How to Use Tamarillo in Cooking

Tamarillo, often referred to as “tree tomato,” is a unique fruit that deserves a spot in your culinary repertoire.

Native to South America, it offers a versatile flavor profile that pairs well with both sweet and savory dishes.

Unlike the common tomato, tamarillos are known for their sweet yet tangy taste, with a hint of bitterness that comes from their skin.

It is important to note that while the flesh of the fruit is edible and flavorful, the skin can be quite bitter and is usually removed before consumption.

A tamarillo is being sliced and added to a sizzling pan with garlic and onions, creating a vibrant and aromatic stir-fry

To incorporate tamarillo into your cooking, start by preparing it properly.

The skin can be easily removed by parboiling the fruit, which involves making a small cross at the top of the tamarillo and immersing it in boiling water for a few minutes until the skin begins to peel away.

Once cooled, you can simply peel off the skin. The flesh can then be enjoyed raw, scooped out with a spoon, or used as a vibrant addition to a variety of dishes.

When it comes to cooking, tamarillo’s bright acidity can enhance the flavors in a dish much like citrus or tomatoes.

You can purée it into sauces or salsas for a fruity twist, slice it for salads, or even bake it into desserts for a more exotic palate.

Its unique taste works especially well in Latin American cuisine, such as in ceviche, where it contributes both flavor and a rich, reddish hue to the marinade that “cooks” the raw fish.

Whether you’re looking to spice up your salads or bring an intriguing tang to your desserts, tamarillo is a fruit that can elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Tamarillo Overview

The tamarillo, also known as tree tomato, is a versatile fruit prized for its rich nutritional content and diverse culinary uses.

Its history, nutritional profile, and varieties each play a role in how you can incorporate tamarillos into your diet.

History and Origin

Tamarillos trace their roots to South America, particularly in countries like Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina.

They have been cultivated since ancient times and have since spread to various parts of the world, including New Zealand, Australia, Africa, Asia, and the United States, notably in California.

Nutritional Profile

Tamarillos are nutrient-dense, offering a wealth of vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E. They are also packed with antioxidants and fiber, supporting overall health.

Key Nutrients:

  • Vitamin A: Important for vision and immune function.
  • Vitamin C: Essential for skin health and immune defense.
  • Vitamin E: Contributes to cell protection from oxidative stress.

Varieties and Characteristics

There are primarily two varieties of tamarillos: red and gold (yellow). Occasionally, purple varieties can also be found. Each type has its own unique taste and characteristic:

  • Red Tamarillos: Slightly more acidic, ideal for cooking and making sauces.
  • Gold Tamarillos: Sweeter and less astringent, good for eating raw or in desserts.

The flesh of tamarillos is deep red or vibrant yellow/orange, indicating its nutritional richness, and they can be round or egg-shaped. Regardless of the variety, they typically have a bitter-tasting skin that is often removed before consumption.

Selection and Storage

A tamarillo being sliced open and its vibrant red flesh being scooped out for use in cooking. The seeds and skin are discarded, and the flesh is stored in a container for later use

When choosing tamarillos, it’s important to pick ripe ones with unblemished skin and to store them correctly for maximum freshness and flavor.

How to Choose the Right Tamarillo

To select the best quality tamarillos, look for fruit that is firm yet gives slightly under gentle pressure indicating ripeness.

The skin should be smooth and free from dark spots. While red tamarillos are common, they can vary in color from yellow to orange and purple, often with darker longitudinal stripes.

Ripe tamarillos should have a balanced flavor profile, with a blend of both sweet and sour notes, and a hint of bitterness from the skin.

Storing Your Tamarillos Properly

Once you’ve selected your tamarillos, proper storage is key to maintaining their quality.

At room temperature, tamarillos will stay fresh in your fruit bowl for approximately one week. If you wish to extend their shelf-life, store them in the refrigerator where they can last for up to two weeks.

To freeze, it’s advisable to remove the skin first as it can develop a bitter taste.

