Top 7 Best Blood Orange Substitutes

Best Blood Orange Substitutes

Have you ever been eagerly anticipating adding a splash of vibrant color and tangy citrus flavor to your recipes, only to find the blood oranges you had in mind are mysteriously missing from the produce aisle? You’re not alone; while blood oranges may sound exotic, their availability can be unpredictable. But never fear—with just a bit of creativity in the citrus department, you can still achieve that brilliant pop of color and zesty taste without missing a culinary beat.

Believe it or not, there are lots of everyday citrus fruits hiding in plain sight at your local grocery store that make fantastic stand-ins when blood oranges are off the menu. With this guide to the best blood orange substitutes, you’ll discover how easy and delicious it is to swap in familiar fruits that will fool even the sharpest-eyed guests. From natural color clones to hybrids with uncannily similar flavors, we’ll show you versatile options to save any recipe from the brink of blandness.

So whether you’re craving a rosy-hued salad, drinks with visual panache, or baked goods with hidden zing, let’s get substituting and get cooking!

The best blood orange substitutes

1. Regular Orange

When it comes to easy stand-ins that behave almost identically to their harder-to-find counterparts, regular oranges are the gold standard substitute for blood oranges. With their sweet citrus flavor and abundant availability year-round, naval oranges fit seamlessly into any recipe calling for their crimson-colored cousins.

The main thing regular oranges lack compared to blood oranges? Vibrant color, of course. But that’s no cause for panic—a few drops of natural red food coloring is all it takes to transform boring ol’ oranges into passable blood orange doppelgängers. Just be sure to add the coloring a little at a time, tasting as you go, so as not to over-dilute the fresh citrus taste.

Once colored, these ersatz “blood” oranges can be juiced, sectioned, or used as is to perk up salads, vinaigrettes, and salsas—anywhere a pop of red fruit is called for. They’re perfect for mimicking the look of an aesthetically pleasing cocktail, too. Plus, with their year-round availability, regular oranges let you enjoy the blood orange flavor no matter the season.

2. Blood Orange Syrup

For a bright color and an intense citrus punch in your beverages, nothing compares to the convenience of blood orange syrup. By combining fresh blood orange juice with just a touch of sweetener, this ruby-red elixir packs a powerful flavor wallop while matching the vivid hue of real blood oranges.

To make your own, simply juice 4-5 blood oranges and simmer the juice with 1 cup of sugar until thickened to a syrupy consistency, about 15 minutes. Store in sterilized bottles and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Or, for an even quicker option, check the specialty foods aisle for store-bought blood orange syrup.

Either way, a spoonful of this syrup lifts drinks from ho-hum to haute in an instant. Drizzle it over seltzer, sparkling water, or citrus cocktails for opulent color and rich flavor sure to impress guests. It also makes an exotic addition to non-alcoholic drinks like lemonade, iced tea, or citrus fruit spritzers.

Blood orange syrup is great for giving foods like pancakes, waffles, yogurt, and rice pudding an unexpected yet still authentic burst of citrus zest.

3. Navel Oranges

When it comes to citrus, navel oranges have seen it all. As perennial crowd-pleasers in salads, snacks, and more, these seedless wonders make outstanding blood orange proxies in a pinch.

Unlike their blood relatives, navel oranges won’t wow you with their radiant color. But their refreshing flavor delivers everything you want from citrus—aromatics that dance from sweet to tart and back again. And with their adaptable nature, navel oranges fit right into recipes without missing a beat.

For example, whether you’re slicing them into salad greens dotted with olives and feta, marmalading them into oatmeal, or poaching them to top wintry panettone, navels deliver sophisticated citrus balance. They’re also ideal for zesting into rubs, sauces, and baked goods, adding bright top notes without overpowering other ingredients.

Plus, there’s no need to worry about seeds getting in the way. Navel oranges are a simple, seedless substitute worth keeping on your radar when blood oranges are beyond reach.

4. Tangelos

When craving the distinctive tart pop of blood oranges but finding yourself fresh out of luck, give tangelos a try. As an artful cross between tangerines and grapefruit, these hybrid citruses deliver an enticing balance of sweetness and tang akin to their blood orange brethren.

