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What are Cara Cara Oranges?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Cara cara oranges are a special cultivar of a navel orange that are distinguished by their rosy flesh. Depending on the fruit, the color may range from a pinkish to a deep red, much like that of the grapefruit. Unlike grapefruits, however, these oranges are very low in acid, with a naturally sweet flavor. Some people feel that they are superior to other navel orange varieties in flavor, and they are often in high demand in produce markets when they are in season.

This variety of orange is believed to have developed accidentally, perhaps through a cross of other varietals. Cara caras were discovered at the Hacienda de Cara Cara in Venezuela in 1976, and their origins were a bit unclear, leading some people to classify them as a mutation, rather than a true cross; navel oranges are themselves a mutation, and they have not been known to propagate themselves spontaneously. By the 1980s, cara caras had reached the United States, although they were only available in specialty markets.

Like other naval oranges, cara cara oranges have a partially developed fruit enclosed inside the larger orange. A good orange will feel heavy for its size, indicating that it is very juicy. The season for these oranges peaks at the height of winter, meaning that they are available primarily in December and January in the Northern Hemisphere. Unlike the blood orange, another orange with a distinctive pigment, the rind of the cara cara does not betray the color of the interior, and is typically a bright, glossy orange.

These oranges can be used in a variety of ways. Their slightly berry-like, sweet flavor tastes delicious when eaten alone and in fruit salads, and the oranges can also be juiced, eaten with yogurt or granola, or cooked into jams, jellies, and other spreads.

Cara cara oranges can be grown in USDA zones 11 and above. They are propagated through cuttings that are grafted to other orange trees, retaining the mutation. Some garden stores sell seedlings, and they can also be ordered through nursery suppliers. Like other oranges, the plants like lots of sun, fertile soil, and plenty of water to thrive. The fruit must be protected from frost, especially when it is setting, and the roots should be mulched to help the trees retain water.

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.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon995329 — On Apr 20, 2016

I started eating Cara Caras this year and cant put them down. I usually eat three a day. They are awesome. I get them at Sam's Club. They are deliciously sweet and habit-forming.

By anon924644 — On Jan 06, 2014

Cara Cara are the best oranges I have ever eaten.

By anon339211 — On Jun 21, 2013

Grow your own like I did. It's easy. It can be grown in a 15 gallon pot and it will also fruit.

By anon318947 — On Feb 09, 2013

I also bought a Cara Cara by mistake but lucky me.

I love the taste of them and the lack of acidity.

But I would like to know if anyone knows if they have more natural sugar than regular oranges? My husband, who also loves them, is a diabetic.

By anon315905 — On Jan 26, 2013

I first tried these oranges (cara cara) about six months ago, and I must say they are unlike any other orange. If you have never tried one, they will change your life. It is possible to get unripe or a bad batch. However, if you happen to get that magical bag that is ripe and harvested at the correct time, they are absolutely amazing. Cara Cara oranges are unlike any other variety of orange. The taste is beyond any other orange I have had in my life. It's super sweet, yet not acidic at all. I have had a few different brands now and I have to say that some are most definitely better than others. I recommend buying a single one or two to try if possible. Although where I live, they are only sold by the bag, so it is sort of hit and miss. Still, I have to say the worst cara cara I've ever had is still on par, if not better, than the usual oranges I would buy at the market. And the best cara cara absolutely changed my life.

Seriously though, I have never had a better orange than the one I just finished. Hence me searching, reading, and posting here. The reason they are red as opposed to orange is the presence of Lycopene, which is not found in typical oranges. Lycopene is shown to fight cancer and have numerous other health benefits.

By anon314383 — On Jan 17, 2013

I first discovered Cara Cara oranges at Hannafords a few years back and fell in love! They are so sweet and delicious. Every winter I treat myself to a whole case of them, and I've never had a bad one. A lot of people here have said they are bitter and acidic, but I have never found that to be the case.

