapindaceae family. It is about the same size lychee but has a thicker, hairy, dragon-like exterior.
Origin: Southeast Asia and Thailand
When ripe, the mangosteen has a thick dark purple-red skin. Underneath, the fruit is sweet, tangy, and juicy. Like citrus fruits, mangosteen has fluid-filled pockets.
Fresh mangosteen is difficult to find in Western markets and has a short growing season. In addition, it was illegal to import into the U.S. until 2007. This fruit has many wonderful health benefits and is easier to find frozen, canned, juiced, or in supplement form.
14. Star Fruit
Origin: Southeast Asia
This fun fruit is best enjoyed raw or as a garnish for exotic fruit platters, fruit salad, cocktails, and smoothies. Cut crosswise into 1/4 to 1/2 inch “star” slices.
Star fruit flavor can be described as mild, sweet, and slightly sour. The flesh should be juicy and crunchy, and the skin is edible.
15. Black Sapote
With its brown, soft interior, black sapote is often called chocolate pudding fruit. It’s part of the persimmon family and grows in tropical regions.
The fruit’s exterior is green when underripe, and best eaten once the skin turns brown. Cut the black sapote in half and eat the custardy fruit as is, or blend with dates to make a natural, sweet chocolate pudding. You can also spread it on toast as a natural “nutella” alternative. Here’s a recipe for Black Sapote Bread.
16. Kiwi Berry
Origin: Northern Asia
Adorable grape-sized kiwi fruit is perfect for snacking or lunch boxes. They taste just like the larger kiwi fruit, but the skin is smooth, rather than fuzzy.
Kiwi berries are popping up in U.S. grocery stores like Trader Joe’s. Try them next time you see them!
17. Horned Melon (Kiwano)
Now mostly cultivated in New Zealand, horned melon has an orange, spiky exterior, and green, jelly-like interior with seeds that are similar to that of cucumber or other melon.
For the sweetest flavor, look for fruit with bright orange skin and chill the fruit before eating. The flesh can be eaten with or without seeds. To remove the seeds, scoop out the flesh and press through a fine mesh sieve. The juice can be used in cocktails, dressings, sauces, sorbet, and more.
Though similar in name and shape to kumquats, these two exotic fruits are quite different. Loquats grow well here in Southern California and we’ve had a couple of trees in our backyard in the past.
They have thin skin that can be peeled away to reveal a sweet, juicy orange fruit with large brown seeds in the middle. The flavor is reminiscent of other stone fruits with floral notes. It’s one of my favorite summer fruits.
19. Star Apple
Origin: Central America and the Caribbean
Star apple comes in two varieties: purple and green, both having a starburst core pattern. The sticky sweet fruit is best eaten fresh. Cut the star apple in half and scoop out the flesh, discarding the seeds and avoiding the astringent exterior.
Star apple is delicate and can’t be shipped long distances, making it difficult to find if you live far from tropical regions like Hawaii or Florida.
20. Golden Berries
Origin: South America
Part of the nightshade family, golden berries are related to the tomatillo, and it’s no surprise when you see their papery lantern-like skins. The flavor is tropical and sweet. They make a great little snack or addition to fruit salads, sauces, and jams.
Both varieties, Fuyu and Hachiya, grow in my Santa Barbara backyard. These varieties are used very differently. Fuyu persimmons are eaten crispy, like an apple. I cut them into slices and eat as is or with a sprinkle of cinnamon, or add to salads.
Hachiya persimmons, on the other hand, are very astringent until they are soft. Once very soft, they can be cut open and eaten with a spoon like applesauce, or used for baking cookies, muffins, or persimmon quickbread.
Both types of persimmons are in season in the fall. Here is more information and recipe ideas.
Exotic Citrus Fruits
Another exotic fruit from my backyard, I wrote all about how to eat kumquats here.
Unlike other citrus fruits, kumquats are sweet on the outside and sour on the inside. They grow on small shrubs or larger trees, depending on the variety, and can grow year-round. They make an excellent high vitamin-c snack or addition to jams or cocktails.
23. Caviar Lime
The caviar lime, also known as finger lime, is one of my favorite exotic citrus fruits. Ranging in color from red to green, and about 3 inches long, the interior of caviar limes is filled with tiny juice-filled orbs that burst in your mouth. The flavor is similar to other limes, but a bit less sour, with notes of lemon and grapefruit.
My kids like to eat finger limes as is, but they are a beautiful addition to many recipes. We used them here in our Sweet Potato Crostini recipe.
24. Buddha’s Hand
Also known as fingered citron, this interesting citrus is a symbol of prosperity, longevity, and happiness. Closely related to lemon, Buddha’s hand fruit can be used anywhere you’d use lemon zest. Try it in a homemade salad dressing or try this Candied Buddha’s Hand recipe. It also makes a lovely decoration addition to a tablescape.
Buddha’s hand is available from September through February and will last in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.
25. Blood Orange
Origin: Sicily and Spain
One of the more commonly available exotic fruits on this list, blood orange grows in my backyard from about January through April.
Blood orange flavor can vary depending on the variety. While my trees produce blood oranges that are sweet, tart, and orangey, others I’ve found at Trader Joe’s have berry notes.
26. Jamaican Tangelo
Also known under the proprietary name Ugli, this citrus fruit from Jamaica is a natural hybrid of grapefruit and orange or tangerine. The skin ranges from green to orange, and the fruit is juicy and tastes like a sweet grapefruit.
I hope you enjoyed this exotic fruits list and will give some a try soon. Did I miss any of your favorites? Let me know in the comments!