Everything You Need to Know About Tangy, Floral Loquats

You’re met with an initial sour zip of lemon that gives way to a smooth, mango-like sweetness.

February 18, 2021
Photo by Mark Weinberg

I have this thing for picking things off trees and eating them. The fruit calls to me. I can spot the first fig ripening on a tree or find a wee wild strawberry growing under a carpet of green.

Photo by Catherine Lamb

So when I caught a glimmer of orange in a tree while biking around my hometown of Charleston, you’re damn right I screeched to a halt right then and there to investigate.

Upon closer inspection, I found that each branch of the tree had dozens of clusters of ripening fruit, about the size of apricots, ranging in color from green to neon orange. After asking around I found out that these fruits, which I was now noticing on every street corner, backyard, and alleyway, were called loquats—and that’s when my obsession began.

What Exactly Is a loquat?

According to the University of California Cooperative Extension, the loquat is “an ancient fruit, related to the apple [and] the quince,” which explains its tart-sweet flavor. Native to China and Japan, the loquat has spread to many tropical and subtropical sections of the world. I can personally attest to their presence in South Carolina and Texas, where their tang is a welcome refresher from the hot, humid air. They’re also apparently ubiquitous in Florida and Southern California.

Photo by Catherine Lamb

The loquat is the platypus of the fruit world; it seems to combine familiar species into something completely new. It has smooth, semi-fuzzed skin of a plum and the inner texture of a grape. When you bite into one, you’re met with an initial sour zip of lemon that gives way to a smooth, mango-like sweetness. Don’t try one before they’re squarely between orange and yellow on the color wheel or they’ll be way too tart.

Shop the Story

After sampling my first loquat, I began to brainstorm ways to use my newly-discovered foraged fruit in the kitchen. But when I started asking the internet, my friends, and strangers on the street what they did with their crop of loquats, I found surprisingly little information.

Photo by Catherine Lamb

Besides finding a stray recipe for chutney or jelly, when I Googled “best loquat recipes,” a tumbleweed essentially blew across my computer screen. People I.R.L. seemed similarly stumped. While everyone I questioned said they liked eating loquats occasionally, hardly anyone seemed to cook with them. Though I did hear tell of someone baking them into a loquat chess pie and a local brewery adding them into their beer…

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Loquats are incredibly common in Spain and Portugal (Spanish: níspero, Portuguese: nêspera) In fact, there is an area of Valencia in Spain that has a D.O.P for growing them. Anyway they are often grown as ornamental trees just like oranges and lemons, but a lot of people grow them in gardens for the fantastic sweet/tart fruit. They are super easy to peel when they are ripe and the drupe pit doesn't cling at all so very quick to eat too. When I'm in Lisbon I usually buy a crate of them each week and they are usually gone by the next week if not sooner. ”
— Jan W.

As I’m not really a pie person (cue gasps!), I decided to do to loquats what I always want to do to fruit—baked it into an upside down cake. Inspired by this rhubarb-y recipe from Kenzi Wilbur, I stewed the halved, de-seeded fruit with brown sugar and butter until they started to slump, poured the mixture into a pan, and topped it with big slumps of thick, buttermilk batter.

Photo by Catherine Lamb

The result proved my theory that any fruit can—and should—be the star of an upside-down cake...

A couple things to keep in mind when cooking (or eating) loquats:

  • As Smaug told me on the Hotline, "They really should be eaten right off the tree; they degrade really fast once picked. One of the produce stores in my area used to sell them with big hunks of branches still attached; that helped."
  • You'll have to remove the pit in the middle.
  • Some people peel the fruit, but others say that peeling removes a lot of flesh is not necessary, as the skin is rather thin.

Additional ideas from the editors:

As author Catherine Lamb notes, the internet is not overflowing with ideas for this under-the-radar fruit. Loquat comes from the same family as stone fruit, apple, and pear, and quince, and can be used in similar ways as, (or in many cases, even directly swapped for) its fruity cousins. Lamb touches on her favorite way to cook with loquats, in an upside-down cake, but if you find yourself with an abundance of the fruit, here are a handful of ideas to use your bounty.

