Taste Test: Dragon fruit


What a beautiful specimen this thing called the dragon fruit is! Its skin looks like the feathers of an exotic bird or the petals of a tropical flower. Cut it in half and you get the most simple black-and-white interior imaginable. It's so... interesting. I have to admit that I didn't know anything about it until I got a serving of crappy fruit salad on my Hong Kong-Tokyo flight earlier this week. Maybe it was just the airplane food thing, but I found it to be pretty plain-tasting.

Many of us associate dragon fruit with Southeast Asia because of its prevalence in the region and the use of dragon fruit in some Thai recipes, but it actually has its origins in South America. The fruit is mostly made of water and makes for a great low-calorie snack; it's also a great source of fiber and vitamin C.

I have yet to experiment with dragon fruit in my own kitchen, but my instincts tell me it would be great in a martini glass. Try mixing the mashed-up pulp of a dragon fruit with a spoonful of sugar and some vodka in a cocktail shaker and let me know how it tastes!

By the way, Febreze announced yesterday that they've just added the fragrance Thai Dragon Fruit to their lineup. I'm assuming that it's made based on the smell of the white dragon fruit flower, not the actual fruit part.

Every installment of Taste Test will explore recipes, the science, and some history behind a specific food item.

Image via John Loo's Flickr


  1. I picked up a package of dried dragon fruit from Trader Joe’s a few months back. I agree with the assessment that it’s fairly bland-tasting. But it was a pleasant sort of bland and I found myself eating about half the bag while at work. A few hours later I was running to the bathroom with a gnarly case of the squirts. So I assume that, at least when dried, they are a bit like prunes on steroids. It gave a whole new meaning to “ride the dragon.”

  2. It was not just an airplane food thing… I tried several dragon fruits in Thailand, and they were all mostly tasteless. Although maybe the taste is just bland compared to the appearance of the fruit (which is indeed awesome).

  3. I’ve had fresh dragon fruit and, yes, it is pretty bland. It tastes pretty good, though, despite the bland, and is such a terrifically pretty fruit. Wonderful to serve cubed – it looks like little dice.

  4. I ate some fresh. It was beyond bland; I’d call it almost completely flavorless. Pretty as hell, but tasteless and boring.

    Hmm. I think I know some young men I’m going to start calling “Dragonfruit!”

  5. Mmm, Febreze. I’m guessing it’s made based on the smell of potentially carcinogenic chemicals being sprayed liberally around your living space.

      1. In Lisa’s post the last thing she mentions is Febreeze adding dragonfruit to its scent lineup.

        I second, third, and fourth the other opinions voiced, the Dragonfruit is all flash, little substance. It’s like the communion wafer of fruits, if communion wafers looked awesome.

  6. I’ve bought them in the UK a couple of times before, and found them to be pretty but almost tasteless. I’d assumed this was because the fruit wasn’t ripened properly, in order to last the long journey here. If they’re still tasteless in Thailand that’s disappointing, although they still make a nice garnish.

  7. I bought one of these at the local supermarket, suckered in by the otherworldly plumage and the fact that it had “dragon” in its name. Big disappointment; it kind of reminded me of a kiwi, but tasted from a really long way away…

  8. In Taiwan restaurants often serve this for dessert, but its usually bright purple. I think its the same kind pictured here, soaked in something which changes the color and gives it a bit more taste. (This could be specific to vegetarian restaurants as I’m a vegetarian and typically ate in vegetarian restaurants while I was living in Taiwan.)

  9. I suggest you eat them when they are over-ripe, so slightly squishy. They taste much sweeter then. I add them to smoothies and the seeds add a slightly nutty flavor.

  10. I’ve tried a variety that had pinkinsh red fruit and it tasted quite good. They are a very tender fruit and i’m guessing the bland taste is due to be picked early enough to be shippable.

  11. When I was in Guangzhou a while back the store down the street sold dragonfruit. It’s faintly sweet and I can understand why some people would say it’s bland, but the texture is wonderful and it makes a great breakfast.

  12. The central american versions of these have bright pink/purple insides – it’s almost fluorescent. They are also known for giving people the squits, especially if you eat more than one or two at a time.

    I think they were fairly bland, but the texture was quite nice. Definitely not as exciting as they look, though!

  13. I ate it on the Japanese Yaeyama islands and it’s definitely the last thing I wanna mix martinis with. But it looks really interesting, indeed :D

  14. it’s better FRESH. also, there’s a strand that’s pink instead of white. the pink and black is good in smoothies, ect.

  15. This disappoints me. I’d always imagined these things tasting like Red Dye #41 Tropical Zany Fruut Punch—which is, to say, awesome.

  16. Hi Lisa,

    Here in Brazil we know then as Pitaya, and they are being locally grown on the state of Sâo Paulo. Besides the white variety, we have red, yellow and purple ones too. But they all taste the same.

  17. I’ve had dragon fruit a few times and found it bland, but I had it recently (as a fruit garnish at this one restaurant) and found it quite flavorful.

  18. Interesting but true: the plant they come from (Hylocereus spp.) is one of the most common stock plants used for those hideous grafted cacti you see all over the place. Just knock the lurid parasitic Gymnocalycium off the top and the Hylocereus will sprout and grow. It’d make a not-bad houseplant (relatively easy to grow, etc.) except that it’s incredibly fugly. And you’re not likely to get fruit indoors.

    It’s also, I’m told, pretty easy to sprout the seeds from the fruit, if one is so inclined. This doesn’t make the resulting plants any less ugly, unfortunately.

  19. “Great as a martini?”

    Hmmmm, I guess you like your martini’s flavorless.

    Of course any cocktail nerd will tell you that a true martini only has gin and vermouth. Course I have no use for vodka (colorless flavorless liquid) either so…

    Very pretty, but doesn’t really taste like anything.

  20. The flesh can be white, like shown in the picture, or purple. In cleveland you can find these in china town (good havest, tink hol, park to shop and the like). I have had bland ones, but I have also had ones that are damn tasty. At 7ish dollars a pound its a gamble, but one I will continue to make over the years.

  21. We have many dragon fruit gardens, here in Java. It’s tasted weird, tasteless.

    Durian is a lot better than this one.

  22. This is interesting from an evolutionary point of view. Perhaps the fruit developed such ‘bright plumage’ to attract birds and other animals even more to eat it and spread the seeds when taste alone could not do it.

  23. So Dragonfruit is bland, tasteless and will give you the runs? That’s a ringing endorsement if I’ve ever heard one.

    Note to self: Ix-Nay on the Agonfruit-Dray.

  24. In my experience the ones that are purple inside are quite tasty, a bit like a slightly less sharp kiwi fruit. The ones that are white inside are quite bland. Unfortunately, it can be hard to tell which kind you’re getting till you’ve cut them open.

    1. In my experience the ones that are purple inside are quite tasty, a bit like a slightly less sharp kiwi fruit.

      Wow. I find kiwi fruit awfully bland, but then I’ve only eaten grocery-store ones, and if real, fresh, picked-ripe kiwis* are as much better than the grocery-store ones as is the case with tomatos I expect I don’t really know from kiwi.

      Unfortunately, it can be hard to tell which kind you’re getting till you’ve cut them open.

      Just like people.

      Um. I didn’t really mean that the way it sounded.
      * Note: I said kiwis, not Kiwis. Blandness is not a trait I associate with people from New Zealand!

      1. Best to look for actual NZ kiwis (Zespri), and not the inferior Chilean ones. I found the latter to be much more sour and NZ much sweeter and distinctive in taste.

  25. @ #1 – don’t you mean ‘chase the dragon’? maybe not.
    anyway my girlfriend loves these things and mangos, you name it, she loves fruit. so I’ve had a few. they taste a little bland but have a kiwi sort of texture that is enjoyable. spread some good honey over it and you’re in for a treat. coolest bowl ever.

