Change up your traditional fruit salad with a little bit of spice that will bring out the fruity flavors even more. This spicy fruit salad recipe goes great with a summertime cookout in the backyard or dinner with friends. Star anise and a serrano pepper are subtle but create a “wow” factor everyone will be talking about.
When it’s too hot to cook a heavy side dish, add a refreshing spicy fruit salad to your dinner menu. The unique dressing transforms the fruit and creates something a little different. I’ve always heard that you should eat spicy food when it’s hot outside, if that’s the case than there’s nothing better than this spicy fruit salad recipe to beat the heat this summer.
Of course fruit is great all by itself, but when you add this unusual syrup, it makes it exotic. Completely different than the tequila lime dressing, honey lime dressing or mint dressing I typically add to fruit.
What makes it so unique is the combination of both star anise and a pepper. If you haven’t cooked with star anise, it comes in a jar or packet and looks like a star. It’s hard like a cinnamon stick.
What is star anise
Star anise is a star shaped seed pod from an evergreen shrub grown in Vietnam and Southwest China. It has a sweet licorice type flavor and is found in Asian five spice powder. You can use this in soups and savory dishes, it’s the licorice flavor in Sambuca.
While I’m not a huge fan of licorice, the flavor when cooked with the syrup is subtle.
I’ve only used a whole star anise in a brine and wasn’t sure how it would work with fruit. I thought it added just a hint of flavor without taking anything away from the fruit itself. If you don’t have star anise and sill want the slightly licorice flavor, add Asian five spice powder instead, I use this in my apple muffins for an interesting flavor boost.
For the pepper, this will depend on how spicy you like your food. The fruit itself will keep it from being too spicy so experiment and see what you like. If there are kids around, I would use a jalapeno with the seeds removed. If adults only, go with a serrano which is five times hotter than a jalapeno, this will definitely get your attention.
This is a fantastic choice if you’re bringing a salad to a pot luck or cook out and want something a little different that compliments almost any fruit that you have on hand.
What you’ll need
- 6 cups of fruit in whatever combination you like – peaches, strawberries, cherries, blackberries, blueberries, kiwi. The softer fruits like peaches and strawberries will absorb the flavor, while the firmer fruits like blueberries will not be as potent. It’s ice to have a mixture.
- Star anise or Asian five spice powder
- A pepper – the type depends on how spicy you want the salad. For just a hint of spice, use a jalapeno, want more spice, try a serrano. The pepper is cooked in the dressing and then removed so it just adds a hint of heat to the dressing.
- Just a little sugar.
How do you make a spicy dressing
Step 1: Bring ⅓ cup of sugar and water to a boil along with a pepper and star anise until it becomes slightly thick and syrupy.
Step 2: Strain the syrup and let it cool slightly then pour over a mixture of fresh fruit.
When making the fruit salad dressing, you can use any type of pepper you prefer, sarrano or jalapeno are the easiest to find around here. The heat from the pepper is tempered by the fruit. We all loved the touch of spice it added. Mike and I really enjoyed the flavor from star anise, but Natalie was not a fan. If you don’t care for licorice, the Asian five spice powder is not quite as potent.
PRO TIP: If you’re serving this to kids who might not care for licorice or spice, remove a portion of the salad before adding the dressing. You can make a honey lime dressing to pour over the fruit, which takes no time at all.
With all the fresh fruit available right now, experiment with this spicy fruit salad, it may turn out to be a family favorite.
FAQs for making fruit salads
I would not recommend cutting the fruit the night before for this salad. The peaches, strawberries and kiwi will turn to mush. Firmer fruits like cherries, cantalope or pineapple could be cut the night before. Try cutting the fruit rest of the fruit the same day you are serving it.
This spicy fruit salad needs can be stored overnight in the refrigerator. However, some of the fruit will get mushy overnight, especially the kiwi. It will still taste great, so just remove the fruit that has turned soft.
Star anise tastes like black licorice. The flavor is subtle in this fruit salad recipe but if you’re not a fan, try using Asian five spice which contains dried star anise but is not as potent.
The pepper you choose will depend on your preference for spicy food. If there are kids you could use a jalapeno and remove the seeds for a milder dressing. If you like spicy food, then try a serrano which is five times hotter than a jalapeno. The fruit will help cool off the spice.
Don’t want spicy, try these summer salads
Spicy Fruit Salad
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 serrano chile/ jalapeno pepper halved
- 1 dried star anise whole
- 6 cups mixed cut fruit peaches, kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries etc
- Place sugar, ¾ cup water, pepper and star anise in a a small pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until slightly thick. Strain and reserve for salad.
- Toss fruit with syrup adding as much as desired.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- Substitute ½ teaspoon of Asian 5 spice for star anise
- Try to use a mixture of different textured fruits. The softer fruit like peaches and kiwi will absorb the flavors more than the harder fruits like cherries and blueberries.
- This is best eaten within a couple hours of preparing, after that some of the fruit will start to get soggy.
Adapted from Melissa Clark, NY Times