What Is Pomelo and How Can I Use It?
The pomelo looks like a giant grapefruit with green skin, but it's actually a separate species of citrus fruit. It's also called pummelo or shaddock, is a wild citrus fruit that probably originated in Malaysia or Indonesia, and has long been cultivated in China as well. Once called "pompelmoe" by the Dutch, the fruit was named "pomelo" by the English, and this may have been due to a mix-up with pomme, the French word for apple. Why is sometimes called shaddock? Some say it was a man named Captain Shaddock who first brought the pomelo to Barbados, although this hasn't been fully proven.
Today, pomelos are grown in warm regions such as Florida, California, Israel and throughout the Caribbean. Their season in the United States is typically November through March. If you're wondering how to choose a pomelo, look for a fruit that feels heavy, with smooth skin that's free of soft spots and bruising (a puckered exterior may indicate age).
Pomelo vs. Grapefruit: What's the Difference?
The Oxford Companion to Food calls this fruit "the ancestor of the grapefruit," and although the two have similar flavors and nutrients, pomelo tends to have a mellower, sweeter flavor. "I think of pomelos as the not-bitter version of a grapefruit, so if someone doesn't love bitter fruits and veggies, they're the perfect substitute in any recipe that calls for fresh grapefruit," says EatingWell Test Kitchen Manager Breana Killeen, M.P.H., R.D.
Pomelos also tend to be bigger and heavier than their grapefruit relatives. They can grow up to nearly a foot wide in diameter and weigh as much as 22 pounds!
Try our recipe for Grapefruit Margaritas using pomelo juice and zest instead of grapefruit!
Pomelo Nutrition Facts
One cup of fresh pomelo contains:
- 72 calories
- 2g fiber
- 1g protein
- 116mg vitamin C (193% Daily Value)
- 410mg potassium (12% DV)
Pomelo is a good source of fiber, which may play an overall role in lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure by mitigating the effects of sodium. This fruit is also an excellent source of vitamin C, which has been studied for its ability to prevent or slow down the effects of cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer.
A 2019 study in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry also found that pomelo peel, which is used in China to treat cough, abdominal pain and indigestion, showed what the authors called "an anti-inflammatory effect … which might provide a novel nutritional strategy for inflammatory diseases."
Pictured Recipe: Shrimp, Pomelo & Green Mango Salad
How to Cut a Pomelo
Don't let the rind, which can be about an inch thick, deter you. It's worth doing a little knife work to get to the tasty pale yellow flesh.
1. Begin by cutting off the top and the bottom, making two flat spots.
2. Next, make four scores (about 1 inch deep) in the pomelo rind from top to bottom.
3. Using your hands or a knife, peel the rind away from the fruit—you'll likely take some of the pith (white part) with you as well.
4. Use a paring knife to remove any remaining pith until the flesh is exposed, then slice into sections or smaller pieces, depending on how you plan to serve it.
How to Eat Pomelo
Pomelo is delicious on its own, of course! To jazz it up a little, give it a squeeze of fresh lime and sprinkle it with a mix of coarse salt and chili powder.
When paired with seafood, pork or vegetables, pomelo's tangy sweetness helps balance the richer or saltier flavors.
Check out this Vietnamese Grapefruit & Pork Salad (Pork Goi Buoi)—although it calls for grapefruit, pomelo would be an excellent substitute.