Canistel: The Strange Eggfruit

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The Canistel is a fruit originating from the tropical regions of the Caribbean and Central America. Highly distinctive in its egg-like shape, it has a sweet and custard-like texture, often likened to a cross between a pumpkin and a sweet potato.

What is a Canistel?

The Canistel (Pouteria campechiana), a member of the Sapotaceae (sapodilla) family, is a tropical fruit indigenous to Southern Mexico and Central America. It goes by several other names, including eggfruit and yellow sapote. 

Canistel trees can grow to 10 to 25 feet tall, with leathery leaves and white flowers. The fruit trees thrive in full sun. The fruit is related to abiu, mamey sapote, lucuma, and caimito.

The oval fruit typically measures the same size as an apple or small pear. The flesh is firm and dense, and it has a custard-like consistency similar to cooked egg yolk, giving rise to the eggfruit nickname. As it ripens, the skin changes to a bright yellow hue and becomes smooth. The fruit has brown seeds.

The taste of the Canistel is sweet, with subtle hints of vanilla that complement its creamy texture. Because of its unique texture and flavor, it is a popular ingredient in ice creams, desserts, and smoothies.

The History of Canistel

The Canistel fruit originates in Guatemala, Southern Mexico, El Salvador, and the Caribbean. Today, it is distributed to other tropical regions like Hawaii and Florida. Given its immense popularity and high demand, the fruit serves a critical role in international trade. 

Known for its sweet and custard-like texture, it is a preferred ingredient in a wide range of smoothies, ice creams, milkshakes, and desserts. The vibrant yellow color and exceptional flavor of the fruit make it an integral part of the local cuisine and a sign of tropical abundance.

The fruit also holds significant cultural value in many communities, often celebrated during special occasions and festivals. It is believed to bring prosperity and good luck in certain traditions.

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Canistel flesh is known for its creamy flesh that appears similar to cooked egg yolks.

What Does a Canistel Taste Like?

The raw fruit boasts a flavor profile reminiscent of sweet potato or pumpkin, exhibiting a gentle sweetness and subtle notes of egg yolk. Upon cooking, its texture transforms into a luscious custard-like consistency, intensifying its inherent sweetness and presenting a more pronounced taste.

How to Tell When Canistel is Ripe

ColorThe fruit attains its full maturation when it turns into either a golden-yellow or orange shade. During the ripening phase, the fruit transitions from its initial green color to a striking yellow or orange hue.
TextureA ripe fruit should be slightly soft when subjected to pressure while maintaining its structure and not becoming excessively mushy.
ScentA delightful and fruity fragrance characterizes a fully ripened fruit. An immature fruit may exhibit either a mild or unidentifiable scent or a slightly herbaceous odor.
Smoothness/RoughnessAn unblemished and smooth exterior characterizes the ideal canistel. 

When choosing canistel fruits, it is crucial to identify heavy fruits in relation to their size, with smooth and flawless skin, and possess slight yield to pressure when they ripen. Refrain from purchasing fruits that exhibit signs of mold, soft spots, cracks, and fruits that are either too underripe or overripe.

What’s the Difference Between Canistel and Custard Apple?

Canistel and custard apples are distinct tropical fruits that exhibit unique features. Canistel, commonly called eggfruit, has a dry and crumbly texture resembling cooked egg yolk and a sweet flavor. 

In contrast, custard apple, also known as sugar apple, exhibits a smooth and creamy texture akin to custard with a sweet tropical taste. Despite their different flavor and texture, both fruits are delectable tropical delicacies.

Can I Eat Raw Canistel?

Yes, you can eat this fruit in its raw form, including the skin. In its raw form, Canistel is a versatile ingredient used in various culinary applications.

The fruit’s sweet taste and creamy texture make it the perfect addition to snacks, fruit salads, smoothies, and desserts such as puddings and ice creams.

Cooking with Canistel

Preparing the fruit effectively is crucial to ensure optimal results when cooking with canistel.

  1. Choose a fully ripened fruit that is yellow-orange in hue and slightly soft upon being touched. 
  2. Halve the fruit lengthwise and extract the flesh while disposing of the skin and seeds.
  3. The resulting flesh can then be mashed or pureed to cater to the requirements of diverse recipes.

This fruit is a frequently used ingredient in the traditional culinary practices of Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and the Philippines. It is known for its versatility in savory dishes, sweet desserts, and baked goods.

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Because of its creamy and sweet flavors, canistel is an excellent addition to flan.

To illustrate, here are three dishes that you can prepare with canistel.

Canistel Flan: This dessert combines the creamy texture of canistel with a rich caramel topping.

Canistel Coconut Bread: Canistel adds a delightful sweetness and moisture to the bread

Canistel Curry: Canistel can be used in savory dishes like curries to add a unique flavor and creamy texture. 

How to Store Canistel

Various methods can be employed to maintain optimal freshness when storing canistel. When keeping the fruit at room temperature, store it in a cool and dry environment, away from sunlight. This technique will keep the fruit fresh for about three days.

A better alternative is refrigerating the fruit, which extends its shelf life to seven days. For long-term preservation, freezing canistel is ideal as it can prolong its shelf life for six months.

Drying the fruit can result in a longer shelf life of 1 year, though it will experience a texture change.

Nutritional Benefits of Canistel

The canistel, a tropical fruit, is highly nutritious, as it is an excellent dietary fiber source that promotes digestive health. Additionally, it contains vital vitamins A and C, which bolster immune function and promote healthy skin. 

The fruit is also mineral-rich in potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure and support optimal heart health.

Where to Purchase Canistel

You can buy canistel at farmers’ markets and specialized stores that stock rare produce. The fruit is typically seasonal, available from September to January, and can occasionally be sourced in tropical climate areas.


Tabitha is a freelance writer with love for food and drinks. She loves gardening and is always looking for new ways to get more fresh produce. She also loves animals and has dairy goats, chicken, sheep, a dog, and a cat at her home.

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