In most of the recipes that have any sweet citrus flavoring, it is usually Orange (zest and juice). In fact I've hardly seen a recipe that uses a substitute like mandarin, grapefruit, etc. Is there a reason why orange takes a preference and how easy is it to be substituted with another citrus? Lime and lemon of course are used a lot, but I'm referring to sweeter citrus fruit like orange, mandarin, grapefruit, etc.

The reason for this question is that I was looking for an orange a month back and couldn't find it in any big supermarket. So, I bought a blood orange for its zest but luckily, after hours of looking, found one at a small grocer. So, if the situation comes up again, how do I know what to substitute the orange with? This is the recipe I wanted to make.

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    FWIW: Substitute willy-nilly, your results will not be what the recipe was making, but the dish may be brilliant. That's a big part of what makes cooking fun.
    – Jolenealaska
    Jul 11, 2014 at 9:18
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    If you do experiment with substitution, be mindful that acidity does vary among different citrus fruit varieties, and changes in acidity can affect leavening in many baking recipes.
    – ESultanik
    Jul 11, 2014 at 16:11

1 Answer 1


I don't claim that this is a canonical answer, but it seems to be a bit like the situation with apples. You have cooking apples and eating apples, which have been bred for different traits. Similarly you have juicing oranges, eating oranges, and bitter oranges (used for marmalade). The other citrus fruits which taste most like oranges (mandarins, clementines, tangarines) are more suited for division into segments, and you're more likely to see them used for decoration. You could juice them if you don't have a better option, but recipes will tend to use the most suitable commonly available option.

Grapefruit has a very different flavour, so you have to take that into account when substituting. It's also not necessarily sweet, and certainly I have never seen grapefruit sold as "sweet grapefruit" or "bitter grapefruit".

  • one thing for grapefruit, is that it does a lot mroe of undesirable chemical reactions when combined with other stuff than orange. Lots of medication should not be taken in cunjunction with this fruit. I guess it could influence the taste as well.
    – P. O.
    Jul 3, 2014 at 16:22
  • @JoBedard as far as I am aware, grapefruit is not more likely than any other fruit to enter a chemical reaction with random stuff. It is just that it has one or two reactions with molecules found in the human body, and digestion changes from it. But it is as likely to react with something outside of the body as other fruits are.
    – rumtscho
    Jul 3, 2014 at 22:47

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