Dried tangerine peel (or chenpi) is exactly what it sounds like—the peel of a tangerine that's dried and aged. The ingredient has been featured in Chinese cooking for hundreds of years and is used in savory and sweet dishes as well as teas and herbal medicine. Xinhui, in China’s Guangdong Province, is famous for making dried mandarin orange peels.
- Also Known as: chenpi, chen pi, chimpi, mandarin orange peel, dried citrus peel, and dried orange peel
- Shelf Life: will last indefinitely if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place
- Common Uses: Chinese cuisine and herbal medicine
- Where to Find It: Asian markets, some health food stores, and online
What Is Dried Tangerine Peel?
Dried tangerine peel is often made using green, unripe tangerines or mandarin oranges. The ingredient is made by peeling citrus fruit and drying the peels in the sun before storing them away to age anywhere from several months to 70 years. The longer the peel is aged, the more it is prized for its depth of flavor and medicinal properties. This means that high-quality, long-aged dried tangerine peel can be pricey, selling for up to $5 per gram.
Dried Tangerine Peel Uses
With its aromatic bitter and sweet flavor, dried tangerine peel is added to sweet and savory Chinese dishes. It's also frequently added to herbal and whole leaf teas and is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat indigestion, respiratory congestion, and more.
How to Cook With Dried Tangerine Peel
Dried tangerine peel is often soaked in water to rehydrate lightly before it's used in recipes. Sometimes the bitter white pith is scraped off the soaked peel before use, and the hydrated peel can be chopped if desired. Some dishes, like long-simmering stews, don't require soaking the peel first.
You can make your own dried tangerine peel at home. Make a few small cuts at the base of your tangerines or mandarin oranges and remove the entire peel in one piece. If desired, scrape off the white pith using a paring knife. Be careful not to pierce the peel, as this will release the oils, which oxidize when exposed to air. String the peels on a piece of thin twine and hang by a sunny window for one to three weeks or until fully dried. Alternatively, lay the peels out on a baking sheet and set in the sun, turning often. The amount of time needed to completely dry the peels will depend on the humidity and how much sun they're getting. Store in an airtight container to age for at least a few months before using or up to several years.
What Does It Taste Like?
Dried tangerine peel has a distinctive bitter taste that adds a unique flavor to quick dishes, long simmers, and herbal infusions. It is aromatic like a fresh citrus peel, with a hint of sweetness. When cooked, the texture becomes soft and chewy, much like a fresh citrus peel. The peel is not eaten on its own but is used to add complexity to a wide range of dishes.
The peel is used in sweet dishes like red bean soup and in savory dishes like the famous Szechuan dish, orange chicken. Try adding dried tangerine peel to herbal tea for a citrus fragrance and a hit of bitter fruity flavor.
Where to Buy
Dried tangerine peel is available at Asian markets, some health food stores, and online. It is sometimes sold whole or cut into strips, and it can occasionally be found in powder form. The powder is largely used for medicinal purposes. Its color can range from dark orange to black and does not reflect the quality. Labels may read chenpi, chen pi, chimpi, mandarin orange peel, dried citrus peel, or dried orange peel. Look for peel that is stored in an airtight container and is not crumbly. Chenpi that has been aged longer will typically cost more and is believed to be of higher quality.
Dried tangerine peel should be stored in an airtight container in a dry, dark place. If kept in ideal conditions, the peel will last indefinitely.
Since dried tangerine peel is so shelf-stable, there's no need to refrigerate or freeze it. Store cooked dishes containing the peel as you would normally store leftovers.
Nutrition and Benefits
Dried tangerine peel is a source of healthy bioflavonoids. It is thought to be good for improving digestion and treating infections. The peel of unripe, green tangerines is also used by herbalists to treat stomach and liver problems.
Xu M, Tian G, Zhao C, et al. Infrared Drying as a Quick Preparation Method for Dried Tangerine Peel. Int J Anal Chem. 2017. doi:10.1155/2017/6254793
Kuang H (Editor). Recent Advances in Theories and Practice of Chinese Medicine. Intechopen. 2012.