Acerola, also known as West Indian cherry, Barbados cherry, or wild crepe myrtle, is a tropical tree that produces bright red fruit with culinary and medical uses. This beautiful, gem-like fruit can be used in the kitchen in a variety of ways, imparting its tart flavor into syrups, drinks, and sauces.
What is Acerola?
Acerola is a bush-like tree that is native to parts of Central and South America, including Paraguay, Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. Acerola is a tropical plant that can grow in a variety of warm climates outside its native range in any sandy soils with full sun and low winds. The drupes, or fruit, of the acerola are about the same size as a cherry and are highly fragrant. Acerola fruit can be eaten raw or cooked.
What does Acerola Taste Like?
Acerola fruit have a tangy sweet flavor that is somewhat apple-like given it’s crisp, clean taste. These bright red fruits also have a subtle astringency to them, which adds to their taste flavor.
Cooking with Acerola
Acerola can be used in a variety of ways from preserves to sauces to drinks to smoothies. One of our favorite ways to cook acerola is to transform it into a spreadable, spoonable sauce for yogurt, pancakes, or pork chops. Use our basic slow cook Fruit Sauce recipe and replace the cherries with acerola instead for a more tropical flavor.
Or you can sous vide the acerola to further concentrate their flavor. Follow this recipe, but replace the strawberries with acerola (or use a combination of the two!). You can also use acerola juice in a variety of cocktails, and it substitutes well for cranberry or cherry juice. Try our Cranberry Punch recipe, but replace the cranberry juice with an equal amount of acerola juice.
Where to Buy AcerolaThroughout the southern United States, especially in Texas and Florida, acerola trees grow easily, and you can find acerola fruit at farmers markets and some specialty stores. For those of us in the rest of the country, look for frozen acerola puree in your grocery store. Trader Joe’s carries 14 ounce packets of frozen acerola puree. You may also be able to find it online.
Many healthfood stores carry acerola powder, as the fruit is very high in vitamin C and used as a dietary supplement. You can add the powder to fruit juices and smoothies for its tangy flavor and nutritional value.