Learn how to cut dragonfruit, also known as pitaya, with this simple step by step guide. The mild-tasting tropical fruit has gained popularity in recent years for its use in smoothie bowls but it can be enjoyed in a variety of ways as a healthy treat or snack.
If you’re lucky enough to spot this tropical fruit in a store, do yourself a favor and grab one! Dragon fruit are usually a little pricey but they’re a ton of fun and worth the splurge.
What Is Dragonfruit?
This tropical fruit is native to central America but can now be found more widespread across the world. It’s actually a form of a cactus plant and similar in nature to the prickly pear fruit.
Dragon fruit (which is also called pitaya) comes in a few different varieties. The most commonly found type being the bright pink exterior with white flesh interior. Less common are the yellow exterior (shown below) and the bright magenta flesh (not shown). The bright magenta fleshed dragonfruit have become quite popular in the U.S. for their use in smoothie bowls and is often found in the frozen section of grocery stores sold as a smoothie base.
The yellow dragonfruit have “horns” on the outside whereas the pink ones have a more “thorny” green leaf appearance.
Dragon fruit taste mildly sweet. Some liken it to a cross between a kiwi and a pear. The yellow variety is the sweetest of all dragonfruit with larger black seeds than the other types.
Choosing a ripe dragon fruit to cut
Dragonfruit are ripe when the exterior is smooth and bright. The fruit should not appear wrinkled when purchasing, that’s a sign it’s past its prime.
It’s ripe for cutting when there’s a little bit of give to the skin, similar to an avocado. It should not feel mushy.
How to cut dragonfruit
Despite it’s intimidating outward appearance, dragonfruit is very simple to cut, especially when ripe.
Step 1: Slice in half
No matter if you decide to slice, cube or create spheres with the fruit, the first step in cutting a dragonfruit is to slice it in half lengthwise.
While the exterior looks tough, it’s not. It should be effortless to cut through the dragon fruit and expose the flesh. I like to start from the end without the thicker stem using a sharp knife on a flat surface such as a cutting board.
This will expose the flesh, providing a couple of ways to proceed from here.
Step 2: Remove from the peel
Method 1: Scoop it out using a spoon
Scooping the flesh out from inside of the peel using a spoon is one of two ways to expose the sweet edible part of the dragonfruit. This is done just like you would with an avocado.
If the fruit is at perfect ripeness, this method is simple. However, it can tend to leave some fruit behind, especially if you don’t use a large enough spoon.
Method 2: Peel back the skin
My preference is to peel back the skin. To do this, cut the half in half again to make a “wedge” shape. Grab the tip of the peel and gently pull it back away from the flesh.
The fruit will separate from the peel easily. No extra tools will be needed.
Step 3: Cut into slices
With the flesh separated from the peel, the dragonfruit can be cut however you like. One method is to slice it into half moons.
To do this, take either the scooped out or peeled off sections and use a sharp knife to make thin slices down the fruit.
Fanning out the slices as a garnish on top of a smoothie bowl is a fun presentation.
For an even fancier presentation or garnish for a drink, consider leaving the peel on and slicing the fruit like you would an orange with the rind still attached.
Step 4: Cut into cubes
To cut into cubes, start by slicing the dragon fruit as described above then turn the fruit and cut in the opposite direction to create small cubes.
Cubes are great for freezing and using in smoothies. I often keep frozen papaya chunks on hand to make this gut healing smoothie but I love adding frozen dragonfruit when I have it too.
Step 3: Scoop into spheres
It’s easiest to scoop out the spheres when the dragonfruit is still in the peel so this would be done after step #1 of slicing the fruit in half.
Spheres are a fun visual element to smoothie bowls as well. You can see them used in this tart cherry coconut recovery smoothie.
How to store dragon fruit
If the fruit is whole and you’re trying to ripen it, leave at room temperature until ready to use. If the dragonfruit is ripe but you’re not yet ready to eat it, store in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.
To ripen dragonfruit quickly, place in a paper bag with an apple or banana. This will help speed up the ripening process.
Once cut, store the fruit in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.
Ways to enjoy dragon fruit
Besides smoothies, as we’ve talked about already, there are a number of ways to enjoy this delicious tropical treat.
- Add slices, cubes or spheres to a green salad like this cucumber melon salad for a pop of sweetness.
- Incorporate it into a fruit salad for a light dessert.
- Use it in a salsa like this mango habanero or pineapple habanero salsa.
- Add to yogurt bowls, cereal or oatmeal as part of your breakfast.
- Create a tropical drink like this passion fruit martini.
- Enjoy it straight up right out of the peel. Sometimes this is the best!
Nutritional benefits of dragon fruit
Considered one of the many super fruits, dragon fruit is high in vitamin C. A one-cup serving of the fruit provides 29g of carbohydrates, 3g of protein and 0g of fat. (source)
Besides vitamin C, it also contains other antioxidants such as betalains and carotenoids. Both help to reduce oxidative stress in the body and potentially fight cancer.
With 7g of fiber per cup, it’s an excellent choice for getting whole-food fiber.
Dragonfruit is also one of the few fruits to contain iron. One cup of the fruit is 8% of the RDI.
Lastly, it’s a great source of magnesium. At 18% of the RDI per cup, it can be a tasty way to help get what your body needs on a daily basis.
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Check out this guide on how to cut watermelon sticks too – the perfect easy way to enjoy the deliciously sweet summer fruit.
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How To Cut Dragonfruit
- 1 dragon fruit pitaya
- sharp knife
- cutting board
- Place the fruit on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, slice in half lengthwise down the fruit starting from the top down to the tougher stem.
- Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh from each half. Or, cut the half into quarters and use your fingers to peel back the skin from the flesh.
- Cut the flesh into slices or cubes depending on preference.
- To make into spheres, leave the fruit cut in half and use a melon baller to scoop out little balls of the fruit.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.
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Gina Matsoukas is the writer, founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients as much as possible. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.