Caribbean Fruits: A Complete Guide — Your Latina Nutrition (2024)

Written by Isabel Vasquez RD, LDN

The Caribbean islands are home to lots of tropical fruits full of nutrition like star fruit, mamey sapote, pineapple, pitaya, and lots more.

Fruit has nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants that offer lots of health benefits. Meanwhile, in the United States, only about 12% of adults meet the recommendations for daily fruit intake, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For Latine immigrants from the Caribbean, eating more Caribbean fruits can help connect you with your culture while also helping you meet the recommendations for daily fruit intake (1.5–2 cups).

In this article, learn about the flavor, common uses, and nutrition content of 15 Caribbean fruits.


Nowadays, you can find avocado toast on the menu of lots of coffee shops and brunch eateries in the U.S., but Caribbeans have been enjoying this fruit for centuries.

Caribbean avocados are quite different from the Mexican kind; they’re bigger, have a light green exterior, and they’re less creamy. They have a lighter, more refreshing taste than creamy, small Mexican avocados.

Latines from the Caribbean serve avocado with many dishes; as a dietitian with Dominican and Puerto Rican heritage, rice and beans with avocado is one of my absolute favorite dishes!

You can also find it eaten with plantains, eggs, meat, cheese, salads, and on bread.

For example, in the Dominican Republic, a classic breakfast called Tres Golpes includes mangú (mashed green plantain), fried salami, fried cheese, pickled red onion, fried egg, and avocado.

Avocados are jam-packed with nutrition. They’re mainly a source of unsaturated fat, the kind of fat that’s good for heart health.

Plus, they’re a good source of potassium, which is important for blood pressure regulation, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

They’re also high in fiber; one cup of Caribbean avocado contains almost half of the daily value (DV) of fiber, per the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)!


Coconut is probably one of the most well-known Caribbean fruits, particularly in the United States.

When coconuts are young, they have a smooth green exterior and contain delicious, refreshing coconut water. This coconut water, per the USDA, is a good source of potassium and sodium—electrolytes that can help prevent dehydration from heat or excessive sweating.

When they mature, they develop a rough brown exterior with nutty-flavored meat inside.

Coconuts, like avocados, are one of the few fruits that are high in fat.

Unlike avocados, coconuts mainly contain saturated fat—the kind associated with heart disease. Saturated fat is typically found in animal products like butter or fatty meat, so coconuts are a unique plant food in this way.

That being said, researchers are questioning whether the saturated fat from coconuts has the same effects on health as saturated fat from animal products.

A 2020 study in the Journal of Cardiovascular Disease and Development suggests that saturated fat from coconuts shouldn’t be lumped into the same group as fatty cuts of beef or butter and can be a part of a healthy overall eating pattern.

Besides fat, coconut meat is a great source of antioxidants and fiber, per the USDA. It’s also rich in manganese, a mineral that plays a role in amino acid, cholesterol, glucose, and carbohydrate metabolism, according to the NIH.


Guava is a relatively small fruit with a green exterior and vibrant coral-colored interior.

It has a sweet flavor and a texture similar to a pear, but a bit firmer.

Guava, like many other fruits, is rich in fiber; each fruit contains over 10% of the DV for fiber, per the USDA.

It’s also rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant important for collagen formation and iron absorption. Collagen is a protein that gives your skin structure and elasticity. It also helps form your tendons, ligaments, and bones, per StatPearls.

You can enjoy guava raw, with or without the skin and seeds. In Caribbean Latin American countries, it’s also used to make pastelitos de guava (flaky pastries filled with guava paste), and the paste is sometimes eaten with white cheese.

Limoncillo or quenepa

Limoncillo, as it’s called in the Dominican Republic, or quenepas, as it’s called in Puerto Rico, is a very small fruit with a green shell and a translucent yellow interior similar to lychee. The middle has a pit, so to eat it raw, you have to be careful and eat around it.

Whenever I visit family in the Dominican Republic, I see vendors walking by cars halted at red lights selling bags of limoncillo.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much information out there about the nutrition of these fruits, at least for us in the U.S.. They’re not common here, so the USDA’s FoodData Central—a database where you can find the nutrition information of thousands of foods—doesn’t have them listed.

