What comes to mind when you think of Hawaii?
For most people, it’s the 750 miles of coastline paradise, with ancient volcanoes, rainforest adventures, glorious white sand beaches, or world-class surfing Others might think of its unmistakable culture and generous Aloha spirit. However, for others, Hawaii’s food grabs them during their vacation.
Hawaii is often described as a destination where East meets West, and its culinary culture reflects this unique mixture. From their popular Poke Bowls to the local favorite Plate Lunch or Shave Ice, you’ll crave Hawaii’s food once your vacation is over and you’ve returned home.
If you had a fresh fruit plate, pancakes with lilikoi syrup, or spent a happy hour with a lilikoi mai tai, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. This locally grown food is just one example of how Hawaii imported an item from the West and made it distinctly their own.
But First, What Is Lilikoi Fruit?
Delicious, that’s what! But seriously, it is more commonly known as passion fruit. Lilikoi is small, round, and jam-packed with tangy, globular goodness. You pronounce it “LIH-lee-koy.”
Passiflora edulis forma flavicarpa (that’s its official name) grows on a vine and ranges in size from 1.5 to 3 inches wide. It has smooth, tough outer skin that can be yellow (the most common type that grows in Hawaii), dark purple, or even orange-colored. Cut one open, and you’ll find a mishmash of bright orange pulp and slippery sacs full of black seeds.
Want to grow your own? Go for it! Just don’t hold your breath.
This Hawaiian flower plant that bears yellow passion fruit takes anywhere from 1 to 3 years to fruit. Likewise, upon being pollinated, you should expect to wait another 80 days before enjoying the very literal fruits of your labor. When it’s ready, lilikoi fruit will fall off the vine, where it’ll start turning brown and wrinkly (but no less delicious!).
The good news is that lilikoi season lasts a long time. You can find and buy them in Hawaii between June and January – although fresh ones on the vine can be surprisingly hard to come across sometimes!
What Does It Taste Like?
It varies, but Lilikoi’s usually a delightful mix of sweet and sour. It’s tart, aromatic, and utterly unique; tropical and citrusy goodness that titillates your taste buds like nothing else.
Think kiwi fruit meets pineapple, with a dash of mango and pomegranate…and maybe some peach thrown in for good measure.
However, when you eat it fresh (instead of in a juice or smoothie, for instance), it’s hard to talk about the taste of Lilikoi without describing its texture. Because the part you eat is a combo of juicy pulp sacs and seeds, it’s crunchy, jelly-like, and supremely refreshing. Expect an explosion of tongue-twisting flavor as you spoon the lilikoi’s contents into your mouth, followed by an unrelenting urge to eat another one!
The History and Significance of Lilikoi Fruit
Although lilikoi now has pride of place in Hawaiian market stalls, it isn’t actually a native fruit. Reports vary, but it seems to have been brought over in 1880 by way of Australia. Eugene Delemar planted the first seeds at his Maui ranch in an area called “Lilikoi Gulch” – hence the name!
Thanks to Hawaii’s climate, passion fruit soon naturalized there and became readily available on each island.
Interestingly, the history of the passion fruit plant stretches back much further. Native to subtropical regions of South America, Christian missionaries who landed there in the 16th Century called its striking flower the “flor de las cinco llagas,” or the “flower of the five wounds” and believed it was symbolic of Jesus Christ’s death. This helps explain the modern name, passion fruit, as “passus” means “suffering” in Latin.
4 Recipes and Drinks with Lilikoi Fruit to Enjoy at Home
Lilikoi’s versatile too. It works in everything from juices and purees to cocktails, cakes, and even savory dishes. Here’s a some lilikoi recipes and drinks ideas to get your own creative culinary juices flowing.
1. Lilikoi Butter
Spread it on toast, put it on pancakes, or eat it straight off the spoon! Lilikoi butter’s a delicious condiment that goes well with a host of different dishes.
To make it, you’ll first need to juice some lilikoi fruit.
- Do this by cutting each one in half, spooning out the pulp and seeds, and placing it into a strainer.
- You can then push the liquid through the strainer into a bowl, using a spoon.
- Alternatively, you can simply whizz up the pulp and seeds in a blender!
- You’d then set your juice aside.
- Next, create a double boiler by putting a heat-proof bowl over a pot of boiling water (on medium-high heat).
- Add 4 eggs and 1 cup of granulated sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon to combine the mixture.
- You’d then pour in half a cup of your freshly made lilikoi juice and continue stirring.
