Shopping List: Blood Orange Smackdown



On the left, weighing in at 6 ounces, is a Sunkist blood orange grown in California. On the right, weighing in at 7 ounces and sporting a paper wrapper, is a Bella Vita blood orange hailing from Sicily. Both were purchased at Agata & Valentina on New York's Upper East Side.

Aside from their state of dress (or lack thereof in the case of the Californian), both oranges look pretty similar on the surface. However, when sliced, they reveal their differences.

The California orange bears a thick skin, slightly dry flesh, and deep, dark ruby red color, while its thin-skinned, juicier, and sweeter Sicilian cousin resembles a typical orange marbled with more saturated orange tones resembling, dare I say, saffron. Both taste great, but I would hand the victory to the Californian in delivering on the visual promise of its moniker.

I was surprised at the difference between these blood oranges, particularly since this New York magazine article describes Sicilian blood oranges as having flesh "so dark it’s nearly black." This could not have been farther than the case for my (unscientific) sample, but, who knows when it comes to fruits and vegetables? Perhaps on a return visit or a trip to another store, I would find a batch of Sicilian blood oranges as dark as the Californian ones I picked up this week.

I made the most of my international blood orange supply, and against chef Jody Williams's wishes, I prepared her Insalata D’arancia using both varieties. The salad is fantastic and easy to prepare: sweet from the oranges, salty from the anchovies and olives, and crunchy from the onions, not to mention lovely to look at.

Make it now as a protest against this neverending winter.


California blood oranges and Sicilian blood oranges are both $2.99 per pound at Agata & Valentina, 1505 First Avenue at 79th Street (212.452.0690).



Can I just say that that is one of the most beautiful salads I've ever seen? I am inspired to make it. I love oranges in salads, especially my spinach, orange, and red onion salad I do. But I am going to make yours.


Hi Josh

That's a real pretty salad!

I remember I picked up some blood oranges at farmers market while in Italy, and they had much much bloodier flesh than the one you have here from Sicily. Might have been another variety or something.

Stay warm til it's warm outside!


Thanks Julie!

Chika, a reader wrote in to elucidate the different varieties of blood oranges:

"There are 3 varieties of blood orange: moro, tarocco, and sanguinello. Moros, which is what your Californian looks like, have the best color and the worst flavor. Sanguinellos are rare in Sicily and here (they may not even be commercially available from California), but they taste the best. Like Taroccos, their color can be splotchy."


Blood orange season is still in swing out here in SoCal. Between these arancie and riotously colored tangelos, never before has citrus resting in my dining table fruit bowl looked more lovely or enticing.

Regarding the interior color, I've yet to properly discern how to indicate what lies within. I sliced open some light ones yesterday assuming they’d be pale within, yet they were dark as could be. (Alas, these specimens were over-the-hill, thoroughly desiccated, and in the end were junked.) That’s part of the fun, I suppose.

I’m stopping by the store on my way home to gather the other ingredients -- can't wait to recreate the gorgeous citrus/onion combo you’ve shown here!


There seems to be no telling what's inside from the skin color.

Speaking of orange varieties, I also spotted some "sour oranges" at the store and would be curious to do something with those.


Hi Josh - this salad looks really refreshing (and pretty)! Here in the UK, you normally get the darker flesh variety, I should check where they come from next time. I've made blood orange ice-cream/sorbet, but they were both a little bland. I much prefer Seville oranges (sour oranges?) when it comes to ice-cream/sorbet making, which have a very sharp, bitter flavour. I've made a post about it.


A few weeks ago, I did an informal orange tasting in my house:


Seville oranges = sour oranges. Source of marmelade. You can use them in vinaigrettes, etc. But what you will probably want to do is make cochinita pibil with them. (See Diana Kennedy or Rick Bayless for recipes).

All I can really say about blood oranges is that they taste better in Italy than they do here (California). But both the Tornabenes and Art Lange say the Sanguinellos have the best flavor.

[Links don't seem to be working, so


Art Lange:


My very unscientific method of choosing a blood orange is this -- the blushier, splotchier the skin, the bloodier the orange. I came to this conclusion chopping open blood oranges at random during my short stint as a produce stock girl (they called it "sampling", I called it research).

It may not help between two varieties, but it always worked when choosing between two specimens from the same purveyor.


do blood oranges start out as oranges and if you buy a regular orange and it is red inside is it a blood orange?


hello were can i get blood oranges to buy? i love the color and will like to taste it.


Having lived in Sicily for the past 4 years, I can say I've never seen a blood orange as boring as your Sicilian blood orange above. Ours on the outside would be mostly splotchy while the inside would be very "bloody" (as my children would say) and extremely sweet and juicy. We lived right smack dab in the middle of orange groves so our oranges were always fresh. Being stateside now, I miss terribly the days when I would come home from work and find a crate of blood oranges on my porch courtesy of our wonderful Sicilian friends. I'm sure they would be disgusted to see what is being passed off as a Sicilian blood orange.


very nice article thanks for the share


wow those oranges look really good


The comments to this entry are closed.