Other sources show that they’re a good source of fiber (which makes sense since they’re a fruit), and a decent source of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, which is important for eye health, per the NIH.

Beta carotene is typically found in orange, red, and yellow-colored fruits and veggies, so it makes sense that limoncillo would contain this free radical-fighting nutrient.


There are lots of different kinds of mangos, with varieties like Francis and Mingolo hailing from the Caribbean.

Mangos have a delicious sweet flavor with a texture that depends on the variety. Some mangos are super smooth while others can be a bit stringy. They can be found fresh or dried; both are equally delicious.

Nutritionally, mangos are high in fiber, which promotes digestive health, cholesterol reduction, and blood sugar management, per the CDC.

Besides fiber, they’re also an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamins A and E, per the USDA. These are all antioxidants that can help reduce oxidative stress from free radicals, which is important because oxidative stress is linked with ailments like cancer, heart disease, neurological disease, and more, according to a 2017 study in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity.

Mangos also contain other antioxidants including flavonoids, polyphenols, and carotenoids, according to a 2021 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Mamey sapote

This medium to large fruit has a brown fuzzy exterior and a bright orange interior, similar to a papaya.

Whenever I go to DR, I make sure to get a batida de sapote. It is one of my favorite smoothie additions because of its creamy texture and unique flavor, which can be described as a mix of cantaloupe, caramel, and sweet potato. Some say it also has hints of pumpkin, apricot, and cinnamon.

Like every fruit on this list, it’s high in fiber. It’s also high in potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6, per the USDA. We’ve already talked about how potassium is important for regulating blood pressure and how vitamin C helps promote collagen synthesis, but what about vitamin B6?

Vitamin B6 has a number of functions in our body including protein metabolism and cognitive development, per the NIH. One cup of mamey sapote contains a whopping 75% of the DV for vitamin B6!

Manzana de oro

Manzana de oro—also known as ambarella, June plum, golden plum, or golden apple—is a yellow tropical fruit with thick skin and flesh you can bite into. However, it has a big pit with spiky, firm threads sticking out so be careful!

Manzana de oro has a sweet and mildly sour flavor. It’s most commonly enjoyed raw.

This fruit is packed with antioxidants, found a 2013 study in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine. As a result, it could help counter harmful oxidative stress from free radicals that damage cells.


Papaya is another one of my favorite smoothie ingredients thanks to its creamy texture and delicious sweet flavor. The flavor is hard to describe, but some say it’s similar to cantaloupe, pumpkin, carrots, and mango.

It has a soft texture that makes it suitable to eat raw or to be used in smoothies or juices.

One of the most unique things about papaya nutritionally is that it contains an enzyme called papain that has a laxative effect.

In some cultures, papaya has been used medicinally to support healthy digestion for centuries, and research is starting to confirm these benefits. So, if you struggle with constipation, adding papaya may help.

Plus, a 2021 research review in Biology shows that papaya is another fruit packed with chronic disease-fighting antioxidants.

Passion fruit

Passion fruit (also known as chinola, maracuja, or parcha) is a small round fruit with a yellow, red, or purple exterior. It’s filled with a gooey deep yellow pulp and black edible seeds. It may sound weird, but it’s deliciously tart and full of flavor!

It has its origins in Southern Brasil, but now it also grows in the Caribbean.

You can crack open the skin and eat the pulp and seeds raw, or you can use passion fruit to make juice or smoothies. It’s also a great dessert ingredient since its tart flavor pairs well with the sweetness of cake or custard.

Passion fruit is full of fiber, particularly if you eat the seeds. Each cup has an impressive 24.5 grams of fiber—about 88% of the DV, per the USDA!

Plus it’s rich in iron, vitamin C, potassium, and phosphorus.


Pineapple is native to the Caribbean and is now largely popular in the U.S. as well. Its sweet yet tart flavor works well in juices, smoothies, and desserts. Of course, you can also enjoy it raw or dried.

Pineapple is rich in fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.

Plus, a 2021 study in Vascular Health and Risk Management found that certain compounds in pineapple, like bromelain, may help lower blood lipid levels, promote healthy blood flow, and reduce your risk of heart issues.