Freezing whole or pureeing the flesh are both effective methods to ensure you have flavorful tamarillo available for future use.

Preparation Techniques

To unlock the full potential of tamarillos in your cooking, proper preparation is essential. These steps ensure that you get the most out of the fruit’s unique flavor and texture.

Washing and Handling

Before doing anything, wash your tamarillos thoroughly under running water to remove any dirt or debris.

Always use a gentle touch to avoid bruising. Ensure your hands are clean during handling to maintain the fruit’s quality.

Peeling Tamarillos

For peeling, the most effective method is to submerge tamarillos in boiling water. Use the following steps:

  1. Boil enough water to fully cover the tamarillos.
  2. Score the skin with a paring knife before submerging.
  3. Place the fruit in the water and let it sit for 15 seconds.
  4. Remove and instantly transfer to cold water to halt the cooking process.

This process will loosen the skin, making it easy to peel without damaging the flesh.

Cutting and Slicing

Once peeled, cutting and slicing your tamarillo is straightforward.

  • Cutting: Using a sharp knife, slice the fruit in half.
  • Slicing: For even slices, place the fruit flat side down and slice using a smooth sawing motion.

Be sure to dispose of any tough seeds as you cut. Thin slices are ideal for fresh applications, while thicker slices work well for cooking down into sauces or chutneys.

Cooking with Tamarillo

Tamarillo, a vibrant fruit native to South and Central America, is renowned for its sweet yet tart flavor, making it a versatile ingredient in a myriad of dishes. When incorporating tamarillo into your cooking, you’ll find its distinct flavor enhances everything from sauces to desserts.

Sauces and Chutneys

To craft a tamarillo sauce or chutney, start by blanching the fruit to peel it easily.

For a zesty sauce, simmer peeled tamarillo pulp with sugar, vinegar, and select spices until thickened.

Adjust sweetness to taste, and pair with meat dishes or use as a dip.

For a tamarillo chutney, combine the fruit with onions, honey, and vinegar for a rich blend that complements Indian cuisine.

Salads and Sides

Tamarillos make a bold addition to salads, showcasing their juicy nature.

Slice them raw for a tangy contrast in a green salad, or roast them to concentrate their sweetness as a side dish.

Create a vibrant salsa by mixing diced tamarillo with herbs and lime juice, perfect to accompany Latin American dishes.

Desserts and Sweet Treats

The unique flavor of tamarillo transcends into desserts and sweet treats effortlessly.

Blend the pulp to make a sorbet or ice cream that balances sweet with sour notes.

Or fold tamarillo slices into muffins and baked goods for a twist on traditional recipes, enhancing each bite with its tart essence.

Meats and Fish Dishes

Enhance your meats and fish dishes with tamarillo.

Create a marinade using tamarillo puree, spices, and herbs to infuse cooked fish with a tropical flavor.

Or utilize a tamarillo salsa as a garnishing sauce that complements the natural richness of Latin American meat recipes, bringing brightness to each dish.

Incorporating Tamarillo into Diet

Tamarillos, with their unique sweet yet tangy flavor profile, can invigorate your meals and beverages with both taste and nutrition. Let’s explore how you can add this fruit to different parts of your daily diet.

Breakfast Ideas

Kickstart your morning by incorporating tamarillo into your breakfast routine.

  • With Yogurt: Top your morning yogurt with tamarillo slices for a refreshing start to the day.
  • Baked Goods: Add diced tamarillo to muffins or pancakes for a flavorful twist.

Healthy Snacks

For a nutritious pick-me-up, consider tamarillo-based snacks.

  • Tamarillo Salsa: Combine chopped tamarillo with onions, garlic, and spices for a zesty salsa; perfect with tortilla chips.
  • Tamarillo Jam: Spread homemade tamarillo jam on toast or crackers for a sweet snack.

Beverages and Smoothies

Tamarillo can be a wonderful addition to your beverages for an antioxidant boost.

