How much do you know about pineapples? Certainly, they are one of the most recognizable fruits in the market. Pineapples make us think of tropical breezes, sunshine, and dancing with fruit on your head. Ok, maybe that’s just me channeling my inner Carmen Miranda. Pineapples are sweet and delicious. They fit perfectly in both sweet and savory dishes and are incredible raw or cooked. Pineapple juice is one of my favorite fruit juices. Pineapples are also very healthy with benefits for our digestion, immunity, lymphatic system, and more. Read Not Just a Tropical Fruit: Pineapple’s Healing Benefits for Your Whole Body to find out all the ways that pineapple can improve your health. Then come back and explore all the best ways to cook with pinapple.
1. Tropical, Citrus, or Both?
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There is an ongoing debate about whether pineapples should be considered citrus fruits along with oranges, lemons, and limes. Technically, pineapples do not belong to the same family, Rutaceae, as citrus fruits do. Instead, they belong to the family Bromeliaceae. Citrus fruits bear fruit from their branches while pineapple is actually the stem of the plant. Plus, you cannot zest a pineapple. That just won’t work. Pineapples do, however, contain citric acid and they are tropical fruits, of which citrus fruits are a subcategory. So while pineapples may not technically be a citrus fruit, many people do think of them that way. Personally, I don’t care which family they belong to as long as I get to eat them.
2. Selection and Storage
You can try to grow your own pineapple or you can just buy one at the market. Pineapples are available year-round but their peak season is from March to July. They are ripe when they are picked so you don’t have to wait to enjoy them. Choose pineapples that have fresh, green leaves in a compact crown. They should be heavy and plump with a strong, sweet aroma. The bottom should be a bit soft when you press on it and the eyes should be bright and flat. Avoid pineapples that are wrinkled and dry or have dark spots or yellow leaves.
Once you bring a pineapple home, don’t wait to eat it as pineapples are perishable and will start to ferment in a couple of days. The longer the pineapple sits, the more acidic it gets. You can try to refrigerate it to make it last a few more days. Once a pineapple is trimmed and cut, keep it covered in juice in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Pineapple can be frozen in its juice for up to 6 months.
Pineapples add both sweetness and acidity to beverages along with a whole bunch of nutrients. Start your day with a healthy smoothie filled with tropical pineapple. Try these Organic Burst Smoothies, Tropical Green Spirulina Smoothie, Pineapple Crush Smoothie, Power Smoothie with Fresh Almond Milk, Super Weed Green Smoothie, and this Pina Colada Vega Smoothie. This Grown-Up Antioxidant Slushie has pineapple and beetroot for a refreshing and healthy treat. For a unique and clever idea, use pineapple, ginger and turmeric to make these ice cubes. Then just add them to water to have Almost-Instant Turmeric-Ginger Tea.
When you think of pineapple, you think of tropical islands and summer heat. When you think of summer heat, you may think of refreshing frozen desserts. Sorbets are light and cooling, perfect for dessert, a snack or an after-dinner palate cleanser. Use pineapple in your next sorbet. For inspiration, try this Berry Mango Sorbet with Banana and Pineapple, Pineapple Sorbet, and Mango Sorbet with Banana and Pineapple. If you prefer your treats on a stick, you’ll love these Cool Pineapple Basil Pops.
Pineapples pair well with many different flavors like sweet strawberry and fennel and spicy jalapeno. Baking with pineapple means you can be as creative as you want with ingredients. In this Pineapple Strawberry Cake, pineapple is not only baked with strawberries but with a decadent coconut cream. Try a new twist on an old classic with this Pineapple Upside Down Cake that also has sweet cherries. On the spicy side are these Pineapple and Cinnamon Tea Cookies and these Malibu Rum Cupcakes with Pineapple and Jalapeno Filling. For a beautiful dessert that is gluten-free, vegan and flourless, make these Raw Pineapple and Goji Berry Tarts which also have no refined sugar.
Pineapples are a great choice for marinades and sauces. They contain citric acid which helps to make food more tender when it is included in a marinade. See the Ultimate Guide to Making Flavor-Packed Marinades for Plant-Based Dishes to learn all about it and get recipes. Pineapples also add complexity to sauces. I make a Mango Pineapple Hoisin Sauce is perfect with tofu, tempeh, seitan and vegetables. This sauce combines fresh juice with sweet Chinese barbecue sauce and spicy hot sauce. You can use whatever fruit juices you like but they should be balanced so choose a sweet fruit like mango to go with the more acidic pineapple. In a liquid measuring cup, combine ¾ fresh mango juice or pureed mango, ½ cup fresh pineapple juice, 1/3 cup hoisin sauce, ¼ cup tamari or soy sauce, 2 tbs. brown rice vinegar and 1 tbs. Sriracha hot sauce. Add the sauce to your tofu (or whatever you’re making), toss to coat and cook for a few minutes until the sauce thickens. For another amazing sauce, mix pineapple with whiskey to make this Pineapple Jack BBQ Sauce that will make anything you put it on delicious.
Pineapple is a great addition to the traditional cranberry sauce to brighten it up. Try this recipe for Cranberry-Pineapple Sauce and see for yourself. Add pineapple to condiments like salsa and guacamole for a creative flavor boost. Try a few cubes of grilled pineapple in this Mason Jar Salsa and serve it alongside this Pineapple Guacamole the next time it’s Taco Tuesday.
I often add veggies to rice, quinoa, millet, and other whole grains. That’s yummy, but have you ever added pineapple to whole grains? That’s a whole other kind of yummy. When I want to add a tropical flavor to rice, pineapple is the key and coconut just makes it better. To make my Pineapple Rice: heat 2 tsp. coconut oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute ½ diced red onion, 2 minced garlic cloves and 1 Tbs. fresh grated ginger until fragrant and softened, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tsp. cumin and the whites of 3 sliced scallions and continue to cook for another minute. Rinse 1 ½ cups brown rice and add it to the saucepan. Stir to combine the rice with the onion and spices. Add 2 ½ cups of water to the saucepan. Cover and cook until the water comes to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Turn off the heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork. Taste for seasoning and add salt as desired. Stir in ½ cup pineapple chunks and scallion greens and serve. For another whole grain dish with pineapple, try this Pineapple Fried Quinoa.
While we may think of pineapple as something that goes in desserts, it’s perfect in savory entrees. Pineapple is one of the key ingredients in sweet and sour sauce. Its sweetness and acidity help to balance the spices. Both the juice and the pineapple chunks are used in this Sweet and Sour Cauliflower and this Sweet and Sour Vegan “Chicken.” Pineapple chunks also add a sweet note in this Pineapple and Peanut Stir-Fry. Pineapple tastes even more amazing when it’s grilled because all the natural sugars in it caramelize. You can grill pineapple indoors or outside. Just thread pineapple chunks onto skewers. For tips, see 5 Tips for Amazing Summer Skewered Foods. Then make my Pineapple Island Vegan Kebabs which will transport you to the land of sunshine and cool breezes. For dessert or a different type of appetizer, grill pineapple and other fruits as in these Grilled Fruit Kebabs.
Pineapples are fun to look at and even more fun to cook with; opt for fresh pineapple when you can. It’s healthy, delicious, and you can even turn a pineapple into a vase by hollowing it out for a tropical table decoration.
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