What Is a Blood Orange?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Half of a Blood Orange

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  • 01 of 10

    Blood Orange Basics

    Blood oranges are a rather gruesome name for a wonderfully sweet and beautifully colored citrus fruit. Blood oranges tend to be a bit smaller than other types of oranges, with a thick, pitted skin that may or may not have a reddish blush but look like regular oranges from the outside. The inside flesh of a blood orange is brilliantly dark pink, maroon, or even dark blood red. Blood oranges grow on citrus trees in warm, temperate climates. The fruit can be eaten as is, juiced, or used in baked goods, cocktails, salads, or other dishes that call for oranges.

    Along with their lovely red color, blood oranges tend to have a noticeable and delicious raspberry edge to their flavor.

  • 02 of 10

    What Is a Blood Orange?

    A blood orange is a citrus fruit that looks similar to an orange from the outside but has deep red color fruit and juice. The red color in blood oranges is the result of anthocyanin, which develops when these citrus fruits ripen during warm days tempered with cooler nights.

    Anthocyanin is an antioxidant, and starts to develop along the edges of the peel and then follows the edges of the segments before moving into the flesh of the orange, so blood oranges can be lined or streaked with red instead of fully blood-colored, depending on the season, when they were harvested, and their particular variety.

    Blood oranges tend to be easier to peel than other oranges, often have fewer seeds, and has a sweeter taste. Blood orange season is typically from December through April, so they can be harder to find and more expensive than naval or other common oranges.

  • 03 of 10

    How to Use Blood Oranges

    Blood oranges are tasty to eat out of hand. Because of their dramatic coloring, they are prime candidates for cutting into "supremes," or membrane-free citrus sections.

    Blood oranges are sweeter than other oranges. Their juice is delicious, but because it is quite a bit sweeter than classic orange juice, it ferments quickly and should be used or drunk the same day it's juiced. Blood oranges can also be used to striking effect in orange marmalade or as a garnish on drinks.

    farmers market blood oranges
    David Papazian / Getty Images
    Blood Oranges on a Salad
    Blood Orange Salad. The Spruce / Molly Watson
    Backyard patio photo of sangria pitcher and glasses full with ingredients
    Brandon Marsh Photography / Getty Images 
    Food background. Homemade berry yogurt ice pops with frozen black currant and blood orange slices
    istetiana / Getty Images
    A delicious pair of plant-based mini raspberry smoothie bowls, the perfect size for two lucky lovers. This smoothie contains bananas, raspberries, mango and blood oranges plus cocnut shavings and flaxseeds.
    Enrique Díaz / 7cero / Getty Images 
  • 04 of 10

    What Does It Taste Like?

    Blood oranges may taste differently based on which variety of blood orange you are sampling. They are less tangy than standard oranges and have more of a floral or tart flavor. Some varieties may taste like orange juice mixed with raspberry, cranberry, or fruit punch flavors. The mouthfeel of a blood orange is the same as a regular orange, but the segments have fewer seeds.

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  • 05 of 10

    Blood Orange Recipes

    In addition to eating them out of hand, blood oranges are popular in baked goods and cocktails.

  • 06 of 10

    Where to Buy Blood Oranges

    Blood oranges need a temperate climate with a hot season and cooler weather to bring out their true color. Thus, they flourish in the Mediterranean, where they likely originated, and in parts of California. It is also why blood oranges are harvested in winter. You're most likely to see them available for sale from December into April in the U.S., although depending on the weather in a given year that season may extend for a month on either end.

    Blood oranges are most commonly available at farmers markets in areas where they're grown, or at specialty stores in other places.

    As with all citrus, look for blood oranges that feel heavy for their size. While blood oranges with orange skins can be brilliantly red inside and redder blood oranges can have limited amounts of its distinctive color inside, if you have a choice, choose blood oranges with darker, redder skins for a flesh that's more likely to match the name.

  • 07 of 10

    Storage

    Store blood oranges on the counter for up to a week at room temperature. You can store them for longer in the refrigerator. Use them before the peel gets baggy and wrinkly. The juice can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 3 days.

  • 08 of 10

    Nutrition and Benefits

    One blood orange contains 130 percent of the daily recommended value of Vitamin C. Blood oranges are also high in potassium and dietary fiber. A single blood orange contains about 70 calories. These fruits are packed with antioxidants as well.

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  • 09 of 10

    Varieties

    There are several varieties of blood oranges; the most famous is the Sicilian red orange, which is grown only in Sicily. Other common varieties include:

    • Moro, a deeply red-colored and slightly bitter orange
    • Ruby Blood, which, despite its name, often isn't very red inside
    • Sanguinello, popular in Spain, which is a sweet orange with red streaks and few seeds
    • Tarocco, very sweet and easy to peel, but with unreliable red flesh

    Other varieties of blood orange include Burris, Delfino, Khanpur, Red Valencia, Sanguina Doble Fina, Washington Sanguine, and Vaccaro.

    You won't often confront a choice at the market, so the marginal differences between the varietals aren't something to get hung up on, but it's good to know that some varieties are simply less likely to be all that red.

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