With a bright yellow color and a powerful aroma, yuzu fruit is rare, yet impossible to forget once you taste it. This sour yet floral-tasting Japanese citrus fruit can take the flavor of your sweet and savory recipes to a new level. Whether you use it to enhance your desserts and drinks or to add a zesty kick to your dinner entree, once it crosses paths with your taste buds, there is no going back!
What is Yuzu fruit?
Yuzu fruit (also known by its scientific name, citrus junos sieb) is an aromatic Japanese citrus fruit from the Rutaceae family of plants. It has a tart flavor and a bright yellow color that resembles a lemon or yellow lime when ripe. Unripened yuzus tend to be more green in color.
Yuzu is typically small, round, and bumpy in texture and can range between 2-3 inches in diameter. However, some have grown as large as 4 inches in diameter or larger.
In Japan, yuzu is a symbol of prosperity and good luck, often given as a gift during the New Year.
What does Yuzu taste like?
Similar to other citrus fruits, yuzu has a zesty, sour taste and a strong honeysuckle fragrance. Its tart, floral-like flavor is often described as a mix between a lemon and mandarin orange, with undertones of lime and grapefruit, however almost impossible to explain its complex aroma, you have to try it.
However, its taste and aroma can vary depending on its origin. For example, yuzu grown in the inland mountains of Japan tend to have a richer aroma due to the significant temperature difference between day and night.
I personally tried yuzu first while traveling in Japan and there is no coming back! It is hands down my favorite fruit!
Where does yuzu come from? - History of Yuzu
Originating from East Asia, yuzu is primarily cultivated in Japan, China, and Korea. It was believed to be first produced in the Yangtze River Region of China as a hybrid of the mandarin orange and ichang papeda, making it appear as a cross between the two fruits.
It arrived in Japan via the Korean Peninsula during the Nara Period, around the year 710, and continued to be grown in western Japan primarily for medicinal purposes. Currently, yuzu is cultivated in Japan, China, Australia, Spain, Italy, France, and New Zealand.
Yuzu fruit vs. lemon - what's the difference?
Although both citrus fruits are very similar in shape and color, they are different when it comes to two things: Taste and nutritional benefits.
Lemon is sour and tart in taste. On the other hand, yuzu has more citric acid and is more bitter and sour, with floral notes similar to grapefruit. While lemon is versatile enough to use in both sweet and savory recipes, yuzu has a distinct flavor that does best in Asian-inspired recipes.
Nutritionally speaking, yuzu contains more calcium, potassium, and vitamin C than lemons. It also has more of the antioxidant β-cryptoxanthin.
Yuzu health benefits
There is still ongoing research about the various yuzu fruit benefits. However, considering its key nutrients, it can be beneficial to protecting and maintaining good health.
Yuzu is very high in vitamin C, providing 17% of the daily value in just one teaspoon. Studies have shown that incorporating yuzu into the diet can help prevent and fight cancer, improve and regulate blood sugar levels, aid in healthy weight loss, boost and maintain brain health, and help prevent heart disease.
The antioxidant β-cryptoxanthin can also help to prevent aging and cell damage. Its antioxidants can also help minimize the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, and it also contains a small amount of iron, which is vital to producing hemoglobin.
Because of its powerful yet pleasant fragrance, yuzu is often used in essential oils and aromatherapy for relaxation, stress relief, and overall mood improvement. A 2017 study of women with premenstrual symptoms discovered that inhaling yuzu for just ten minutes affected the autonomic nervous system and helped reduce the heart rate and decrease fatigue, anxiety, tension, and anger.
Where to buy Yuzu?
Finding fresh yuzu can be very difficult in the United States and rare to find in a local grocery store. On the other hand, yuzu juice, zest, and other yuzu-flavored products are much easier to obtain. You can usually find it in Asian supermarkets and specialty stores.
While it is produced domestically in California on a seasonal basis, states such as Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and Hawaii prohibit the shipment of citrus into their state.
Why is Yuzu so expensive?
Yuzu has a high price tag because of its low supply, high demand, and lack of availability outside of Asia. It is also challenging to grow and harvest outside of its native region, sometimes taking years to bear fruit.
The labor required to hand harvest these delicate fruits also contributes to its high cost. Once the yuzu tree is ready to harvest, it must be done by hand to prevent damaging the rinds. If you are lucky enough to find it, you can expect to pay as much as $20 per pound!
How to use Yuzu
The best way to use yuzu fruit is in cooking to accentuate the flavor of food and drinks, similar to lemon juice or zest. You can find yuzu made in numerous ways, including cooked, candied, frozen, dried, powdered, and made into jam.
Below are a few ways that you can use yuzu in the kitchen:
Add a splash to vegetables, fish, meats, marinades, or salad dressings for a tangy and citrusy flavor kick.
Use it in place of lemon juice to add more floral notes to your dessert, as I do in my black sesame tart with yuzu curd.
Add a splash of yuzu juice to your tonic water or tea, or use it instead of lemon juice in your favorite cocktail for a tasty yuzu drink.
Garnish citrusy desserts with grated yuzu rind.
Spread yuzu jam on crackers or bread, or serve it alongside a platter of cheeses and fruits.
Mix yuzu juice with honey and soy to make a yuzu sauce (also referred to as ponzu).
In general, you can use it in almost any recipe that use lemon or orange juice.
How to store Yuzu
Store fresh yuzu fruit at room temperature. If you don't plan to use yuzu immediately, store it in the refrigerator to preserve the aroma. Refrigerated, it will last a few weeks, although the fragrance will decrease over time.
You can freeze yuzu fruit for up to one month as a whole or separate it into skin and flesh. Yuzu juice alone, however, will last for up to six months.
Yuzu Fruit FAQ
Although yuzu fruit is edible raw, it is best as a flavoring agent (similar to lemon juice) versus eaten alone.
The best lemon substitute for yuzu is the Meyer lemon, though it can be challenging to find. A blend of citrus juices can also serve as a suitable substitute for yuzu.
You can measure the ripeness of yuzu fruit by its color, smell, and texture. A fully ripened yuzu fruit that is fully ripe has a golden yellow color and a strong scent. It also has a round shape similar to the size of a lemon or larger.
Since it is grown overseas, the USDA banned importation to prevent the spreading of citrus diseases and protect American agriculture.
Although generally safe to eat, like any citrus fruit, yuzu fruit can cause gastrointestinal issues if consumed excessively. Additionally, because of its high citric acid levels, it can cause heartburn and damage tooth enamel. Those with a citrus allergy should avoid yuzu and yuzu-based products.
What Is Yuzu and How Does It Taste (Ultimate Guide)
What is Yuzu
- Yuzu fruit (also known by its scientific name, citrus junos sieb) is a small, round, and aromatic Japanese citrus fruit from the Rutaceae family of plants. It has a tart flavor and a bright yellow color that resembles a lemon or yellow lime when ripe.
What does Yuzu taste like
- Yuzu has a complex zesty, tart, and sour flavor with floral notes that is often described as a mix between a lemon and mandarin orange with undertones of lime and grapefruit.
How to use Yuzu
- Yuzu fruit is usually used in cooking to accentuate the flavor of food and drinks versus eating alone as a snack. You can add its juice to teas and cocktails, sprinkle the juice on meats, seafood, and marinades to give it a zesty flavor or use its zest as a garnish on sweet desserts.