February 5, 2009

Dulce de Naranja Agria (Seville Orange)

Filed under: dessert,fruit,recipes — Jose @ 6:08 pm

from the farm to your door

I heeded my own advice last week and ordered some Sevilles from a farm down in Reedley, California.  I only had in mind that I’d juice them, but they were so beautiful that I felt guilty not using every bit of them.  To this end, I peeled them (zesting some for use),  juiced them (used for mojo), extracted their pulp (from which I fashioned a rope… jk), dried and preserved the seeds (for planting, someday) and made this dessert with their piths.

  • It’s goin down:

  • 10-12Peeled, halved, Seville oranges (naranja agria),  with pulp extracted
  • 4 CupsWater
  • 3.5 CupsSugar
  • 1 Cinnamon stick

It is easiest to peel the Sevilles when they are firm, which is also a sure sign you have a fresh orange.  Hold the orange in the palm of your hand as you peel in a clockwise motion (or counter if you are a lefty) with the other.   I use a vegetable peeler but you can also use a sharp paring knife to peel the oranges. Either way, if you are a fruit peeling badass, you will peel the entire skin in one continuous strip.


Cut the oranges in half, along their “waists”.  Juice the oranges well,  being ever careful not to tear the piths.  I know you wanna get aggressive cuz you be juicin’, but please, be gentle!

Remove the pulp and seeds content from each half.   You want to get to the white, dry part of the fruit. I use a grapefruit spoon to get under one of the segments and then work my way around, scooping out the rest.  Wash them and remove any remaining pulp matter.   Place in a large pot with water to cover, under high heat and bring to a boil.  Once it does, strain the oranges and rinse out the pot.  Do this twice. If you omit this step the syrup and the oranges themselves will be way too bitter (unless you like it that way).

Take your twice boiled oranges and set them aside. Place the pot back on the stove and add the 4 cups water, 3.5 cups sugar and the cinnamon stick and place under medium heat. Stir frequently until the sugar has dissolved.   Add the orange halves to the pot, bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cover.

islas l'range

As they cook, the orange piths go from an orangey white color to translucent.  This doesn’t happen all at once and you will see them changing as you check every so often.  They will take at least an hour and a half or more, depending on how chewy you want them to be.  I like them a bit on the less chewy side so I cook for longer (up to 2 hours).   Just taste for texture once they are translucent and see what you like. You will also want to taste the syrup and make sure it has some orange flavor (not just cinnamon). If the syrup is weak, take a couple of 3-4 inch segments of the peel and cook along with the piths for 15 minutes or so. BAM! Orange flavor boost.


Once done, remove to a large bowl and let cool. Once they reach room temperature, place covered bowl in the refrigerator. Enjoy at your leisure; these will keep for a couple of months, at least.
queso con
You can eat these straight up or on toast but I like them with a mild, savory cheese such as Monterey Jack, thinly sliced. The salty creaminess of the cheese perfectly balances the bitter sweetness.

My mother usually made this dessert with grapefruit (available year round), using the same method. I’ve also seen this made with lemon. Maybe I’ll go eXtreme and try this with the largest of the citrus fruits, the Pumelo.



  1. I’m really glad you made this post, I’ve always wanted to make orange, lemon, limes, grapefruit, and bitter orange peels in syrup, now I know.

    I’ve always seen recipes where they have to soak for so many hours, I’m glad you showed me the procedure of twice boiling.

    I just have one question, approximately how much time do I boil them?

    Also can I just leave the peel, or will it ruin the texture?

    Comment by Nathan — February 7, 2009 @ 12:30 am

  2. Hey Nathan, boil these for at least 1 and a half hours. Do not leave the peel–that will ruin this dessert… it will be sooooo bitter. I did try soaking them for 3 days, that worked too but it was less predictable.

    Comment by Jose — February 7, 2009 @ 12:37 am

  3. This reminds me of my Mom always reminding me to save up my orange piths as a kid….Remember that? As an side,we all just had cascos de guava with queso blanco this past January when the family was all together…Conyoooooo..the things that trigger thoughts of our childhood here in exile.Viva Cuba Libre!