11 Ways to to Cook With Loquats

Bake with Loquats

The most obvious use for loquats is to use them as you would another stone fruit: in dessert, whether it be a cake, tart, cobbler or crumble. Since they come from the same family as stone fruit, feel free to substitute them in your favorite summertime recipes.

Any Fruit Cake

Loquats bake beautifully into this simple, buttery cake. Always taste one before you start baking; this recipe works best when you adjust the sugar according to the fruits’ natural sweetness. It’s best served warm, with a big dollop of barely-sweetened whipped cream.

Tarte Tatin

Since loquats come from the same family as apple and quince, it’s a natural fit to utilize them in an iteration on the classic French tart. This is also a perfect way to cook with loquats that are not fully ripe yet, as their firmer texture will hold up better during baking and flipping.

Crumb Pie

Depending on how many you have, you can either substitute loquats for the apricots or peaches in this pie recipe, or mix all three together into a beautiful melange of a filling. When it doubt, pop nearly any fruit into a flaky pie crust with a buttery crumble topping and you’re bound to end up with a winner.

Have a Jam Session

Loquats are high in both sugar and pectin, making them a perfect fruit for preserving, whether in the form of jam, compote, or marmalade. Making jam or compote is also a wonderful way to preserve the flavor of loquats until you’re able to buy (or forage) them again.

Roasted Jam

Leave it to baking and general dessert expert Erin McDowell to uncover the easiest, most hands-off way to make jam at home. Her method for oven-roasting fruit yields delicious jam in under an hour with no babysitting the stove required. Try making loquat jam this way, or experiment with mixing in other stone fruits to make your own unique blends. Loquat pairs splendidly with apricots, peaches, cherries, and other stone fruits.

Tartines With Ricotta & a Quick Apricot Compote

Substituting loquats for apricots in this quick compote is seamless. Just taste the fruit before you cook and adjust the added honey for sweetness as needed. Once you have your loquat jam or compote, transform your usual toast into a decadent ricotta tartine. Inspired by a certain Los Angeles restaurant, I like to use thick cut brioche for this tartine, and always top mine with a general sprinkle of flaky salt.

Poach Them

One of my favorite ways to cook with stone fruit is to poach them. In this case, poaching loquats in a flavored sugar syrup renders the fruit still slightly firm but yielding and deeply infused with spices and sweetness. Use this article to poaching fruit to guide you through the process. I love to add whole spices like cinnamon sticks, star anise, or cardamom pods, but one of my favorite tips from this article is how to get creative with the poaching liquids themselves. Think beyond water; use steeped tea or a wine, red, white, or sweet, as a poaching liquid.

Ginger Poached Pears With Honeyed Vanilla Custard

Take a note from this recipe for poached pears and try poaching loquats in spicy ginger beer. Pair with a lightly sweetened vanilla custard for an easy, elegant dessert.

Wine-Poached Apricots With Ricotta

This recipe is sophisticated, composed, and well balanced. Apricots (or in this case loquats) get poached in white wine with hints of fennel and black pepper before being served with lightly sweetened ricotta. While we usually add sweet to our savory dishes, this is a perfect example of adding savory elements to a dessert in a spectacular way.

Go Savory

Loquats also work beautifully in savory dishes. Their subtle sweetness and slightly citrusy flavor lends itself to dishes that embrace a balance of sweet and savory. Here are a few ideas to utilize the loquat in more than just dessert.

Samosas With Loquat Onion Jam

While curried potato-and-pea samosas are the headliner here, the loquat-onion chutney jam served on the side really steals the show. Loquats cook down with spices, chili, onion, and an acidic pang from apple cider vinegar. It’s sweet and tangy and you’ll want to put it on everything.

Loquat Onion Chutney

Speaking of, if you’re tight on time or prefer to skip the samosas, just make the chutney on its own. It’s flavorful in its own right and pairs perfectly with lamb, grilled or steamed fish, or tofu, or try it as a condiment to spice up your usual lunchtime turkey sandwich.

Warming Winter Squash Tagine

This Tagine is the perfect opportunity to incorporate loquats into your dinner routine. The classic Moroccan dish typically incorporates dried fruit like apricots, raisins, dates, or preserved lemons. Loquats can lend a sweet, tart, slightly citrusy note to this warm tagine that’s full of winter squash, chickpeas, and couscous.

