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What are Blood Oranges?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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The blood orange is perhaps one of the most surprising citrus fruits. While the average orange is sliced to reveal orange flesh of dark to light color, people slicing or peeling a blood orange — which is a mutated standard orange — may be at first shocked to find the flesh of the fruit a deep, sanguine or bloody red color. Such crimson depths reveal remarkable sweetness, and blood oranges, which may be available just a little earlier in the season than traditional oranges, are prized for their juiciness, robust flavor, and outstanding color.

Long known to the Europeans, especially in Spain and Italy, knowledge of blood oranges is fairly new in places like the Americas. There are some sunny locales in the US where this orange is now commercially grown, but most often, stock is still delivered from Europe. There are some variant species of blood oranges, and the most famous of these are the Sanguinello, Moro and Tarocco. All three are considered good in flavor, but may have their own characteristics; for example the Moro is thought reddest while the Tarocco may have the most flavor.

No matter which blood oranges people find available, usually in the Western Hemisphere in about February, certain features characterize these oranges. In addition to sanguine flesh, they tend to be relatively thin skinned and juicy. Most have seeds, but the amount of seeds may vary from many to a few. Blood oranges are typically smaller than traditional oranges. Appearance on the skin can vary too, and sometimes as the orange ripens, a blush of red shows up on the skin, while others remain pale to dark orange without this appearance.

The simplest thing to do with a blood orange is peel and eat it. Though the skin is thin, they can be peeled, or they can be sliced and made into classic orange boats for consumption. The red juice may be a little prone to staining, so a napkin or paper towel is recommended.

There are many recipes that include blood oranges. They can be used in a variety of desserts, and they are an excellent addition in green salads or their juice can be used in citrus dressings. They can perk up fruit salads and essentially be employed in any recipe calling for oranges of other types.

One of the benefits of blood oranges is they have higher antioxidant levels than other varieties of oranges. The coloring of the orange represents the presence of anthocyanins, which are available in other dark colored fruits like cranberries. These chemicals are under investigation as potentially having anti-aging benefits and protection against things like cancer and heart disease. Combined with this is a generous serving of vitamin C. A single blood orange usually gives people over 100% of the recommended daily allowance for this vitamin.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By lluviaporos — On Nov 20, 2014

@Fa5t3r - I actually think part of their PR problem might be because someone decided to call them "blood" oranges. It's a very suitable name in terms of their appearance, but not exactly the kind of thing the average person wants to associate with their oranges.

By Fa5t3r — On Nov 19, 2014

@browncoat - If you have the climate to grow oranges you might want to try planting a blood orange tree rather than relying on the supermarket to carry them. An orange tree is usually a very good producer once it gets going and I'm sure the blood orange tree isn't any different.

I actually think that they tend to be more expensive because they aren't as popular and that comes from their appearance. I was afraid to try one the first time I came across them because they have all those dark patches on the skin that look like fungal growth or something. And the insides are colorful but not consistently red, so it just looks like someone has splashed dye everywhere. But they do taste good, I'll admit that.

I think if someone could tweak them a little bit so they were more of a consistent coloring they would end up being more popular.

By browncoat — On Nov 18, 2014

I adore blood oranges. I wish they weren't so much more expensive than ordinary oranges. I guess they just aren't grown very much in my area so they get treated like an exotic luxury item.

It's not so much that they are sweeter, in my opinion, but that they are milder than ordinary oranges, so you can enjoy the orange flavor more.

And the color really is pretty as well, which is a nice bonus, although not if you get the juice all over your clothes, which I've done more than once.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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