  26. @ #1 – don’t you mean ‘chase the dragon’? maybe not.
    anyway my girlfriend loves these things and mangos, you name it, she loves fruit. so I’ve had a few. they taste a little bland but have a kiwi sort of texture that is enjoyable. spread some good honey over it and you’re in for a treat. coolest bowl ever.

  27. I have never had a dragon fruit that tasted like much of anything! However, they are gorgeous and add a nice texture (esp. the crunchy seeds) and colour variety to a fruit salad. (Mostly they look really good in a display bowl of exotic fruit as a table decoration.)

    Never met one that wasn’t white inside.

    And thanks for the info that they don’t come from SE Asia. I presume that the fruit has a different name where it originates?!

  28. My uncle actually grows these on his farm in thailand. When I went to visit him he didn’t have any samples for us to try, but he did say that we wouldn’t want to try it anyway.

  29. Heh,when my father visited NZ, he said that the most interesting people he met there were Australian. (Ooh, let’s go off on a tangent and start a fight!)

  30. There are at least two varieties. Both are essentially tasteless. Both are good in the various Thai tam-ponlamai dishes. if you eat the red/purple version, be careful where the juice goes, because it stains everything.

  31. I’m in the UK, and I bought one from a supermarket because my daughter wanted to try one.

    The taste wasn’t that strong, but I don’t think I would say “bland”. Sort of like mild vanilla ice-cream. The texture was lovely.

  32. I bought one in Hawaii and it was of the purple kind. To me it tasted a lot like kiwi – not bad at all, but we got tired of eating it after a while (it’s much much bigger than a kiwi).

  33. Yes, they’re really bland when they’re picked too early and not ripened. I thought the dried ones were awful. BUT I have had one that was perfectly ripened. It was sweet, with a delicate flavor and a wonderful texture.

    More often than not, at the grocery stores here in the US they are picked too early and are basically tasteless. And considering how expensive they are here, it’s not usually worth the risk. But if you ever get a chance to try a nice well ripened one, don’t miss it!

  34. I wish I could get some of this where I live! It is so beautiful. I have eaten many bags of the dried version (from Trader Joe’s as another commenter mentioned). I didn’t find it bland; I found it to be sweet with a strong dirty/earthy flavor, and the seeds were like kiwi seeds – a little textured nutty crunch.

  35. I love dragon fruit in fruit salads – they tend to pick up the flavors of the other fruits and add an interesting texture. But if you’re thinking of eating it without anything else, don’t bother.

  36. Pan fried (very briefly) with pan fried tuna steak is great! It’s like a bland version of melon in flavour/texture so it acts nicely as a foil to the strong tuna.

  37. I too only know the magenta ones from Central America, and I looooove them and am now craving one like mad. I love the taste, it can be subtle/delicate, especially if they are not quite ripe. Of course when you pick them ripe from just outside your front door it does make a big difference. Sigh. (Now back in the UK – brrr.)

    Great trick if you do get them ripe and local – and so you will definitely have far more than you can eat fresh – put them in the freezer whole! They don’t freeze solid like an icecube, but more like sorbet – you just cut them in half and tuck in with a spoon, the thick skin is the bowl. Great in smoothies too, and lovely juice (lots of Vit C), especially with some lime added. They also have the most incredible flowers – the huge bud is tightly curled in a spiral, then when it opens it’s white, with a lot of petals making a huge cup the size of a child’s head, and lots of yellow anthers sticking out the middle, plus a central spike, almost like an orchid – and they only open for one night, overnight, so that the bats can pollinate them. If only my Seagate portable hard drive had not started clicking and taken all my photos of Nicaragua (five years) down the pan, I would send you a photo! In Nicalandia they’re called pithayas (pit eye ya). Oh, doh, Wikipic here: http://bit.ly/btILML

  38. Hmmmm scented Febreeze. I thought that Febreeze acted to ‘soak-up’ smells (not mask them) so how would that work then? – surely it should absorb itself?

