Yuzu Is Poised to Be One of 2022's Trendiest Foods—Here's How to Cook With It

Professional chefs weigh in!

Each year there are a handful of trendy foods that emerge as the "it food" of the moment. Foods like kale and turmeric have had their turns in years past, and if some insightful trend predictions for 2022 come true, we're about to embark on the Year of Yuzu. While the citrus fruit has steadily been gaining popularity in the United States, you'll likely be seeing a whole lot more yuzu at restaurants and on cocktail menus over the next 12 months.

If you're at all familiar with the bright yellow citrus fruit, you know that it is similar to a lemon in both appearance and taste. However, what sets yuzu apart from lemons and other similar citrus fruits is its distinct flavor profile and accompanying aroma. "Fresh yuzu has a distinctive tart, fragrant, and sour taste that almost resembles grapefruit, mandarin orange, or lemon," notes Min Kim, the executive chef at Mizumi at Wynn Las Vegas. "It has a magical fragrance and flavor that enhances the taste of any dish, which allows it to work well with just about anything."

Keep reading to learn more about yuzu—including its nutritional benefits, how to cook with it, how to best store it, and how to use it to add more flavor to some of your favorite recipes.

What Is Yuzu?

Yuzu is a type of citrus that originated in east Asia, and it grows wild in parts of central China and Tibet. The fruit was introduced to Japan and Korea during the Tang dynasty, and is still cultivated there today. More recently, yuzu has been cultivated in Australia, Spain, Italy, and France, and it is used in Korean cuisine as well. In Korea, yuzu is known as yuja.

Yuzu has an uneven skin, and is typically yellow or green depending on the degree of ripeness. The fruits, which do have some flesh inside similar to that of a lemon, tend to be larger than a mandarin orange, but slightly smaller than a grapefruit. However, unlike those foods, yuzu, which is very aromatic, is rarely eaten as a fruit. Instead, like lemons, yuzu is most commonly used for its zest and juice.

Still, yuzu has uses that extend far beyond the kitchen, especially in many Asian cultures. "Yuzu plays such a pivotal role in Japanese cuisine and now, in recent times, it has become an integral ingredient in so many other cuisines and cultures. In Japan, yuzu is used for so much more than just cooking," says Kim. "We use it to make tea, medicine, fragrances, bath products, candles, and more. It has such a significant value in our culture, not only as a cooking ingredient, but as something that is so fundamental in our daily lives."

Japanese citron 'Yuzu' fruits isolated on light background
Getty Images

Nutritional Benefits of Yuzu

Since yuzu is rarely eaten on its own, it's not something one might add to their diet for various health benefits. Still, as a member of the citrus family, yuzu has many nutritional perks worth noting, many of which people can benefit from via the fruit's juice. For starters, yuzu is packed with sodium, magnesium, manganese, and vitamin C. Vitamin C, which increases the body's excretion of uric acid, can help prevent gout. The key nutrient may also improve eye health, and may even slow the progress of age-related macular degeneration.

Like many other fruits, yuzu is also loaded with antioxidants, which prevent or slow damage to cells in your body caused by free radicals. A diet high in antioxidants has been scientifically proven to lower the risk of certain diseases and conditions, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and cataracts.

Additionally, two compounds found in yuzu—hesperidin and naringin—help prevent platelets from sticking to the lining of blood vessels. This, in turn, can help prevent harmful blood clots and inflammation of blood vessels.

And last but certainly not least, there is some scientific evidence to suggest that yuzu's strong aroma may be an effective stress-reliever. In a 2016 study of college students, essential oil derived from yuzu improved the mood of female students.

How Long Does Yuzu Stay Good For?

Yuzu fruits can be stored at room temperature, but if you don't plan on using them right away, feel free to refrigerate them so they can last longer. While yuzu can stay fresh in the refrigerator for a few weeks, the fruit may lose its powerful aroma after a few days. You can also freeze whole yuzus to extend the fruit's life even more, or freeze the yuzu peel, flesh, and juice separately. Yuzu skin and flesh can last for up to one month in the freezer, while the frozen juice will stay fresh for approximately six months.