Loquats & Basil Spring Pesto

Loquat pesto! This playful rendition of Italian basil pesto accentuates the citrus notes in loquats. It’s also vegan, but not lacking any of the depth of flavor found in traditional pesto. And the loquats aren’t a gimmick here or added for shock value; they add a pleasant body to the texture, plus added bright acidity to balance the rich pine nuts and olive oil.

What's your favorite way to eat loquats? Tell us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • 32dani64FOOD
  • A G
    A G
  • Erika S
    Erika S
  • dawnanolan
  • Jennifer Kaufman Gresham
    Jennifer Kaufman Gresham
A kitchen scientist and dog-lover. Someday I want to have you over for dinner.


32dani64FOOD February 25, 2021
We (in SoCal) have a tree that gives ALOT of large fruits every year (not every 2); we make LOTS of jam every year, and freeze the rest, with skin on...they are very easy to peel and remove the seeds from frozen...
..I cook them with chicken and pork dishes...sometimes in the Romertopf, often on the stovetop with a little red onion, wine, powdered bouillion, cook down til a little thick, then add the chicken (we like boneless, skinless thighs, seared)...Seriously yummy!!
A G. April 3, 2018
Is it going to be harmful if steamed before seeds are out?
Please help me if someone knows.
Erika S. April 24, 2017
Loquats have large seeds, three maybe even four. So each fruit has only a little fruit. We use it chopped up as an excellent addition to salads.
dawnanolan April 7, 2016
Look in old cookbooks for recipes with loquats, especially California-centric ones. My grandmother & her peers made lots of stuff with them way back when.
Jennifer K. April 6, 2016
Fruit every OTHER year ... aha! That explains why we had no fruit last year. This year in Charleston has been amazing. I've got 4 quarts of jam so far ... two are just loquat and two are loquat-blueberry. My daughter's preferred jam for PB&J, no joke!
Jan W. April 6, 2016
Loquats are incredibly common in Spain and Portugal (Spanish: níspero, Portuguese: nêspera) In fact, there is an area of Valencia in Spain that has a D.O.P for growing them. Anyway they are often grown as ornamental trees just like oranges and lemons, but a lot of people grow them in gardens for the fantastic sweet/tart fruit. They are super easy to peel when they are ripe and the drupe pit doesn't cling at all so very quick to eat too. When I'm in Lisbon I usually buy a crate of them each week and they are usually gone by the next week if not sooner.
louanne April 6, 2016
We have them all over south Louisiana, but, true to Louisiana nature, we call them Japanese plums. I have two in my yard, and they're found all over New Orleans and the surrounding areas. I eat them fresh from the tree, but I've seen them made into preserves and jam, too.
Stefanie S. April 6, 2016
North Central Florida is covered with loquat trees and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings has a recipe for Loquat Pie in her Cross Creek Cookery from the 1940s.
Rebecca S. April 4, 2016
We have these all over North Florida. They grow well, but the Loquat isn't as flavorful to me as the Kumquat or the Kalamundan Trees. Both create excellent jams, and are fun in cocktails!
miznic April 4, 2016
Our loquat tree came with the house when we bought it some years ago. - I've found that the loquats grow every other year. Haven't been brave enough to try one - think I might do that today, we have a lot of them this year. (I'm in Georgia... those trees grow quite well here.)
healthierkitchen April 4, 2016
I think these are what I bought in Tel Aviv last week. They looked like oblong apricots, but had multiple (2 -3) pits. Some in the batch were sweet and some tart, even when seeming to be the same level of ripeness.
Hannah O. April 3, 2016
The moment I scrolled down and saw the picture, I gasped and my mouth started watering. I grew up with loquats in my hometown and they're one of the things I most miss about California.

I saw loquat jam in a store once, which seems like a good way to save them through summer - for which I'd gladly pay, if you offer.
carlito April 3, 2016
Now I know I have a loquat tree in my front yard! I have been wondering for months what the fruit was!
Rhonda35 April 3, 2016
I hope I stumble upon a loquat tree someday!