With a loose, easy-peeling skin in shades of orangey-yellow, tangelos release refreshing jewel-toned sections hiding just under the surface. Their flavor bursts with a sunshiney essence, tapering to a pleasant kiss of acidity that begs you to savor each segment slowly.

Versatile tangelos shine in salads, vinaigrettes, and fruit salsas, where their gentle acidity sings. Their cheerful hue also enlivens rice or other grain pilafs, as well as buttery muffins and cakes. Simmered tangelo segments make a lively addition to curries and braised meats too.

Perhaps the most covetable trait that Angelos brings to the table? Their seedlessness. No tedious pit extraction is needed; just pop, peel, and enjoy their fortifying flavor anywhere you’d normally use blood oranges.

5. Tangerines

When a touch of orange sweetness is what you’re after, cast your eyes to tangerines. As more delicately tropical cousins of oranges, tangerines deliver an easy-sipping citrus experience perfect for all ages.

Their looser skins allow each plump section to slip right from its peel, revealing vivid orange segments within. Bite into a tangerine, and flavored sugars rush the senses—warming spice notes mingle with a kiss of sunny acidity that leaves your palate begging for more.

For this reason, tangerines serve as a natural stand-in anytime a sweeter orange profile is called for, from curries and duck dishes to citrus fruit salads and anywhere else that intense orange flavor would enhance without overwhelming. And unlike their mandarin cousins, tangerines seldom produce pesky seeds to detract from the enjoyable eating experience.

Perhaps the best part is how kid-friendly tangerines are. Give them a scrub, peel, and break into handy morsels for little hands to grab, providing nutritious natural energy wherever life’s adventures may lead.

5. Mandarins

While diminutive in size, mandarin oranges pack a serious sweet punch thanks to their condensed mandarin essence. Expect an unmistakable apricot-orange explosion as you pop each tender segment into your mouth—one bite and their sunny floral aroma awakens the senses.

This potency makes mandarins a no-brainer for boosting baked goods like mandarin orange scones, quick breads, and tangy tarts. Their zest adds intense citrus flavor to kickstart cakes and muffins as well. Mandarins also shine when poached in honey-sweetened syrup for an indulgent make-ahead breakfast treat or afternoon pick-me-up.

And at the holidays? Nothing gets into the festive spirit quite like mandarin oranges nestled in pine boughs or floating atop punches and mulled wine. Their petite size and lack of messy membranes make them perfectly portioned for snacking, too.

For all these reasons, mandarins continue to steal the culinary buzz as we ride winter’s chill. So rethink your notions of oranges where mandarins are concerned; their concentrated sunshine packs a mightier punch than you might expect.

6. Pomegranate Juice

When vibrancy is the name of the game, reach for a bottle of pomegranate juice. Extracted from seeds bursting with antioxidant-rich crimson pulp, this powerful juice replicates the hallmark garnet color of blood oranges better than any other.

Just a splash transforms smoothies and protein shakes into eye-catching works of art. It’s the perfect tint for lending “bloody” drama to cocktails like Moscow Mules and dark and stormy drinks too. Syrups, poaching liquids, and glazes also get a delicious lift from pomegranate juice’s enigmatic essence.

Don’t forget about the taste, though! With complex notes ranging from honeyed fruit to tart cranberry and back, pomegranate juice imparts layer upon layer of flavor in every sip. Its sweet-tart properties mesh seamlessly into both savory and sweet preparations.

Perhaps the most unique benefit this juice brings? Powerful antioxidant content from phytonutrients like punicalagins. So feel good enjoying its deep ruby glory in drizzles, glazes, and anywhere else craving calls for a crimson beauty. Pomegranate juice provides brilliant color and health perks with every drop!

7. Cranberry Juice

When a splash of festive color is the name of the game, reach for cranberry juice. Extracted from juicy red berries, this tart yet sweet elixir mimics the vivacious crimson tones of blood oranges with aplomb.

