With its jelly-like consistency, crunchy seeds and perfumy aroma, passion fruit is an exotic and unfamiliar item for many consumers. But the sweet, astringent flavor is refreshing and complex, and pairs with everything from citrus and coconut to chocolate.
What Is Passion Fruit?
Passion fruit is native to subtropical regions of South America and grows on a vine, Passiflora edulis, thought to have originated in Paraguay, southern Brazil, and northern Argentina. It is commonly eaten and used in cooking throughout South America.
There are yellow varieties of passion fruit as well as purple or red ones, and individual fruits vary in size from about the size of a plum to the size of a grapefruit. The pulp itself is yellow.
Passion fruit has a taut, shiny skin when it's freshly picked, but the skin becomes shriveled and wrinkled as the fruit ripens.
How to Use Passion Fruit
First off, it's important to be able to tell when a passion fruit is ripe. The main ways are the color of the skin and its texture. An unripe passion is green and hard with smooth skin. Hold off on these, as they will ripen within a few days.
When the skin starts to color, either yellow, red or dark purple depending on the variety, and the fruit softens, it's ready to eat, although the sweetness will continue to develop. You'll know that a passion fruit is fully ripe, with maximum sweetness, when its skin is slightly wrinkled.
Even though you don't eat the skin, it's a good idea to wash your passion fruit thoroughly before using it. To begin with, use a sharp knife to cut the fruit in half. The skin can be tough, so you might want to use a serrated knife, so that you don't squash the fruit while cutting it.
What you'll find within is a gelatinous, yellow, seed-filled pulp that can be easily scooped out with a spoon and eaten as is, or used in all kinds of recipes, like drinks, sauces and desserts.
To make juice, you'd puree the pulp, seeds and all, and add water and a bit of sugar. You can then strain it to remove seed particles as well as any bits of white pith (although both the seeds and the pith are edible). The juice, or the fresh pulp, are great additions to smoothies.
The pulp can also be used in recipes. 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 garnish.
You'll need 10 to 12 passion fruits to produce a cup of pulp.
What Does it Taste Like?
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. Its flavor can be compared with citrus, melon, pineapple and kiwi. When overripe, the pulp can take on a richly complex, almost fermented flavor. The flesh is jellylike, and can be scooped out and eaten with a spoon.
The seeds have a slight crunch to them, but they're easy to eat and don't need to be removed. The same goes for the white pith: it doesn't taste like much, slightly bitter perhaps, and it's somewhat spongy or cottony. Perfectly edible, but not really the point of passion fruit.
Passion Fruit Recipes
Where to Buy Passion Fruit
You can usually find passion fruit in the produce section of larger grocery stores and supermarkets, and since it's cultivated all over the world, from California and South America to Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand, it's available year-round.
When choosing passion fruit, ripe ones will be purple, reddish or yellow in color, and their skin may be smooth in less ripe fruits or wrinkly when they're more ripe. Green ones are unripe, but will ripen within 3 to 5 days at room temperature.
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.
You can sometimes find bottled passion fruit juice, though it often contains additional sweeteners, so if a recipe calls for passion fruit juice to be reduced, the bottled product can produce a sweeter result than the recipe intended.
You can store ripe passion fruit in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, or you can scoop out the pulp and freeze it for up to 3 months, sealed in freezer containers or bags.