Yuzu has a truly unique flavor; one way to describe it is to imagine combining orange, mandarine, lemon, and grapefruit in one. The best way to appreciate the taste and especially the aroma of the fruit is to try to get hold of one and use it as a citrus replacement in one of your favorite cocktail recipes.
It is my favorite ingredient for adding some acidity in drink recipes. If we are looking for something similar to compare or substitute with, the flavor of the Seville orange is close but not the same.
Sometimes is hard to get hold of the real fruit, and in that case, we can use yuzu juice or yuzu marmalade, but we still are missing the aromatic essences released by the peel, as they are lightly sweet and rich in aromatic oils when the skin is squeezed or muddled.
The yuzu fragrance is entirely its own, nothing like it on this side of the pond.
Before I get to one of the mine recipes I posted here, I will explore the origins of the fruit and its different uses.
Yuzu has a history of over 1200 years. It is believed the fruit originated in Tibet and central China, the Yangtze River Region, as a hybrid of mandarin orange and the ichang papeda, where it still grows wild. Due to its cold-hardy ichang papeda ancestry can grow in temperatures as low as -9° C. The fruit varies in size, from small lemon to a grapefruit-size, and it grows as a small tree or shrub size plant1.
Even though it originated in China, Japan is mainly associated with the cultivation and production of the yuzu. It was brought to Japan by way of the Korean peninsula, where is known as Yuja, during the Nara Period (year 710), at that time. Still, the Japanese farmers grew it for three purposes, culinary, hot bathing, and medicinal2.
In Korea, Yuzu is known as Yuja and is used to make Yuja-cha – marmalade, Yuja tea, and various salads and main dishes.
The growing period is between April and December. It produces small green-colored fruit, which turns into a golden-yellow color with a spherical shape by the end of the growing period.
In the US, at this moment, yuzu is not allowed to be imported, but one can grow it; the few places that I’m aware of are in California and New Jersey. In Canada, we can buy the fruit in some Japanese stores or grow it in places like Vancouver and Richmond.
In North America, there are no substitutions that I know of, while in Japan, there is some fruits part of the Yuzu family with similar flavor profiles.
- Sudachi: a cross between yuzu-koji and tachibana orange; used as a food flavoring in place of lemon or lime
- Kabosu: ichang papeda – bitter orange hybrid; taste like Sudachi – little sourer
- Okinawan Lime /Shiikuwasha – taste is between lime and orange, low sugar content and very sour.
The easier way to enjoy the aromatics, if one can not find the fruit, is to buy yuzu juice or Yuja-cha – marmalade, which can be used to make tea.
I used Yuja-cha in cocktails, a jar I bought in a local Toronto store, the same way as honey is used. It has a nice citrus flavor but is “better than nothing.” I will try to get hold of the actual fruit or juice, especially if the marmalade has many additives and high fructose corn syrup. Unless you make real Korean yujacha and tea, try to stay with the fruit or the juice.
1 part Yuja / yuzu
1 part honey
1 part sugar
Clean the fruit and cut it into small pieces; remove only the seeds. Mix with sugar and honey.
Put into a container, and store in a dark, cool place.
To drink: stir 1-2 teaspoons in hot water.
Use some water to dissolve them before mixing them with ice for cocktails.
Note: Use lemons or any citrus of choice to make similar tea. Skip honey for clearer color and pure yuzu taste.
In the culinary industry, yuzu is a key ingredient in ponzu sauce, citrus-based sauce (citrus juice of sudachi, Yuzu, and kabosu and vinegar), soy sauce, sugar, or mirin, and dashi often served with cold noodles or fried pork.
The juice can be used, fresh or cooked in many dishes, for seasoning potato chips, added to many desserts, and is the favorite flavor for candy. The fruit is also used to make Yuzu vinegar.
Here are some recipes on the Japan Center website for people looking for culinary ideas.
In the beverage industry, yuzu is used to infuse liquor, add unique aromas to cocktails, in teas such as Matcha, or make refreshing non-alcoholic carbonated drinks.
The fruit doesn’t have a lot of juice, and using it in a way we are used to with lime or lemons will not fully incorporate the yuzu aroma in the drinks, as the aromatics are in the skin. The best way to fully enjoy it and to extract all the magic from the yuzu is to muddle, zest, or grind the peel3.
Here is a recipe for Yuzu-infused vodka.
2 cups vodka
2-3 yuzu fruit*, rinsed well and quartered – it depends on the vessel will be using
Quart size Mason jar or the bottle itself
Place yuzu and vodka in the jar and close it tight. Store it in a dark, cool place.
Occasionally shake the jar lightly and check the taste in about a week. It should be ready in about 10-14 days.
Strain and discard the fruit. Keep it a cool dark place.
Note: Yuzu comes in different sizes, from lime to grapefruit size-like; the suggested 2-3 fruits are small to medium.
Yuzu is low in calories and highly nutritious. 3.5 ounces (100 grams) provides:
• Calories: 53
• Carbs:13.3 grams
• Protein:0.8 grams
• Fat:0.3 grams
• Fiber: 1.8 grams
• Vitamin C:59% of the Daily Value (DV)
• Vitamin A:31% of the DV
• Thiamine:5% of the DV
• Vitamin B6:5% of the DV
• Vitamin B5:4% of the DV
• Copper: 5% of the DV
It also contains smaller amounts of magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin E. It has compounds carotenoids, flavonoids, and limonoids.
According to: www.healthline.com
I created several cocktails made with yuzu, 8 to be precise, and this one of them.
Yuzu Cocktail Recipe
- 1½ oz Żubrówka vodka
- ½ oz Aperol
- ½ yuzu fruit - sliced
- 12 blueberries
- ½ oz simple syrup
- ¼ oz lime juice
- Muddle yuzu fruit, blueberries, simple syrup, and lime juice.
- Add the rest and hard shake with ice.
- Strain over crushed ice, or straight up into chilled cocktail glass.
- Top with a splash of soda water – optional.
- Garnish with yuzu peel, or squeeze and discard.
Yuzu varies in size, if it looks like grapefruit - use 1/4 of it, or adjust to your liking.
Double strain, if seeds not removed prior to mixing.
Top image – Wiki Commons