What is Dragon Fruit?

As one of the most popular tropical fruits in recent years, dragon fruit has spread from Central and South America to be grown and cultivated all over the world. Not only does it look and taste amazing, but it is also a great source of various nutrients, rendering this spiky-looking fruit one of the best snacks you could reach for in-between meals.

If you haven’t yet had the chance to try dragon fruit, and don’t really know what to expect from it, don’t worry! You’re far from the only one. After all, it’s only recently that this delicacy became much cheaper and widely available at pretty much any bigger grocery store. In this article, we’ll take you through all the basics: the main characteristics of dragon fruit, its nutritional value, how to eat it, as well as, of course, some ideas on how to prepare it creatively.

Dragon Fruit Appearance

Also known as pitahaya or pitaya, dragon fruit will stun you with its looks. With its bright pink skin and green scales, it becomes clear how it earned its name — it literally looks like the skin of a dragon!

On the inside, dragon fruit has white flesh with tiny black seeds scattered all over. Its texture would fit somewhere between an apple and a pear — perfectly crunchy but soft enough to bite into without giving it a second thought!

Why is Dragon Fruit So Popular Nowadays?

sliced dragon fruit

We already briefly mentioned earlier that dragon fruit comes from Central and South America. In fact, the plant is native to southern Mexico, from where it has spread across the continent, and in recent decades, around the entire world. It is equally loved in Asia as it is in Europe and the United States. There are a few reasons behind its massive rise in popularity.

First of all, dragon fruit’s flavor is very familiar to most people. As opposed to other tropical fruits, it does not have a distinct smell or flavor you’d have to get used to. Your taste buds surely won’t be confused when you try it for the first time — it can best be described as a cross between a kiwi and a pear. Its juicy yet sturdy and crunchy texture makes it a perfect fruit to slice up and snack on in front of a TV or serve on big platters during parties and family gatherings.

Secondly, its unusual, unique appearance made it an instant hit among Western audiences looking to add more variety to their daily fruit intake. A bunch of unpeeled dragon fruits stacked up next to each other is enough to draw people in — it’s almost impossible to walk past them at a supermarket without turning your head!

Finally, it is also a very versatile fruit. Chefs and juice makers all around the world have found a wide variety of applications for dragon fruit, ranging from smoothie bowls through salads all the way to alcoholic cocktails.

Of course, much of dragon fruit’s rise to fame can be attributed to its nutritional value and many potential health benefits, which we will outline in the section below.

Nutrition Facts

While some other fruits may have a much higher content of several nutrients, dragon fruit’s advantage lies in the fact that it packs a whole lot of them in a low-calorie package. It is a great source of fiber, iron, and magnesium. It also has fewer carbs than a large number of its counterparts. Check out the full contents of dragon fruit below.

  • Fat: 0g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Carbs: 13g
  • Vitamin C: 3% of the recommended daily intake
  • Magnesium: 10% of the recommended daily intake
  • Iron: 4% of the recommended daily intake
  • Protein: 1.2g

All of that contained within 60 calories! It is extremely flavorful and satisfying, making dragon fruit the perfect food if you’re on a diet but frequently get cravings for sweet snacks.

Benefits

This beautiful tropical fruit is also full of antioxidants, particularly flavonoids, betalains, and hydroxycinnamates. They can reduce your risk of heart disease, improve your brain health, keep your cholesterol levels in check, as well as prevent premature aging of the skin, helping you maintain youthful appearance as you grow older.

Another great thing about dragon fruit is that it doesn’t carry a high risk of developing an allergic reaction. So far, there have only been two documented cases of such reactions worldwide, neither of them life-threatening.

Dragon Fruit Ideas

Dragon fruit plantation on a sunny day

Two decades ago, dragon fruit was only found at a handful of specialty stores in most American cities. Now, all it takes to get your hands on it is a short trip to the local supermarket, which can’t be said about many other tropical fruits. As we already stated earlier in this article, you can enjoy it by itself after peeling off the outer shell, but there are also plenty of other ways you can utilize this tropical treasure in the kitchen.

  • Smoothies: by far the most popular way to prepare dragon fruit. Throw it in a blender by itself or mix it with other fruits for a delicious, nutrient-rich, and refreshing drink!
  • Cocktails: if you expect to entertain guests at your house anytime soon, make sure to put a couple of dragon fruits in your grocery cart when preparing for the gathering. Use sliced chunks of dragon fruit in alcoholic cocktails like mojitos or limeades for added flavor and aesthetic value.
  • Salads: dragon fruit doesn’t only work well in fruit salads. You can also throw it into more savory combinations. For example, a butternut puree and lemony chicken salad combine very well with the mild-sweet tropical fruit. Alternatively, you can use its outer shells as bowls for any kind of salad.
  • Condiments: dragon fruit salsa is one of the most original ways you can use this fruit. The process of making it is nearly identical to regular salsa: swap out the tomatoes with blended dragon fruit, throw some jalapenos, chives, salt, and lemon juice into the mix, and enjoy the most refreshing salsa you’ve ever tried!

The Bottom Line

There is really nothing better than fresh dragon fruit on a hot summer day. Nowadays, it has become easier than ever to eat dragon fruit on a daily basis, to a point where it shouldn’t really be considered a tropical fruit! Recently, even European farmers began growing it, making it a worldwide plant in every meaning of the word. 

It is also worth mentioning that there is more than one kind of dragon fruit. Aside from the regular, white flesh variety, you can also find red dragon fruit, which has red flesh and is much sweeter with a flavor that could be best described as a strawberry-pear crossover.Hopefully, this brief dragon fruit guide has inspired you to give this fruit a shot. Remember to check back frequently with The Kitchen Community for more ingredient guides, articles, and recipes for all sorts of delicious meals!

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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
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