7 Ways to Use Cara Cara Oranges in the Kitchen (& Around the House)

These bright-pink beauties won't be in season forever—enjoy 'em while they're here.

April 28, 2021
Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Sophie Strangio. Food Stylist: Samantha Seneviratne.

We’ve teamed up with California Citrus Growers to pull back the peel and share all the citrus-y wonders of oranges from the Golden State. Here, we’re showing you how to use beautiful Cara Cara oranges (they're in season till May!) in the kitchen and beyond. And psst: Did you know that just one Cara Cara orange gives you 100% of the daily recommended amount of Vitamin C? Pretty sweet.

California Cara Cara oranges always make their way into our citrus bowl when they’re in season, which is roughly from December until May. Underneath their unassuming orange skin is the most gorgeous pink fruit you’ve ever seen (it inspired us to paint the bathroom in our new apartment the same color—I'm not kidding).

While I think the best way to enjoy these oranges is to eat them while sunbathing underneath a palm tree, there are also some creative ways to make the most of Cara Cara oranges before the season ends.

Here are a handful of my favorite ideas:

Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Sophie Strangio. Food Stylist: Samantha Seneviratne.

1. Infuse Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Infused olive oil is so simple to make and so rewarding. Just combine Cara Cara orange peels (don't toss 'em!) and extra-virgin olive oil in a saucepan and place over medium heat for 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature, strain out the orange peels, and transfer oil to an airtight bottle; store in a dark, cool place (like a cabinet or pantry) for up to one month. It’s perfect for drizzling over savory dishes, from spring salads to summery grilled proteins.

2. Create Your Own Homemade Orange Extract

Imagine baking Carolina Gelen’s Orange-Cardamom Olive Oil Cake with fresh California Cara Caras and a splash of homemade orange extract (preview: it’s an absolute game-changer). Simply combine the peels from three Cara Cara oranges with one cup of vodka and seal in an airtight container. After about two months, your orange extract will be super-fragrant and ready to use. This can be used in all of your baking projects and is a massive upgrade from the store-bought variety.

3. Make a Batch of Oleo Saccharum

Combine leftover orange peels and sugar to make oleo saccharum—a syrup made of citrus peels and sugar that’s perfect for mixing into cocktails, whisking into fresh salad vinaigrettes, spooning over ice cream, and more. It takes just a few hours of hands-off time to come together, and will last in the fridge for a couple of weeks. No matter what you add it to, it’ll bring a big citrus-y punch that’s also sweet.

4. Preserve Them in Salt

Preserved lemons get all the love, but most citrus can be packed in salt and cured—and California Cara Cara oranges are no exception. Scrub the oranges thoroughly and cut them in half lengthwise, stopping 1/2 inch before reaching the bottom. Then rotate the orange 90 degrees and cut again (so now you have quarters), but don't cut all the way through. Coat generously with kosher salt (about 1 tablespoon per orange) and place the oranges in an airtight container. Press down on the oranges to release their juice and create a brine that submerges the oranges. After two to three weeks, your preserved Cara Cara oranges will be ready to use in your next salad, ricotta toast, orange-flavored dessert, citrusy aioli, and more.

5. Candy The Orange Peels (Please Also Dip Them in Dark Chocolate)

One of my most vivid food memories as a kid is eating candied orange peels by the handful in Paris, enamored with how much better they were than the orange-flavored chocolate I was used to. It’s a treat you can easily make at home—Jennifer Farley’s recipe is a stunner. When you’re done, dip them in melted dark chocolate for a match made in heaven.

6. Whip Up a Homemade Cleaning Solution

Want to enjoy that fresh, citrus-y scent throughout the whole house? This homemade cleaner is just the thing, and also happens to be kid-safe. To make it, add 1 cup of Cara Cara orange peels to 1 cup of white vinegar and infuse for 2 weeks. Dilute the infused vinegar with 1 cup of water (strain and discard the peels if you'd like), fill a reusable spray bottle, and start spritzing.

Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Sophie Strangio. Food Stylist: Samantha Seneviratne.

7. Make a Refreshing Body Scrub

Okay, it’s spa time: Make an aromatic body scrub with grated orange peel, sugar, and coconut oil all mixed together. You can also add a dash of homemade orange extract or orange essential oil. Consider it your new favorite (all-natural!) addition to your shower routine.

More Orange Recipes, Right This Way

What’s your favorite way to use Cara Cara oranges? Tell us in the comments!

In partnership with California Citrus Growers, we’re sharing endless ideas and recipe inspiration for making the most of citrus season. From gorgeously pink Cara Caras to juicy-sweet Navels, California oranges are the best way to bring bright pops of flavor and plenty of vitamin C to your daily routine.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Stillmeadowlark
  • Nora Register
    Nora Register
  • M
  • AntoniaJames
food stylist + max's yummy condiments


Stillmeadowlark May 29, 2021
The preserving in salt isn’t clear. Where does the salt go? And cut side down or up?
Nora R. April 30, 2021
You should probably note that adding fresh citrus (and herbs) directly to oil can encourage bacteria growth and lead to botulism, especially if left to infuse for several weeks.
M April 28, 2021
Without a doubt, make cara cara soda syrup to flavour your homemade fizzy water.
AntoniaJames April 28, 2021
Cut into suprêmes, use in salads featuring arugula and any toasted nuts or seeds - perfect for the spring produce doldrums we're in, here in Colorado. ;o)