If you're a fan of bottled yuzu condiments, like this Yuzu Hot Sauce from Trader Joe's, they will stay fresh in the refrigerator for several weeks, if not longer, but always check the sell-by date and give it a sniff to be safe.

How to Cook With Yuzu

Despite yuzu's distinct flavor, it's actually quite versatile in the kitchen. "I still remember the first time I tried yuzu. A friend had just returned from Japan with it. The smell alone was so different from what I knew before. It was a true discovery, an inspiration," notes chef Gabriel Kreuther from Gabriel Kreuther in New York City. "The juice is very good, but it's the zest that's really special. The elegance of it is really cool, and the length on your palate is surprising. It's not sour like a regular lemon… it's like a mix of three or four different citrus fruits—lemon, lime, mandarin and grapefruit in one! I use it in my kitchen to finish dishes, as opposed to heating it, to give it justice." To use yuzu as a finishing touch, simply grate some of the zest over everything from soup to a fresh salad or fish dish.

Other chefs let yuzu play a more central role in some of their dishes by pairing it with various protein sources. "Typically I like to pair it with a fatty dish, like pork belly or wagyu," says Kim. "But it also complements fresh seafood, especially sashimi and sushi brilliantly, by adding a touch of fresh citrus tang and aroma on your nose."

But that's not all yuzu can do! "Yuzu works well in any dishes in which you might normally use lemon or lime," explains Karen M. Ricks, the head chef at Our Kitchen Classroom. While Ricks notes that yuzu thrives in savory dishes—including chicken and rice and sautéed vegetables—one of her favorite ways to use it is when making dessert. "It brightens the flavors of sweet dishes like cookies, cupcakes, and cheesecakes!" she adds. The next time you make sugar cookies, try grating some yuzu zest into the dough for a citrusy twist.

A good way to give yuzu a try to see if you even like it is to add yuzu juice to a cocktail. Pair it with gin and simple syrup for an easy libation, or add it to a margarita for an interesting take on a classic drink. If you're in the mood for a non-alcoholic drink, add some yuzu juice to a pitcher of lemonade.

Yuzu Substitutions

Since yuzu isn't native to the United States, it can be tricky to find at your local grocery store. While there isn't an exact substitute for this Asian fruit, you can use other, similar fruits to achieve a similar effect when cooking. "The flavor of yuzu can be described as grapefruit-y and lemony with a hint of mandarin orange. It is very complex, distinctive, and highly aromatic," says Claudia Fleming, cookbook author and the Executive Pastry Director of Union Square Hospitality Group. "While it's difficult to substitute for the exact flavor, a combination of lemon, grapefruit, orange, and lime juices could yield a similar flavor profile if for any reason yuzu isn't readily available."

Kreuther has a similar approach to substituting yuzu, adding: "If you can't find yuzu, I suggest using Meyer lemon juice with a dash of grapefruit (say, 15 percent of the total volume). Buddha's Hand [another Asian citrus fruit] can also be a great one to try in yuzu's place!"

Yuzu Recipes

We've already established that yuzu is one of the most versatile ingredients around, so it's not hard to add this unique fruit to a variety of drinks and dishes. Keep reading for chef-approved tips on how to add yuzu to some of your favorite meals!

01 of 07

Bee's Knees Cocktail

"Yuzu tastes like lemon, grapefruit and mandarin orange and is very aromatic. It's a widely used ingredient in Japan, and is often seen in sushi as well as meat, fish and vegetable dishes," explains Shige Kabashima, the owner and bar director of NR, a restaurant in New York City. "It can also widely be used in drinks as well. In cocktails, it goes especially well with gin, honey and shiso leaf." Go ahead and add some to a bee's knees—a refreshing drink made with gin, honey syrup, and fresh lemon juice—or a London lemonade.

