Dessert for Dinner? All About the Black Sapote AKA The Chocolate Pudding Fruit
We know this phrase may get overused, but we really mean it this time: The black sapote may be the best fruit you’ve never heard of.
This magical plant somehow straddles the line between tomato and custard – and somehow, once you’ve had one, that sentence makes sense.
Add to that the fruit’s outrageous flavor and appealing outside, and you have yourself a produce aisle all-star. But like most fruits, the black sapote is so much more than what meets the eye – or even the taste buds.
What Is Black Sapote
Like many of the world’s most interesting plants, the black sapote got its start around the equator, hugging the sun belt from Central and South America all the way West to the Philippines.
Traditionally, the fruit has a particularly close tie to Mexican food, where it’s used in a number of cultural dishes. In fact, it’s believed “sapote” is actually an adaptation of an Aztec word: “tzapotl,” which translates roughly to “soft, sweet fruit.”
Yet while its name may apply to a general array of foods, there is nothing run-of-the-mill about the black sapote.
On the outside, the fruit—technically a relative of the persimmon—resembles a short, squat tomato. Its color morphs beautifully over its lifespan, starting as a deep orange and ending as a striking green when fully ripe. And its inside also goes through a rainbow arc, starting as whiteish-yellow, and winding up a deep, dark chocolatey brown.
Still, perhaps the only thing better than the way these plants look is how they taste.
What Does Black Sapote Taste Like
We admit, “chocolate pudding fruit” may be overselling it a bit. (Hey, we didn’t come up with that nickname!) But that doesn’t mean the black sapote isn’t a delicious bite that has dessert written all over it.
Those expecting a flavor as rich as its interior hue may be disappointed, but the black sapote certainly isn’t short on taste. Instead, it greets the pallet with a mixture of honey, date, and caramel flavors.
Its texture comes much closer to living up to its delicious nickname, and in its native haunts where people have known and been enjoying this rare treasure for centuries, most people even eat sapote with a spoon.
That is—as long as the fruit is ripe.
Black sapote in particular will make the taster pay for biting into it before its ready. While its most mature form sports the creamy, dreamy texture, it’s unappealingly hard to swallow before that. And it’s not just the teeth-crunching flesh of the unripe fruit that will make you sorry.
Unripe black sapote is entirely astringent, and bitter enough to make most people do a spit take. In the Philippines, the unripe fruit has even been used as fish poison! So be careful before making your dessert date—or, at the very least, have a strategy.
How to Eat Black Sapote
The black sapote is an entirely enjoyable bite—as long as you bring some knowledge, or at least some patience, to the game.
The best way to enjoy this strange fruit is to wait until it’s entirely ripe. But don’t worry, the black sapote will give you plenty of clues that the time is right.
Its exterior color is its best hint: Orange black sapotes, adorable and mini-pumpkin-like as they may seem—are not to be messed with. That’s prime ripe territory, unveiling a nearly inedible flesh.
You’re much better off waiting until the fruit is totally green. And don’t be put off if it looks a little worse for wear: The color doesn’t take kindly to bumps, resulting in big bruises, though the sapote underneath will be as delicious as ever. (This is why you don’t see sapote much in the supermarket – they simply don’t look as good as they taste.)
Still, the black sapote is worth the wait.
When you do finally make it to prime time, there’s any number of ways you can enjoy the fruit. Eating it straight up with a spoon is the quickest and easiest, but black sapotes can also be deliciously mixed into smoothies and, yes, even made into chocolate puddings.
But the fruit can also be subbed for any baking recipes that require bananas (think: black sapote bread). And for those with an extra-long patient streak, the fruit can also be fermented. The result? A delicious, syrupy concoction that’s akin to a brandy and often used in fancy cocktails.
When it comes to the black sapote, it seems the only limit to what you can do is your own imagination. And for a fruit that gleefully combines a grab-bag of flavors, colors, and sizes, that seems only fitting.