  39. Ice Breakers Sours candy (“Tropical Fruit” version) includes “Peach Dragonfruit”. They’re quite addictive.

  40. I love dragonfruit. I wouldn’t call the flavour “bland” – I’d call it “subtle”. Nuts, bananas, and many other things we enjoy don’t taste like artificial flavour concentrate. It’s OK not to be overpowering. The texture is also delightful, like icecream laced with poppy seeds. Some people serve it chilled, which emphasises the texture but reduces the flavour. Some people liquidise it and put it in martinis, destroying the both texture and flavour completely. In the end, it’s your call.

    If you want a less subtle odor, try the durian fruit. For best effect, leave in your car or by a sunny window, to ripen for a couple of days. This ripening process was so popular in Singapore, there was no room in public transport for passengers! Durians are now banned on all public transport there.

    Or, if you want a less subtle texture, try the kiwano fruit. The texture (slimy, rubbery sacs of mucous), is also memorable. Not subtle: simply ghastly.

  41. Well, Dewi, I prefer intense flavors. They don’t taste like artificial flavor concentrate to me. And I quite like bananas, but the DF I had was too bland for me. And I didn’t care for the texture, actually, or maybe it was the combination of the texture and the (lack of) flavor.

    Durian is the one that smells like shit and tastes like vomit, right? Or is it the other way around?

    1. No… I’d say durian smells more like old sweat socks. And has the texture of a nice soft squishy tarantula ass.

      (insert ‘I just frew up in my mouf a little’ lolkitten)

  42. I admit that my love of the dragonfruit is likely a factor of three things: I had one right after I had a kiwano, so ANYTHING would have been awesome in comparison; the dragonfruit looks awesome, and maybe I’m a sucker for great packaging; and I maybe got a particularly nice-tasting one?

    Or I could just be weird. Most stuff I’ve read about the kiwano is people frothing over how awesome it is, and most people here seem underwhelmed by the dragonfruit. So I may be verymuch in the minoroty. In which case, everyone please send all your dragonfruits to me! :D

  43. If dragonfruit is so bland, how on earth did it end up as the key flavor in so many bottled drinks?

    (It’s gotta be the name.)

  44. I grow these in my backyard here in Orange County, CA. They are basically a cactus fruit, have a mild flavor and the millions of seeds inside are crunchy.

    The flower the fruit comes from is about the largest and most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

    Every Vietnamese person that I’ve ever met with a garden has at least one of these growing.

  45. There’s another variety of the dragon fruit, called pitahaya, which has a yellow skin. This is the one that I have tasted, and it’s not bland at all: ripe, it has a taste somewhat between pears and grapes, with a texture similar to kiwis; if you eat it greener, not quite ripe, there’s a bit of a strawberry-like tanginess in the mix. I’m almost sure that the ones we get here come from Colombia.

  46. #5 is correct. The only alcohol to be used in a martini is Gin, with Vermouth optional. Exotic olives should certainly apply!

  47. In Beijing, they sell sticks of skewered, sugar-glazed hawberry (kind of like a tart crabapple), and to mix it up, they’ll throw on some dragonfruit or strawberries as well. The candied dragonfruit are a nice sweet compliment to the sour haws, but on their own, they are boring, boring, boring.

  48. I was introduced to the fruit last year while in china.

    Of the three or four dragon fruits that I purchased, all with various degrees of ripeness, I noticed that the taste is different depending on the part of the fruit that you’re eating. The flesh closer to the skin was the familiar “bland” taste that many of you are referring to but the flesh closer to the core had a subtle sweet flavor.

  49. I’d recommend trying mangosteens, if you can find them. (I think they are legal in the US now–someone told me they weren’t at one point.) Here’s a picture:


    I lived in the Far East for a while, and dragonfruit definitely looks like the tastiest–the first time I saw it at a hotel breakfast bar, I piled it on my plate just based on looks (oops!)–but mangosteens are the best. Rambutans are good, too.

  50. I have one in my fridge and am currently growing 3 types of Dragon Fruit, red, pink and white (as in the picture) Planning on growing one of each in hydroponic pots and three in planters. Although it is a cactus, the Phoenix heat of summer will be too much for them (until I can get them established within my hibiscus for shade). Been eating Dragon Fruit for years, I love it. Wish I could grow Mangosteen and Rambutans and Durian here though.

