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What is a Chinese Grapefruit?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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The Chinese grapefruit, also known as the pomelo, Bali lemon, pummelo, pamplemousse, Limau besar, or Shaddock, is the largest of all edible citrus fruits. Native to Southeast Asia, this fruit has been cultivated for centuries in tropical and subtropical regions as a source of food. The flesh of the fruit is somewhat sweeter than a grapefruit, with a tangy undertaste in some varieties.

If allowed free rein, the Chinese grapefruit can grow larger than a basketball, with an extremely thick rind covering a segmented fruit. The skin can be green to yellow, with yellow to rosy flesh inside. As a general rule, the pinkish fleshed Chinese grapefruits tend to be more sweet, while the yellow flesh is more acidic and it can be dry. The fruits are eaten out of hand, just like many other citrus fruits, and they can also be juiced, added to preserves, and included in desserts. In some parts of Asia, the skin is candied as a treat.

In the 1700s, the Chinese grapefruit was brought to the West Indies by a Captain Shaddock, a British seafarer who thought that the fruit might grow well in the American tropics. He turned out to be correct, and contemporaries started calling it a grapefruit, in a reference to the clusters in which the fruit tended to grow. In modern usage, a grapefruit is a cross between the pomelo and an orange, and a tangelo is a cross between pomelos and tangerines.

The thick peel of a Chinese grapefruit requires some effort to penetrate, but some consumers feel it is worth the effort. Once the fruit has been peeled, the segments should be separated, and the thick white membrane between the segments should be discarded. After these steps, the Chinese grapefruit is perfectly fine to eat or use in a recipe. Some consumers prefer to taste a segment before preparing the rest, in case they have picked out a bad fruit.

Many grocers and Asian markets carry the Chinese grapefruit. Look for firm, plump specimens which feel heavy for their size, and have no soft spots or discolorations. The fruits keep for around one week under refrigeration, although they can dry out or get sour. People in warm climates which favor citrus can also try their hands at cultivating Chinese grapefruit at home.

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 babylove — On Jun 04, 2011

Oh my goodness, pummelos are my favorite fruit now. I tried one for the first time about a year ago down in Miami, Florida.

It was so cool and refreshing with kind of a sweet tart taste to it. And the pummelo grapefruit juice is even better than regular grapefruit juice.

If you like grapefruit then you have to give one of these a try. I love them. They're fantastic.

By ellafarris — On Jun 04, 2011

@MsClean - Grapefruit diets are really only for short term weight loss. It isn't healthy to eat that way for a long period of time. For long term success you have to change your eating habits and develop a good exercise program.

Eating grapefruit does benefit your diet as long as it's not your only source of nutrition. It may be high in vitamin C and low in calories, but it definitely is not a miracle diet food like some people claim it to be.

If you want to continue to include grapefruit in your diet you should try eating half a grapefruit or drink a glass of grapefruit juice just before each meal. It'll make you feel full so you won't eat as much.

You should try doing that until you develop a routine and reach your desired weight. Then you'll be comfortable enough with it that you should be more successful in the long run. Good luck.

By MsClean — On Jun 03, 2011

I've tried to diet on grapefruit only but it was really hard limiting myself to just one food item. I did eat a regular meal in the evening but it was very small portions and it did include grapefruit.

The good news is that it works because I did lose ten pounds in two weeks. The bad part is that by the third week I was totally burned out on it and I ended up putting the weight back on and then some.

Has anyone else ever tried the grapefruit weight loss program? And were you successful at keeping the weight 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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