Even if you've never had dragon fruit, chances are, you've at least seen the eye-catching produce pick in a supermarket or part of a fruit salad. Hard to miss and totally unique, this tropical fruit is available as purple dragon fruit, red dragon fruit, or white dragon fruit on the inside. Regardless of the flesh color, it's always spiked with tiny black seeds (which are completely edible as well) and surrounded by either a vibrant hot pink, green-spiked skin (which should not be consumed) or a yellow dragon fruit skin.
So now that you know how to spot a dragon fruit, let's dive into dragon fruit benefits in terms of flavor and nutrition, how to cut a dragon fruit, and the most important part: how to eat dragon fruit. Ahead, is our complete guide to what is dragon fruit good for. You'll learn something new whether you've eaten dozens or zero before.
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What is Dragon Fruit, Exactly?
Also known as pitaya or strawberry pear, dragon fruit is an oval-shaped, vibrantly-colored tropical fruit that grows on a family of cacti called Hylocereus. Its sweet and creamy-yet-crunchy flesh can be scooped out from the inedible skin and snacked on as-is or incorporated into a variety of dragon fruit recipes. (More on this below.) Dragon fruit is native to Central America, but now ripe dragon fruit is grown, harvested, and enjoyed worldwide.
You can probably guess where the "dragon" part of the nickname comes from the pointy scales that pop up around the skin. The inside of ripe dragon fruit, however, is beautifully sweet and similar in texture to kiwi flesh.
So what does dragon fruit taste like? Somewhat akin to a mash-up of a kiwi, a pear, and a watermelon. Translation: Very delicious.
Dragon Fruit Varieties
Keep your eye out for the four main varieties of dragon fruit.
Pink skin with white flesh (Hylocereus undatus): The most common and least sweet style, this may be sold under names including Alice, Cosmic Charlie, David Bowie, Guyute, Harpua, L.A. Woman, Neitzel, Seoul Kitchen, Thomson, and Vietnamese Jaina.
Pink skin with red or pink flesh (Hylocereus polyrhizus): Longer and sweeter than the white flesh kind, this dragon fruit might be located near signs reading Bloody Mary, Red Jaina, Voodoo Child, and Zamorano.
Pink skin with purple flesh (Hylocereus guatemalensis): This stunning style is also sold as "American Beauty."
Yellow skin with white flesh (Selenicereus megalanthus): The smallest and sweetest of the bunch, these are hardest to find—but worth seeking out.
When is Dragon Fruit in Season?
June through September is prime time for fresh, ripe dragon fruit, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. Most varieties can be found at their best in August and September, although the yellow-skinned, white-fleshed variety can be found occasionally during winter (mainly November through February). It should be bright, evenly colored, and give just a little to the touch—just like a fresh peach.
Dragon Fruit Health Benefits
Dragon fruit is a good source of gut-healthy fiber, a solid dose of immune-supporting vitamin C, sleep-promoting magnesium, and is one of the few plant sources of iron—among other vitamins, minerals, and a good dose of hydration. (This, like many fruits, is mostly water.)
According to the USDA's FoodData Central database, a 3 ½-ounce serving of dragon fruit delivers:
0 g fat
1 g protein
13 g carbs
3 g fiber
8 g sugar
3% of your daily vitamin C needs
4 % of your daily iron needs
10 % of your daily magnesium needs
How to Cut Dragon Fruit
Much like other fruits (see: avocado, apples), dragon fruit is best to buy whole and slice when you're ready to enjoy them. Store them on the counter until cutting, then transfer any leftover sliced, ripe dragon fruit to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Once it starts to brown or seem too mushy, compost or toss it.
When you're ready to master how to cut dragon fruit, it's actually quite easy. Round up a cutting board and a sharp knife. Slice the fruit down the middle, stem to root, to create two halves. Then, using a spoon, trace it around the inside of the skin to carve out the flesh from the inedible skin. Flip the flesh half onto the cutting board, peek for any skin that's hanging on, and remove it if there. Otherwise, cube or slice the flesh to enjoy plain or utilize in one of the dragon fruit recipes below. For a unique presentation style, you can also use a melon baller to create round pieces to pop into your mouth or toss into a fruit salad.
How to Eat Dragon Fruit
Now for the most fun part: how to eat dragon fruit! It's most often served raw, but can definitely be featured in grilled fruit recipes.
Try raw, ripe dragon fruit as part of a: