What is Yuzu? Amazing Citrus Fruit That You Need to Try
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Oh, East Asian fruit. Makes you think of delicious mangoes, and pineapples, doesn’t it? But there’s a lesser-known fruit – yuzu.
Yuzu is an East Asian citrus fruit that looks similar to a small grapefruit but is more yellow in color with a sour taste. It is highly aromatic and used to prepare jams, marmalade, and sauces like ponzu.
Let’s take a closer look at yuzu, what it’s like, how it’s used, and why it’s unique. Keep reading to find out more.
It’s a widely used fruit, especially in Japanese, Korean and Chinese cuisine.
Yuzu is known to give amazing citrusy and herbal aromas to sauces, but it can also be used in all kinds of recipes, even for baking.
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What is yuzu?
Yuzu is an East Asian citrus fruit and plant that probably originated in China. It is believed to be a hybrid of sour mandarin and Ichang papeda.
The fruit looks somewhat like a very small grapefruit or tangerine with uneven skin and can be either yellow or green, depending on the degree of ripeness.
Yuzu fruits, which are very aromatic, typically range between 5.5 and 7.5 cm in diameter but can be as large as a grapefruit (up to 10 cm or larger).
Since yuzu is not a lemon, it is less juicy. For that reason, yuzu juice is much more expensive because it’s more difficult to extract.
It’s a citrus fruit, but it’s different from the others.
The seasonality of yuzu is typically from November through April, and it is commonly used in a number of dishes and beverages.
So although it’s popular in winter, yuzu is used for cooking year-round.
Yuzu can be utilized at any point of ripeness, unlike lemons and limes, which are best when fully ripe and juicy.
The fruit’s zest can be utilized as a superb garnish or flavouring ingredient when it is unripe, green, and hard as a rock.
Some popular uses include pickling, marmalade, and sauces (i.e., ponzu).
Additionally, the juice is often mixed with other fruit juices to make a beverage called yuzu-shu.
Yuzu kosho is another popular seasoning made from the zest of unripe yuzu that is cured with salt and chili peppers.
Got a recipe asking for yuzu kosho but it’s hard to find? Here are the 8 best yuzu kosho substitutes to try
What are the names of yuzu?
Here are names for yuzu:
- Scientific name: Citrus ichangensis × C. reticulata, formerly C. junos Siebold ex
- Japanese: Yuzu – 柚子 (kanji); ユズ (katakana); ゆず (hiragana)
- Korean: Yuja – 유자
- Chinese: Xiāng chéng – 香橙
What does yuzu mean?
Some people believe that the name yuzu comes from the Japanese words “yuzu no hana”, meaning “flower of the sour citrus.”
Others believe it comes from the Chinese word “yàn zhū”, which means “frost jujube.”
In either case, the name reflects the pungent, tart flavor of yuzu fruits, which is often used to add a sour or acidic note to dishes and drinks.
What does yuzu taste like?
Yuzu is most commonly described as having a tart, citrusy flavor that can be slightly bitter or sweet, depending on the ripeness of the fruit.
The flavor is best described as a mix of grapefruit, lemon, and orange. But it also has a herbal quality, so it may not be appealing to everyone.
Yuzu is quite acidic and has a flavor that combines bitter grapefruit, sharp lemon, and sweet orange. Hints of floral and herbal flavors highlight its acidic flavor character.
Despite its unique flavor, yuzu has become popular in culinary applications due to its wide range of uses and versatility in cooking.
This fruit is extremely fragrant and unique, so most people who like citrus fruit enjoy the taste.
Yuzu has a strong aroma compared to other more popular citrus species, emitting a zesty, honeysuckle-like scent when mature.
Origin and cultural significance
The origin of the yuzu fruit goes back to China many centuries ago in the Yangtze river’s upper basin.
It’s a hybrid between the mangshanyeju subspecies of the mandarin orange and the ichang papeda (a Chinese citrus fruit with a strong smell).
Yuzu is an ingredient that can commonly be found in Japanese Chinese, and Korean cooking, but it’s more popular in Japan.
In Japanese cuisine, yuzu is an ingredient in a variety of foods, ranging from soup and sashimi to pastries.
Yuzu also plays a significant role during celebrations like the one for the winter solstice, during which taking a yuzu bath is said to bring good luck.