  • Juices: Blend tamarillo with other fruits to create a vibrant, nutrient-rich juice.
  • Smoothies: Add tamarillo to your smoothies for a tropical flair. Pair it with banana and other fruits for a balanced taste.

Health and Nutrition

Tamarillos, also known as tree tomatoes, are a nutrient-dense fruit that can contribute significantly to your daily dietary needs.

Here’s what you need to know about the vitamins, minerals, and dietary advantages they offer.

Vitamins and Minerals

Tamarillos are rich in vitamins and minerals that are essential for your body. Here is a breakdown of what you can find in these vibrant fruits:

  • Vitamin C: Vital for your immune system and skin health.
  • Vitamin A: Important for vision, the immune system, and organ functioning.
  • Potassium: Helps to regulate your heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Iron: Essential for blood production and transport of oxygen.

These nutrients work together to support your overall health.

Dietary Advantages


Your diet gains a powerful ally against oxidative stress with tamarillos.

These fruits contain antioxidants, which protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals.


Packed with fiber, tamarillos support your digestive health.

Consuming fiber-rich foods can help keep your digestive system running smoothly and may contribute to lowering your risk of heart disease.

Where to Find Tamarillo

Tamarillo, a unique fruit with savory applications in cooking, can present a challenge when it comes to sourcing.

Here, you’ll discover how to procure these flavorful fruits, whether you’re near their native lands or searching in international markets.

Geographical Availability

Tamarillo, also known as tree tomato, thrives in various countries, primarily within South America and Central America. It’s a staple in countries like Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru.

Furthermore, its cultivation has spread to other continents.

In New Zealand, tamarillos are grown extensively and the fruit’s presence there is significant.

Over in Australia, they are found more commonly in regions with suitable climates, particularly in subtropical areas.

Asia and Africa also have regions where tamarillos are cultivated, generally in highland areas.

While not indigenous to North America, they can be found in some parts of the United States, especially within specialty grocery stores or farmers’ markets.

Latin America remains a reliable source with their broad cultivation of the fruit.

Purchasing Tips

When you set out to buy tamarillo, consider the following pointers:

  • Specialty Stores: Check out specialty or international food stores. They often import exotic fruits like tamarillos.
  • Farmers’ Markets: Especially if you’re in a region where tamarillos are grown, farmers’ markets might carry fresh, locally-sourced varieties.
  • Online Retailers: For ease and convenience, look into online stores that can deliver fresh or sometimes even frozen tamarillos right to your doorstep.
  • Seasonality: Be mindful of seasons, as tamarillo is seasonal in many growing regions, with peak availability typically during fall and winter.

Remember to look for fruit with vibrant, smooth skin and a slight give upon gentle pressure, indicative of ripeness.

By staying informed about the geographical sources and buying wisely, you’ll secure the best tamarillos for your culinary creations.

Innovative Uses in Cuisine

Tamarillo, with its sweet yet tangy flavor profile, can elevate a variety of dishes, offering a distinctive taste that blends well with both sweet and savory elements.

Here’s how you can incorporate this unique ingredient into innovative cuisine.

Fusion Dishes

You can create enticing Fusion Dishes by integrating tamarillo into familiar recipes with a twist.

Imagine a spicy Tamarillo Salsa with red onion, chile, and a splash of lime, perfect for topping off your tacos or as an adventurous dip.

For something more robust, consider a Tamarillo Chutney, marrying the fruit’s tanginess with warm spices, ideal as a condiment for an Indian-inspired grilled cheese sandwich.

  • Tamarillo Salsa:
    • 1 diced tamarillo fruit
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
    • 1 minced chile pepper (adjust to heat preference)
    • 1 tablespoon lime juice
    • Salt to taste
  • Tamarillo Chutney:
    • 1 cup chopped tamarillo fruit
    • 1/2 cup diced apple for sweetness
    • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
    • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
    • Spices: cumin, coriander, ginger
    • Sugar to balance the tartness

Vegetarian and Vegan Options

The versatility of tamarillo shines in Vegetarian and Vegan Options.