By anon313238 — On Jan 11, 2013

I first tried caras about six or seven years ago. They were awesome -- sweet, juicy. I loved them. I went back to get a bunch. Every year since, I've bought a few in season and experienced very mildly flavored to dry, almost tasteless ones.

I always buy three from any given source to sample before buying any more. I was pleased to get some pretty darned good ones today at Raley's at 99 cents per pound.

By anon288413 — On Aug 30, 2012

Do cara cara oranges have drug interactions similar to grapefruit?

By anon262676 — On Apr 20, 2012

Some Cara Cara oranges aren't as good. Hard to know until you actually eat them. Most of the time they are absolutely dreamy, sweet with low acidity and don't upset my stomach at all.

By anon259846 — On Apr 08, 2012

To "voice of reason" - sorry, but I can't be paid enough to eat Cara Cara oranges. You can have my share of them.

By anon249049 — On Feb 19, 2012

Voice of reason, here. Cara Cara oranges are supposed to be sweet and not at all acidic. That doesn't mean the ones you bought are going to be. They will be bitter if grown incorrectly or out of season. Don't spread hate for those who have yet to try these magnificent globes of deliciousness.

By anon248362 — On Feb 17, 2012

I just bought some today, reasonable price (.99/lb), and it looked and felt good. But when I peeled it, what I saw looked like a baby grapefruit, and tasted just like one! As I ate each slice, I kept trying to imagine how in the world this tastes anything at all like an orange!

I believe I'll be returning them tomorrow. They're not bad for a grapefruit, but I would never have guessed it's supposed be an orange, much less a kind of navel orange. I just don't get it.

By anon242114 — On Jan 21, 2012

My mom found these at the store and bought one for me because my name happens to be Cara. I have to say that it was one of the most delicious oranges I have ever had! I'll definitely have my mom buy more of these next time she goes to the store since they are only about one dollar per orange.

By anon237446 — On Dec 29, 2011

I too bought Cara Cara oranges by mistake, thinking they were regular navels. Got them last winter, 2011 at Wegmans in PA. They were the most delicious, complex tasting and juicy oranges I ever had. This season, I bought them early (November) in sacks imported from other countries, and they were dry and bitter. Today (late December) Wegmans began stocking US Cara cara for the first time, and again, they are indescribably great!

By anon213097 — On Sep 09, 2011

This was my first experience with cara cara oranges and I wasn't impressed. I guess I'm the odd one. I prefer the taste and texture of regular navel oranges. I returned them to the store for a refund.

By anon167624 — On Apr 13, 2011

Just had my first cara cara orange. I'm hooked! Incredible taste and not acidly tangy like regular oranges. I will stock up on these. Too bad they're only around for a few months.

By anon166743 — On Apr 10, 2011

I can't believe people say it is bitter or sour.

It is the sweetest orange I've tasted and not too acidic or sour. They just taste fantastic. I eat three or four a day now.

I buy the Sunkist ones at the Costco in Vancouver, Canada.

Right now, it just tastes perfect. I am going to buy few more bags.

By anon165978 — On Apr 06, 2011

Long live navel oranges. They don't have an adulterated orange taste like cara cara oranges and blood oranges. Bought blood oranges once, not knowing what they were, peeled and tasted one: spit it out and threw the rest in the garbage. Then, I was tricked into buying cara cara oranges (placed in the navel bin to fill up empty space). Peeled one. When I saw the color I threw the whole batch out in the garbage. I am now aware and make sure I get navel oranges.

An orange must taste like an orange to me. Cara cara oranges and blood oranges are anything but!

By anon163558 — On Mar 28, 2011

I've got to admit I don't care for these. I just got a bag at Costco and find them bland and tasteless. In fact, I'm returning them and don't intend to buy them again.

By anon160378 — On Mar 15, 2011

I really enjoyed the Cara Cara orange! I ate it just as fast as I would any other orange! I'm glad to know it is not a grapefruit mix because I cannot have any grapefruit due to medication. Thanks for the info on this delicious orange!

