The Citrus Fruit Calamansi Adds a Burst of Bright Flavor to Filipino Bistek Tagalog, Cocktails and More

Use this hybrid between a kumquat and a mandarin orange in savory and sweet dishes, including bistek Tagalog and a juicy cocktail.

You may have seen the name "calamansi" pop up on a sparkling water label or as a beverage in your local grocery lately. Not to be confused with "calamari" (it's not squid), calamansi is also known as a "calamondin" or "Philippine lime." The citrus fruit has been a staple of Filipino and Southeast Asian cooking for ages. The flavor is a very tart combination of lemon, lime and orange.

Where to Find Calamansi

As a native to the Philippines and Southeast Asia, calamansi grows on trees that thrive in Mediterranean and subtropical climates. In colder regions, the trees are also grown as house plants. Once planted, trees can take anywhere from three to five years to bear fruit.

Unless you are able to find some in your local Asian market or have a generous friend with a calamansi tree in their yard, it can be difficult to source fresh fruits. Luckily, it is easy to find 100% juice and puree in shops and online.

When Is Calamansi in Season?

Although calamansi trees can bear fruit all year round (depending on where the tree is located), its peak season is from mid-August to October in the Philippines.

Calamansi on a designed background
Adobe Stock / fkruger

Health Benefits of Calamansi

Due to its place in the citrus family, it may be unsurprising to learn that calamansi is rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C consumption has been shown to help support the immune system, help the body with collagen production and lower blood pressure. Calamansi, like other vitamin C rich foods, is also praised for its antioxidant qualities. In the Philippines, calamansi juice is frequently drunk as a remedy for an upset stomach.

How to Choose, Clean and Store Fresh Calamansi

When looking for perfectly ripe calamansi, look for fruits that are beginning to turn from pale green to yellow. Fully orange fruits are overripe and green fruits are underripe. The skin should be smooth and feel firm to the touch. Calamansi can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator, with a bit of stem still attached to prolong freshness. When ready to use, gently wash them like any other citrus fruit.

How to Cook with Calamansi

As with any citrus fruit, juice is the main component that is used in recipes. With this in mind, the list of applications is nearly endless. In recipes that require lemons or limes, try substituting some calamansi instead. And, of course, try it with the delicious bistek Tagalog and calamansi cocktail included in this article.

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Bistek Tagalog
Brie Passano

In this savory Filipino beef-and-onion dish, bistek Tagalog (also simply called beef steak), calamansi juice tenderizes the beef and makes it more flavorful.

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Calamansi Rickey Cocktail
Joy Howard

This quick and easy cocktail showcases the refreshing zing of calamansi. For a nonalcoholic version, simply leave out the gin.

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