  51. One of the seasonal チューハイ(Chuuhai= alcohol+ juice in a can) flavors in Japan is Dragonfruit, and it is the BEST THING EVER. I got a couple of cans one spring, and really wish that I had stock-piled more, because it was so delicious.

  52. I had one in Guatemala long ago. The flesh was fuchsia and it tasted like kiwi. It was so beautiful, so sweet-tart, fragrant and delicious.

    I’ve always wanted to try a good mangosteen. I had one once in the off-season. It was bland and pointless. I do hope we can get them here some day.

  53. good quality dragon fruit is actually sweet. i found that most of the dragon fruits available in the market taste, yes, bland. My rule of thumb when picking nice dragon fruit – huge in size (like two standard rice bowl cupped together), heavy and not hard.

  54. The ones that I had in Cambodia were amazing, at least at the end of the monsoon season. My description is the crispness of an apple with the taste of a strawberry, that isn’t quite right either. I wouldn’t sully a good dragon fruit with sugar or alcohol, but that’s just my sensibilities. Perhaps it was because they were on not on the sweet side, which is something that I prefer.

    I have never found a good one in the US. This isn’t just the memory of a “peek experience”, but the one’s in the U.S. stores are usually kind of small and sad. I did find some fairly good sized ones in a large(st?) Asian supermarket, somewhere in San Francisco.

  55. Just to let you folks know, I work at a Walmart, and we have carried a Dragonfruit Febreeze for a while now. I have no clue how it’s smell compares to the actual fruit or flower, but, imho, it is one of the better scented of their products.

  56. I live in Thailand. The trick is, cut ’em in half and put ’em in the freezer. Then spoon them just like ice cream. The cold brings out the flavor, they don’t freeze quite solid so the smooshy white stuff is intersperced with the crunchy black seeds. Neat.

  57. I love dragon fruit, but when my fiancee ate one in Thailand, it triggered an allergic reaction. Ever since then she can’t eat apples, carrots, cherries, pears, or, of course, dragon fruit.

    Has anyone else ever had this happen?

  58. I’m from Southeast Asia. This article is really going mislead a lot of people away from great tasting dragonfruit.

    The dragonfruit you want, is those that has RED instead of white flesh on the inside. The ones with white flesh usually costs only abt US$0.60, while the red flesh ones usually cost double. They are similar on the outside.

    The red ones has a sweet, cane-y taste. The flesh also seems slightly softer (gives more easily to the bite). They also look much prettier when served.

  59. This is amazing! We have lots of it here in San Paolo – BRAZIL. It tastes like kiwy mixed with grape….is it possible?!…try to immagine.

  60. Had these in Vietnam all the time. They are bland like Watermelon is bland. But on a hot humid day are very refreshing. Fresh and slightly overripe are the best. They serve these on all Cathay Pacific flights that I’ve been on. I don’t understand all the Dragon fruit hate going on here you have fruits that are sugary and strong like Mango’s and then those that are refreshing and like like melons. You need to mix up your diet once in a while. You can’t live on the equivalents of a fried bacon and cheese sandwich your whole life.

  61. dragon fruit is kinda bland, but i enjoy it alot because it still tastes good, it doesn’t have to have alot of flavor

  62. I always thought these things were genetically engineered by fiendish southeast asian entrepreneurs to fleece caucasian exotica-junkies. Nice to know they come from weird little cacti that have other cacti grafted on top.

  63. Dragon fruit are (at least in my experience) more “mild” than bland. Very simple, slightly sweet, like a kiwi fruit but more watered down and usually lacking in tartness.

    Texture is like a watermelon, although perhaps slightly crispier.

    Degree of flavor does seem to vary between fruit examples, however, and I think it depends on how fresh and ripe your fruit is – our store here tends to get ONE shipment and keep the slowly-wilting fruit on the shelf for weeks and weeks. Nasty.

