What to do with Buddhas Hand: The Unique Citrus with a Bright Flavor

What to do with Buddhas Hand: The Unique Citrus with a Bright Flavor

Buddha’s hand is a prime example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Pick one up at the grocery store or an Asian food market — Buddha’s hand is more commonly eaten in China and Japan — and you will first notice the fruit’s peculiar appearance.

“Buddha’s hand is a citrus fruit that resembles a lemon but with these sort of ‘fingers,'” explains Jennifer Lease, RD, CDN, a chef and registered dietitian. The “fingers,” she explains, grow off a bulbous base that looks like a hand — thus the name — or an octopus, depending on your perspective.

Take a sniff, and you’ll notice the bright yellow rind smells strongly floral, like lavender or violets. That’s why chefs covet this unique fruit.

“The best use of Buddha’s hand is for its delicious zest,” says Lease. “Basically, in any recipe that calls for lemon zest, you can substitute equal amounts of the zest from the Buddha’s hand.”

Also known as fingered citron, Buddha’s hand has more surprises in store.

“They don’t have flesh and juice, like most other fruits,” explains chef and dietitian Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, CD. “They are all rind and have a spongy white pith on the inside.”

The entire fruit is edible, and the pith is sweet, unlike other citrus fruits.”

Here are some chef-inspired ideas for using Buddha’s hand citrus fruit.

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1. Infuse drinks

Steep strips of the rind in water for a tasty, hydrating beverage.

Or, add to hot water for a zesty tea.

You can also use the grated zest in mocktails, kombucha, or smoothies.

Buddha’s hand even pairs well with vodka and other spirits.


2. Add zest to roasted vegetables

buddhas hand - buddhas hand fruit

Instead of reaching for salt or fat for a flavor boost, grate the rind of a Buddha’s hand right onto your roasted broccoli, sweet potatoes, or beets.


3. Mix into fruit preserves

Next time you make your own low-sugar jam, zest a little Buddha’s hand in with your favorite berries or other fruit for a sophisticated twist.


4. Make Buddha’s hand candy

buddhas hand - candied citrus

Andrews loves to use the whole Buddha’s hand fruit to make this candied citron.

“It’s sweet, floral, citrusy, and delicious,” she says, and a little goes a long way.

This recipe, while high in sugar, has some nutrients to offer up when compared to plain old candy?


5. Bake with it

If you’re a fan of citrus in baked goods, swap Buddha’s hand zest for your usual lemon or lime.

“Just a couple of teaspoons will go a long way,” says Lease.

You’ll still need the juice from another citrus fruit since Buddha’s hand doesn’t have any!


6. Finish a meal with a pinch of zest

Elevate any dish — from baked chicken to simple steamed quinoa — with a pinch of Buddha’s hand zest.

For minimal effort at all, you’ll impress your dinner guests.


How to Choose and Prepare Buddha’s Hand

Next time you encounter a Buddha’s hand at the supermarket, you’ll be able to recognize it and know what to do with it, thanks to these tips from Lease:

  • Look for fruit with bright skin that is firm, without soft spots or blemishes. Choose fruit with “fingers” that are further apart (that means more tasty zest).
  • Buddha’s hand can be stored at room temperature on your kitchen counter for about two weeks, or even longer in the fridge.
  • To zest it, remove the “fingers” and work with one at a time, taking off only the yellow part. Lease prefers a Microplane or small grater, but you could also use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to peel the fruit and finely chop the peel.