    Comment by JCD — February 12, 2009 @ 12:39 am

  4. I left you an award in my blog you wcan pick it up if you’d like 🙂

    Comment by Nathan — April 20, 2009 @ 3:59 pm

  5. Thank you for your recipe for Dulce de Naranja Agria. I’m originally from the north of Mexico and I grew up knowing a similar treat called conserva de naranja. My mother’s recipe called for soaking the oranges, peel and all, for 3 days and using piloncillo instead of sugar. Again, thanks for your recipe, it brings back happy memories.

    PS: Does anyone know where this recipe originated from?

    Comment by Olivia — August 8, 2009 @ 9:06 am

  6. My pleasure! Yes, I guess all cultures have their resourceful cooks!

    Comment by Jose — August 8, 2009 @ 9:16 am

  7. Sounds fantastic! I’m going to try this.
    You mentioned you can make it with lemon or grapefruit.
    Isn’t it a little bitter?

    Comment by Daniel — November 3, 2009 @ 9:18 pm

  8. Daniel: The grapefruit version is only slightly bitter but in a really nice tasting way. The lemon version is more sour than bitter. Remember the piths really don’t have the same breadth of flavor that the pulp does.

    Comment by Jose — November 4, 2009 @ 9:52 am

  9. Thanks for this great recipe. I was looking for a recipe for the kind of dried sugar orange /peels/slices you see in Godiva for example , where you can dip some or half them in Chocolate . Any ideas??? Thanks again I am Cuban and this is one of my late abuelitas favorites with queso blanco and those hard Goya Crackers…. memories. Many Blessings!

    Comment by Cecilia — September 13, 2010 @ 8:39 am

  10. In Cuba, where I come from, the very same dessert is called “Cascos de Naranja”.

    Comment by Eugenio Perez — September 24, 2010 @ 5:35 pm

  11. My mother’s ancestry is from Greece and I remember her doing this as well as a child. I imagine if you wanted to “dry off” some of these after they are done, they might be dippable in a nice dark chocolate. I know I am going to try this for sure now…

    Comment by Karen — December 8, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

  12. My moher always do Dulce de Naranja, but I remember that que she keep the juice in the freezer in plastic bags. She died 9 years ago, but i get know naranjas agrias and I want to try, Is this possible?
    Thank you,

    Comment by Marta Rivero — January 14, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

  13. Hi Jose:

    I don’t know if you remember me. I am Aldalidia’s cousin Marlene. Whenever they were here from New Jersey I was always with them and I used to go to the Keys with them and to your house sometimes. Well anyway your Mom sent me what you published in PBS about el cafecito. I keep in touch with your Mom through e-mail. (I love your Mom & Dad, they are great human beings)I love all your recipes for Cuban food. This is great that your are doing this. I hope everything is good with you. Take care.

    Comment by Marlene Valdes-Venzal — July 6, 2011 @ 8:21 am

  14. I made this dish for Christmas this year using pink grapefruit and Pumelos. It came out great. The pumelos yielded a lot since their pith is so nice and thick. I serve this with thin slices of yellow cheese from Holland.

    Comment by Gina Gibbs — December 28, 2011 @ 8:44 pm

  15. Thank you so much for this recipe. I planted two naranja agria trees 3 years ago. Finally 2013-2014 I have fruit. Now I’m going to use this recipe to make the dessert. It’s so easy to make yet looks so impressive when served. God Bless you for sharing this recipe. Love eating!!!! Blessings to all bloggers. Claire.

    Comment by Claire Garcia — February 8, 2014 @ 11:50 am

  16. Just found your blog whilst searching for a source of bitter oranges. I had some naranja agria shipped in to MInnesota a few years ago but the produce manager changed and the new guy, a gringo, refuses to make the effort to find some for me. Thanks for your recipe. I’ve bookmarked it until I can print it off.

    Comment by John Farrell — August 10, 2016 @ 7:55 pm

  17. Here in the excision my mom would always make it for noche buena(Christmas eve). Now us girls do it, since ,om m passed 9 years ago. Memories one way to honor her.

    Comment by Virginia — December 27, 2023 @ 6:26 am

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