What to Do with a Bowlful of Dragonfruit

August  2, 2017

A dragon fruit looks like a hand grenade. With scaly, forbidding outer skin but a soft heart—kind of like your favorite movie superhero*.

In reality, it’s a cactus fruit native to Mexico and Central America where it goes by its proper name, pitaya. It is also very popular in Southeast Asia, especially Vietnam, where it is believed to have been introduced by the French and now cultivated for export.

The plant's flowers bloom at night and are pollinated by bats. How’s that for goth?

Despite its macho exterior, it’s quite easy to open and scoop out the flesh. Simply cut it in half from top to bottom and have at it like you would an avocado. There is no pit though—instead, you will find rather firm white flesh peppered with tiny black seeds which you consume with the pulp.

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The fruit itself is not terribly sweet and really needs a partner. I find it goes well with strawberries, like in a fruit salad:

Boom Boom Room Fruit Salad
It’s curvaceous and sweet.

1 sweet summer melon, such as Charentais or Tuscan cantaloupe
1 dragon fruit
3 kiwi fruits
12 ripe cherries
1 small handful of fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar

Halve the melon along the equator, scoop out and discard the seeds, then using a melon baller scoop out the flesh. Cut the dragon fruit in half from top to bottom and use the baller to scoop out the insides. Do the same with the kiwis. Pit the cherries. Combine all of the fruits in a serving bowl. Tear up the mint leaves and mix those in. Finish with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Or try dragon fruit in this easy recipe:

Bella Lugosi’s Transylvanian Fruit and Yogurt Faceoff

5 or 6 strawberries
Pinch of salt
About 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar
1 dragon fruit
2 tablespoons blueberries
5 ounces vanilla yogurt

Hull the strawberries and slice them into quarters, top to bottom. Add the salt and sugar. Cut the dragon fruit in half and scoop out the flesh, mash it up well. Combine the strawberries, blueberries, and dragon fruit pulp together, and then fold in the yogurt. Taste again for sugar and you are ready to go.

Photo by James Ransom

But I think one of my favorite ways to consume dragon fruit is to blend it into a drinkable form, like in this refreshing, non-alcoholic beverage. I’ve also made ice cream with dragon fruit and then turned it into a beverage that is almost a fountain drink with a Vietnamese twist.

*Mine happens to be Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Matt
  • AntoniaJames
  • pierino
Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.


Matt July 25, 2018
The yellow skinned ones are much sweeter and more flavourful.
AntoniaJames August 2, 2017
pierino, I'm excited beyond words that you are writing a cookbook! It will be one of my favorites, ever; of that, I am quite certain. Miss you. ;o)
pierino August 5, 2017
Thanks AJ, I still have to find a publisher for it. Amanda kindly critiqued my proposal (it was way to short) and gave me some contacts with agents. So it is uncertain when it will actually happen.