Passion Fruit in South American Cooking

This native plant complements citrus, coconut, and chocolate

Passion Fruit
Marian Blazes

Passion fruit grows on vines and is a species of passionflower. It is native to subtropical regions of South America and thought to have originated in Paraguay, southern Brazil, and northern Argentina. It is commonly used in cooking throughout the continent.

Passion fruit is also called passionfruit, grenadilla, maracuya, and maracuja. 

There are both purple and yellow varieties, and the fruits vary in size from about the size of a plum to the size of a grapefruit.

The fruit has a taut, shiny skin when it's freshly picked, but the skin becomes shriveled and wrinkled as the fruit ripens.

The flavor of passion fruit is astringent and refreshingly tart when the fruit is fresh, but it becomes sweeter and more complex as the fruit ripens. Some prefer to eat passion fruit when it is overripe because the pulp then tastes almost fermented.

Cooking With Fresh Passion Fruit, Frozen Pulp, or Juice 

Passion fruit contains a gelatinous, seed-filled pulp that can be easily scooped out with a spoon.

To cook with the pulp, gently heat it in the microwave or on the stove to make the pulp more liquid and easier to strain. Strain the warm pulp through a fine sieve to remove the seeds. The seeds are sometimes reserved to use as a decoration. You can find frozen passion fruit pulp in many grocery stores and Latin markets, which is ready to use in most recipes once it's thawed. Frozen passion fruit pulp tends to be quite tart. 

Bottled passion fruit juice often contains sweeteners and other ingredients. When you are cooking with bottled passion fruit juice, look for a shortlist of ingredients, including passion fruit pulp, and concentrate the flavor of the juice by boiling it down to half of its original volume before using it in a recipe.


Passion fruit is a relatively guilt-free food and ingredient but packs a nutritional punch. One passion fruit contains only 17 calories and 4.2 carbohydrate grams, 1.9 of which are fiber. Besides fiber, passion fruit is a good source of vitamins C and A and potassium. 

South American Passion Fruit Recipes

Passion fruit is often used in desserts, candies, fruit beverages, cocktails, and savory dishes. It has an intensely perfumed flavor that goes well with citrus, coconut, chocolate (especially dark chocolate), mango, pineapple, and cream.