What is Dragon Fruit?

Dragon fruit (or pitaya) is a delicious tropical fruit native to Mexico and Central America. Its taste profile is like a combination of a kiwi and a pear.

what is dragon fruit
Table of Contents
  1. Types of dragon fruit
  2. Hylocereus undatus
  3. Hylocereus polyrhizus
  4. Hylocereus guatemalensis
  5. Hylocereus megalanthus
  6. Selection
  7. Nutrition

From the genus Hylocereus, there are various species of the edible fruit that grows on night flowering cactus. They are harvested in warm and humid climates like Mexico, South America, Central America, South East Asia, the Caribbean, and parts of the United States like Florida.

You can find them at specialty grocery stores, Asian and Latin markets. They are great to use in a smoothie as they have a mild, sweet taste, with a little tartness, letting the tropical taste dominate. When you take a bite, the pulp has a similar texture to kiwi and pear, especially the crunchy black seeds.

Types of dragon fruit

There are four common culinary plants of dragon fruit or pitaya that you can purchase. Depending on the cultivar, you most often see the bright pink-skinned varieties, which is difficult to tell the flesh color without opening it up, and yellow-skinned dragon fruit is rarer.

Hylocereus undatus

Hylocereus undatus

Magenta skin, green leaves, white flesh, and small black seeds. Commonly grown in South East Asia, Central America, and Mexico, easiest to find in markets. 

Hylocereus polyrhizus

Hylocereus polyrhizus

Magenta skin, green leaves, reddish-pink flesh, and small black seeds, larger in size than Hylocereus undatus species. High in antioxidants due to its red pigment in the pulp. Most often grown in South America, more expensive, most commonly found in the freezer section. 

Hylocereus guatemalensis

Hylocereus guatemalensis

Magenta skin, green leaves, purple flesh, and small black seeds. From Central America, grows large with sweet flesh.

Hylocereus megalanthus

Hylocereus megalanthus

Also known as Selenicereus megalanthus. Yellow skin, white flesh, and small black seeds. Native to South America, which grows smaller in size, sweetest taste and smaller in size,  and is harder to find in stores.


The fruit’s peak season is in the summer months until early fall. Since they are grown around the world, there’s a good chance you can find them year-round. When selecting a dragon fruit, look for vibrant colored skin and leaves, with even pigmentation.

When lightly squeezed, it should be firm but not hard and have a slight give. Any brown spots, dried stems and leaves, or soft spots are a sign of it being too ripe. Their skin is very thin making them relatively easy to cut open.


In 1 ¼-cup (140 grams) of diced red dragon fruit, there are approximately 80 calories, 2 grams of protein, 13 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of fat, 43 mg calcium, 2 mg iron, 426 mg potassium, and 56 mg magnesium [1].

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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