Blood Oranges: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

blood orangesBlood oranges are truly one of nature’s wonders.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing this unique orange, I highly recommend it.

How good is it?Β Round these parts, blood orange juice is the norm instead of regular old orange juice.

What are blood oranges?

As the name suggests, blood oranges are red in color, sometimes in splotches on the outside but definitely on the inside. The concentration of the red inside depends on the particular type of orange and growing conditions.

Squeezing them is when you truly understand where the “blood” reference comes from: the juice resembles the ruby red of a cranberry as opposed to the yellowish tone of orange juice.

Where does the red color come from?

Blood oranges are “bloody” from a pigment called anthocyanin, which is widely found in the plant kingdom and can appear red as in cherries and red cabbage to blue as in blueberries and cornflowers or even purple as in pansies and eggplants (aubergines).

Anthocyanin is reported to have many health benefits as it is a powerful antioxidant that can slow or prevent the growth of cancer cells–and even kill them. Moreover blood oranges contain high amounts of Vitamin C (up to 130% of recommended daily amount), potassium, Vitamin A, iron, calcium, and even fiber. Oranges and their juice can also help prevent the build-up of bad cholesterol as well as lower the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and cataracts.

Where do blood oranges come from?

Blood oranges originated in Sicily and Spain and varieties include Tarocco, Moro (or Morro), and Sanguinello (or Sanguigno). You may hear the term “Sicilian Blood Oranges” even though they are grown in other parts of the world — including right here in Calabria. We get ours from one of P’s friends and as you can see from the above photo, these aren’t as bloody as some.

blood orangesAnd so through the magic of shipping and distribution of seeds, you can also now find blood oranges that are grown in the United States (Texas and California), and probably anywhere else that has an appropriate climate. Read: something like southern Italy.

As with many citrus fruits, these special oranges are in season through the winterΒ in the northern hemisphere up until May in some parts. Stores may carry the oranges as well as already-squeezed juice, but there’s nothing like fresh-squeezed, so if you can find the oranges themselves, give them a try.

You can read more about the history of the blood orange on this O’Biolla page.

What do blood oranges taste like?

Not surprisingly, blood oranges taste a lot like ordinary oranges only they’re slightly more bitter but less acidic. Some types are actually sweeter than your average orange but, there’s just something special about a blood orange’s flavor. An orange with a kick if you will. If anyone else can describe it better, please do!

What can I do with blood oranges?

Before we get to a simple recipe, you should know that generally blood oranges can be used just as you’d use regular oranges but they’re especially good in juices, cocktails, salads, sauces, sorbets, granitas, compotes, and marmalades.

You can apparently even buy blood orange olive oil.

A quick search for “blood orange recipes” will lead to great places, but here is something I whipped up this morning to give a little something special to my favorite chocolate cake. I *love* chocolate and orange flavors together and I had a feeling that the tangy zip of a blood orange would go great with this chocolate cake made with coffee.

And I was right.

Drizzle of Blood Orange Buttercream Forsting on Chocolate Cake

Blood Orange Buttercream Frosting

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons blood orange juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

6 tablespoons butter

zest from blood orange

This recipe makes quite a bit so you might want to cut it in half or even a quarter depending on how much you plan on using–and be sure to taste test for how much orange flavor you want in it. As a general rule, add more confectioner’s sugar to thicken, more juice to thin it out.

Blood Orange Buttercream Frosting on Chocolate Cake

Buon appetito!

Have you tried blood oranges? What do you think? What do you do with them?

41 Beans of Wisdom to “Blood Oranges: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know”
  1. 01.23.2008

    I love blood oranges and thankfully, they are aplenty here, all from Italia! πŸ™‚

    Grace’s last blog post..more on Dubai Creek

    Lucky you Grace!

  2. 01.23.2008

    Wow,blood orange olive oil? Never knew it existed! Lina’s birthday is at the end of the month, so I am thinking of making your chocolate cake with this frosting! BUT only if you have gotten around to posting the Italian measurements for the cake. Have you? You had mentioned in the post to ask if we had any questions… so I am asking. πŸ˜‰
    Good grief I need to stop looking at the photo. My mouth is watering!!!

