What Are Cara Cara Oranges?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Cara Cara Oranges

The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

Cara Cara oranges are a type of winter orange known for their sweet flavor, low acidity, and pinkish-red flesh, similar to the color of pink grapefruit. They are commonly used for juicing and for snacking on raw, as well as in fruit salads, green salads, desserts, and sauces.

What Are Cara Cara Oranges?

Cara Cara oranges are a winter cultivar of the species Citrus sinensis, which also includes cultivars such as navel oranges, blood oranges, and Valencia oranges. In fact, Cara Cara oranges are a type of navel orange, exhibiting a characteristic small indentation on the outside of the rind, situated at the opposite end from the stem, that somewhat resembles a human navel. Underneath this navel is an undeveloped "twin" fruit caused by a genetic mutation.

Cara Cara oranges are round to slightly oval, from three to four inches in diameter, with medium to thick rind that is bright orange in color and features a slightly pebbly texture. Underneath the rind is a spongy white pith. The fruit itself is seedless and made up of 10 to 11 segments of tender, juicy flesh with a sweet, berry-like flavor and little acidity. 

Like all navel oranges, Cara Cara oranges are seedless, and are cultivated via grafting, where a flowering bud is attached to another tree. Cara Cara oranges are believed to be a hybrid of the Brazilian Bahia orange and the Washington navel orange.

Navel oranges are available from December through April, though they reach their peak sweetness in January and February. While they can be used in cooking and baking, they are mostly used in raw preparations. 

How to Use Cara Cara Oranges

Cara Cara oranges can be used in baking, including their zest and their juice, as well as for flavoring sauces, and can be cut up and served in salads.

Unlike conventional navel oranges, whose juice can become slightly bitter when exposed to oxygen, Cara Cara oranges produce a sweet juice. And, because they're seedless, they are particularly useful for adding to fruit salads, green salads, and salsas, as well as in cooked dishes featuring poultry, seafood, and vegetables. Desserts and sweets like muffins, tarts, cookies, cakes, and quick breads are also excellent ways to highlight their sweet, berry-like flavor.

Cara Cara oranges

Bhofack2 / Getty Images

Cara Cara oranges

Imagesbybarbara / Getty Images

Cara Cara oranges

Bhofack2 / Getty Images

What Do They Taste Like?

Cara Cara oranges have a sweet-tart flavor, with little acidity, along with notes of blackberry, raspberry, and cranberry. 

Nutritional Value

A single medium Cara Cara orange, weighing around 150 grams, is 87 percent water and provides 80 calories and 19 grams of carbs, along with 3 grams of fiber, 1 gram of protein, and negligible fat. It also provides 82 milligrams of vitamin C, which is about 91 percent of the USDA daily value, making Cara Cara oranges an excellent source of this nutrient.

Cara Cara Orange Recipes

Cara Cara oranges can be used in various dishes, such as salads, sauces, and desserts. Because of their pinkish-red color, they can be used as a substitute for blood oranges (although their color is not quite as red), as well as for dishes that call for navel oranges, or simply "oranges" without specifying what variety.

Where to Buy Cara Cara Oranges

Cara Cara oranges are available throughout the winter, starting in December, and into early spring, and can be found in grocery store produce sections and at farmers' markets. Look for ones that are firm and heavy with bright orange skin.

Storage

Cara Cara oranges 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 the best place to store them is the refrigerator. The crisper drawer on the low humidity setting (i.e. with the vent all the way open) is the best place for navel oranges. They'll stay fresh there for three to four weeks, as opposed to a week or less at room temperature.  

Cara Cara Oranges Vs. Blood Oranges

Because of their reddish-pink flesh, Cara Cara oranges are sometimes compared with blood oranges. Blood oranges, like Cara Caras, are also winter cultivars of Citrus sinensis. But the flesh of blood oranges is darker, ranging in color from a rosy pink shade to red, maroon, and a deep purplish, nearly black hue. Cara Caras are situated on the pinkish range of the color spectrum, lighter than blood oranges but darker than ordinary navel oranges.

Article Sources
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  1. Cara Cara oranges. FoodData Central, U.S. Department of Agriculture