What’s the Difference Between a Pomelo and a Grapefruit?
How these related citrus fruits are alike – and how they’re not.
Ever hear of a pomelo? If you love the taste of grapefruit, you owe a debt of gratitude to this lesser-known Southeast Asian citrus fruit, because it’s grapefruit’s director ancestor…grapefruit are actually a hybrid resulting from crossing pomelos with oranges. This relationship is probably at least part of the reason why grapefruit are sometimes erroneously referred to as pomelos, but while the two citrus fruits have many similarities, they’re also very different. Here’s how these two related fruits compare with one another:
How Grapefruit and Pomelo are Different
- They way they look. White grapefruit are larger than oranges, but pomelos are larger still – in fact, pomelos are the largest of all the citrus fruits. And while grapefruit are round, pomelos are shaped more like a teardrop. Grapefruit have smoother skins that come in shades from bright to reddish yellow. The skin of a pomelo can be slightly pitted, varies in color from yellowish green to pale yellow to orange, and contains oil cells that are visible as tiny green spots. Even the way the two fruits hang on their tree is different – unlike pomelos, which hang singly, grapefruits tend to grow in clusters on a grapefruit tree like grapes (which is how they got their common name).
- The way they taste. Like grapefruit, pomelos have a sweet to sweet-and-sour taste with a distinctly bitter note. But while a grapefruit’s refreshing smell is similar to that of a pomelo (in fact, if you’ve every purchased “grapefruit” essential oil, you may actually have gotten pomelo essential oil instead – the smells are almost identical), the taste of a pomelo is generally noticeably sweeter. In Asian cuisine, the pomelo is often used in sweet jams, jellies and dessert soups, but if you want go zcc more “zing” to a recipe (like a grapefruit margarita), you’re better off going with a grapefruit.
- The way they’re eaten. Pink grapefruit is a popular breakfast treat, but someone new to the large citrus may wonder how to eat a grapefruit. Typically, a grapefruit is first halved, then the segments are spooned out (the grapefruit spoon was created expressly for this purpose). Pomelos, on the other hand, should be peeled first and the white pith (which is very bitter) removed.
How Grapefruit and Pomelo are Alike
- Grapefruit benefits health in much the same way as pomelos. Is grapefruit good for you? Yes – and so are pomelos. Grapefruit nutrition is legendary, and something the fruit shares in common with its ancestor: pomelos, like grapefruit and grapefruit juice, benefit the immune system with antioxidants like vitamin C), and help lower blood pressure with potassium.
- Both pomelos and grapefruit can interfere with the effects of some medications. Certain medications interact with fresh pomelos, grapefruit and grapefruit juice. To find out about specific medications, talk to your health professional.
- Consuming either pomelo or grapefruit may promote weight loss. The so-called “grapefruit diet” may be a gimmick, but both grapefruit and pomelo can help you lose weight. Both are rich in water and dietary fibers, which can help you feel full so you eat less (a bonus for pomelo is that it also contains protein, which also adds to the feeling of fullness). If you’re counting calories or carbs, however, keep in mind that pomelos are higher in both to grapefruit. Calories in a whole pomelo are twice that of a grapefruit (though grapefruit are smaller).
Regardless of their differences, both fruits are nutritious, refreshing and delicious. And if you already enjoy grapefruit, you may find that including pomelos in your diet may offer a welcome change.