What Is Yuzu Fruit, and How Is it Used?

This Japanese citrus fruit has been getting a lot of buzz—learn what yuzu is, and how it can be incorporated into your cooking.

Chances are, you’ve been hearing about yuzu more and more lately—though it’s been popular in Japanese and Korean cuisine for hundreds of years, it’s starting to catch on in the United States, too. But while you might’ve encountered yuzu on the menu at a Japanese restaurant, it can be used to add flavor to all kinds of dishes, including grilled meat, salads, and desserts. If you’ve been wondering what yuzu is, it’s time to find out, along with ideas for using this citrus fruit, and where you can track it down if you want to try it for yourself.

Yuzu fruit

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What Is Yuzu?

Yuzu is a small, bumpy, yellow citrus fruit that looks a bit like a smaller, rounder lemon or a yellow lime. It has a tart, sour flavor and a strong scent, and it tastes like a combination of a lemon and a grapefruit. However, yuzu’s flavor is more complex than traditional lemons, and has distinct herbal and floral notes in addition to acidity. Like lemons and limes, yuzu’s flavor is usually too strong to eat on its own, but it’s delicious when flavoring sauces, homemade desserts, drinks, and more. Though it’s most commonly grown in Japan today, the fruit actually originated in China. Yuzu is thought to be a hybrid species, most likely a cross between mandarin oranges and ichang papedas (a Chinese fruit with lemon-scented flowers).

What Is Yuzu Sauce?

If you’ve had ponzu sauce before, there’s a good chance you’ve already tried yuzu without even knowing it. One of the most common uses for yuzu is in ponzu sauce, a citrusy Japanese sauce usually used for marinades or dipping grilled meat. Homemade ponzu is usually a mixture of soy sauce and yuzu juice, or another citrus fruit like lemon or lime.

Where to Buy Yuzu

Because it’s primarily grown in Japan, yuzu can be a little tricky to find—don’t expect to find it sitting between the lemons and limes at your local grocery store. Your best bet for finding fresh yuzu is to head to a Japanese grocery store or market. Some yuzu is grown and harvested in California each year, and is in-season from about September through February. You might find fresh yuzu at a Japanese market or specialty store during this time, but you can typically find yuzu juice and even frozen zest year-round. Yuzu is also starting to pop up in more and more stores across the country. Whole Foods has several yuzu-flavored products, including yuzu juice and ponzu sauce, and you can order organic yuzu juice from Amazon.

How to Use Yuzu

In most cases, you can use yuzu in about the same way you’d use a lemon or a lime. You can squeeze the juice over cooked seafood or meat, or use it to make a vinaigrette or a sauce. You can also zest the fruit and add it to desserts, glazes, and marinades. If you’re making a recipe that calls for yuzu but can’t find it, you can usually substitute lemon, lime, (or a combination of the two) or even Meyer lemons. Yuzu has a strong flavor, so it won’t be a perfect substitution, but it’ll add a similar acidity and tanginess. If you want to try yuzu but don’t have a specific recipe in mind, you could try using it in basic recipes that call for lemon or lime, such as a cocktail or vinaigrette. Just be sure to start with a small amount—yuzu’s flavor is distinct, so you might end up using less of it than other citrus fruits.

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