    Giulia’s last blog post..Envious

    Ahem, no I haven’t converted. You see I have all my American cups and stuff so there’s really no reason to mess with what I know works–we know that conversions in baking don’t always meet with the best results. But there’s a bunch of online converters if you’d like to give it a shot πŸ˜‰

  3. 01.23.2008

    oooo….I *love* blood oranges. The only problem is that I haven’t been able to find any good ones since I left Germany – they ones that occasionally show up here in Florida are dry and mealy with absolutely no flavor what so ever.

    It’s depressing…

    Very sad Keiti. Sorry to hear this πŸ™

  4. 01.23.2008

    Thanks for that post, I love blood oranges – but you’re right they are a little more bitter than the regular orange oranges. But that color! Putting them in a salad instead of mandarin oranges is so much prettier.

    Carrie’s last blog post..Blog & Etsy Designs

    Completely agreed–they definitely add an aesthetic touch as well as a kick!

  5. 01.23.2008

    I, too, love blood oranges and chocolate and orange anything. I’ve had delicious blood orange “martinis” – blood orange juice and vodka and cointreau, chilled, strained and served in sugar-rimmed glasses. I’ve also sauteed slices for dessert with butter and brown sugar. I think I also did something with them once in a cheesecake sort of thing. But my favorite is just to peel and eat them. I don’t have a really, really sweet tooth, so I like the bitterness of the blood oranges. And sometimes regular oranges upset my stomach, and for some reason, blood oranges never do. They’re very expensive where I am, though, so they are definitely a rare treat. I have chicken rose up for my What’s Cooking Wednesday. I sure wish we could get more participants – I love this!

    jen of a2eatwrite’s last blog post..What’s Cooking Wednesday: Chicken Rose

    Jen I wish I could send you some; people give them to us all winter long. I’m with you–just peeling and eating is the best.

    I wish more people would play WCW too…it’s so fun!

  6. 01.23.2008

    I have some of that blood orange olive oil and it is quite tasty. I bought it by chance and really, really like it for my salads.

    Ooh thanks for letting us know! I bet it *would* be great on salads…I love a fruity touch, and P might actually allow this fruity touch since it’s in olive oil. Maybe πŸ˜‰

  7. I am a big fan of blood oranges. I too have had a blood orange martini. It’s very good!

    Traders Joes (in the U.S.) has a very yummy blood orange soda.

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..I just quit my job, good-bye Los Angeles.

    Yum yum yum! We’ll have to have some of those when you come down south to visit πŸ™‚

  8. 01.23.2008

    I have a friend who loves blood oranges. I can’t figure out where he gets ones that actually taste good, though. Produce in the winter here is always flavorless. πŸ™

    Stefanie’s last blog post..Life lint

    Aw your stores aren’t importing from the right places, or maybe not putting them out quickly enough. You really need to come to southern Italy. I hear blood orange martinis are tasty πŸ˜‰

  9. Bipolarlawyercook

    I have lots of recipes clipped, but I never get around to them because I keep making the same salad first– arugula/mache/romaine with blood orange supremes, fennel cut into matchsticks, olive oil, pepper, juice from the remnants of the orange, and ricotta salata or pecorino romano. If I’m making it only for me, I add salted capers or black oil-cured olives.

    Bipolarlawyercook’s last blog post..Feeling the love

    I hear you–and this is why I didn’t post an actual recipe today (although linked to many). I never et around to do anything even as exciting as that salad you described, but I did see some ricotta salata that was calling me yesterday and the fennel is on sale, so perhaps it’s time….

  10. 01.23.2008

    wow, I’ve never heard of blood oranges, but I’m now on a mission to find some. That orange icing looks so good!

    kacey’s last blog post..The Old Fashioned Mailbox

    Kacey, get thee to the grocer’s!

  11. Novelist

    Thanks for going into detail about blood oranges. I LOVE them and there are so many ways you can incorporate them into the most common dishes. πŸ˜‰

    Novelist’s last blog post..I Can’t Wait To See This!!!

    So true Novelist; glad you enjoyed!