On the island of Shikoku, one of the largest producers of yuzu in Japan, the fruit is a celebrated commodity and emblem.
One of the island’s prefectures even holds a festival every autumn to celebrate the beloved yuzu.
Since its creation, the yuzu has been praised for its medicinal properties and used as a traditional remedy in East Asia for centuries.
The yuzu fruit is rich in antioxidants and has been used as a traditional remedy for colds, flu, and other ailments in East Asia for centuries.
Yuzu is also a popular ingredient in cosmetics and skincare products due to its anti-aging properties.
How to eat yuzu
It can be eaten fresh, used to make marmalade or jams, or steeped into teas and juices.
Some people also enjoy adding it to cocktails, sauces, and desserts for a burst of citrusy flavor.
The yuzu can be peeled and the segments eaten raw, or it can be squeezed to extract the juice.
As with any other citrus fruit, it’s important to use caution when eating yuzu, as the skin and pith are bitter and should be avoided.
Yuzu is entirely edible. This means the skin, zest, pith, flesh, juice, and seeds can be consumed safely.
How to use and cook yuzu?
Yuzu is a very versatile ingredient that can be used in cooking, baking, and even in aromatherapy.
It is used to add a tangy flavor to soups and sauces or can be juiced to add an extra zing to many different dishes.
Yuzu kosho, a fiery fermented paste created from yuzu zest, chiles, and salt, is frequently made in Japan using green yuzu zest.
Ponzu sauce is probably the most popular dish that uses yuzu. It’s a citrus-based sauce used as a dressing or dipping sauce for sushi, sashimi, and tempura.
Yuzu also tastes great as part of a salad dressing and vinaigrette because of its tangy sour taste.
Yuzu can also be used to make a variety of jams and jellies.
Additionally, it is often added to cocktails, desserts, and baked goods for a hint of citrusy sweetness.
To prepare fresh yuzu juice, simply cut the fruit in half and squeeze out the juice. You can then strain it or leave it as is, depending on your recipe.
If you are looking for a unique ingredient that can add an extra burst of flavor to your cooking, then yuzu fruit is a must-try.
Yuzu is also used in all kinds of stir-fries and meaty recipes. The rind can be used to make a fragrant and flavorful zest.
Chicken yuzu pepper, yuzu shabu-shabu, and yuzu miso are all popular dishes that make use of this citrus fruit.
The juice of yuzu is commonly used as a dipping sauce for fish and seafood dishes. It can also be used as a marinade or added to soups and stews.
Popular yuzu seasoning (or sauce/etc.)
Ponzu sauce, yuzu kosho, and yuzu vinegar are all popular ways to use this fruit in cooking.
These are the three most common yuzu seasonings.
Ponzu sauce is a citrus-based sauce used as a dressing or dipping sauce for sushi, sashimi, and tempura.
Yuzu kosho is a Japanese chili pepper paste made with yuzu zest, chili peppers, and salt. It is often used as a condiment or added to soup and other dishes for a spicy flavor.
Yuzu vinegar is a type of vinegar made with yuzu juice and is often used in salad dressings or as a marinade.
Types of yuzu
While there’s one yuzu fruit, there are many different varieties farmers cultivate.
The yuzu varieties can be identified by their characteristics for growth and by (relatively) little variations in fruit quality.
In general, it is unlikely that these variants will be distinguished on a large scale for commercial purposes, but if you happen to be in Kochi, Japan (the most famous yuzu growing region), there are many types to try:
- The most sought-after use varieties in Kochi, Japan, are Kumon, Nagano, and Kiyotou.
- Tadanishiki is a seedless yuzu variety and is known to be the most difficult to grow.
- Komatsu Sadao is one of the most fragrant yuzu types because of its high quantity of fragrant compounds.
- Shishi Yuzu is a special large and gnarly-looking yuzu fruit that is not used for cooking. Instead, it’s used for baths and skincare products.
There are some other types, too, like Jimoto, Komatsu Koichi and Yasu but they’re not as common.
The majority of commercial yuzu is cultivated on grafted trees. However, seed-grown (misho) yuzu can command a premium as a gourmet item.