By anon155445 — On Feb 23, 2011

I absolutely love Cara Caras!

Keep in mind, they are navel, genetically. They are NOT a grapefruit mix. The "berry" or "cherry" flavor that is described is what some people are tasting as grapefruit. They are similar in taste, so it just depends on your personal view of grapefruit whether you enjoy the distinct Cara Cara flavor.

For those who tried one or two Cars and hated them, just remember: all fruit is not created equal! It's just like any other fruit. Have you ever gotten a bag of grapes that all tasted exactly the same? If you have, I'm jealous!

Every species, crop, tree, and even branch has variations in sugar content and maturity level when picked. If you're thinking that you got gypped out of the Cara Cara experience that others are talking about, give it another try, and try to get fruit from a local farm, but if that's not possible, try ordering online (as silly as it may sound), and keep in mind that the larger grocery store chains frequently import their fruit from other countries to get seasonals. Best bet is to find out when they are fresh and give one a shot! Enjoy

Christine---Cal Valley Ag Svcs

By anon154606 — On Feb 21, 2011

I'm going to have be a Cara Cara hater, I'm afraid. I got mine at Target and was horrified at the bitter taste, very much like a grapefruit without the sugar sprinkled on. The flesh was very pink and I just didn't taste the orange at all. It was very sour and I was not thrilled. I want my oranges to taste like oranges!

By anon153241 — On Feb 16, 2011

I never knew what a Cara Cara orange was until today. I picked them up at Walmart about a week ago and peeled one for my four year old son.

It had me a little concerned when I saw pink flesh like a grapefruit and an orange colored rind like an orange. I had to try one to see if it was a spoiled orange. It seemed to taste fine so I offered it to my son who really liked it. I bought them for the very reason that they were seedless and were labeled as a power orange. Lo and behold, I was surprised to find a mixture of an acidic (not as much as a grapefruit which I always have to put sugar on when I eat them) and sweet(not as much as an orange)taste. I actually thought they tasted pretty good and the important thing is my four year old liked them so I'll definitely be buying them again!

My hands smell like grapefruit after I peeled it, but no bitter after taste was left in my mouth after eating it. Are we sure this is a cross-breed of orange/grapefruit? It sure looks like it!

By anon150187 — On Feb 07, 2011

I've never noticed them at Trader Joe's. I've been picking them up at the Burbank Farmer's Market. They are absolutely delicious. I haven't had a bad one yet, but it's Feb 1st, so we'll see in the next month. An orange a day keeps the wrinkles away!

By anon150076 — On Feb 06, 2011

I like Cara Caras very much! I discovered them at Hannaford's last fall. The ones I've had have been very juice and sweet, though I didn't really taste the cherry/berry flavor some say they have.

By anon148860 — On Feb 02, 2011

If you can, buy them at Trader Joe's. The flesh will be darker than the skin, a little red/pink/orange mix. They should be juicy, tender, with a hint of sour to contrast the mostly sweet.

By anon144704 — On Jan 20, 2011

do not like them. they are sour and bitter!

By anon141026 — On Jan 09, 2011

I am a product demonstrator at Walmart and a few days ago, I was supposed to give out samples of Clementines to customers, but our store did not have them, so my backup product was Cara Cara oranges. I'd never heard of them. The ones Walmart sells are nothing like the description of this article. They were very much like a cross between an orange and a grapefruit. I had many customers comment about that.

The fruit inside tasted and looked very much like grapefruit and not very sweet at all. But on the outside, they looked like regular navel oranges. This strange fruit prompted me to do some research and that's how I came across this article.

By anon127070 — On Nov 15, 2010

We buy Clementines around Xmas here in Southeast Iowa. I don't know where they are shipped from,but they are delicious.

By anon83149 — On May 09, 2010

Ended up with Cara Cara oranges because of package stating they were seedless, was buying oranges for a bunch of hungry girls to snack on between games at a softball tournament and thought this would be great so they wouldn't spit the seeds everywhere. By far the best orange I have ever eaten.

