Exotic Citrus Flavors Reign This Summer

Warm weather is here, and with it, a new wave of summer flavors. When it comes to summertime, citrus flavors are always in high demand and come in more varieties than any other category of fruit. Orange, lemon, and lime are classic favorites that we expect to remain top picks – but this year, we’re seeing the demand for more exotic citrus flavors peak. That’s no surprise, as today’s adventurous consumer craves foods that stand out for their flavors, aromas, textures, and colors – and exotic citrus options check all of these boxes. There are a wide range of exotic citrus flavors showing up in drinks and foods all over, including persimmon, kaffir lime, pomelo, and more. Also, other tropical flavors are in high demand, such as passion fruit, pandan, tonka bean, and more.


How it’s being served


One new thing happening in citrus is new ways of presenting it. Roasted citrus fruits are delightfully unexpected and delicious year-round. Something magical happens when you roast citrus fruits, from everyday oranges and lemons to seasonal blood oranges, pink grapefruits, and more. While delicious on their own, roasted citrus takes on sweeter, slightly-burnt notes – not unlike crème brulee, except actually healthy (important to the growing number of health-conscious consumers).


We’re also seeing more candied citrus products. Candied, or crystallized, citrus is fast becoming an all-star ingredient popular among the choosiest foodies. From topping cakes to bedecking scones, from jazzing up salads to sweetening up trail mix, and from being drizzled in chocolate to garnishing cocktails, candied citrus is being used in a wide variety of tempting ways.


Speaking of cocktails, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages alike are one major way citrus flavors are being presented this year. Lemonades offer endless possibilities for citrus flavor combinations such as lemon and thyme, lemon and basil, lime and chili, pink grapefruit and green tea, citrus and ginger, and many more. Sophisticated beverages for the adult consumer who prefers to steer clear of alcohol are another great new trend. Mixologists are experimenting with citrus alongside various herbs and processes, such as citrus with lavender, orange blossom, or other florals. Incorporating herbs and botanicals can help you create an entirely new experience for your end customer.


Exotic citrus fruits


Flavorists looking for new ways to incorporate citrus flavors into their creations can always turn to the timeless favorites: oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit. However, there’s a whole world of exotic citrus fruits out there just waiting to be tried. Consider experimenting with flavors such as:


  • Finger limes. This “micro citrus” grown primarily in California and Australia isn’t really a lime, although their appearance is similar. The skin is thin and edible, and the pulp is made up of tiny, plump spheres (think caviar). The flavor is a lot like lime with grapefruit and floral notes.
  • Kumquats are like adorable little miniature citrus fruits, but with a twist: their peels are sweet, and their juice is sour. The sour, tangy inside and sweet, delicious peel form a surprising flavor clash when eaten whole – or when both flavors are used in other recipes and products.
  • Ugli fruit. These wrinkled fruits taste better than they look. The loose-fitting skins make them easy to peel, and their taste is surprisingly sweet. You can use this flavor anywhere you might use oranges or tangerines, or anywhere you need a delicious, refreshing, citrusy flavor.
  • Kaffir lime. Here’s an exciting option. The flesh and juice of the kaffir lime aren’t edible, but the rind and leaves are prized in Asian cuisine. These flavorful components are often used much like baby leaves, adding a bright, citrusy, slightly floral flavor and fragrance to Asian soups and curries.
  • Japanese yuzu looks a lot like small, bumpy oranges. Their colors range from orange to yellow to mottled green. The flavor of their juice is tart, like lime, but with a backdrop of rosewater. You’ll often find this flavor in Japanese soups and sauces.
  • Buddha’s hand. Buddha’s hand has perhaps the most interesting appearance of the fruits on this list. Made up of a bundle of “fingers,” this citrus fruit is large and waxy. It has no flesh or juice; instead, it is made up of peel and pith. Its aroma is sweet and lemony, and its taste is mild.


Now is a great time to experiment with any of these or other exotic citrus fruits in a wide range of products from beverages and marinades to soups, sauces, and more.


Great flavor combinations


When it comes to creating new flavor combinations using exotic citrus and tropical fruits, the possibilities are endless. For one thing, we tend to think of the flavor of the edible part of the fruit, but the entire plant comprises edible and inedible parts that offer unique aroma and flavor notes. Citrus blossom is a popular flavor profile appearing more and more often in a variety of products.


Citrus also pairs beautifully with floral flavors, another trending taste topic this year. The combination of floral and citrus is usually highly effective because it gives consumers something familiar and something unfamiliar in what they’re eating or drinking – a recipe for a well-received food or beverage.


One unexpected place we see citrus turn up is in coffee drinks. Coffee lemonades and other ready-to-drink coffees with citrus flavors are making frequent appearances in coffee shops and retail stores, a modern twist on the popular half-tea/half-lemonade concept. It’s more than a gimmick, though; citrus can cut coffee’s bitterness and give you a smoother, mellower beverage.


As for other tropical fruits, we see lots of kiwi fruit as well as flavor pairings such as cucumber, lime, and strawberry. Coconut and pineapple are remaining popular favorites, both blended or as separate flavor options. Mango is another well-loved choice that is being seen paired with lots of citrus and other tropical flavors.


Consumers are loving citrus flavor combinations both for their health appeal and for their adventurous aspect. As summer continues, expect to see citrus flavors reign in drinks, frozen treats, dairy products, desserts, baked goods, sauces, dressings, and many more. Look for demand to increase and plan accordingly as you experiment with the exciting and refreshing flavors of exotic citrus.