Misho-yuzu is frequently grown in mountainous regions, and it can be exceedingly difficult to collect the fruits from the rather tall trees.
How to choose the best yuzu fruit
The peak season for yuzu is from October to February, but you can find it year-round in Asian grocery stores.
When picking out a yuzu, look for fruit that is vibrant, fragrant, and largely free of imperfections and spots.
Due to the comparatively thick skin not adhering closely to the underlying fruit, yuzu can feel quite soft.
What’s the difference between yuzu and lemon?
Yuzu and lemon are both citrus fruits, but they have some notable differences. For one, yuzu is a bit smaller than a lemon.
Yuzu also has a more fragrant and complex flavor than lemon. It is often described as having notes of mandarin orange, Meyer lemon, and even grapefruit.
Lemons, on the other hand, are tart and acidic with a sharp citrus flavor.
When it comes to cooking, yuzu can be used in much the same way as lemon. However, because of its unique flavor, it can also be used to add a special touch to many different dishes.
What’s the difference between yuzu and calamansi?
Yuzu and calamansi are two citrus fruits that are often used interchangeably in cooking. Both fruits are tart and acidic, with a strong citrus flavor.
Calamansi is more popular in Filipino cuisine, whereas yuzu is more common in Japanese and Korean recipes.
Yuzu is slightly larger than calamansi and has a more complex flavor that is often described as being a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange.
Calamansi, on the other hand, is more sour than yuzu and has a flavor that is similar to a lime.
What’s the difference between yuzu and ponzu?
Ponzu is a citrus-based sauce made with yuzu juice, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and mirin. It is often used as a dressing or dipping sauce for sushi, sashimi, and tempura.
Yuzu, on the other hand, is a citrus fruit – its juice is used as an ingredient in authentic ponzu sauce recipes.
What’s the difference between yuzu and yuzu kosho?
Again, yuzu is the yellow citrus fruit, whereas yuzu kosho is a Japanese chili pepper paste made with yuzu zest, chili peppers, and salt.
Yuzu koshu is often used as a condiment or added to soup and other dishes for a spicy flavor.
Popular yuzu pairings
When using yuzu as part of a fruit salad, it pairs well with most other fruit.
Cherries, berries, apricots, peaches, plums, prickly pear, and other citrus fruits like mandarins and oranges taste good when combined with yuzu.
The best savory pairings include:
- fish and seafood (like sushi)
- dashi stock
- soy sauce
- scallions/spring onions
Try it as a marinade for grilled fish or as a dipping sauce for sashimi and sushi.
Yuzu can also be used in sweet dishes like cakes, cookies, and custards. The zest can be used to flavor frostings, and the juice can be used in lieu of lemon or lime juice.
Try pairing yuzu with yogurt, cream, chocolate, and fruit for sweet combinations.
Try adding some yuzu zest next time you make Sinugno (Grilled Tilapia in Coconut Milk)
Where to eat yuzu?
Most people buy yuzu fruit at a farmer’s market, local market, or grocery shop and eat it at home or use it for cooking, cocktails, etc.
In Japan and other Asian countries, yuzu is easy to find at stores.
Yuzu can also be found at some specialty restaurants as part of the dishes on the menu.
These establishments typically use yuzu in various dishes, such as yuzu-flavored chicken or fish.
Is yuzu healthy?
Yuzu has been used for centuries in traditional medicine practices, and it is believed to have many beneficial effects on the body.
For example, some studies have shown that yuzu may help to improve digestion and reduce inflammation.
Additionally, yuzu is rich in antioxidants and other nutrients, such as vitamin C, that are essential for good health.
Overall, yuzu is considered to be a healthy and nutritious food that can help support many aspects of your health.
Whether you eat it raw, use the juice in cooking, or incorporate it into your diet in other ways, yuzu can be a great addition to any healthy lifestyle.
In terms of flavor and appearance, the yuzu is similar to a number of other citrus fruits, such as the mandarin orange.
However, it is also sometimes compared to grapefruit and has even been called a “super-grapefruit” due to its high levels of vitamin C and various antioxidants.
It is also similar to lemons, limes, and other citrus fruits in terms of culinary uses, as yuzu can be used in cooking or juiced for its tangy and refreshing flavor.
What is the best substitute for yuzu?
