What Are Calamansi Limes?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Calamansi Limes

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Calamansi limes are a citrus fruit popular in the Philippines and throughout Southeast Asia, where they are used as flavoring ingredients and for their juice. They have a sour, tart flavor with moderate acidity. 

What Are Calamansi Limes?

Calamansi limes are a citrus fruit of the species Citrus x microcarpa, which are believed to be a hybrid of kumquats (Citrus japonica) and mandarin oranges (Citrus reticulata). They are sometimes also known as Philippine limes, Philippine lemons, or calamondin; the words calamansi and calamondin are sometimes spelled kalamansi and kalamondin, respectively. They're native to the Philippines as well as parts of Indonesia and China.

Calamansi limes are small fruits, usually measuring around an inch in diameter and weighing around 30 grams. They're round to slightly flattened. The skin of the fruit is shiny and thin, and can be eaten along with the rest of the fruit. Indeed, the skin is actually sweeter than the fruit itself. Calamansi limes are green when immature, turning a greenish orange and then finally fully orange as it ripens. But since it can take up to a year for calamansi to ripen, they are mostly used in their unripe state. The fruit itself is orange in color, even when the skins are still green, and consists of around seven to nine segments along with a number of cream-colored seeds. They are available year-round, although their peak season is from winter to early spring.

How to Use Calamansi Limes

The bright, tart flavor of calamansi limes lends them to being used in a number of ways. They can be juiced, and their tart, aromatic juice is used to make a refreshing Philippine lemonade. The fresh juice can be mixed with other juices or even frozen to make ice cubes which are then added to iced tea, lemonade, or other beverages. The sliced fruits are also frequently served alongside spicy and savory dishes, where their juice is then squeezed over curries, noodle dishes, meats, seafood, and soups. Indeed, throughout the Philippines (and to a lesser extent, Malaysia), practically every meal is served with halved or quartered calamansi limes on the side.

The fruits themselves can be pickled, or boiled and made into marmalade. And both their fruit and juice are often added to desserts such as cakes, tarts, custards, pies, and gelatins. The peel can also be dried, and then crushed and used as a seasoning.

Calamansi Limes

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Calamansi

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Calamansi

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Calamansi juice

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What Do They Taste Like?

When unripe, calamansi limes have a tart, sour and acidic flavor, sort of like a cross between a lime and a tangerine. The peel of the fruit is thin and completely edible, and is even sweeter than the fruit itself. The ripe version has a more aggressively sour flavor, but it's rare to find calamansi limes in their fully ripe state, both because they don't stand up to shipping and because it takes so long for them to ripen in the first place. 

Calamansi Lime Recipes

Calamansi limes are a staple of Philippine cuisine, so if you can get your hands on some fresh calamansi, the most authentic way to enjoy them is alongside a traditional Filipino meal. Simply halve or quarter the fruits and squeeze their tart, aromatic juice over the food as a seasoning.

Where to Buy Calamansi Limes

Calamansi limes aren't widely sold, but if you happen to live near a Filipino grocery store, that might be the place to seek them out. Larger Asian grocery stores might also carry them. You can also find them online. 

Storage

Calamansi limes should be kept in a dry place in cool or cold temperatures. You can keep them at room temperature for a day or two, but to store them for longer than that, keep them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator on the low humidity setting (i.e. with the vent all the way open), where they'll stay fresh for three to four weeks.