You can substitute the texture and richness of meats with this fruit in dishes like Stuffed Tamarillo or Tamarillo-based Ratatouille.

Consider scooping out the flesh of a tamarillo and stuffing it with a mix of quinoa, avocado, and veggies, or simmer the fruit with eggplant and onions for a hearty ratatouille.

  • Stuffed Tamarillo:
    • 4 tamarillo fruits halved and hollowed
    • Filling: Cooked quinoa, diced avocado, sautéed onion
    • Optional: Vegan cheese for topping
  • Tamarillo-based Ratatouille:
    • 1 cup chopped tamarillo fruit
    • 2 cups cubed eggplant
    • 1 diced bell pepper
    • 1 sliced onion
    • Herbs: basil, thyme
    • Salt and pepper to taste

Pairing with Other Foods

Incorporating tamarillo into your meals elevates the dish with a unique balance of sweet and tart flavors.

When pairing with other foods, consider the natural bitterness of the tamarillo skin and the rich taste of its flesh to complement or contrast your dish for an enhanced culinary experience.

Tamarillo being sliced and added to a salad, grilled with meat, and blended into a smoothie

Complementary Flavors

  • Spices: Utilize spices common to Latin American cuisine, such as cumin or coriander, to highlight the tamarillo’s sweet notes while embracing its tart undertone.
  • Vinegar & Honey: Combine tamarillo with vinegar to create dressings or marinades that match its natural tartness. Add a touch of honey to sweeten the blend and round out the flavors.
  • Cheese: Bold cheeses, particularly those with creaminess like goat cheese or ricotta, can offset the tamarillo’s sharpness and add a luxurious texture.

Contrasting Taste Combinations

  • Bitter Elements: Pair tamarillo with naturally bitter foods like eggplant to create a palatable contrast, tempering its bitterness with the fruit’s inherent sweetness.
  • Hot Sauce: Introduce hot sauce or chili peppers when preparing tamarillo salsa, using the heat to play against the sweetness and creating an exhilarating taste profile.
  • Savory Meats: The richness of grilled or roasted meats finds a perfect counterpoint in tamarillo’s acidity, making it a great addition to meaty dishes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Tamarillo, often known as tree tomato, is a versatile fruit that can be used in a myriad of dishes. Here we answer some common questions to enhance your tamarillo culinary adventures.

What are some creative ways to include tamarillo in my recipes?

Incorporate diced tamarillo into salads for a tangy twist, or blend it into smoothies for a vibrant, tropical flavor.

It can also make a beautiful garnish or an intriguing sweet-sour component in desserts.

How do you prepare tamarillo for a savory dish?

For savory dishes, peel the fruit by briefly blanching it in boiling water, then slice or dice it.

Tamarillo pairs well with meats like pork and chicken and can add complexity to stews and salsas.

Can you provide tips for making a tamarillo sauce?

To create a tamarillo sauce, start by peeling and dicing the fruit.

Simmer it with ingredients like onion, vinegar, and spices until the fruit breaks down and the flavors meld.

This sauce can complement meats or be used as a dressing.

What should I know about eating tamarillo raw?

Before eating tamarillo raw, peel off the bitter skin after blanching.

The fruit is best enjoyed when fully ripe as it will be sweeter and less astringent.

Are there any unique Indian recipes that use tamarillo?

Tamarillo can be used in Indian cuisine similarly to tomatoes.

Consider it for chutney, where its tanginess will be a highlight, or add it to curries for a distinct and appealing sourness.

How do I properly cook tamarillo fruit?

Gently simmer sliced peeled tamarillo in liquid, like a syrup or spiced water, until tender for a stewed preparation.

You could also roast it to concentrate its unique flavor profile, which complements both sweet and savory dishes.

Follow Us
Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
Follow Us
Latest posts by Cassie Marshall (see all)