*Editor's note: This article is a re-post of a piece that originally ran in Nov. 2005

Sure, you’ll fresh-squeeze oranges for your guests knowing that you’re doing something special by not opening a can of orange juice concentrate. You may even peel and section your own mandarin oranges for the Oriental chicken salad believing that fresh versus canned are as good as it gets.

While fresh beats canned and concentrated, there’s an even greater wealth of flavor to be gained from citrus varieties with which you may be unfamiliar.

As we enter the season with the most citrus varieties available, seek out and experiment with such oranges as cara caras or moros, also known as blood oranges.

Even your basic tangerine isn’t so basic when you can select between minneola, fairchild, clementine and dancy varieties.

Rather than run to your standard white or ruby red grapefruit, consider the milder, less acidic flavor of pummelos — a familiar taste to Asians. You even can break it down further and come up with a drink or dessert with a flavor that’s a cross between white grapefruit and pummelo using oroblancos or melogolds.

Tangelos offer a flavor between grapefruit and tangerines, and among mandarins, you could select from the satsuma, royal or honey varieties.


The flesh color of the juicy cara cara navel orange resembles that of ruby red grapefruit. It is one of the sweetest and less acidic citrus varieties and therefore is excellent in desserts and sweet sauces.

Florida growers call it the red navel orange, and that state’s version is heavier, thus juicier, than California-grown ones.

Several years ago, it was difficult to find cara cara oranges since few people had heard of them, says Florida’s famed Allen Susser of Chef Allen’s in Aventura. Now, they are more widely known and available.

“It’s a solid, sweet, full-flavored orange with a nice tangy flavor. … It can almost taste like essence of cranberry,” Susser says, adding that it’s easy to peel with few seeds.

He likes to use cara cara oranges with yellow tail snapper. He sautés the snapper with celery, fine-shaved garlic and olives, finishing with cara cara pieces. He uses some of the juice to cook with, adds a few segments to the dish and garnishes with the navel variety.

Use cara cara zest for a tuna crust. Chris Pappas, executive chef for Michael’s Restaurant & Lounge, Rochester, Minn., soaks the zest in simple syrup, spreads it on parchment paper and bakes it at 225 F until it’s crisp and brown. Then he dredges tuna in it and sears the fish, he says. He uses cara cara pieces as garnish and sometimes makes a cara cara beurre blanc sauce on which to lay the fish entrée.

Moro oranges are in vogue in many restaurants for the deep maroon color and rich orange flavor with hints of raspberry. They found their way to the U.S. from the Mediterranean where the variety is popular as orange juice. It has a good balance of sugar and acid and is easy to peel with few seeds.

If you see that some of the deep color bleeds through to the rind, that’s normal.

Pappas likes to make compound butter adding blood orange juice and shallots. After he whips the ingredients together, he tucks the butter under the skin of halved chicken and bakes at 350 or 375 F for 1½ hours. It gives a sweet but not overpowering citrus flavor, he says.

After the chicken cooks, he plates it with a ladle of the cooked juice/sauce over the chicken.


Wherever you use citrus in sauces or salads, consider the flavor of mandarins or tangerines.

Among mandarins, you have the sweet and juicy satsuma variety with a bright orange interior and few seeds. The interior of the royal variety is redder with a tart flavor and a few more seeds.

The honey mandarin has a brilliant orange interior with a flavor bearing hints of honey, but it has many seeds.

Susser especially is a fan of the satsuma variety for its “big” flavor, which he describes as a cross between honey and kumquats. “It has that honey richness along with a nice acidity,” he says.

Combine satsuma segments with figs and organic greens for a salad, he says.

Joe Rickerson, executive chef at Justin’s Restaurant & Bar in Buckhead, Ga., recalls how his grandmother used to ground veal and add reduced tangerine juice and tangerine zest to make veal meatballs. He says she saved tangerine peels, dried them in the oven, then pounded them and added them to many dishes, including sweet potato pie.

For his part, he developed grilled wild tangerines and scallops perfumed with rosemary for the menu.

He cuts a tangerine in half, soaks it in olive oil and rosemary and grills it, flesh-side down until it gets grill marks. He also grills the scallops and serves them atop the tangerines with a mound of rosemary in the middle. “When you eat the scallop, you have to eat the tangerine, too,” he says.


You might be surprised to learn that grapefruit is a hybrid of pummelo and a sweet orange. Yet the American palate is far less familiar with the pummelo, also called Chinese grapefruit.

A pummelo, which has thick green or yellow skin, is larger than grapefruit and can be as large as a volleyball with a mild flavor and less acid than grapefruit.

The skin is so thick that it takes a lot of work to get to the fruit, “And Americans don’t like to work on fruit,” Susser says.

With pummelo, you focus on the large juice sacs rather than the segments, he says, adding, “They are like popping caviar. … popping a wonderful citrus aromatic with zesty hints of jasmine and lime and a great texture and flavor not released until you bite into it.”

For a tasty crab salad, he suggests combining jumbo lump crab, a little kaffir lime, a serrano or Thai bird chili, a little scallion, coconut milk, fish sauce and pieces of pummelo. “I would let all this marinate and put it on top of a little arugula and shred some pummelos on top of that,” he says.

Crossing pummelo with grapefruit, you get oroblanco and melogold hybrids, which give you a balance of the sweetness from pummelo and acidity from grapefruit, Susser says. He likens the flavor to lime blossom perfume.


There’s so much to learn about citrus, you practically could go to school to study the subject. And you can.

Each year Sunkist Growers Inc., Sherman Oaks, Calif., and the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, Calif., hold an invitation-only Citrus Celebre event to teach chefs about citrus varieties, give usage ideas and experiment in the kitchen.

Citrus Celebre now is available online at a new Web site (www.ciaprochef.com/sunkist). The site includes interactive lessons, streaming videos and recipes using citrus. For a quick reference on citrus varieties, the site features a “citrus flavor wheel” that allows you to click on a variety and learn its characteristics.