Your Tropical Fruit Guide

Your Tropical Fruit Guide

Publish Date May 22, 2024

What defines Tropical Fruit?

Tropical Fruits only grow in the warm regions along the equator that stay above 50°F, and may come from Southern Mexico and Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, India, Parts of the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the northern part of Australia. In the US, only Florida and Southern California can grow tropicals like bananas and citrus. There are hundreds of exotic fruits that are too delicate to be shipped to the US, which you may encounter if you travel to a Tropical destination next winter.

Luckily, some tropical fruits can make the trip, providing us with tantalizing flavors and colors. Unique fruits that we can’t grow in colder climates bring a hint of faraway beaches and sunshine to your kitchen.

Health Benefits of Tropical Fruits

Most tropical fruits are very nutritious, with their own unique balance of nutrients. Most are high in fiber, Vitamin C and a host of antioxidants.

Fruits with Fat?

Coconut, Avocados, and Acai are unusual in that they contain fats, unlike most fruits. The fats in coconut are saturated, but considered beneficial, and the fats in avocado and acai are monounsaturated and high in Omega-3’s making them beneficial for heart health.

Tropical Fruit Infographic

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A List of Tropical Fruits


While most fruits are eaten only when ripe, the papaya is also served green, in the popular shredded papaya salads you find in Thai restaurants. Larger Mexican Maradol Papayas are less sweet than the smaller Hawaiian Sunrise Papayas. As papaya ripens, the flesh turns deep orange and becomes very sweet. Papaya is unique in that it contains papain, and enzyme that helps break down protein, and is often used to tenderize meat. You can even eat the crunchy, peppery seeds. Try an Arugala Papaya Salad.

Dragonfruit (or Pitaya)

The dramatic pink and green skin of the dragonfruit holds firm, melon-like flesh that can be pink or white, dotted with tiny black seeds. The flavor is not as sweet as some fruit, slightly reminiscent of kiwi. To use it, simply halve the fruit lengthwise, then you can either scoop it out as a solid piece and slice it, or use a melon baller, to make decorative rounds to top your bowl or salad.

Bananas and Plantains

Bananas are such a feature of American life that we could forget that they are from the Tropics. The standard banana we all know is the Cavendish variety, but there are hundreds of other bananas, many of them small. Apple bananas (that taste like apples) Blue Java Bananas (that taste like ice cream) and Red Bananas (loaded with beta carotene) are worth trying of you get the chance. Plantains are starchy bananas that are eaten cooked, either green or after the skin is completely black, when they take on a little sweetness.Try a Mango Banana Bread, or plantains is Shrimp Mofongo.

Banana Recipes


There are hundreds of varieties of Mango, most of which are not shipped to the US because they are too fragile. In the US you’ll find the smaller Ataulfo or Champagne mango to the larger Tommy Atkins or Alphonso. All mangos are oval fruits with a flat pit in the center. Look for a perfumey smell and a slight give to the flesh. Mangoes are a “superfood,” with lots of vitamin C, A, Folate, Magnesium and antioxidants.

Mango Recipes


A pineapple is actually a spiral of individual fruitlets that fuse together as they grow. With a sturdy skin and spiky leaves sprouting from the top, the pineapple is “non-climacteric,” which means it does not ripen after picking. Always select a fragrant pineapple, and look for golden color toward the bottom of the fruit. Pineapple is delicious Grilled or in Pineapple Cashew Chicken.

Pineapple Recipes

Star Fruit (Carambola)

Star Fruit has five ridges running along its length, and when you slice it, resembles a five pointed star. Gorgeous as a raw garnish for fruit or vegetable salads, or perched on a cocktail glass rim. The flavor is a mix of fruity, tart and sweet, with hints of concord grapes and quince. It’s also made into pies, jams, and even dried chips.


Like the tomato, we tend to think of avocados as a vegetable, as we slice them for sandwiches and salads. It’s really a fruit, and is delicious in sweet preparations, like smoothies, shakes, and baked goods. The creaminess of the avocado comes from healthy monounsaturated fats, and it’s also high in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Avocado Recipes


Green Jackfruit has been getting attention as a meat substitute, because the unripe fruit has a fibrous texture and no sweetness, so it can be shredded and cooked with sauces to resemble pulled pork. Ripe jackfruit, on the other hand, is sweet and juicy, with a deep orange hue and a flavor that hints and mango and banana.


Acai is a “superfruit,” packed with even more antioxidants and fiber than other berries. It also contains Omega-3, Omega-6 and other monounsaturated fats, which make the fresh fruit spoil quickly. That’s why you only see it frozen or dried. Native to Central and South America, Acai is pureed and sold for use in bowls or smoothies, or you can stir it into yogurt.


Small, pear-shaped guavas have juicy flesh and edible seeds, and taste like strawberries with a hint of pear. They are native to Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean, and the biggest producer of guava now is India. You can find Guava Paste, and try it on a cracker in Guayaba Family Gather Rounds.


Canned Lychee is often served at Chinese restaurants for dessert. Look for fresh lychee, peel the craggy skin and a pale white fruit shaped like pearly grape pops out, with a fragrance reminiscent of roses. The flavor is very sweet, with hints of cherries and bananas. Lychee has become a feature in the cocktail world, often speared as a gorgeous garnish for Asian fruit flavored drinks.


Mangosteen has a brown skin that hides a layer of pith, which pulls away easily from the pale white segmented fruit. The flavor has hints of peach, vanilla ice cream, and pineapple, with plenty of sweetness and acid for a truly delicious mouthful. To use, slice into the skin to reach the fruit, then peel like an orange, divide the segments, and trim out the seeds if they are large.


One of the most exotic looking of the Asian fruits, rambutan is the one that looks like a red ball that grew thick strands of tangled hair. The greyish fruit inside has a pineapple and cherry flavor with good acid and sweet balance. The texture is like that of a grape, with an inedible seed in the center. To use, simply slice through the skin, peel it back, and pop out the fruit.

Shake Things Up with Tropical Fruits

Now that you know your way around the Tropics (of fruit) you are ready to start adding more of them to your meals. You don’t need a recipe to peel and chop your tropical finds and make a fruit salad, or simply savor as a snack. If you’re getting bored with your apple with lunch, swap it for a guava or a dragonfruit, for a delectable change.