My mom loves grapefruit. She eats it plain, in all of its zingy glory, for breakfast or an afternoon snack. I, by contrast, cannot stand it. All three times I’ve tried eating grapefruit, its sourness turned me off.
Given, however, that this winter citrus is bursting with vitamins A and C, both of which assist in strengthening the immune system, I’ve been trying to find a way to make it palatable. Eager to enjoy the health benefits of grapefruit without puckering up, I endeavored to learn how to improve its flavor. Here’s what I came up with.
Why is grapefruit bitter?
Grapefruit comes in several varieties, with some tasting sharper than others (and your palate determining your preference). The five most common are oro blanco, red, pink, pomelo, and white. “Supposedly, the redder the flesh, the sweeter the flavor, but we find red grapefruit to be the least complex tasting (and often plenty bitter),” says Bon Appétit food director Chris Morocco.
Despite the varying degrees of bitterness, all grapefruits contain a flavonoid called naringin that’s responsible for its sharp flavor. Previous research found that the juice vesicles and seeds in grapefruit contain the lowest concentrations of naringin. By contrast, grapefruit’s segment membranes, pith, and albedo (the white spongy portion of the peel) contain higher amounts of the flavonoid. Ultimately, the good outweighs the bad with naringin, as it’s associated with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. So, rather than shying away from its strong taste, try balancing grapefruit with a second food or ingredient.
How To Balance Grapefruit’s Bitter Flavor
If you’re searching for ways to smooth out the taste of grapefruit, try these five suggestions:
- Sprinkle the fruit with salt. Adding a light sprinkle of salt to grapefruit may sound odd, but it actually works. Paul Breslin, PhD, professor of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University, explains that sprinkling salt on the fruit reduces the tongue’s ability to detect bitter compounds like naringin. “When I add salt to it, I then suppress some of the negative notes like the bitter taste,” he tells The Guardian. As a result, Dr. Breslin says that suppressing the fruit’s tartness allows for its sweetness to shine through.
- Drizzle honey over the fruit. According to MissInformationBlog.com, this natural sweetener is the liquid gold that bitter grapefruit craves. Start by drizzling the fruit with a teaspoon of honey, and add a little bit more if needed. The honey’s syrupy texture also mixes with the grapefruit’s juices to create a sweet dressing – yum.
- Caramelize the fruit. A fan of crème brûlée? If so, you’ll love grapefruit brulée, which is made by dusting half a grapefruit with sugar and caramelizing it in the broiler. The end result is a crunchy, sugary top that balances the slightly warm and juicy fruit. Try this Grapefruit Brulée recipe from the Fresh Tastes food blog, which cooks in less than 10 minutes.
- Mix the fruit into a salad. Fruit salad isn’t just a summer BBQ staple. This Winter Fruit Salad recipe from MyRecipes.com combines in-season grapefruit with other fruits like kiwi and pineapple. Doing this tames the sourness of the grapefruit and amplifies your salad with a broader range of nutrients.
- Add a dollop of dairy to the fruit. This tip from UptownGirl.com calls for combining grapefruit slices with a little bit of yogurt or cottage cheese. Why? The creaminess from the dairy helps mellow out the acidity of the grapefruit. Bonus: Add a spoonful of granola for a more complete fruit and yogurt bowl.
First It’s Sour, Then It’s Sweet
These tips are sure to change the hearts and taste buds of any grapefruit hater — they certainly changed mine. Just keep in mind that consuming grapefruit while taking certain medications may cause that medication to linger in your body longer, as opposed to breaking down in a timely manner; this leads to a greater amount of medication present in your blood and the potential for increased side effects. So be safe while you savor this fruit at its peak!
For more on the health benefits of grapefruit: