Candied Buddha's Hand Citron





Introduction: Candied Buddha's Hand Citron

If you have never seen a Buddha's Hand Citron before you probably are thinking Monsanto has genetically engineered a cross between calamari and a lemon. Well, they probably have, but the mutant fruit you are looking at is actually a centuries old variety from Asia. They are strange and wonderful! Buddha's Hand Citron has an amazing floral fragrance but contains no juice at all. In fact they are solid pith - the white stuff inside more normal citrus skin constitutes the entire interior. Even more oddly, the pith is not bitter, unlike other citrus, and can even be eaten raw. Sadly it's not truly delicious...until you candy it! Candied Buddha's Hand Citron can be eaten by the fistful or you could add it to a loaf of Pannetone, Christmas Pudding, Fruit Cake or any other baked good that needs a fragrant chewy bite in it.

1 Buddha's Hand Citron
3 cups sugar
3 cups water

cutting board
medium saucepot
soup spoon
glass of ice water
strainer or colander
cookie sheet

Step 1: Chop It Up

If you feel like the Buddha's Hand is looking at you, ignore it. It has no feelings. Put it on the cutting board and slice it in half deftly. Now you may put each half on it's flat side and slice it into half inch wide strips. Then slice the strips into sticks. Now dice them into 1/2 inch cubes.

Step 2: Syrup!

Put the chopped Buddha's Hand into the saucepot and add the 3 cups of water and 3 cups of sugar. Put it on medium heat and wait for it to boil. Immediately adjust the heat to a simmer and allow it to bubble slowly for somewhere near three quarters of an hour. As it reduces, the sugar syrup will become thicker and the fruit will start to become translucent. Don't be alarmed if some fruit retains whiteness during cooking because it will be transformed as it cools. The cooking is finished when the syrup reaches the thread stage, about 230*F-235*F, but you will not need a thermometer to test for the right consistency! The glass of ice water is the ideal test tube for the stages of cooked sugar syrups. See the next step for more details...

Step 3: Testing for the "Thread Stage"

If you are unfamiliar with the stages of cooking sugar syrups here is the simple explanation. As sugar syrup is boiled, the water in it is slowly evaporated, allowing the syrup to become hotter and hotter. The names of the stages correspond to how the syrup behaves when a spoonful is dropped into ice water. The more concentrated the sugar solution is, the firmer it becomes upon cooling. The thread stage is on the very low end of the spectrum, followed by soft ball, firm ball, and other stages that are not of concern to this instructable. The stages terminate in caramel, which terminates in carbon if you cook it long enough, but I digress.

Candied citrus peel requires the thread stage. At this point when the syrup is dripped into ice water it will form visible "threads" as it falls to the bottom of the glass, but these threads are actually still liquid and cannot be smooshed together into a ball. If you can make a ball of the cooled syrup, you have reached the soft ball stage or perhaps even worse. Candied peel cooked to soft ball or beyond will become super chewy or even hard, which is undesirable. If it happens to you, try to save the mistake by adding a little water back to the pot and cooking it down to the thread stage again. I encourage attentiveness to the process to prevent over cooked syrup.

Conversely, undercooked syrup results in candied peel that won't dry properly and will remain syrupy. Not a bad way to go for an ice cream topping, so stop cooking earlier if that sounds good to you! Undercooked syrup will make swirling clouds when you drip it in the ice water, but no threads.

Step 4: Strain and Dry

Once the Buddha's Hand has been cooked to the thread stage, turn off the heat and cool it in the pot for half an hour or so. The resting period helps the syrup to fully penetrate the fruit.

Now strain the fruit from the syrup, allowing it to sit again to ensure as much syrup as possible is removed. The syrup is truly delicious and should be saved. If you add it to a cup of black tea it is remarkably similar to Earl Grey (which incidentally is flavored with bergamot, a relative of citron.)

Spread the strained Buddha's Hand over a cookie sheet and allow it to dry. You may accelerate the process with a fan, if you are impatient like me :) Allow it to cure overnight. A very fine crystallized coating may form on the outside, which is a great sign. The candy may now be stored in an airtight container and used however you see fit!


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    48 Discussions

    I have never seen a Buddha's Hand citron, in a store or elsewhere. In fact, I have never seen citron sold at all, except in the candied form. I sent away for seeds from Sand Hill Preservation Center, and I expect to grow my own citron next year, and candy it per your instructions. Thanks for the lesson!

    Someone gave me one of these as a "you like weird things" gift.. and after washing/brushing away any waxes, I chopped strips & noticed the floral-citrus fragrance.. and knew this was going to be brewed with some tea..
    It has a nice scent to it.. I'd like to try the liquor or the syrup next time I run into these.. -adds a little "something extra", but don't let it get overpowered by your other ingredients!