  12. 01.23.2008

    i love these babies so very much!!! i’ll take ’em fresh squeezed or in any recipe…we just made chocolate orange creme brulee last week with moro’s…to die for!!

    qualcosa di bello’s last blog post..tastes like chicken…

    Recipe per piacere!!!!!

  13. I really adore blood oranges. I wish I could get them here in Florida – although I can find it in juice form (about $5 for 24 ounces – OUCH!) but it seems like I had a better chance up north in New England – go figure! But I am addicted to them. There is something special about them that is indescribable. Lucky that you get them from a friend! Lucky Girl!!!

    JennDZ_The Leftover Queen’s last blog post..Farmer’s Market Series: Abundance: Recipe: Sausage, Beans & Greens

    OK I find it really ridiculous that Florida of all places can’t produce a decent blood orange. I think you and Roberto need to get on this subito!

  14. Lilian

    Ah, blood oranges. I’ve been thinking of them a lot lately, too–especially after I came across an excellent orange and cardamom upside-down cake recipe on David Lebovitz’s blog. Fortunately (as Jenn pointed out), they are available in New England (where I live). Every time I come across them (and other rarely-appearing fruit, like quince and redcurrants), I try to cook them in such a way that their marvellous color isn’t lost in the process. Next, I plan to make the blood orange marmalade for which Gina DePalma provides a recipe in Dolce Italiano. Has anyone tried making Maltese mayonnaise (mayo with blood orange juice)? It’s delicious; I came across a recipe for it in Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book (1982). According to Grigson (a Briton), “in classic cookery” (British, she must mean) Maltese is the term for anything made with blood oranges. I wonder why Malta, rather than Sicily, was given the honor of having the greater association with the fruit…

    Ooh I didn’t even look in Dolce Italiano! I’ll have to check that out while the blood oranges are still around–thanks Lilian!

    I haven’t tried the Maltese mayo, but you pose an interesting question. I’ve seen British-made marmalade called Spanish something or other. I suppose it just depends on where the oranges first came from when they started making whatever? (I know blood oranges also come from Malta.)


  15. 01.23.2008

    So far the oranges I have bought this year have been second rate. I eat at least one a day, so it’s not drawn from a small sample. Maybe one of the later types will alter all that. They are sweet and juicy, but lack a distinct orange flavor.

    Judith in Umbria’s last blog post..Fashion: Christopher Joss

    I haven’t noticed our oranges being subpar; I’ve been having a spremuta ogni mattina in fact. Yum πŸ™‚

  16. 01.23.2008

    I’ve never tried them but will now be on the look out for them here.

    That cake looks delicious!

    Bren’s last blog post..You know you’re Italian if…

    Bren, they’re definitely something interesting to try; I hope you find some!

  17. Gil

    My wife finds Blood Oranges imported from Sicily, in various supermarkets, from time to time. They really can’t compare to the sweet and juicy ones you buy in Italy.

    I really think someone in Florida needs to jump on this market….

  18. anna l'americana

    Oh do I miss blood oranges. As a kid those were the only kind I’d eat. I thought that regular orange juice was just a pale imitation of what I thought of as “the real thing.” I haven’t seen any blood oranges since I moved from California where they were hideously expensive and not as good as the ones I used to get in Italy. I see several comments re availability in New England – never occurred to me to look, so now I’m a Mainer on a Mission! In regards to the flavor, I don’t find them to be more bitter – I think the flavor is more full, or rounder somehow than that of a regular orange. Also some of them can be so sweet you’d think sugar was added. All this talk of blood oranges is making me hungry for a slice of that cake….Your pictures always slay me!
    LOVE your new look – very very cool features.

    Anna, I’m not sure if you know about the Italian store called Giacomo’s Groceria in Bangor? I don’t know if they’d have blood oranges, but they might have other stuff you miss. Forgive me if we’ve already discussed this please!

