Long Reads

Buddha's Hand and 5 Great Ways to Use It

December 27, 2014

Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.

Today: A fragrant fruit with funky, flailing fingers. Say that five times fast, and then read on.  

Buddha's Hand citron

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If you're in need of a host or hostess gift in the next few days, consider searching out a Buddha's Hand citron at a specialty grocery store. Buddha's Hand citron is considered a symbol of good fortune, so it is a popular New Year's gift in China and Japan. In Japan, they're sometimes placed in a home's special raised alcove (called a tokonoma) in lieu of flowers, and in both China and Japan, they're placed as offerings at temples. In China, they also symbolize happiness, wealth, and longevity -- plus they act as a natural air freshener. So even if your fruit's recipient doesn't have a particularly fortunate start to their new year, they will definitely have a pleasantly-scented house.

Buddha's Hand citron

Buddha's Hand citron is, as its name suggests, a type of citron, making it a citrus fruit like oranges, grapefruit, and lemons. In fact, citron is one of only three or four original types of citrus fruits, and that means that most of the wide variety of citrus we eat are actually almost all hybrids.

More: Finger limes -- another unique type of citrus -- are like an all-natural version of lime-flavored Pop Rocks.  

Look for firm, bright yellow, unblemished fruits that are really aromatic, and then store them either at room temperature to enjoy their fragrance, or in the refrigerator if you want them to last longer.

Buddha's Hand citron

Buddha's Hand citrons are made up entirely of pith (1, far above) and peel (2, far above), but just because there's no pulp or juice to be had (in most varieties of them, anyway) doesn't mean you can't do anything edible with them. Our friends at Frieda's use them to make a vinaigrette, I've used them to make citrus salt, and here are five of the community's favorite ways to use Buddha's Hands:

  • Panfusine slices the Buddha’s Hand "fingers" (3, far above) into coins, turns those into a relish, and then tops crackers with cream cheese, a tiny sprig of dill, and a single coin of relish.
  • Aliwaks makes a Buddha’s Hand limoncello -- she shares her recipe within the comments of this recipe. Aargersi’s a fan of it too, and has dubbed it "buddhacello."
  • Dawne Marie likes to candy hers -- just like candied orange peel -- but recommends trying a bite of it raw before proceeding with your recipe, saying: "Since mine was bitter, I should have boiled some of the bitterness off in order to produce a more desired tasting candy. You would do this by chopping up the hand and then boiling it in water, discarding the water, taste, add new water, boil again, and repeat until it tastes right to you."
  • Pegeen got tips from the Hotline before preserving a Buddha's Hand as you would preserve lemons.  
  • Greenstuff likes to use their zest (4, above) -- you can use it anywhere lemon zest is called for. And here's our favorite way to zest citrus without leaving any flavor behind.

Tell us: How do you like to use Buddha's Hand citron? 

Photos by James Ransom

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jenny
  • Thomas G
    Thomas G
  • Jeanne
I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.


Jenny February 23, 2016
Perfect timing on this post Food52! Just saw these at the co-op last week, did a double take and couldn't imagine what they possible were/used for. Now they're on my shopping list...
Thomas G. December 28, 2014
I candy them, but then reduce and save the syrup from that process for various uses throughout the year, from a sweetener in tea, to a lime substitute in a gin & tonic.
Jeanne January 8, 2015
Great idea!!