Fun fact: The reason your tongue may get scratchy while eating pineapple is because of bromelain. It digests protein on your tongue, leaving it feeling scratchy.


Pitaya, also known as dragon fruit, is native to Central America but it’s now also cultivated in parts of the Caribbean.

It’s one of the most interesting and beautiful fruits out there; it has a bright pink exterior, and the inside has white or bright pink flesh and tiny black seeds spread through the flesh. Its texture is similar to kiwi.

It’s the fruit of a cactus whose tendrils resemble a short and stocky palm tree.

Pitaya goes great in smoothies or salads. It’s a great source of fiber and copper—a mineral that plays a role in iron metabolism, brain development, immune system functioning, and much more, per the NIH.

It also contains some vitamin C, magnesium, and antioxidants, according to the USDA.


Plantains (or plátanos as they’re called in Latin America) are a staple part of Caribbean cuisine. You can find them fried, baked, and mashed; each preparation style will alter the nutrition composition, but plantains are packed with nutrition. (Note that unlike bananas, they can’t be eaten raw.)

They’re a great source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, and potassium, per the USDA. These nutrients are important for immune health, brain health, red blood cell formation, and blood pressure management.

Plantains are also high in fiber which supports cholesterol and blood sugar management, and digestive health.

Soursop or Guanabana

Soursop (aka guanabana) is an incredibly interesting-looking fruit native to Central America and the Caribbean. Now, it’s also commonly eaten in South America and parts of Africa and Asia, according to a 2022 study in Molecules.

It has a green spiky exterior with cream-colored flesh and big black seeds inside. It can be eaten raw, but it adds a delicious creamy texture to smoothies, similar to bananas.

It’s been used in South American and African traditional medicine, and research is starting to evaluate the purported benefits of this tropical fruit.

For example, the Molecules study referenced above found that the antioxidants and vitamins in soursop give it potential anticancer, antiulcer, antidiarrheal, antidiabetic, and antihypertensive properties.

Star Fruit

Star fruit, also known as Carambola, is a fun-shaped fruit just like the name suggests; when you slice it, the pieces look like five-pointed stars!

Star fruit has yellow-green skin and yellow flesh that’s crisp like a grape and tastes a bit tart.

Many people with diabetes worry they can’t eat much fruit, but star fruit is full of fiber and relatively low in carbs which helps prevent blood sugar spikes. One cup contains only 7 grams of carbs but it has an impressive 3 grams of fiber, per the USDA.

It’s also a good source of antioxidants like vitamin C and flavonoids that could potentially help reduce inflammation and support cardiovascular health, per a 2021 study in Food Science & Nutrition.


Tamarind—a brown pea-shaped fruit—is originally from Africa but is now also grown in the Caribbean. In fact, I have fond memories of drinking fresh jugo de tamarindo (tamarind juice) in the Dominican Republic.

It has a brown shell and brown edible inner pods.

Tamarind usually has a sour, tangy flavor; although sometimes it can be sweet depending on how ripe it is. It’s often used in sauces, juices, and candy.

A 2019 research review in Food Science & Nutrition found that tamarind has strong antioxidant properties, along with the ability to help lower blood glucose levels and support the immune system.

Final Thoughts

Tropical fruits of the Caribbean like tamarind, mango, coconut, and avocado are not only unique and delicious but packed with nutrition.

Many of them are high in fiber, antioxidants, and other micronutrients that support various facets of health.

Understanding the health benefits of these Caribbean fruits busts the myth that Caribbean Latines’ cultural foods are “unhealthy”. Just because these fruits aren’t as common or well-known in the United States, doesn’t mean they aren’t beneficial to health.

If you’re ready to make peace with your cultural foods, our 3-part Latina dietitian-led masterclass on intuitive eating is a great first step.

If you liked this post, you may also want to read:

Mexican Vegetables: A Complete Nutrition Guide

Black Beans vs. Pinto Beans: A Complete Nutrition Guide

What Is Fiber and What Is Its Role In Health?

Caribbean Fruits: A Complete  Guide — Your Latina Nutrition (2024)
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