    Also, thanks for the compliments on the new look; I really like that things are more organized (especially the recipes!) and easier to find πŸ™‚

  19. Julia

    Ah, another post about one of my favourite things to have when I go to Italy on vacation: blood orange juice! While I can find blood oranges here in Canada, I can’t find the juice in a bottle, and I’m lazy and don’t like to squeeze my own. This makes it on to my aunt’s shopping list whenever my sister and I come to visit. We get our fill and then bring back some tetra packs back with us in our luggage. Always a funny story if we get stopped by Customs. πŸ™‚ Thankfully because it’s juice we’re allowed to bring it in. Not so with the fruits themselves. I’m so jealous you get to have it whenever you want. πŸ™‚

    Julia’s last blog post..Presenting: The New Apartment

    That’s hilarious Julia! I used to be lazy about squeezing too, but it really isn’t that much effort–and I only have the little plastic juicer thing. Just cut ’em in half and push πŸ˜‰

  20. 01.24.2008

    We always called them Sicilian oranges growing up, maybe someone along the way didn’t like the idea of “blood.” I love the sound of the word, though, but still delight in them coming from Sicilia. Lovely and sooooooooo delicious. They were rare to see, when I was a kid, and equally rare to see in these parts of the midwest nowadays. But oh, when I do see them . . .

    witnessing am i’s last blog post..Journey’s End

    I always heard them called Sicilian oranges too–kind of surprising, actually, that with the world’s fascination with the Sicilian Mafia that the “blood” doesn’t always stick πŸ˜‰ I wish you luck in finding some of these treasures this winter!

  21. 01.24.2008

    Ooooo yes, I too LOVE blood oranges! I’ve missed them for many years because they are NOT available where I live. πŸ™ Which makes me sad, so sad. You’d think I’d give up looking for them after all these years but I still find myself wishing I might luck upon them as I pass a produce stand.

    And now, I have to ask: It IS??? Man, you really changed the look of it! I’d have never guessed it was the same! I have another one that I’ve been meaning to try out as a banner but just haven’t gotten around to it. I need to decide if I’m going to stay there and make it homey or keep my original blog up and running. I’m still posting there more than this new one …. so … I’ll let you know! πŸ™‚

    beanie’s last blog post..It’s c…..c…..c…..c…cold…. Make it stop….

    Beanie, never give up hope! You never know when a blood orange will make an appearance!

    And yes, that is the same photo as on your site. I cropped (a lot) and then did a little fun effect on Photoshop–I really know nothing about it but just played around until I got something I liked. Ah and of course I changed the background color. Lots of fun once I got going πŸ™‚

    And definitely keep me posted on your blog news!

  22. 01.24.2008

    I love frosting, so anything with it is a winner in my book.
    I do love my fresh squeezed oj too. The choc/orange combo s a good one.
    I haven’t bought any blood oranges here yet but definitely will.

    cheeky’s last blog post..A Sign of Promise

    I’m a frosting lover too–I’ll try anything πŸ™‚ Let me know what you think of the blood oranges; I hope you like them!

  23. 01.24.2008

    I really like blood oranges though to hear my Italian talk, the ones we get here are not nearly as sweet and delicious as the ones from Italy =) I am looking forward to trying them there. The cake looks delicious!

    stacy’s last blog post..It’s raining and I’m bored

    Apparently from what a lot of people say they just aren’t the same outside of Italy. I wonder if any readers have had them in Spain or Malta?

  24. SabineM

    My favorite citrus! I have some in my kitchen waiting to be peeled! Though I love citrus fruit, for some odd reason I ONLY like them as a fruit, not in a dessert (unless it is a fruit salad).

    SabineM’s last blog post..If I were having a baby….

    I think my issue is really more that I love *anything* as a dessert πŸ˜‰ Enjoy those oranges!

  25. 01.24.2008

    great post Michelle. mi prendo una spremuta d’arancia! if you don’t mind:)

    Joe’s last blog post..Passport Check

    Hurry Joe! We’re running out of oranges!

  26. 01.25.2008

    Love blood oranges…and I agree..choclate and orange goes so well together. Your chocolate cake has me licking the screen πŸ™‚

    My Melange’s last blog post..One Great Loss

    Well I guarantee the cake, in person, tastes better than that screen πŸ˜‰

  27. 01.26.2008

    The flavors of chocolate and orange go so well together. Terry’s Chocolate Orange (the one that breaks itself into slices when you whack it) is one of my favorites!

    bonggamom’s last blog post..Old-Fashioned Photos

    Ooh, I don’t know that orange…sounds like I’d love it though. Chocolate, orange, and a stress reliever? What could be better?!

  28. 01.27.2008

    I first fell in love with them in the Teatro San Carlo. I could smell them from the hallway and it was as if there were a siren calling me to enjoy a mimosa. So I did and I’ve NEVER had a better one in my life! I’m dying to try out your chocolate recipe……mmm………ok.must now go find some! thanks for the inspiration and trip down memory lane!

    Alex’s last blog post..It’s all Big in the US of A

    No problem Alex! Glad to be of service πŸ™‚

  29. anna l'americana

    Was just at the market, and thanks to your blog, bought a bag full of blood oranges, just drooling at the thought of juicing some and eating the others, speeding home greedily……. Sadly, they were very disappointing. Not as rich and juicy as I remember from back in the day in the bel paese. The produce in Italy is really so much better – there is no comparison. Still, they were good, and evoked the memories. I seem to recall a salad of sliced blood oranges with I think thinly sliced red onions lightly dressed with something like olive oil and black pepper. Have you heard of this salad and if so do you know of a recipe?

    Aw I’m sorry to hear you were disappointed.

    As for the salad, from this recipe I found, it looks like your memory served you perfectly. There are also other variations that came up when I searched for “blood oranges” “red onions” salad, so you might find more info by doing a Google search with those terms. Buon appetito!

  30. Nicole

    I’ve been searching the Internet for information about raising blood orange trees. I live in Florida and I see that the tree cannot be shipped to Florida. (Aargh!!) Do you happen to know if the trees are distributed here at all? (I figured that you probably did not have this info but I had to ask, just in case.) Thank you so much.

    Nicole, I wish I knew more to tell you, but I really don’t. I figured there was some trouble getting them there–the climate is perfect so there’s really no other reason why you shouldn’t be enjoying blood oranges too πŸ™ Best of luck in finding some trees though.

  31. Jennifer

    Nicole, there’s a place called “Just Fruits and Exotics” in the Florida panhandle that sells three varieties of blood oranges! πŸ™‚

    Thanks Jennifer! I’ll pass this along to Nicole πŸ™‚

  32. First time on your blog and i loved to read your posts ..lot to learn !

    Thanks for coming by! Glad you’re enjoying your time here πŸ™‚

  33. 12.08.2009

    Stumbled across your site looking for more info about blood oranges. Here in Texas it is hard to get fruits, but we managed to find a nursery that stocks the trees. Now the proud owner of two blood orange trees, three blood oranges (well, two after my snack).

    I may have to sacrifice a future orange or two for a glaze on a sherry cake….

    Ooh enjoy your blood oranges, Shay!

  34. rachel

    Try Blood Oranges in Duck a l’ orange….to die for!!!! Also in Crepe Suzette filling…YUM!!!!

    Sounds great Rachel! Thanks πŸ™‚

  35. 03.16.2010

    Hi Michelle,

    Very nice site! I’ve also just written my own post on the fabulous blood orange, which has a limited run here in France, as it is imported from Italy and Spain. What an interesting conversation to stumble into–one that stretches across three years! It’s my understanding that moro-type blood oranges are grown in Texas and CA, but don’t work in Florida, as the climate is wrong–the anthocyanin doesn’t develop properly. They also sometimes have problems with that in California.

    I found an amazing, easy pork marinade that is really worth a try (so good I’m now thinking it is worth trying the rest of the year with conventional oranges…): Flush with this success, I also made a blood orange jelly with Grand Marnier whipped cream, then a tart filled with blood orange curd…The only thing I haven’t made and am still hoping to before they disappear is a sorbet…which I will save for when it is actually spring around here.

    happy blogging…

    Sounds great, Tammy! Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

    .-= Tammy´s last blog ..The blood rushed to my head. =-.

  36. mike

    Really strange,,,we have citrus trees(central florida) and had never eaten the fruit off these 2 particular trees,,,,just now picked what we thbought was Valenecia for juice and they are blood oranges,,,,wow i have never eaten such a juicy sweet and entirely different flavor from an orange in my life,,I’m sure some jelly preserves is next on the list

    What a great discovery, Mike! Enjoy!

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