    I live in Phx Az saw a Buddas Hand tree at local growers here. 2014

    What an amazing thing. I wondered if the Hand would leap off the screen and grab me around the throat (I think somebody wrote a story about something like that). Beautiful pictures, the finished chutney looks delicious, and I was happy to learn about something I didn't know before - the instructions were clear, and the google eyes lent the final touch to the whole enterprise. Thank you for this!

    As an amature botanist, I would love to see pictures of the bark, twigs, buds, leaves and, if any, the flowers of this tree. also, how big is it? (wide and tall"?

    I stumbled across this page searching for info on the Buddhas's hand I got today. What a delightful site! Thank you.

    This fruit was so fascinating I couldn't resist it. Dad was always one for trying new stuff, which is how I got acquainted with artichokes, kiwi fruit and Ugli fruit fifty-odd years ago. Today our Hy-Vee had several odd fruits in a "weird Halloween fruit" display which included kiwano, passionfruit and custard apples but nothing was as strange as the Buddha's hand. "What on earth is THAT?" I thought. Not feeling terribly adventurous at the moment I passed it by and would've left the store without it except that I had to go back to the produce section for bulk pistachios and there it was again, waving at me. The produce lady didn't know much about it except that it tasted like lemon. She scratched one of the fingers and let me smell it. It was wonderful! So I took the bait.

    Then I had to figure out what to do with it. Thus my arrival here. I'll candy mine per your recipe. Seems to me the candied fruit would be wonderful in fruitcake or mincemeat. I'm looking forward to trying it in tea. That should be a nice change from coffee with crystalized ginger.

    I have never seen such a lemon before. But, one thing really made me wonder, the name... Why do you call it "Citron", not lemon? I live in Norway, and in Norwegian, the word for "lemon", is "sitron", just like some other countries call it "citron" - same word, just slightly different spelling. But it means lemon. So it just sounded odd to me that a lemon is called citron in English since the rest of the fruit's name was in English (I could get it if the whole name was borrowed e.g. from the country where it originated, as sometimes happens when there previously has been no name for a fruit, or whatever)... Just got me curious... The lemon looked kind of freaky, I think... Gave me a bit of the same feeling when I looked at two old trees in a friend's garden today, the trees has real yucky crocodile bark, even on the thin branches. Nobody can identify the tree though, experts from the whole country has visited and just can't find out what the two trees are. They think it might be African though (!), but find it mind boggling how it has been able to survive hard winters here. Since the tree spreads, botanical gardens has come to get theirs to plant in their gardens too... Sorry, this was quite a digression, but those trees really looked both real yucky and cool at the same time. Gave me shivers down my spine, just like when I taste something really horrible or just see something that is super yucky. And that lemon kind of gave me the same feeling. But it must be interesting. Hmmmm... Wonder how many slices of lemon you get out of one, can't be few, LOL... No wonder they're perfect for cute small candied lemons. Can't wait to read the instructable!

    1 reply

    I found an explanation re. the name. Obviously you have both lemons and citrons in the English language. A citron is a specific type, a lumpy surfaced one. Buddha's hand is, if I remember correctly now, a mutation from the above one, which happened a long, long time ago. Now they're considered part of the same family. Oh well, learn something new every day on the Internet, that's for sure!!! :)

    Congrats! You're on BoingBoing

    3 replies

    Jayefuu's comment is how I found out. Actually, I'd never heard of BoingBoing before that.

    We followed your instructable and our candied buddha hand came out great...except it was so bitter it was inedible! We were so sad! The candied fruit was bitter and the syrup was even worse. I was really surprised since you said yours wasn't bitter at all. Maybe there are different types of buddha hand? 
    The results are gorgeous, so I might try this again but boil the hand like you do with other citrus peels.

    1 reply

     I'm so sorry that happened! I can't explain it. I have read that there are different varieties, but from my experience and research they all have very low levels of bitterness. We were eating the pith completely raw and it was actually quite pleasant, although a little spongy. Certainly blanching can reduce bitterness if you'd like to try again. Taste the fruit beforehand and decide if you need to!

    Thanks for doing this "ible".  I tried this last year with a beautiful piece of buddha's hand that I got from Central Market.   It didn't work out too well since I was kind of faking it without a recipe... They are so wonderfully fragrant.  p.s. I'm voting for you.

    1 reply

    Where did you get your buddha's hand from? I saw a buddha's hand tree the other day at the nursery, but come on. I don't grow fruit trees!

    Looks delicious by the way! I saw some dried candied buddha's hand the other day at the asian supermarket (it looked like lemon peel covered with white mould.)

    Awesome!  I just had some candied Buddha's hand citron as part of our dessert at Chez Panisse last week. Thanks for the info.

    2 replies

    Chez Panisse gets their Buddha hand citron from a friend of mine.
    It's a small world!

    Here you go - candied Buddha's hand citron around the outside.  The rest is a Meyer lemon tart with huckleberry sauce.