South America is a continent with cuisines of color, warmth, and flavor. South American exotic fruits contribute enormously to the diversity and creativity in sweet and savory dishes around the world.
The fruits of South America also have an incredible variety of colors, textures, aromas, and flavors.
Meanwhile, Whether you’re in South America or looking to bring a little Latin American flair to your home kitchen, there’s a lot to get excited about when it comes to the region’s fruits.
So let’s take a culinary journey to a place of color and passion and open our minds and palates to 14 of South America’s most intriguing, unique, and delicious fruits.
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South American Exotic Fruits
Araza (Amazonian pear)
Araza, or Amazonian pear, is a rare fruit, found in the Amazon rainforest, widespread in Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia.
Around the size of an orange, araza adorns a bright yellow color when ripe. Enclosed in a very thin peel, the fruit has a slightly sweet and very sour taste.
The Araza fruit is in a wide variety of delicious jams and marmalades, ice creams, purees and even beers.
Cherimoya (Apple Cream)
A staple of the ancient Inca diet, cherimoya is native to the northern countries of South America, but over time has spread south along the Andes and north to Central America.
While its dragon-scaled green skin may look a little tough. The nickname is the cinnamon apple.
Inside, its thick, creamy flesh tastes like a cross between a banana and a pineapple. Its pulp has the consistency of a custard and can be hollowed out and eaten with a spoon.
Spondias Mombin (Hog Plum / Yellow Mombin)
Native to the Central American region from Mexico to Brazil, the bright yellow plum has traveled all the way to Southeast Asia and is a truly unique fruit.
However, Behind its thick, leathery skin, you’ll find a thin layer of pulp. The pulp is also attached to its large stone and can be difficult to remove.
Curuba (Passion Fruit Banana)
Known for their distinctive elongated shape, there are over 60 native banana passion fruit species throughout South America.
Curuba grows in areas of high-altitude vegetation, so you will commonly find this fruit in the forests of Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia.
From a texture standpoint, banana passion fruit is very similar to purple or red passion fruit. Behind its thick yellow-green mango-like peel, you’ll find a dense overabundance of sweet and tart pulp, with a banana undertone.
The black seeds that dot the pulp are edible but rather bitter. They are eaten as is, but are commonly used in a wide variety of both savory and sweet dishes.
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Maracuya (Yellow Passion Fruit)
Native to Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, the maracuya fruit may be less well known than its popular purple sibling, but it is still a delicious and varied fruit enjoyed across the continent.
Inside its thick, yellow skin lies a bright orange juicy pulp dotted with crunchy, brown seeds. It has a sour, acidic flavor with an undertone of floral notes.
Yellow passion fruit is larger than purple passion fruit, about the size of a grapefruit. They also have a stronger, sweeter aroma, making them ideal for a wide variety of dishes.
You will find passion fruit in fruit salads, sorbets, ice creams, jams, sauces and toppings for various desserts and cocktails. This exotic fruit is also used in savory dishes, such as pies and cakes.
Lulo / Naranjilla (Little Orange)
Known as naranjilla in Ecuador and lulo in Colombia, small oranges are also common in the Central American countries of Panama and Costa Rica.
This vibrant and smooth South American tropical fruit is known as a little orange more in appearance than in flavor.
Beyond its orange peel, the wrinkled, meaty pulp tastes like an eclectic combination of lime acidity and rhubarb sweetness.
In Colombian cuisine, green lulo juice is used in lulada, a native drink that blends lulo juice with lime, water, sugar, and sometimes aguardiente into a thick, spicy and refreshing drink.
Highly nutritious, lulo or naranjilla is also used in a wide range of jams, juices, ice creams and other beverages.
Papayuella (Mountain Papaya)
As the name suggests, papayuella is found in high altitude South American forests. This unique species of papaya is found in the Andes region, spreading from Colombia to Chile.
Found at altitudes over 1500 meters, the interior of the mountain papaya is an adventure of textures. Its pulp is generally firm and has a dry and acidic taste.
Around the black seeds, the yellow-white pulp is fleshy and gelatinous, with the flavor of a combination of pear, peach, and regular papaya.
Excellent for digestion, mountain papayas are also used in both sweet and savory dishes. Fruit is added to salads, juices, dressings and many different curries and pastries.
Tamarillo (Fruit of Blood)
Native to the forests of Ecuador, Colombia and Peru, the tamarillo is a vibrant red fruit, which shares several characteristics with its close cousin, the tomato.
While a tamarillo’s bright, blood-red skin may grab your attention, its bitter, tough skin is rarely eaten and must be peeled instead.
The pulp of a sanguine fruit has a similar taste and texture to that of a tomato, but with a sweeter undertone.
The tiny black seeds can be eaten. For this reason, its texture is often compared to that of a kiwi or passion fruit.
As with common tomatoes, tamarillos are used in a wide range of both sweet and savory dishes. From ice cream to chicken dishes, South Americans love the tamarillo fruit.
Uchuva (Gooseberry Cape)
Native to Colombia and also present in Peru, the exotic South American uchuva is a bright and complex fruit.
Although people don’t eat its peel, the gooseberry itself is a multi-layered hybrid of tomato-like acidity, blends with a sweetness similar to that of a peach, grape, or strawberry.
The Cape gooseberry is a versatile fruit. You can also eat them raw, cooked and used in a wide range of both sweet and savory dishes.
However, You will often find uchuva in sauces, chutneys and as a garnish for various desserts and salads and even dipped in chocolate!
Acai Palm (Acai Berries)
Today, it is also one of the most sought-after superfoods in the world, but the humble acai berry has been in North South American dishes for thousands of years.
The acai berry also comes from the acai palm, a species of tree that grows in the floodplains and wetlands of all the northern countries of the continent, from Colombia to Venezuela, and down to Brazil via Guayana and other countries.
Acai berries are also small, purple and grape-like. Their flavor also has a tart flavor, similar to that of a raspberry or blackberry, but with an earthy, even slightly chocolaty undertone.
However, unlike many other berries, you can’t just eat acai berries. The seed which makes up a large amount of the berry mass, are also removed.
It is also common practice to soak the berries in water to soften their hard skin and help remove the pit.