What Does Yuzu Taste Like? The Facts

Recently, I decided to widen my culinary skills and try some new recipes.  I was tired of the same old thing day after, and to be honest, how many days a week can any of us stomach pizza or spaghetti.  Am I right?

I am by no means an expert, and there is so much that I still need to learn but I am getting there slowly but surely.  Whilst researching dishes that I might want to make, I saw various new and exciting items used to create flavors in the recipes.

However, to my surprise, I happened across something called yuzu that I had not ever heard of in my life.  Feeling slightly intrigued, I decided to look further into this offering from the citrus family.

I’m sure glad that I discovered this Japanese citrus fruit as it has so many uses in the kitchen! Unsurprisingly it plays a big role in Japanese cooking, but also works great in cocktails and can be a great way to add something different to your baking efforts.

But what does yuzu taste like? Read on to learn everything you need to know.

What is Yuzu?

Upon first glance, a yuzu may appear to be somewhat of a discolored orange or a sadly deformed lemon.  On the contrary, the yuzu is an exotic citrus that chefs and beginners should take full advantage of in their culinary endeavors.

The yuzu is primarily grown in East Asia, specifially Korea, Japan, and central China. This makes it hard for many in the US to acquire as it is not an imported item.  

In California, a few orchards choose to grow the yuzu tree on which the fruit grows, but only during September through November.  Another option for obtaining the juice or the zest is in the freezer sections of most Asian grocery stores.

Ripe yuzu is approximately the same size as a tangerine when harvested.  Although the fruit is powerfully fragrant, the flesh is tart and super sour-which means the yuzu would not be the first choice to be eaten by itself.  The peel, via zesting, and the juice are the yuzu’s primary parts used in almost all recipes.

What Does Yuzu Taste Like?

When trying to describe the taste of yuzu, one may find it hard to put into words.  The form in which you decide to use yuzu in a recipe will often determine how it adds its unique flavor and taste.  

For instance, when using the fresh fruit, its taste is tart and citrusy, often described as a refreshing combination of mandarin orange, lemon, and grapefruit.  It doesn’t have all the astringency of a grapefruit, but on the other hand, it isn’t quite as sour as a lemon.

Yuzu powder, in contrast, presents with a tangy and sweet flavor that accommodates a wide range of foods.  The powder is often used in confections such as cakes, desserts, and even ice cream, lending a  somewhat enticing aroma. Chefs commonly use yuzu powder in many of their savory dishes.

Lastly, there is fresh yuzu juice.  With its greenish-yellow color, it presents with both a bitter and sour flavor. 

More often than not, people find yuzu juice too off-putting and unpleasant to drink on its own.  For the best results, you should combine the juice with other sweet ingredients or juices to balance it out and make it significantly more palatable.

What’s the Texture of Yuzu Like?

When shopping for yuzu, it is best to remember that you are looking for the fruit to be unblemished and fragrant on the nose.  Most often, yuzu will feel quite soft when slightly squeezed due to its semi-thick rind, which does not cling to the fruit as in the case of other citruses.

One variety of yuzu, the Shi Shi Yuzu, has an outer flesh that is pulpy in texture and contains multiple tiny sacs of juice.  The fruit is also dry to the touch.  Very few seeds will be embedded in the flesh, presenting with ivory to pale-yellow coloring.

What Does Yuzu Smell Like?

Yuzu has a fragrance that is all its own, unlike any other fruit in the citrus family.  The primary tones of the yuzu are a mix of both grapefruit and orange, with a light undertone of lemons. 

The smell is slightly tart and sweet all at once, with an added feeling of being fresh and light.  Because of its fragrance palette, yuzu is a great companion with other scents in the citrus family, such as orange zest, lemongrass, and grapefruit.  

That is not to say that it can only be blended with fellow citrus fragrances, as it combines just as well with clean, florally, and earthy scents.

What Tastes Similar to Yuzu?

If you are having trouble locating yuzu for a recipe, several bold fruits in the citrus family will serve well as alternatives that you can use.  

Some alternatives include:

  • Meyer lemon – a more petite-sized lemon, Meyer’s are very popular in many recipes.  When compared to other lemons, Meyer’s will be much sweeter.
  • Procimequat – offers a flavor combination of lemons, orange, and celery.  Procimequat is an easy fruit to grow and is often added to seafood salsa.
  • Bergamot – considered an essential ingredient in the ever-popular Earl Grey tea, Bergamot offers an aromatic peel with floral hints.  Bergamot presents much like lime in that it is sour and takes its bitterness from grapefruits.

Remember that these are suggested alternatives, not to be confused with substitutes, as each will taste different but somewhat similar to yuzu. They will each lend a fragrant, sour, and slightly bitter palette to the dish they are used in.

Yuzu Nutrition

Even though the many health benefits of most citrus fruits are widely touted, most have never seen mention of the yuzu fruit.  This reason is mainly due to how rare the fruit is and how difficult it is to obtain.

The benefits of yuzu are said to include:

  • Reduction in the risk of Gout
  • Improved eye health
  • Possible cancer and Heart Disease prevention
  • Improving blood flow
  • Relieving stress

Essential to remember is that although there are many health benefits to the yuzu fruit, there are some risks, common to that of other citruses, that need to be kept in mind as well:

  • Allergies to citrus
  • Mouth and teeth problems
  • Heartburn

As far as the nutritional content of the fruit, one yuzu contains:

  • Calories:  20
  • Protein:  1 gram
  • Fat:  0 grams
  • Carbohydrates:  7 grams
  • Fiber:  2 grams
  • Sugar:  1 gram

Yuzu is also an excellent source of Vitamin C, manganese, sodium, and magnesium.

Uses for Yuzu in Cooking

Depending on how you choose to use yuzu, it can have a somewhat strong flavor, and to add to the dish or recipe, very little may be needed. 

Yuzu has such a strong flavor profile that when added to a recipe, as the old saying goes, “a little goes a very long way.”  When thinking of yuzu, you would be better off considering it bitter rather than an actual fruit juice.

The acid content of yuzu allows it, like limes and lemons, to offer a dual-use in those recipes that are both sweet and savory.  Japanese cuisine usually adds yuzu to sauces, such as ponzu, and mixes it with honey as a sweetener for teas.

Some of the methods that you may want to consider using yuzu  are:

  • Celebratory drinks such as cocktails and slushies
  • Asian-style soups
  • Rice for sushi
  • Mayonnaise, sauces, and salad dressings
  • Cakes, preserves, and biscuits
  • Teas
  • Sorbets