- Finally, add 6 tablespoons of cubed, unsalted butter and keep stirring for approximately 15 minutes – until it thickens.
Once finished, pour the contents into a sterilized canning jar before putting on the lid. Let it cool, pop it in the fridge, and then use it at your leisure for up to a week!
2. Lilikoi Juice
We just detailed how to juice lilikoi in our butter recipe. But that’s how you’d do it for cooking – not necessarily for drinking. It’s a similar process here, with a couple of extra steps to improve the taste and texture.
Here’s how it works:
- Remove the pulp/seeds and pop it all in a blender.
- Add a splash of water, then whizz it up for a few seconds.
- Don’t want to blend it too well, though! The goal is to loosen up the mixture.
- Next, pour the lilikoi/water combo through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any remaining seed pieces.
- You can add more water and sugar until you have the desired taste and consistency.
- And voila! Delicious lilikoi juice to drink now or keep in the fridge.
3. Lilikoi Cupcakes
Warning: there’s no going back once you’ve tasted lilikoi cupcakes. With their passion fruit curd center and buttercream topping, they’re divine!
- The first step is to bake a big bunch of cupcakes to your usual recipe.
- Let them cool down, and then cut a hole in the middle of each one (this is where you’ll put the curd filling in a moment!).
- On that topic, you can buy pre-made lilikoi curd, but you could also follow the lilikoi butter recipe above, which is essentially the same.
- Next, fill a piping bag with curd and start piping it into the center of each cupcake.
Now comes the buttercream.
- Make this by beating room temperature butter in a stand mixer until it turns lighter in color.
- You add powdered sugar, milk, and then more lilikoi curd, continuing to beat until it’s all combined.
- Finish by adding the buttercream to another piping bag and covering the tops of each cake with it!
4. Lilikoi Margarita
Are you looking to replace that evening glass of wine with something from your paradise vacation? A lilikoi margarita could be the answer you’re looking for.
They couldn’t be easier to make either.
- Start by rimming three glasses with pink sugar.
- Next, grab a cocktail shaker and pour in 4.5oz tequila, 1.5oz of Cointreau, 1.5oz of lime juice, and 7oz of lilikoi puree (i.e., the seeds and pulp from inside the fruit).
- Then shake it all up, pour the delicious mixture into the glasses, add some ice, and – cheers – enjoy!
Don’t like tequila? Swap out other juices for lilikoi puree or juice in your martinis or cocktails.
4 Products You Can Buy on Amazon to Bring This Slice of Paradise into Your Everyday Life
Want an easy way to enjoy this tropical taste at home? Here are four products you can buy today for yourself or others. If you’re looking for gifts that bring back vacation memories, pick these up for easy birthday presents or stocking stuffers.
1. Aunty Lilikoi Passion Fruit Guava Jelly
Made with just five ingredients, this passion fruit preserve from Aunty Lilikoi is both clean and gobsmackingly good!
Unlike other products of this nature, it isn’t too sweet. Expect a lovely balance between sweetness and tartness, which is ideal on toast, pancakes, and however else you enjoy your jellies.
2. Aunt Lilikoi Passion Fruit Syrup
Another top offering from Aunt Lilikoi is this passion fruit syrup, a match made in heaven for your pancakes, waffles, and other sweet treats. Of course, it’s also an ideal addition to hurricane cocktails!
No more slaving away making passion fruit juice or butter, either. This syrup makes life easy whenever you want a taste of Hawaii in the comfort of your own home.
3. Torani Passion Fruit Syrup
This lilikoi syrup from Torani is another popular choice online. Boasting 4.7/5 stars across hundreds of reviews from happy customers, it’s another one of the delicious syrups from beloved Torani.
Are you looking for recipe inspiration? Try adding it to cups of tea, coffee, Italian soda, and even bowls of ice cream. The more you add, the sweeter it’ll be, so start small!
A tad expensive on Amazon, it’s also available nationwide at Walmart for a fraction of the price.
4. Hawaiian Sun Lilikoi Passion Drink
Like the sound of lilikoi juice, but don’t want the trouble of making it yourself? Hawaiian Sun has your back. Pick up a six-pack or case where Hawaiian Sun products are carried: in select West Coast Walmarts and J-Marts or H-Mart on the east Coast.
Their non-carbonated passion fruit drink always goes down a treat – whether you’re sunbathing on a tropical beach or sitting at your computer. Better still, they sell a range of flavors with lilikoi at the core!
These eight options will have you saying Aloha! Which one will you try out first?