  64. So I live in France, and I read this post this morning, and found the fruit tonight at my local grocery store, so of course i felt compelled to get it immediately. I ate it with a friend who hates fruits in general, and we both enjoyed it. It was a little bland tasting but the texture and feel would make it a really good basis for a refreshing cocktail (like tamarind can)

  65. I have eaten many fresh dragon fruit (I had the good luck to live in Viet Nam for a little more than 4 years). The flavor is mild (bland is a poor choice of words IMHO). It is refreshing, and I don’t recall ever having an “adverse reaction” from eating it.

  66. The purple ones are best, eat ’em chilled, so refreshing on a hot day! It is a tad bit bland but I think it tastes somewhat like a kiwi (not as sour). Here in Singapore we can get them at the corner fruit shop for $1 SG (.70 cents USD)! I’ve heard of people making ice cream from them and I’m thinking I will have to give that a try.

  67. White dragon fruit is bland but pink dragon fruit is sweet. What I mean here is the color of its flesh inside. The picture above shows a white dragon fruit.

  68. In Brazil it is called Pitaya, but is not a common fruit in São Paulo, in fact usually rather expensive. It is however known for its diuretic properties ;)

  69. I want to thank all the commenters above for describing how this fruit actually TASTES – texture, what to look for, etc. That’s sort of what I would expect from the *author* of a taste test article, but I guess this is what crowdsourcing is all about.

  70. Dragonfruit are incredibly delicious when very fresh, like just picked in South vietnam, with raspberry-like wonderfulness. Even in north Vietnam they are not as good. The blandness is the result of the travel time; they are like peaches in the respect, but even more so, if that’s possible.

  71. They are not bland. They are lightly favored. The nice thing about dragonfruit is that they help regulate your blood sugar and metabolism. If you add dragonfruit to your diet everyday, you can lose a few pounds per month. They quell hunger, contain fiber and vitamin C. It is a good substitute for desserts like ice cream which will make your ass and face even more rounder than it is now.

  72. The very first poster had an experience simmilar to mine. Be careful how much you eat and don’t stray too far from a bathroom for a day or so afterward.they are worth it, though, especially when you soak a few dried halves in a glass of tequila for a half-hour or so. then when you’re done with the drink you can eat the soaked fruit.Very tasty.

    By the way, there are two varieties of dragonfruit- with a white or red/purple interior.

  73. OK, I tried Dragonfruit, and the best way i can describe it, it is like eating saliva-flavored fruit. It’s in your mouth, but you don’t really taste *anything*. Sure, I got a bad one, sure. Still, the experience was so revolting I will never have another.

  74. I’m an American who lived in Singapore for several years and I LOVE dragon fruit! It is tied with grapefruit as my all-time favorite fruit. I ate a dragonfruit almost every day for breakfast, usually the white ones. They have a mild, sweet flavor and a fantastic crunch! I am craving one right now – but sadly, now I can only eat them when I occasionally find them at an Asian market.

  75. I live in Costa Rica. The native pitaya fruit is big, dark red violet, bland and somewhat sweet. In the supermarkets there are Columbian grown yellow pitayas. These have flesh that is as clear as glass and very sweet. The plants I produced from this fruit’s seed have white, less sweet flesh.

  76. I’m ADDICTED to dragon fruit…those beautiful, gorgeous red fleshed ones. To me they are the most delicious fruit in the world. white ones will do but only if I can’t find the red ones. I had four today and wondered why I was going to the loo so often…now I know! (Thanks guys)…but my love affair with dragon fruit will continue regardless.

  77. I am from Vietnam but now live in Montreal. We have a small dragon fruit farm and I have loved the taste of it my whole life. I enjoy the texture and the taste is deliciously sweet and subtle. However, in MOntreal I have never encountered a good tasting dragon fruit. They are indeed bland. It is similar to asian pears in that the flavours are not obvious and they are popular amongst locals because of their refreshing watery qualities. I do notice that my Canadians friends do not enjoy the the fruits as much as I do when I serve them.

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