Ingredient Intelligence

What Are Kumquats and How Can I Use Them?

published May 31, 2022
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Kumquats, Citrus Fruit
Credit: Getty Images/Pinkybird

Kumquats may look like little baby oranges, but one bite reveals they’re their own thing entirely. Promising cheek-puckering tartness, these citrus fruits — which can be eaten whole — are a great foil for rich desserts like cheesecake, and candying the whole or sliced fruit adds sweetness that balances the sour notes. Lovers of Sweetarts, Sour Patch Kids, and other sweet and sour candies will welcome the punchy flavor of kumquat. 

What Are Kumquats?

Native to southeast Asia, the kumquat is a citrus fruit that resembles a small, oblong orange about the size of an olive. Although kumquats may be found in grocery stores year-round, their growing season stretches from November through April, peaking in December. There are two main varieties: the Nagami, which is more oblong with a more pronounced sour flavor, and the Meiwa, which is rounder and sweeter.

In the United States, kumquats are most commonly grown in Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, and California, according to the Farmers’ Almanac. If you live in one of those states, you might even be lucky enough to have a kumquat shrub in your yard.

What Does a Kumquat Taste Like?

Kumquats pack a sour punch with a hint of sweetness that comes from the fruit’s edible peel. They have a bright, citrus flavor and assertive tartness.

How Do You Buy and Store Kumquats?

Look for kumquats that are bright orange and free of blemishes. Store them on the counter for a day or two, or refrigerate them for about a week. Plan to use kumquats quickly after purchasing because their thin skins means their shelf life isn’t terribly long compared to other citrus fruits.

How Do You Eat a Kumquat?

Kumquats can be eaten whole, peel and all. They can be eaten raw as a snack, or sliced and served in salads. Cooking mellows out the tanginess of the fruit, making kumquats a popular choice for marmalade and chutneys, as well as baked goods. Candied kumquats complement rich desserts like cheesecakes and can make a lovely edible gift. Kumquats can also be pickled and brined.

Try a Few of Our Favorite Kumquat Recipes