We’re covering the four main types of dragon fruit in this comprehensive guide to that popular tropical fruit, including varieties of each type of dragon fruit and how to enjoy them.
What is Dragon Fruit and Where did it Come From?
Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya, comes from several species of cactus native to Central America. Dragon fruit typically has a red or yellow outer skin with green scales, and its inner flesh can be white, red, or pink, dotted with tiny black seeds.
Dragon Fruit Flavor
Surprisingly, despite being such an exotic fruit, dragon fruit’s flavor is not as exotic as you might think. People often say dragon fruit tastes like a cross between a kiwi, a pear, and a watermelon. It’s mildly sweet (though this varies by type), slightly crunchy from the seeds, and quite refreshing.
Best Uses for Dragon Fruit
Whether pink, white, or yellow, this tropical fruit is perfect for snacks, smoothie bowls, garnishes, fruit salads, and so much more! We think the best uses are those that take advantage of the striking appearance of their skin and flesh. Sliced, they are a great add to any fruit or veggie tray. Want an easy but striking add to your fruit tray? Make one of these simple fruit bowls out of the skin with cut dragon fruit resembling dice. If you need pointers on how to cut dragon fruit (they are a little tricky) check out our how to cut a dragon fruit guide with video.
Where are Dragon Fruit Grown?
Vietnam is the world’s largest producer, but they are produced much more broadly today with significant production coming from Thailand, Taiwan, and Sri Lanka in Asia. In Central and South America Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Honduras all cultivate dragon fruit. Most of the fruit consumed in Europe’s growing market comes from Israel, and there is some limited production in the United States.
Which Nation Eats the Most Dragon Fruit?
Hands down that would be China as their 1.4 billion people consume 60% of the world’s production. Dragon fruit is seen as a symbol of good luck in Chinese culture, which together with its purported health benefits has contributed to its popularity in China. Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia are the next largest consumers, but as its popularity is increasing it is becoming popular in nations outside of Asia as well. Europe is the fastest growing market for dragon fruit.
Dragon Fruit Nutrition
While dragon fruits contain a fair amount of fiber, their nutrition profile isn’t as strong as many other fruits and vegetables. Dragon fruits do, however, contain several antioxidants such as Betalains, Hydroxycinnamates, and Flavonoids. A 100 gram (3.5 ounce) serving of dragon fruit contains on average:
- 60 Calories
- 12 Grams sugar
- 3 Grams fiber
- 3% RDA of Vitamin C
- 2% RDA of Vitamin A
- 5% RDA of Potassium
- 1% RDA of Calcium
- 4% RDA of Iron
- 10% RDA of Magnesium
Are Dragon Fruits Keto Friendly?
No, dragon fruits are not ket friendly. With 12 grams of sugar per serving dragon fruit would quickly take up the limited daily carb limit allowed on a keto or other super low carb diet.
Dragon Fruit Varieties
There are four types of dragon fruit though some growers would say three lumping red and pink together. Some would also say that “sour dragon fruit” is another, but these are really just unripe dragon fruit. The fruit does not ripen once picked, so you could pick them early and sell a reliably sour “variety”. We list a few specific varieties under each type. Most are from the USA despite our limited production. We list these as they might be easiest to find at local markets here in the USA.
White Dragon Fruit
This variety has pink skin, white flesh, and black seeds. It is the most commonly sold dragon fruit in the USA probably because it is relatively sweet. Most groceries only carry one variety, so if you want something besides a white dragon fruit, check international markets.
Some popular varieties of white dragon fruit include:
- Alice: A semi-sweet fruit grown in California.
- David Bowie: A sweet fruit developed in California.
- Guyute: A sweet variety from Central America.
- Vietnam Jaina: A classic semi-sweet dragon fruit from Vietnam.
Red Dragon Fruit
This variety has a deep red skin and flesh. They generally aren’t as sweet as other dragon fruits though the red varieties from Vietnam are said to be a bit sweeter than from other nations.
Some popular varieties of red dragon fruit include:
- Bloody Mary: A semi-sweet fruit from California with stunning red pulp.
- Costa Rican Sunset: A small dragon fruit hailing from, you guessed it, Costa Rica.
- Red Jaina: A popular semi-sweet Florida grown fruit of medium size.
Pink Dragon Fruit (Purple Dragon Fruit)
The pink variety is very similar to the red dragon fruit except that the pulp is pink instead of red. They are known for a mild taste you might describe as neutral. You may see these also called purple dragon fruit as some varieties have a stunning deep purple flesh.
Some popular varieties of pink dragon fruit include:
- American Beauty: Despite its origin in the USA is mostly grown in Guatemala.
- Cosmic Charlie: A large California created dragon fruit.
- Haley’s Comet: Another large fruit created in California.
- Purple Haze: A sweeter variety with a stunning purple pulp.
- Voodoo Child: These very small but sweet fruits come from Florida.
Yellow Dragon Fruit
The yellow varieties have yellow skin, white flesh, and are considered the sweetest type with the firmest texture of all dragon fruit. They come mostly from South America where Colombia is the largest producer.
Some popular varieties of yellow dragon fruit include:
- Yellow Dragon: A unique Florida creation in a market dominated by South American growers.
Pitaya Vs Dragon Fruit What is the Difference?
The difference is only in the name. The names pitaya or pitahaya come from Mexico and appear to have been named after the cactus the fruit grows on. The name Dragon Fruit is distinctly American and caught on in the 1960s as a nod to its unique appearance.
Dragon Fruit FAQs
Can I eat the skin? Oh no, don’t do that. It is very hard, bitter, and fibrous. Use the skin for its distinctive appearance on your fruit trays, but throw it in the compost bin afterwards.
Are dragon fruits expensive? Yes, we consider them relatively expensive. Here in Colorado we generally see $4-7 per fruit pricing. The price appears to be coming down over time however, as the popularity picks up and sales volume increases.
When is dragon fruit ripe? Look for pink, red, or yellow fruit. If the skin is green it isn’t ripe. The thing is, dragon fruit doesn’t ripen off the vine, or at best ripens very little off the vine, so be sure to get them in full color at the store.
How do you cut a dragon fruit? Well it can be a little tricky which is why we published a separate guide with a video: how to cut a dragon fruit. We prefer to not send you to other links in our articles, but it seemed appropriate here.
This wraps up our look at different types of dragon fruit. We hope you found this a helpful look at an intriguing and fun to use fruit. As always Happy Cooking from your friends at Live Eat Learn!