RELATED: 12 Classic Cocktail Recipes Everyone Should Know

02 of 07


"I take briny and fat fresh oysters and spike them with a little yuzu zest and juice, instead of the traditional vinegar and shallot accompaniment," says Kreuther. Pick up some oysters at your local fish market, shuck 'em yourself if you're feeling adventurous, and take a page right out of Kreuther's book!

03 of 07

Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo Ball Soup
This rich and hearty soup gets a boost of flavor from chicken thighs that are simmered in the broth and then shredded from the bone. To ensure the matzo balls are cooked correctly, remove a ball from the broth and slice it in half. The color should be light throughout—if the center is darker, continue to cook 5 to 10 minutes more. Get the recipe:Matzo Ball Soup. Emily Kinni

"A nice matzo ball soup is transformed with yuzu juice and a little zest," Kreuther explains. "It takes even a store-bought version to new heights!"

04 of 07

Crispy Roasted Mushrooms

Crispy Roasted Mushrooms
Roasting the mushrooms brings out their deep, earthy flavors, making this a simple yet standout side dish. Get the recipe. Danny Kim

Chef Niven Patel, of Orno and Mamey in Miami, likes to pair yuzu with a popular vegetable. "At Orno, we use it in the roasted mushrooms, which includes black truffle butter, yuzu, and fine herbs. I love cooking yuzu with fresh vegetables from the farm, as it has a tart and sweet flavor profile that adds a citrusy note to fresh produce," he shares. "I think that it does a great job of adding a tart, sour flavor. It has notes of orange and grapefruit. At Orno, the roasted mushrooms have a lot of fat with a very decadent black truffle butter, so the yuzu balances it out with acidity and sour flavor."

Add some yuzu to these 'shrooms for a flavor boost, and throw in some truffle butter if you're feeling particularly fancy.

RELATED: 12 Healthy Roasted Vegetable Recipes That Practically Cook Themselves

05 of 07

Watermelon Poke Bowls

Watermelon Poke Bowl
Victor Protasio

"I use yuzu juice when preparing my albacore poke dish, a light and refreshing crowd-pleaser made with sashimi-grade tuna," shares executive chef Kevin Templeton, from barleymash in San Diego. "The dish also consists of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, diced cucumber, green onion, sesame seeds, avocado, fresh cilantro, wonton crisps, sesame crackers, and cucumber slices."

While this plant-based version of a poke bowl substitutes watermelon for albacore tuna, yuzu and watermelon actually pair well together too. Or you can simply follow Templeton's suggestion more closely and add some yuzu juice the next time you order poke for takeout.

06 of 07

Berry-Vanilla Panna Cotta

Terra Cotta Panna Cotta

"Yuzu pairs particularly well with tropical flavors and citrus fruit, adding a faint herby element to finished dishes. It is a bit sour and slightly bitter, which makes it a great counterpoint to sweet-acidic desserts," shares Fleming. "This past summer, while testing for my new cookbook, I added yuzu juice to a plum compote and flavored buttermilk panna cotta with it. I was delighted with the result!" Follow Fleming's lead and whip up this berry-vanilla panna cotta!

RELATED: 7 Five-Ingredient Desserts Absolutely Anyone Can Make

07 of 07

Classic Cheesecake

Classic Cheesecake
This ultra creamy, fabulously rich cheesecake takes just 30 minutes to prep. Get the recipe: Classic Cheesecake . José Picayo

"When it comes to desserts and pastries, yuzu is a unique fruit that can add an unexpected flavor that almost always delights," says Federico Fernandez, co-owner and executive pastry chef of Bianca in Los Angeles. "Yuzu can be worked into crème brûlée, cheesecakes, pie, and so much more." Upgrade this traditional cheesecake recipe by adding a dash of yuzu juice into the batter.

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