By anon70228 — On Mar 12, 2010

I love Cara Cara oranges, but got a bag of sunkist ones today (which I never buy sunkist, damn you wife) that just tastes like a normal navel orange. I don't like normal navel oranges, that's why I buy the Cara Caras. So if you have to buy sunkist might as well buy the less expensive navels.

By anon69980 — On Mar 11, 2010

I just found these at BJs Wholesale Club. I love them. Not as acidic, not as sweet, but certainly nothing at all like a grapefruit (which I despise).

I hope they carry these every week as I find I am eating two a day! Yummy!

By anon69051 — On Mar 05, 2010

I just had my first Cara Cara orange and thought it was wonderful. Will definitely buy them again, or at least as long as my store stocks them. One thing: I never buy my fruit by the bag. I like to smell it and feel it to make sure it's ripe enough for me. I like oranges that are heavy for their size and they don't have to look perfect; sometimes the ugly fruit is the sweetest.

By anon68363 — On Mar 02, 2010

Cara Cara -- wunderbar!

By anon67784 — On Feb 26, 2010

cara cara oranges, if they are a grapefruit cross, are going to be deadly to those on heart medications which require abstinence from all grapefruit products, ie., statins, lipitor.

By anon67174 — On Feb 23, 2010

I found cara cara a few years ago and buy them regularly throughout the season. I've had bad experiences when on the outskirts of the season, but mostly good obviously as I continue to buy them.

They are very juicy and sweet but not overly so. Not like a tangerine or such. I'm from Florida so I know my citrus and for those that have had bitter or dry cara Cara's I'm guessing they were not at the peak of season and plucked too early (dry) or too late (bitter).

I'm not a fan of grapefruits but growing up in Florida we plucked oranges and tangerines and grapefruits off the trees in the yard to eat and as said I'm a huge cara car fan now.-Rebecca

By anon66986 — On Feb 22, 2010

I'm eating my first cara cara as I type this. Bought them in Stop and Shop in the Bronx -- they just started carrying them and I'd never heard of them before. The "Power Orange" claim on the label caught my eye. Well they look like a navel orange on the outside and are reddish orange on the inside. Taste: delicious, with very little juice though but enough white matter (very nutritious) like a navel. They came in a bag of 6 for $5.00. I like them and am going back for seconds.

By Thomasina — On Feb 14, 2010

I had my first cara orange today. I expected be sweet and the best darn orange I've had.

Well, it wasn't. The first slice had a faint aftertaste of grapefruit--and I don't do grapefruit. The rest of the slices weren't sweet at all. So could this be an orange/grapefruit mix?

I wanted to try them because the sack said "sweeter" and I'd been curious about them. I think my bag is a distant relative of a grapefruit.

By anon64517 — On Feb 07, 2010

A new grocer opened up in my area and advertised Navel oranges at $1 for 7 pounds. Not being a fan of navel oranges, I bought two pounds. Upon peeling the first "navel" I saw the pinkish flesh. I thought it was a grapefruit/navel hybrid.

After a quick internet search (they had Sunkist stickers) I found that these were Cara Cara oranges. While not terribly sweet, the Caras I bought are juicy and non-acidic. I love grapefruit, but it doesn't love me.

I'm going back for a full seven pounds of Cara Caras tomorrow. It will be a dollar well spent.

By anon64035 — On Feb 04, 2010

weird. had my first one today and it wasn't acidic at all.

By Oncilla — On Jan 28, 2010

I am a great fan and lover of Cara Cara oranges. I have been eating them for about 5 years now. I had always thought they were a grapefruit crossed with an orange. I had never researched them before. I was a little surprised to find out today that they are not a cross.

I have to agree with the person who had one that was acidic. The ones I eat are all acidic. Not as sweet as other oranges either. Here in Santa Rosa Calif, they are pricey also. Eight oranges cost a bit over $12.00 today. Albeit, very large Cara Cara's.

