How to Eat Guava, According to Chefs

Here's a complete guide to buying, eating, storing, and cooking with guava.


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Guava's flavor is most commonly described as an intersection of strawberry and pear, sometimes with traces of lemon or passionfruit. But what is this fruit whose flavor has become more and more common on menus? Its profile and popularity has continued to grow alongside that of its complementary Latin cuisine. What does it look like? And before we get into how to eat a guava or how to pick a guava, first, how do we even identify a guava?

What Is a Guava?

Guava comes to us in the United Stays from Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. There are strong suspicions that guava’s point of origin is southern Mexico or Peru, where it continues to be grown and enjoyed today. It has appeared in tropical cuisine for so long that it’s unclear when it was first cultivated.

Today, there are over 30 varieties of guava grown across tropical climates, categorized into either white or red guava. Lemon Guava or Apple Guava is the most common and is very sweet with a strong scent, satisfying starchiness, and big flavor. Other light-colored ones, such as Tropical Whites (which have yellow flesh beneath their peels) are even sweeter. However, the pink ones are actually on the other side of the spectrum due to their higher water content. These are still considerably sweeter than the passionfruit guava is often confused with, though. The advantage to red guava, other than their pretty color, is that there are fewer seeds. But both are delicious and generally sweet, which makes choosing a variety up to aesthetic or application.

Their exteriors can also vary. Generally, guavas are shaped like a plump, round pear or avocado. Their skins can range from creamy hues to rosy reds. However, they’re most commonly green or yellow on the outside, with shades and undertones that vary depending on ripeness.

How to Choose a Ripe Guava

Like all sweet tropical fruits, raw guava at the height of ripeness is exponentially more intense and flavorful than one that hasn’t yet reached its prime.

Your first cue at the produce bin? Nelly Terraza, Kitchen Manager for Casa Almenara, an Atlanta restaurant focused on cuisine from Tulum, Mexico, says, “It’s all about the color!

“The greener the guava, the less ripe it is,” Terraza says. “Look for one that leans more toward greenish yellow or yellow if you want optimum ripeness. It might even have a little pink mixed in, too.” You’ll want to avoid darker fruits unless you’re not trying to eat them right away or are willing to wait for them to ripen, and leave bruised or blemished guava in the bin.

Santiago Gomez, chef-owner of Mexican fine dining supper club Palo Santo (also in Atlanta), goes by color also but points out that texture is equally important.

“I prefer them when they are still a little bit firm, which means they won’t be too sweet,” he says. “But if you prefer them as sweet as possible, make sure they are soft.” For this fruit, good give is an indicator of ripeness, not necessarily spoilage. If you plan to eat it soon after purchase, seek out the ones that feel dense and responsive to a light squeeze.

Finally, a good sniff can also give you an idea of how ready to eat the guava you’re holding is. A musky, sweet scent should emanate from ripe guava. Its aroma can also tell you if it’s gone too far in the ripening process and has begun to go bad. Avoid any that smell of vinegar or decay.

Guava Substitutes

Alternatively, if your local market doesn’t have whole guava for a recipe, guava paste can be substituted. For snacking, dried guava may satisfy that craving as well as its fresh version might.

How to Eat Guava

Other than the stem, the entire fruit is edible. As long as you wash it thoroughly, you can sink your teeth into its sweet flavors with no prep and in no time at all. Bite into it like you would a pear. Or, simply cut it into slices and snack on guava that way. But unlike, say, an apple, there’s no need to worry about spitting out seeds or confronting a tough core. Those seeds that are sprinkled throughout the flesh can be eaten.

You can peel it if you like, but as with all fruit, there is nutritional value to be gleaned from the rind, so it’s entirely a matter of preference. An alternative to peeling is to scoop out the flesh, same as you would spoon out a grapefruit or avocado.

Grapefruit-Guava Fruit Punch
Carson Downing

Guava Recipes

Eating guava as fresh fruit is only the start of great ways to fall in love with it. Terraza says, “I love to use guava in place of quince or pear in dessert recipes when I want to add a tropical spin. It also makes an amazing tea.”

In fact, guava tea has been proven to be as beneficial as it is delicious. In a small-group study, guava leaf tea was shown to effectively lower blood sugar levels after a meal, with effects lasting up to two hours.

However, the fruit is sugary, making it a fantastic juice. Gomez raves, “Guava juice is one of my favorites!” This fruit is a lovely addition to smoothies of any kind, and as juice or distilled down into a syrup. “It’s also amazing for cocktails,” he says. Making a guava margarita or grapefruit guava fruit punch are great ideas for giving your homemade mixed drinks some restaurant or cocktail bar pizzazz.

Gomez also likes to get more inventive by using guava for jams, sauces, and desserts. The natural pectin in guava makes it easy to turn the fruit into a dark jelly that’s thick enough to be served in
slices as an accompaniment to a cheese board. It can be thinned out for baking, such as in pastry or cake as a layer or flavor addition. A common use of guava in baked goods is as an empanada, which is often balanced with cream cheese.  

In other savory applications, the sugar content of guava adds to the quick caramelization of meat that’s been marinated in its juice or jam. Alternatively, a sauce or glaze made from guava can lighten up the heaviness and complement the salt used with the protein.  

And to keep things simple, raw and unprocessed guava is tasty in tropical fruit salads, and you can use its juice or pieces of the fruit to flavor ice pops.

How to Store Fresh Guava

Like any kind of fruit, your window of opportunity to enjoy a perfect guava is limited to storage. If your guava is already light green on the outside or has begun to show rosy traces, eat it right away, as you might only have a couple of days before it turns. Otherwise, place it in the refrigerator, preferably in the crisper drawer, to slow down its ripening. You may also cut it up and store it chilled in a sealed container, too, where it will last up to three or four days.

On the other hand, both Terraza and Gomez encourage freezing ripe guava, which will preserve it for roughly eight months to a year. Terraza advises, “Slice it into four or six sections as you would an apple.” And because it lacks a core, you needn’t be afraid to go right down the middle.

Gomez suggests freezing them in a sealed bag once cut up; other food experts suggest taking the extra steps of peeling the guava first and freezing the sections with simple syrup. You can also store it as a puree instead. However, Gomez’s favorite way is still to make guava into an easy jam. “That way, it lasts longer without ever being frozen.”

How to Ripen Guava

Finally, if where you’re shopping doesn’t have any ripe guava, not to worry. If your guava hasn’t reached its prime state yet, you can leave it out on the counter away from sunlight and wait for nature to take its course. It won’t take long—roughly a week at room temperature. Storing an unripene guava in the refrigerator will extend the process by an extra week or two.

If use is more important than preservation, you can give it a boost by washing off any protective wax, then storing them in a folded paper bag with a banana or apple. The ethylene emitted by those fruits will encourage the guava to mature.

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