Just a few ounces stains mixtures of rosy pink or crimson, perfect for replicating those show-topping hues. Whip up cocktails, holiday sauces, or glazes, and you have instant opulence thanks to cranberry juice’s natural pigments. It also gives rice pilafs, grain dishes, yogurt, or oatmeal a pretty blush.

As a bonus, this juice lends not just looks but also zing. With jammy fruit tones and a tart kiss of acid, cranberry juice adds lively flavor to every sip. It amplifies juiciness in sauces for meats or poultry too.

Plus, as a superfood packed with antioxidants like vitamin C, this red beverage provides seasonal cheer and long-term health perks with each use.


Can I use regular orange juice instead of blood orange juice in a recipe?

Yes, regular orange juice can be substituted cup for cup in place of blood orange juice. The flavor will be similar but lack the subtle notes of blood oranges. Add a few drops of red food coloring to the orange juice to match the color.

Do any of these substitutes have the same health benefits as blood oranges?

While not identical, many blood orange substitutes provide similar nutritional benefits. Regular oranges, tangerines, and clementines are excellent sources of vitamin C. Pomegranate juice contains antioxidants. Cranberry juice has anti-inflammatory properties. So while the phytonutrient profiles may vary, these citrus fruits can still contribute to a healthy diet.

How do I know which substitute is best for a specific recipe?

Consider the role the blood oranges play; if color is important, choose a substitute with natural pigment like pomegranate juice. If sweetness is desired, choose tangerines. If you want a subtle flavor, opt for regular oranges. Navels work well when versatility is key. Read the recipe and choose a substitute with complementary attributes.

Can I use zest from these substitutes in the same way as blood orange zest?

Yes, the zest from any of these orange substitutes can be used in place of blood orange zest. Regular orange zest has a similar flavor profile. Use the same amount called for in the recipe. Take care not to include any of the bitter white pith beneath the colored zest.

Do these substitutes work for savory dishes too?

Yes, many of these citrus fruits can be used to add brightness to savory preparations as well. Try tangelo, clementine, or regular orange slices in salads. Add zest to marinades, rubs, and sauces. Pomegranate or cranberry juice brightens braises and glazes too. Their subtle acidity stands up to hearty flavors.

Can I freeze blood orange substitutes for later use?

Yes, many citrus fruits freeze well. Freeze juice or zest in ice cube trays, then transfer to a freezer bag. Sections or slices can also be frozen loose or in a single layer on a baking sheet first to prevent clumping. Thaw overnight in the fridge before use. Crystallization may occur but won’t affect flavor.

Do the colors fade after cooking?

The vibrant colors from some substitutes, like pomegranate juice or cranberry juice, can fade slightly after cooking. To retain the most color, add it right before serving, or consider doubling the amount if using longer cooking recipes. Natural food coloring can also help maintain color at higher temperatures.

Can I preserve citrus fruits for future blood orange recipes?

Yes, citrus fruits can be preserved through water-based methods like water glass/glycerin or sherry/bourbon solutions to retain flavor, color, and texture for several months. Or try dehydrating slices or sections in the oven to keep on hand. Juices and zest can also be frozen in ice cube trays or sealed containers.

Are these substitutions okay for people with citrus allergies?

While similar, different citrus fruits have varying levels of allergenic proteins. Consult your allergist to determine which, if any, substitutes are suitable. Or avoid risk by selecting alternatives that are not part of the Rutaceae family, like cranberry or pomegranate products.


In conclusion, while blood oranges are a unique and lovely citrus variety, they are not always available year-round or in every location. However, this should not stop home cooks from enjoying recipes that call for their bright color and distinctive flavor.

As demonstrated, there are many wonderful substitutes that can effectively mimic blood oranges using common and versatile ingredients like regular oranges, tangelos, grapefruits, and citrus juices. By understanding the attributes each substitute brings, you can successfully replicate the look and taste of recipes without compromising on enjoyment.

So don’t let a lack of blood oranges deter you from creating vibrant dishes; these foolproof alternatives make it easy to enjoy their gourmet appeal anytime inspiration strikes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like