Since yuzu has a strong and unique taste, it can be challenging to replace it in a dish precisely.
Given the difficulties in obtaining fresh yuzu, bottled or frozen yuzu juice, plus a bit of lemon zest, is usually the best option (or dried yuzu peel, if you can find it).
There are a few alternatives you might look into if you are unable to find any yuzu goods to work with.
Be aware that these substitutes accomplish the same kinds of effects in recipes rather than exactly replicating yuzu.
After all, the flavor of yuzu is very strong.
Lemons and lemon juice work well as yuzu substitutes. Yuzu has a particular scent, but lemon has a beautiful perfume and flavor all its own.
If you don’t have enough yuzu, you can alternatively incorporate in some lemon.
Lemons that are less ripe (or even green) can be useful because they are a little sourer and more herbaceous.
Due to their excessive sweetness, Meyer lemons are a poor alternative for yuzu. Go with regular lemons instead.
Try using a combination of lemon juice, grapefruit juice, and a tiny bit of lime juice as a replacement if you want to prevent an extremely noticeable lemon juice flavor.
A decent place to start is with a 4:2:1 ratio blend.
You might also look into using other citrus fruits as substitutes for yuzu.
Other tart citrus like calamansi, kalamansi, sudachi, and yangmei can all work well, although these are also hard to find.
It’s possible to experiment with harsher citrus like bergamot, combava, or papeda. As always, use this other citrus judiciously because they can easily overwhelm a dish.
How to store yuzu?
A ripe yuzu can be stored at room temperature for a couple of days but it will start going bad soon after.
To keep yuzu fresh for as long as possible, it’s best to store it in the fridge. Place the whole fruit in the fridge or place the juice or zest in an airtight container.
You can also freeze yuzu juice or zest for later use. To do this, simply place the juice or zest in a freezer-safe container and store it in the freezer for up to six months.
The whole fruit can be frozen, too, and it will last for around two months. To freeze the whole fruit, first, wash it and then dry it completely.
If the fruit has some spots, cut off any bad spots and cut the fruit into small pieces. Place the yuzu pieces in a freezer-safe container and store them in the freezer.
When stored properly, yuzu can last for several weeks or even months.
This makes it a great option for using in recipes all year long, regardless of whether the fruit is in season or not.
Is yuzu the same as pomelo?
No, yuzu is a type of citrus fruit that is often compared to grapefruit. Pomelo, on the other hand, is a larger fruit that is usually sourer in flavour.
Both yuzu and pomelo are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, but they can be used in different ways in cooking and flavor pairings.
In terms of appearance, the yuzu is smaller with a yellowish color, whereas the size of the pomelo is much larger, although it can vary. It is usually pale green or pinkish in color.
Is yuzu a type of lemon or citron?
Yuzu is a type of citrus fruit, but it’s not a lemon or citron. It has less juice than a lemon, but it has a similar tangy and tart flavor.
Some of its culinary uses are also similar to lemon or citron, such as using it in cooking or juicing it for flavor.
What is yuzu drink?
Yuzu drink is a type of citrus drink that is made with yuzu juice. It is usually refreshing and tangy and sometimes sweetened with sugar or honey.
There’s a special type of Japanese sparkling beverage called Moshi Yuzu, and it’s a popular alternative to sodas.
Why is yuzu expensive?
The yuzu fruit is not very juicy, so a lot of fruits are needed to produce even a small amount of yuzu juice. This makes the final product quite expensive.
Also, the fruit itself can be hard to find, especially outside of Asia, which makes it even more costly.
This fruit is not as popular as other citrus fruits like oranges or lemons, so there’s less demand for it, which drives up the price.
Yuzu is one of East Asia’s best-kept secrets when it comes to citrus fruits. Though it can be difficult to find, this fruit is worth seeking out for its unique flavor and aroma.
Yuzu is a type of citrus with a sour and tart flavor that is similar to lemon or grapefruit.
It’s used to make sauces, dressings, and marinades and is a popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine.
This fruit is also rich in vitamins and antioxidants, making it a healthy addition to any diet.
When searching for a tangy and sour ingredient for Asian recipes, consider yuzu fruit or juice.
Now you know all about yuzu, let’s try making this zesty umami dashi yuzu vinagrette!
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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.