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TokyoTreat Japanese Snacks BlogWhat is Yuzu? Getting to Know a Tasty Japanese Fruit

What is Yuzu? Getting to Know a Tasty Japanese Fruit

Kim KahanKim Kahan
Published Time
Posted on 
January 08, 2022
Modified Time
Updated last 
January 20, 2023
A bunch of yuzu (yellow citrus fruit) on a brown hardwood table.

You may have seen or heard of fruit in some of your favorite Japanese dishes, called yuzu. But what is yuzu? It’s a tiny, yellow citrus fruit with a unique flavor that is easily recognizable.

Fresh yuzu juice is sour and tart, with a beautiful floral fragrance. Many say it’s like a cross between a grapefruit and a lime. It is no wonder that it is loved by chefs around the world.

What is yuzu?

Yuzu is a relative of the lemons in Asian countries like Japan, Korea, and China. It is especially famous in Japan, where its flavor is used in all products. People commonly use it for salad dressing, ponzu sauce, hot spring water, and aromatherapy oil.

A shot of a fully bloomed yuzu tree on a clear day with a blue sky.
This fruit is hardy and can survive the harshest winters! Image via Shutterstock

This luxurious Japanese fruit is a citrus hybrid that originated in China over 1000 years ago. A hybrid between a mandarin orange and another citrus fruit. The fruits are very hardy and can grow in cold temperatures.

For these trees to bear fruit, it can take around 10 years. From September through November, there are fruits on the branches of many trees in gardens in residential areas. 

A bunch of citrus fruit, with a split one on top. They're all yellow, and the seeds are quite large.
Yuzu is a popular citrus fruit in Japan! Image via Shutterstock

These fruits are later to bloom than their counterparts which tend to flower in summer. The fruit consists of lots of peel and lots of seeds. In fact, one can only yield around one to two teaspoons of juice. 

This is because it is wonderfully fragrant, with a distinct taste. Moreover, it is resilient in high temperatures, unlike other citrus fruits. These facts make yuzu perfect for cooking. The pungent aroma and sour taste strike an ideal balance with many Japanese dishes.

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Yuzu Dishes

Perhaps the most common use of this citrus fruit is in ponzu sauce. Ponzu sauce is a Japanese dipping sauce for dishes such as sashimi and nabe (Japanese hotpot). 

A poke bowl featuring salmon with a green citrusy sauce.
Yuzu kosho is perfect for seafood dishes. Image via Shutterstock

Another use of this sour and tart fruit is as a flavor for ‘yuzu kosho (pepper),’ a salty, spicy Japanese condiment. Its ingredients are fresh chili peppers, salt, yuzu juice, and zest.

A jar of yuzu kosho, a type of seasoned sauce. It's a rich green color.
Yuzu kosho is made of yuzu, chili peppers, and salt. Image via Shutterstock

This unique Japanese chili paste takes on new, delicate floral notes with the addition of this Japanese citrus. It’s a great ingredient in nabe or miso soup to provide a fragrant lift. This seasoning also pairs well with soy sauce for sushi. 

This Japanese fruit is also present in Japanese tea; yuzu-cha (tea) is a popular drink among all ages. In Japan, yuzu & honey hot drinks are mainly for, just like honey and lemon hot drinks are in the West. 

A cup of yuzu tea in a glass cup with a matching saucer.
This tea comes prepared with preserved peels in honey. Image via Shutterstock

Yuzu zest is soba (Japanese buckwheat noodle) restaurants and noodle shops. It’s also a topping for hot noodle soups – just one or two zesty slivers can add a delicious taste to a delicate dish without spoiling the flavor.

Citrus Wagashi 

This unique Japanese citrus is also used to flavor many different convenience store snacks and brands of sweets. We’re talking from potato chips to candy, chocolate, and even ice cream. 

The most traditional type of sweet using this fruit is called ‘yuzu ame (candy),’ and it is agar-agar flavored with a unique fragrant aroma. Everything about this sweet screams ‘delicate,’ and even the texture is biteable, yet not chewy.

A shot of soft yatsuhashi (a type of wagashi) with a citrus paste filling. There's also a cup of green tea next to it.
There’s plenty of wagashi that features yuzu! Image via Shutterstock

A newer type of ame is the typical boiled candy that comes in big bags, often used as throat sweets, with yuzu jam on the inside of the hard-boiled candy, melting deliciously as the candy on the outer layer is dissolved. 

Aside from sweets, typical Japanese wagashi (Japanese-style sweets) feature this fruit in abundance, from dorayaki (castella patties sandwiched around a filling) to yokan (traditional Japanese jelly candy). 

Yuzu Conbini (Convenience Store) Snacks

Head into any convenience store, and you’ll find an array of yuzu-flavored snacks, from Mintia Breath Mints to gummy sweets, ice cream & sherbet, and candies. 

A table with yuzu cheesecake and a matcha latte on the side.
Would you give this yuzu cheesecake a try? Image via Shutterstock

Aside from candies, this little tart fruit is a more “mature” flavor for chocolates, such as Melty Kiss chocolate, Lotte chocolates, and Fujiya Look. This citrus fruit is a perfect flavor for dark chocolate and a flavoring for truffles.

A single white chocolate wafer featuring yuzu syrup.
This white chocolate yuzu wafer looks fantastic! Image via Shutterstock

It’sIt’s not just sweet foods, either. Doritos and potato chips in Japan will often have a yuzu flavor. In many convenience stores, their fried chicken brand might have a flavoring using this sour fruit, sometimes even paired with chili!

Would you like to try a yuzu-flavored snack or candy? Whether you fancy something chewy like a gummy or traditional like dorayaki, you’ll be able to find a Japanese snack to cater to your needs. Let us know what you try!

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