Walking into the produce section at your grocery store can seem kinda boring. Sure, there are plenty of healthy — and tasty — fruits and vegetables out there, but it looks like everything is kind of the same.
But look a little closer the next time you shop, and you might find some exotic treats you’ve never seen before, like dragon fruit. This tropical treat isn’t as popular as other exotic fruits like kiwis and mangoes, but it’s gaining in popularity for one reason: It’s delicious and nutritious.
What Is Dragon Fruit?
Dragon fruit comes from the cactus family Hylocereus that’s native to Central America and only blooms at night. It’s sold under various names, including pitaya, pitahaya, and strawberry pear.
Though the outside of the fruit looks like a small red-colored artichoke, the inside has white flesh with black spots. Most say dragon fruit tastes like a cross between a pear and a kiwi.
Dragon fruit packs a lot of nutrition into a small package.
A 100-gram serving of dragon fruit contains:
- Calories – 60
- Protein – 2.0 gram
- Carbohydrates – 9.0 grams
- Fat – 2.0 gram
- Fiber – 1.5 grams
It’s also rich in essential nutrients like vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and beta-carotene.
Dragon fruit is also packed with antioxidants like betalains, flavonoids, and hydroxycinnamates, all compounds shown to help the immune system and neutralize free radicals in the body.
Another antioxidant, lycopene, has been shown in research studies to help fight against prostate and cervical cancers by neutralizing free radicals that contribute to the development of this disease.
In addition, dragon fruit may:
- Help with weight loss. The fiber found in dragon fruit can help keep you full and satisfied, and this may promote weight loss by helping to prevent overeating. Fiber also helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels, which is essential if you are trying to lose weight because it can reduce the cravings that often lead to snacking between meals.
- Lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Fiber is shown to prevent heart disease. Several studies have shown that a diet rich in fiber from various sources can reduce the risk of heart disease by as much as 30 percent.
- Protect against cell damage. The glutathione found in dragon fruit is also believed to help protect your cells from damage that could lead to a blood clot.
How to Eat Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit isn’t something you can buy, put in the refrigerator, and forget about for a week. The weird-looking little fruit is highly perishable and must be stored in the fridge — and you have to eat it within a few days. Otherwise, it’ll spoil.
But the good news is that it’s really easy to eat dragon fruit — simply look for a fruit with bright red skin that has just a bit of softness when you squeeze it. Once you’re ready to eat the fruit, all you have to do is cut it with a sharp knife, dig out the flesh using a spoon and slice it into small pieces.
Dragon Fruit Recipes to Try
While dragon fruit is pretty tasty when you eat it plain, it’s also a great addition to many recipes. We rounded up some easy recipes we found around the web to help inspire your foray into the tropical fruit.
Dragon Fruit Parfait
Feeling rushed, but still want to get in a healthy breakfast? This parfait is super simple to make—all you need is fresh dragon fruit cut into chunks, along with your yogurt of choice (like Greek yogurt), other fruits you love, and some granola. That’s seriously it — and the total time it takes to make is less than five minutes!
Banana Dragon Fruit Smoothie
Are you looking for a tropical-inspired drink that kids will love and is suitable for gluten-free and vegan diets? This dragon fruit smoothie recipe calls for pink dragon fruit puree to give it that vibrant color.
Still, you can use white dragon fruit, along with your favorite frozen fruits (like blueberries and strawberries), and plant-based milk like almond milk or coconut milk and nut butter (you could even do coconut water too).
The result? A magenta-colored tropical treat that everyone will stare at. And even better: you can quickly turn it into smoothie bowls for a poolside treat this summer.
Pitaya Mango Banana Nice Cream
Are you craving some ice cream but wanting something a little lighter? This DIY “nice” cream recipe using red dragon fruit, mangoes, and bananas is a worthy replacement.
Simply mix up your frozen dragon fruit, along with your other fruits, coconut milk (or lime juice), and vanilla extract in a Vitamix blender or food processor. Once done, it’ll resemble sorbet or soft-serve ice cream. You can either enjoy it right away or freeze and eat later — just be sure to let it thaw a bit first!
Vegan Dragon Fruit Popsicles
Let’s face it: Most popsicles aren’t big on nutrition, but these dairy-free and vegan dragon fruit popsicles break that mold by adding in chia seeds for added fiber and thickness. Agave syrup adds the bonus sweetness to make this a delicious — and fun-to-eat — treat for hot summer days.
Dragonfruit and Raspberry Rosé Sangria
Looking for an adults-only way to enjoy some pitaya? This fruity sangria has a rosé wine base and features raspberries, strawberries, and dragon fruit along with soda water, Chambord raspberry liqueur, and raspberry syrup. It’s a fizzy and refreshing drink perfect for brunch and summer!
Dragon Fruit Salsa
Looking to top your chips with something other than tomato-based salsa? Try this version created with just a few simple ingredients: dragon fruit, lemon juice, jalapeño peppers, and chives (or cilantro). Seriously, that’s it! Just let the salsa sit for about an hour before eating to combine all the flavors.
Acai Bowl With Berries and Dragonfruit
Sometimes you just need something filling and nourishing in the morning. This dragon fruit smoothie bowl fits the bill perfectly, thanks to its base (made with acai smoothie packs), along with frozen fresh fruits, nuts, and dried acai berries. The result is a nutritional powerhouse with enough heft to keep you full for hours.
Amazing Lyonnaise Salad Recipe
Want a dragon fruit recipe that’s a little different? You’ve got it with this simple salad recipe made with crisp lettuce, bacon, dragon fruit, and pistachios and topped with a mustard vinaigrette and a hard-boiled egg. You can even add other ingredients like avocados to make it truly your own.
Vegan Valentine's Chocolate
Chocolate filled with dragon fruit? It sounds like an impossible feat — especially since it’s vegan — but believe it! All you need to make it is some pitaya powder, along with agave, unsweetened coconut, and chocolate chips to make. Delicious and easy? Sign us up.
Frozen Pineapple Dragon Fruit Margaritas
You can’t go wrong with a frozen margarita — especially if it’s one made with pineapple and dragonfruit! All you need to do for this recipe is blend your favorite tequila with pineapple juice, frozen dragon fruit, pineapple, orange liqueur, and lime juice to make an adult drink that tastes even better than it looks.
Dragon Fruit Salad with Mandarin Oranges
Easy enough to whip up for a sweet afternoon snack, you can make this dragon fruit salad with any fresh fruits your heart desires — mandarin oranges, blueberries, and kiwi are featured in the recipe, but really anything will fit. Add in a dash of Kosher salt and lime juice for extra zest, and you’re ready to go!