The yuzu is a winter citrus fruit that is revered in Japan for its versatility in the kitchen. Although the fruit’s flesh is perfectly edible, its rind also has many uses in cooking, including fish, noodles, and vegetables. The powdered form of yuzu is excellent for adding to desserts or used in hot tea.
As yuzu gains popularity in Western restaurants, you may be wondering what does yuzu taste like? Whether you’ve found it on a menu or are considering using it at home, keep reading to find out everything you need to know about this rugged-looking exotic fruit.
Describing the yuzu fruit’s taste
Fresh yuzu has a citrusy, tart flavor that could best be described as a mashup of grapefruit, lemon, and mandarin. It isn’t as astringent as grapefruit or as sour as a lemon, and it’s possible to eat the fruit’s flesh out of hand. However, this isn’t the most popular use for yuzus as they have a lot of large seeds and not a lot of juice.
The best edible part of a yuzu is its loose, bumpy skin which can be used as a fragrant zest that has an extremely floral aroma.
Yuzu powder is a vibrant mix of sweet and tangy flavor that is delicious added to a range of foods. Its enticing scent works well for use in cakes, ice cream, and other desserts, although chefs also use the powder in many savory uses.
Fresh yuzu juice is a yellowish-green color and is a combination of bitter and sour. Most find it unpleasant to drink on its own. The liquid should be combined with other juices or sweeter ingredients to balance it out and make it more palatable.
Yuzu flavor pairings
The acidity of yuzu makes it a useful match for other traditional Japanese ingredients such as matcha, soy, and ginger. Any savory dish that's well salted, but is still found lacking, will benefit from the acidity burst yuzu offers. Heavy meat dishes also combine well with yuzu as it “cuts through” the protein’s richness.
Uses in cooking
In the 2000s yuzu became a hit in high-end restaurants, thanks to its unique properties. It brings fragrance to a dish as well as a vibrant burst of citrus. Yuzu has many uses in the kitchen and is an essential ingredient in several popular Japanese recipes.
Of course, the simple way to eat fresh yuzu is to slice the fruit in half, de-seed, and then use a spoon to scoop out the flesh (like a grapefruit). Running a sharp knife around the inside of the skin will allow the fruit to come out more easily.
- A popular use for yuzu is to finely slice the rind julienne style, then use it as a garnish on top of meat and sashimi.
- It is a useful souring agent that adds balance to soup, hot pots, and cooked vegetables.
- Combined with chili and salt, yuzu creates a flavor-packed condiment known as yuzu kosho.
- Ideal for adding life to short ribs, Asian soups, sushi, and sashimi.
- Mix with soy sauce, rice vinegar and dashi to make ponzu sauce, a Japanese condiment used as a dipping sauce or marinade.
- Use as a base for vinaigrettes, mayonnaise, and dressings with a citrus undertone.
- The mild sourness is a great match for sweet treats. Use yuzu in cakes, ice cream, cheesecake, and biscuits.
- In Japan, it is also popular in confectionery, such as gummy candy.
- Drink the fresh juice on its own if you enjoy sour flavors.
Add to slushies, cocktails, or even make sake. Get more information about the taste of sake here.
- Yujacha Korean Citron Yuzu Tea. If you can get your hands on this product then you’re in luck. The jar looks like a marmalade, but it is added to water to make a hot beverage. It is sweet and has a pleasing lemony aroma. There are pieces of rind in the drink that is bitter and balances out the sweet tea.
Yuzu dipping sauce recipe
- ¼ cup mirin
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup dashi
- 4 teaspoons yuzu juice
- 1 teaspoon yuzu peel, minced
- 1 chili, finely chopped
- Add mirin, soy sauce, and dashi in a saucepan and heat on high until boiling. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes, before transferring to the refrigerator to cool.
- Combine the cooled mixture with yuzu juice, peel, and chili. Add to small dipping sauce bowls and serve with your favorite Asian-inspired dishes suitable for dipping, such as squid tempura skewers.
Fast facts about yuzu fruits
Popularity: The most popular citrus fruit in Japan is the yuzu, closely followed by the sudachi.
They're well protected: The trees they grow on are thorny and extreme care is needed when harvesting the fruit.
Their origin: Yuzus originated in China and can now also be found growing in Tibet, Japan, and Korea.
Many uses: In addition to their culinary uses, yuzu are added to hot baths for bathing, and for producing lotions, shampoo, cold remedies, perfumes, and alcohol.
The easiest option is combining half a cup of lemon juice with a splash of lime and grapefruit juice. If you’re lucky enough to have some Meyer lemons hanging around the house, then they are also a useful alternative, used on their own.
Whatever you use, the back-up option won’t perfectly mimic the original flavor, but it will help you finish the recipe. Most people who eat your food won’t be able to tell the difference – that is unless you have a group of Japanese guests coming for dinner. If that’s the case, it might be time to change the recipe!
In the United States, the yuzu fruit isn’t commonly available at supermarkets; but, it does tend to pop up in restaurants and also in specialty Asian grocers.
If you’re looking for fruit to eat on its own, then the humble orange is a much juicier, sweeter option. The yuzu beats other citrus fruit, by adding more intense acidity and aromatics to savory or sweet dishes. If you find roast meat or ribs a little heavy, then a burst of yuzu will provide much-wanted relief.
Are you at a restaurant considering whether to try yuzu for the first time? The taste of yuzu doesn’t sound that appealing when you read about it. But when it combines with other ingredients it raises food to new levels. It is well worth trying if you like experimenting with new foods.
What’s your favorite Japanese food? We would be grateful if you would let us know in the comments below.