They’re perfect to peel and eat, but these sunny and sweet citrus fruits have much more to offer. 

By Matthew Kassel
December 13, 2019
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Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez; Prop Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine; Food Styling: Torie Cox

This is one of my favorite times of year—though not, as you may be guessing, because of the lead-up to the holidays. It’s because clementines are, at last, back in season. It has always felt odd that this particular citrus fruit, which usually hits grocery stores in late November, should serve as a harbinger of winter. Yet I have learned to ignore such paradoxes. It is best not to overthink the clementine, except when you want to cook with it.   

While I normally keep a bag or box on my kitchen counter and eat them throughout the week, this year I am planning to use them in more creative ways. There are lots of things you can do with clementines aside from peeling them and popping them straight into your mouth (and adding them to salad recipes). Here’s a look at some of them.

Make a galette or upside-down cake.

When sliced, clementines have a lovely cross-section, which is why they’re perfect for layering into a round of dough (then simply fold over the sides) to form a galette. Because clementines are smaller than other similar citrus fruits, they should fit snugly in whatever size pastry you decide to make. Likewise, these petite citrus beauties are rather stunning featured in a cake, such as this wow-worthy Clementine Upside-Down Cake. (Alternatively, you could boil and purée some clementines and add them to a cake batter for a punch of bright flavor, but that is a little more labor-intensive.)

Add them to mulled wine. 

It’s standard practice to throw some sliced oranges into a pot of mulled wine, along with some of the peeled rind. But why not substitute oranges for clementines while these little citrus fruits—tart and bright and delicious—are in season? This way, you’ll be able to fit some of the stewed slices into your mug rather than letting them languish in the pot, as orange slices normally do because they are too large.

Make a savory-sweet glaze.

Who says meat and clementines don’t go together? To make a savory clementine glaze, just bring fresh clementine juice to boil with, say, shallot and thyme, as this easy clementine glaze recipe suggests. When it’s reduced to less than a cup, stir in some butter and salt, and brush the sauce onto pork, chicken, beef, or any other protein you want to brighten up.

Candy them.

This is very easy to do and will probably impress your friends and family. Gather up your clementines and use a recipe such as this one for Candied Lemons as your guide. You’ll simply bring a cup or two of sugar to a boil in a pot with water, add some sliced clementines, and gently simmer them in the simple syrup. A perfect holiday treat or garnish. Another ridiculously easy, candy-like treat to be made with clementines: Chocolate Dipped Clementines.

There’s much more you can do with clementines, of course, but if you want to experiment, get to it sooner than later. Before you know it, clementines will be out of season. Need more inspiration? 

Here are some other vibrant clementine recipes worth trying: