Prepare yourself for compliments and praises, as this tropical fruit salad with honey-lime dressing is going to be the talk of the party. It’s a healthy side dish that makes for a stunning presentation.
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When peak fruit season arrives during the summer months, the market usually features various options. It’s easy to grab everyday items and throw together a classic fruit salad, but why not try some exotic offerings? So take your taste buds on an adventure with this tropical side dish.
To complement the fruit, I have a zesty honey-lime dressing to pour on top. The natural sugars and acidity enhance and brighten the flavor. Over time, a light syrup coats the fruit and infuses a delicious citrus flavor into each bite. This recipe makes a big batch, so you can use it as a topping for breakfast or dessert if you have leftovers.
Tropical fruits flourish in warm-to-hot and humid conditions. This recipe uses a blend of mango, papaya, dragon fruit (red and white-fleshed), kiwi, pineapple, banana, and watermelon. Due to various harvesting seasons around the world, you can typically find these items available throughout the year.
Feel free to substitute any hard-to-find items. Strawberries, raspberries, grapes, oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew, and apples are tasty options.
Cutting the fruit
Cut the pieces so that each unique fruit is still identifiable yet small enough to give a variety in each serving. I find that about ¾ to 1-inch bite-sized pieces work well. Try to cut them into similar sizes so that one item doesn’t dominate. Cut the watermelon into cubes, or use a melon baller to create spheres.
If you have extra fresh fruit, you can turn it into a condiment like my mango salsa to pair with fish or chicken. Other options include using them with yogurt parfaits, pancakes, fruit popsicles, or a topping for desserts like crepes.
Flavorful salad dressing
The combination of tropical fruits tastes delicious, but adding in two simple kitchen staples boosts the flavor. Honey naturally contains glucose and fructose, sugars that heighten the sweetness. When the molecules come into contact with cut pieces of fruit, the concentrated sugars draw out the juices due to osmosis. This process is called maceration, which creates a light syrup that infuses more flavor into the interior.
Freshly squeezed lime juice contains citric and malic acid for tanginess. Grating the zest of the citrus releases intense aromatics and oils that infuse into the dressing. Orange juice or lemon juice are suitable substitutes. However, lemon has a stronger tartness.
Tips for serving
If using red-fleshed dragon fruit, the juice has a bright magenta color that may lightly stain the other fruit. To reduce this from happening, rinse and dry to remove the color on the surface or evenly distribute it on top after mixing with the dressing.
Right before serving, drizzle the dressing on top and gently toss to coat. After a few minutes, you’ll notice a light glaze that forms from the sugars mingling with the juices. I like to add toasted coconut to complement the tropical flavor. Garnish with thinly sliced mint leaves to add a burst of fresh herbs.
Serve this with
- Fresh whipped cream or ice cream for a sweet treat
- On top of a yogurt parfait
- A topping for acai bowls
- Grilled chicken
A botanically diverse array of fruits indigenous to tropical regions. Examples include mango, pineapple, dragon fruit (pitaya), acerola cherry, starfruit, guava, passion fruit, lychee, coconut, kiwi, acai, papaya, banana, plantain, mangosteen, rambutan, durian, pomegranate, citrus-like bitter orange, jackfruit, cherimoya, mango, breadfruit, tamarind, avocado, raspberries, and watermelon.
Tropical fruits naturally thrive in warm/hot and humid climates in continents like Asia and South America. Some popular growing regions include India, the Caribbean, China, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Hawaii, Florida, and California.
Some tropical fruits are considered exotic. They are often seasonal, with limited exportation, and mainly consumed by the nearby population. Exotic fruits have a unique taste and atypical appearance. Examples include açai, avocado, cacao, breadfruit, custard apple, durian, elderberry, finger lime, guava, gooseberry, guarana, kumquat, mangosteen, passion fruit, persimmon, pitaya (dragon fruit), pomegranate, quince, star fruit, tamarind, and rambutan [Source].
How to reduce browning of bananas
Cut the banana last to limit the flesh’s exposure time to the air. Then, to further slow the inevitable rate of oxidation, add citrus juice. The acids (ascorbic, citric, and malic) in lime or lemon juice helps to lower the pH, inhibiting the enzymatic browning activity of polyphenol oxidase in the fruit. The ascorbic acid (vitamin C) also scavenges and reacts with the oxygen first to prevent interaction with the enzymes, helping to delay browning.
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Tropical Fruit Salad
- 2 cups watermelon, ¾-inch dice
- 2 dragon fruit, (pitaya) ¾-inch dice, about 2 cups
- 1 papaya, ¾-inch dice, about 1 ½ cups
- 1 mango, ¾-inch dice, about 1 ½ cups
- 1 cup pineapple, wedges, ½-inch thick
- 3 kiwi, quartered, ¼-inch thick slices, about 1 cup
- 1 large banana, ½-inch thick slices, about ¾ cup
- ¼ cup honey, or pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- ¼ cup coconut chips or shreds, (optional) for garnish
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced mint
- In a large bowl, add watermelon, dragon fruit, papaya, mango, pineapple, kiwi, and banana. If using red fleshed-dragon fruit, wait to add on top after mixing to prevent staining the other pieces.
- In a small bowl, whisk together honey, lime zest, and lime juice.
- Drizzle the dressing mixture over the fruit. Gently toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate if not serving immediately.
- Optional: Heat a small pan over medium heat. Add the coconut, shake and toast until lightly browned, about 2 to 4 minutes. Immediately transfer to a bowl to cool.
- Right before serving, garnish the salad with some toasted coconut and mint.
- Recipe Yield: About 8 cups
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Storing: Place inside an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- Dragon fruit substitution: Strawberries, raspberries, or kiwi.
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