Passion fruit is native to subtropical regions of South America and grows on a vine, Passiflora edulis. It is thought to have originated in Paraguay, southern Brazil, and northern Argentina.
Though they’re a tropical fruit, some varieties can survive in sub-tropical climates. For this reason, they’re grown all over the world, and crops can be found in Asia, Europe, Australia, and South and North America.
Passion fruit has a tough outer rind and juicy, seed-filled center. Individual fruits vary in size from about the size of a plum to the size of a grapefruit. The pulp itself is yellow. There are several types that vary in size and color. Purple and yellow varieties are the most commonly available ones, including:
- Passiflora edulis. These are small round or oval-shaped fruits with purple skin.
- Passiflora flavicarpa. This kind is round or oval with yellow skin and usually slightly larger than the purple variety.
Passion fruit has a taut, shiny skin when it’s freshly picked, but the skin becomes shriveled and wrinkled as the fruit ripens
A single purple passion fruit contains:
- Calories: 17
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Vitamin C: 9% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin A: 8% of the DV
- Iron: 2% of the DV
- Potassium: 2% of the DV
Though this may not seem like much, these are the values for a single, small fruit that has only 17 calories. Calorie for calorie, it’s a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin A. Passion fruit also contains phosphorus, niacin, and vitamin B-6. Passion fruit also has a small amount of iron. Your body doesn’t usually absorb iron from plants very well. However, the iron in passion fruit comes with a lot of vitamin C, which is known to enhance iron absorption.
The flavor of passion fruit is astringent and refreshingly tart when the fruit is fresh, but it becomes sweeter and more complex as the fruit ripens. Its flavor can be compared with citrus, melon, pineapple, and kiwi. When overripe, the pulp can take on a richly complex, almost fermented flavor. The flesh is jellylike and can be scooped out and eaten with a spoon.
The seeds have a slight crunch to them, but they’re easy to eat and don’t need to be removed. The same goes for the white pith: it doesn’t taste like much, slightly bitter, and it’s spongy or cottony.
It’s also rich in beneficial plant compounds, including carotenoids and polyphenols. One study found that passion fruit was richer in polyphenols than many other tropical fruits, including banana, lychee, mango, papaya, and pineapple. Polyphenols are plant compounds that have a range of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that you need to get from your diet. It supports your immune system and healthy aging. Beta carotene is an important antioxidant as well. Your body converts it into vitamin A, which is essential for preserving good eyesight.
Diets rich in plant-based beta carotene have been linked to a lower risk of some cancers, including of the prostate, colon, stomach, and breast.
Passion fruit seeds are rich in piceatannol, a polyphenol that may improve insulin sensitivity in men with excess weight, potentially reducing type 2 diabetes risk when taken as a supplement.
A single-fruit serving of passion fruit provides around 2 grams of fiber, which is a lot for such a small fruit. Soluble fiber helps slow the digestion of your food, which can prevent blood sugar spikes. Diets that are high in fiber are also associated with a lower risk of illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
In another study in people with knee osteoarthritis, those taking a purple passion fruit peel extract reported less pain and stiffness in their joints than those who didn’t take the supplement.
Passion fruit is rich in magnesium, an important mineral that scientists have linked with decreased stress and anxiety. A systematic review from 2017 suggests that magnesium can help people manage their anxiety levels.
Passion fruit is safe to eat for most people, but allergies do occur in a small number of people. Those with a latex allergy appear to be most at risk of a passion fruit allergy. This is because some of the plant proteins in the fruit have a structure similar to that of latex proteins.
Purple passion fruit skin may also contain chemicals called cyanogenic glycosides. These can combine with enzymes to form the poison cyanide and are potentially poisonous in large amounts.
How to Buy
You can usually find passion fruit in the produce section of larger grocery stores and supermarkets, and since it’s cultivated all over the world, from California and South America to Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand, it’s available year-round.
When choosing passion fruit, ripe ones will be purple, reddish, or yellow in color, and their skin may be smooth in less ripe fruits or wrinkly when they’re riper. Green ones are unripe but will ripen within 3 to 5 days at room temperature. You’ll know that a passion fruit is fully ripe, with maximum sweetness, when its skin is slightly wrinkled.
Passion fruit does not respond well to heat preservation and canning, but people can freeze it for later use.
You can find frozen passion fruit pulp in many grocery stores and Latin markets, which is ready to use in most recipes once it’s thawed. Frozen passion fruit pulp tends to be quite tart.
You can sometimes find bottled passion fruit juice, though it often contains additional sweeteners, so if a recipe calls for passion fruit juice to be reduced, the bottled product can produce a sweeter result than the recipe intended.
How to Store
You can store ripe passion fruit in the refrigerator for two to three days, or you can scoop out the pulp and freeze it for up to three months, sealed in freezer containers or bags.
How to Cook
Even though you don’t eat the skin, it’s a good idea to wash your passion fruit thoroughly before using it. To begin with, use a sharp knife to cut the fruit in half. The skin can be tough, so you might want to use a serrated knife so that you don’t squash the fruit while cutting it.
To make juice, you’d puree the pulp, seeds and all, and add water and a bit of maple syrup. You can then strain it to remove seed particles as well as any bits of the white pith (although both the seeds and the pith are edible). The juice, or the fresh pulp, are great additions to smoothies.
You’ll need 10 to 12 passion fruits to produce a cup of pulp..
Some of the more popular ways to use passion fruit include:
- Drinks. It can be squeezed through a sieve to make juice, which can be added to cocktails or used to make a cordial to flavor water.
- Desserts. It’s often used as a topping or flavoring for cakes and desserts like cheesecake or mousse.
- On salads. It can be used to add a crunchy texture and sweet flavor to salads.
- In yogurts. Mix it with natural yogurt to make a delicious snack.
To eat a passion fruit raw, cut it in half and use a spoon to remove the pulp from the rind. The rind is not edible. People can eat both the seeds and the pulp, or just the pulp.
Remove the seeds by pressing the pulp through a strainer or cheesecloth and use the juice in a variety of ways, such as:
- mixing with water and sugar to make a drink
- adding the juice to other fruit juices, such as orange or pineapple
- adding the juice to yogurt with other fruit
- boiling it into a syrup that a person can make into many other things, such as sauces or desserts
- making it into a jelly or jam
- making it into a soft drink or wine