Does anyone know if there is an actual Orange X Grapefruit. --Gary

By anon62503 — On Jan 27, 2010

The cara cara oranges are light and very good. i like those cara cara oranges. --denise

By anon60580 — On Jan 14, 2010

My husband purchased a few Cara Cara oranges yesterday while doing our weekly shopping, when he got home he offered them to me as a new yummy surprise telling me the produce manager said they were the sweetest oranges he'd find anywhere.

This afternoon I sat down to have one with a bowl of cottage cheese (expecting a sweet fruit after all) and as I began cutting the sections out I noted that the membranes were very tough, more like a grapefruit.

As I began to eat it I felt that horrible grapefruit 'pucker' that has always kept me away from too much grapefruit. The acid was very high, my mouth is still tingling and my stomach is doing that horrible grapefruit rumble I've always experienced after eating the fruit - too much acid.

I came online to get some info thinking he'd found a navel/pink grapefruit cross or some such thing, since even the flesh and those little separate little jewels citrus have, reminded me of grapefruit; something I'm very familiar with due to how long I usually sit picking at my grapefruits to get them down. ;)

Lo and behold, on site after site I'm told they should be low-acid, sweet and even berry-like -- nothing like what I experienced at all! Are we sure there isn't a new orange/pink grapefruit mix masquerading as true Cara Caras, which I am now wondering if I'll be able to find so I can experience this low-acid, sweet berry-tasting citrus fruit?

And yes, they were navels, each has a little undeveloped fruit within. I always wondered why that was like that in navels. Learn something new every day!

By anon59586 — On Jan 09, 2010

I just bought a box of Cara Cara Pink Oranges at Trader Joes! Very good.

By marcarlo — On Dec 31, 2009

We discovered cara cara oranges at Costco this winter, and feel that we have found a treasure. Orange-flesh navels are terrific, but cara cara is a wonderful improvement on that great fruit.

True to type, every orange has an undeveloped fruit inside. Kudos to the grower that developed this fantastic product.

By anon58271 — On Dec 31, 2009

Mmm, tasty

By anon58171 — On Dec 30, 2009

It's unfortunate, but LWS (a.k.a. anon57218) must have gotten a bum batch of fruit. My husband and I came across Cara Cara oranges quite by accident this past holiday season (my mother bought several, thinking they were regular navel oranges). Those oranges and the Cara Caras I've purchased since have been tender and full of juice, with a wonderful flavor. We are heartily sold on this type of orange! :)

By anon57218 — On Dec 21, 2009

I recently purchased an eight-pound bag of Cara cara navel oranges. The fruit is very dry. No juice at all. The membrane between the sections is so tough that I thought they might be grapefruit. I hate to throw food away but I can't eat this.


By anon39764 — On Aug 04, 2009

Cara cara oranges are navels produced from the same genetic code and distributed with clippings. If anything influences the color of the flesh it might be exposure to sunlight or something, but very unlikely to be genetic. It would have to be a mutation, not a recessive gene.

By dobrinj — On Feb 27, 2009

i am a huge fan of cara cara oranges; so much so, that i buy them by the 8 pound bag when they are available in my store. i have even been known to buy two of those bags ;)

in any case, i have noticed on a few occasions something quite peculiar. orange-fleshed oranges in my bags of pink cara caras. they look the same on the outside, and for the most part they have similar characteristics to the pink ones, but just that they are purely orange inside.

of course it is possible that the producer (sunkist) gets them mixed up at their packaging plant, but i find this hard to believe. these are grown in such large numbers, that i cannot imagine that oranges from one crop get mixed up with another. it could happen once or twice, but i have witnessed this on numerous occasions.

i think a more likely possibility has something to do with genetics... that the orange-fleshed ones are based on a recessed gene and only occur in something like 1/64 or 1/128 times.

when i get one of those orange ones, i am not sure if i should feel like i just found a little treasure, or if i just got ripped off.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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