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What is a Blood Orange?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A blood orange is a dark orange to red citrus fruit that has been popular for many years in Europe and has gained in popularity elsewhere. The exterior of the orange is a rose-tinted orange color, although depending on the variety, it might be lighter or darker. The surprise comes when someone cuts open the orange to reveal its pink to dark crimson flesh.

Three Varieties

There are three varieties of these oranges: the Tarocco, the Sanguinello and the Moro. Of these, the Tarocco has the greatest popularity in Europe and is grown primarily in Italy. It might not always have the darkest red coloring, however, and some resemble more traditional oranges. In taste, however, this variety is often considered superior to the other.

The Sanguinello is grown in Spain and is almost seedless. It tends to have a deeper red color. The Moro is most commonly grown in the United States and tends to have the darkest flesh. If a cook is really going for that deep crimson in juices or dishes prepared with a blood orange, the Moro might be the best choice.

Pigment Provides Darker Color

The coloring of a blood orange differs from a typical orange because it has an additional pigment called anthocyanin. This pigment can be found in purple and red flowers and other fruits. For example, the Fuji apple and red delicious apple owe their deep red exterior to the presence of anthocyanin.

Taste and Uses

Blood oranges also are celebrated for their taste. A ripe one is very sweet and mellow, and some people say it has subtle flavoring hints of raspberry and strawberry. Other people, however, simply describe the flavor as identical to sweet regular oranges.

These oranges are often used for the color that they provide to a variety of dishes. An salad made with blood and regular oranges can be a beautiful dish. Orange juice made with them is often a dark, strong color and can be used to heighten the drama of a smoothie or a mimosa.

Slices of these oranges can garnish vanilla ice cream or provide an essential ingredient to a fruit salsa. They can also give a distinct color to citrus tarts. Most recipes for these oranges are usually sweet, such as desserts or drinks, but blood oranges also can make excellent garnishes for savory dishes.

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 search4truth — On Mar 13, 2012

I was so excited to see blood oranges at the grocery store yesterday! I had one this morning, and it was not sweet at all. It looked beautiful-very dark red (maroon) inside. The peel was thick (navel-like), and had a nice blush. It wasn't particularly easy to peel, though I could get it off without breaking the membrane. Is it not ripe enough? Do I leave them at room temp instead of refrigerating them? Help!

By anon155285 — On Feb 23, 2011

I have just bought some blood oranges. I haven't seen them since I was a child. Oh, they are so sweet and I just want to eat them one after the other.

By anon108991 — On Sep 05, 2010

does a decaying blood orange have the properties to be a spider repellent?

By anon61374 — On Jan 19, 2010

I tried a blood orange for the first time today. I've wanted to try one for years! They're hard to come by in the midwest.

I didn't know what to look for when picking one out, so I chose one that had some red on the skin and was softer when I squeezed it.

I was prepared for what it looked like inside, but was unsure of what to expect for taste. Wow, was it tangy! More tang than sweet. Is that normal?

In the future, what is the best to look for when picking out blood oranges? I have no idea what type the local store carries, but it was a Sunkist.

By anon58302 — On Dec 31, 2009

I live on the west bank of New Orleans. And we have the very best oranges I've ever tasted. These blood oranges are so sweet and so juicy. Everyone i give them to are just blown away. I have no idea whats makes them so good. I have one small tree bout 10 feet high and just as wide produce almost 1000 oranges. It's crazy. I love them. everyone says I should sell them. I eat my share and just give them away. Go Saints!

By anon41611 — On Aug 16, 2009

One of my moro blood oranges busted open before ripening. What would cause this?

By anon26910 — On Feb 21, 2009

I live in San Diego and I have a blood orange tree. I don't know what strain it is but all of them are seedless and 50% are pink to crimson on the inside.

By anon26243 — On Feb 10, 2009

@ Anon7007:

actually, a "tangelo" is a cross between tangerine and pomelo. the blood orange is most likely just a mutation of a regular sweet orange.

By RobertTucson — On Feb 05, 2009

I live in Tucson, AZ and bought a small Moro blood orange tree at a nursery in Oct 2004. I kept it in the pot until Spring. The fruit barely turned red and was not very sweet. I planted it at my new house at an elevation of 2600 feet, and within 2 years, we were getting dozens of large sweet oranges from about Dec 20 to Feb 1, depending on the weather. I wait until the outsides turn red, then taste test 1 before picking for juice &/or eating. The tree is on the SE side of the house where the winter temps fall to about 25F. I cover it whenever the nights go below 28F. One night was 20F and even with a cover, many of the leaves fell off, but there were no flowers or fruit. I've purchased blood oranges at AJ's Fine Foods around Xmas time, and you can also order them online in California. Good luck with the tree!

By anon16037 — On Jul 27, 2008

Hi I recently bought a blood orange plant (I haven't planted it yet) it is a "Citrus Sinesis" and we have cut open the fruit and it is the normal orange color of a normal orange not red. The skin color looks ripe but it is not sweet and the flesh not red so I wonder have I been sold something else. I would be interested to hear anyones comments thanks. Sandy.

By mendocino — On Mar 27, 2008

Maybe I have not looked hard enough, but it seems that regular supermarkets do not carry blood oranges. One recent winter, when I visited the East Coast of United States I have seen blood oranges in one market, but on the West Coast I have not seen them at all.

But what I did discover recently is a very good orange, dark pink on the inside, not as dark as blood orange, but darker then the regular orange. It sort of reminds me of a grapefruit, however, it is very sweet, juicy and absolutely delicious. It goes by the name of Cara Cara.

By anon7007 — On Jan 15, 2008

Is this is a naturally occurring fruit or a cross between different species?

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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