What to Do With Fresh California Citrus

For vibrant flavor and gorgeous color, look to the Golden State.

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Photograph: Vicky Wasik

Whether you’re using whole citrus wedges in a recipe or just squeezing a few drops as a finishing touch, the sweet, tart, acidic notes from fruits like lemons, limes, grapefruit, and oranges can mean the difference between an okay dish and a memorable one. Salt may be the universally praised seasoning in cooking, but for emboldening or balancing flavors, citrus is the unsung hero.

The key is sourcing high-quality fruit, and for that, we recommend looking to California. Citrus from the Golden State is reliably juicy and vibrant, and you can thank the farmers for that: At every step of the harvest, they ensure your lemons, your tangerines, and your grapefruit are produced with love and care you can taste.

To see what citrus fruit from sunny California can offer, check out the recipes below, each one highlighting the versatility of citrus in a different way.

Citrus Salad With XO Sauce and Meyer Lemon Dressing

Spicy, savory XO sauce is the perfect complement to rounds of bright citrus, like oranges, tangelos, grapefruit, or tangerines. The proof is in this salad. Topped with cilantro leaves and roasted peanuts, it’s a multi-textural experience that’s as impressive as it is easy to make.

Get the recipe for Citrus Salad With XO Sauce and Meyer Lemon Dressing here

Avocado Toast With Citrus Suprèmes and Slivered Fennel

A slice of avocado toast topped with citrus suprèmes, slivered fennel, and chopped mint

Avocado toast is a perennial favorite among cooks young and old who need a quick, satisfying meal. This recipe gives rich, creamy avocado some lift, thanks to juicy citrus suprèmes. While the recipe calls for oranges, feel free to mix things up—grapefruit, tangerines, clementines, and even pomelos would make an excellent alternative.

Get the recipe for Avocado Toast With Citrus Suprèmes and Slivered Fennel here

Sunny Lemon Bars

It’s hard to think of many desserts that are equally comforting and classy, but lemon bars fit that bill perfectly. Achieving that impeccably glossy texture may be the baker’s challenge, but the star of the show is the sweet and tart flavor—courtesy of the lemons, of course.

Get the recipe for Sunny Lemon Bars here

Fresh Lemon Syrup

Fresh lemon syrup in glass jar on counter.

Our very own Stella Parks calls this recipe for fresh lemon syrup "sunshine in a bottle." Don't you want some of that in your kitchen? All you need are leftover lemon rinds and a little bit of time, and you'll be enjoying that fresh, bright flavor all year round. Once you have a bottle, you can use it for all sorts of recipes, such as lemony whipped cream, or as a mixer in your favorite cocktail.

Get the recipe for Fresh Lemon Syrup here

Great Gatsby Cocktail

Speaking of cocktails, this citrusy sipper is refreshing, bright, and simple. Use freshly squeezed California grapefruit juice and your favorite vodka—and, if you've got a summer party coming up, make a bunch of it in a punch bowl to share.

Get the recipe for Great Gatsby Cocktail here