Chef Katie Button likes to candy them whole, then sprinkle them over ice cream.

By Nina Friend
Updated: March 07, 2019

Kumquats, those tiny citrus fruits that are as tasty as they are cute, add a burst of acid to all kinds of dishes. Whether sprinkled on top of wintery salads or blended into refreshing mojitos, kumquats are incredibly versatile. Depending upon the flavor profile you're hoping to achieve, it's possible to bring out the fruit's natural sweetness (like with the candied kumquats in this duck dish)—or their natural tartness (with the fresh kumquat salad that accompanies this flank steak).

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As we head into spring and near the end of kumquat season, which usually lasts from January through March, we’re thinking about how to get the most out of these one-bite wonders. For some necessary inspiration, we asked 14 chefs across the country to tell us about their all-time favorite ways to cook (and eat) kumquats. Here’s what they had to say: 

Thomas Raquel, Executive Pastry Chef, Le Bernardin

“When kumquats are in season, I love creating a kumquat marmalade. I slice them thinly then cook them down with tangerine juice, and it makes a perfect spread!”

Try this recipe for kumquat and pineapple chutney:

Johanna Hellrigl, Executive Chef, Doi Moi

“I enjoy making candied kumquats. I like to infuse the simple syrup (essentially used to candy the kumquats) with Chinese five spice—a spice blend utilized a lot in the Nyonya region of Malaysia—that we have in our Nyonya Fried Chicken Buns or our Vietnamese Ly Van Phuc Wings at Doi Moi. But here you get to play on sweet rather than savory. The remaining simple syrup after candying the kumquats is great for mixing into cocktails, like a twist on an Old Fashioned. You can use the candied kumquat as a garnish for that drink, on top of your yogurt in the morning, or for a sweet treat at the end of a long day.”

Akhtar Nawab, Chef/Owner, Alta Calidad

“I always used to cook kumquats until I had these Japanese Fukushu ones sliced and eaten with Tajin, a chile and lime powder. It was an amazing twist on Mexican fruit and chile. Refreshing and so simple.”

Abraham Conlon, Chef/Owner, Fat Rice

"I love eating kumquats whole. They pop in your mouth. When the oils from the skin and the juice from the fruit combine in your mouth, it's an intense experience and wakes you right up. As far as cooking, I love them candied, salted, or pickled. When kumquats are in season, we treat them like an Indian-style lime pickle, with spices and chilies to use as a garnish for our spring lamb vindalho.”

Try this recipe for poached tuna with kumquats and jalapeño:

Katie Button, Executive Chef/Co-Owner, Cúrate and Button & Co. Bagels

“I like to boil whole kumquats in a mixture of sugar, vinegar, and spices to make something that falls somewhere in between the worlds of candying and pickling. Then they are great in yogurt, on ice cream, or tossed into salads.”

Gabriel Kreuther, Chef/Owner, Gabriel Kreuther Restaurant

“Kumquats are fantastic as a chutney with spices and a drop of Madeira wine.”

Linton Hopkins, Chef/Owner, Resurgens Hospitality Group restaurants

“I love kumquats roasted with goose or duck in the pan with onions. Delicious.”

Ford Fry, Chef/Owner, Ford Fry Restaurants

"We had a kumquat tree when I was a kid in Houston. I ate them right off of the tree, skin and all. Now, I love to preserve them whole, just like a preserved lemon."

Try this recipe for winter chicory salad with kumquats and date dressing:

Tossed with a dressing made of kumquats, dates, sherry vinegar, and orange juice, chef Traci Des Jardins’ chicory salad is sweet without being cloying.

Greg DuPree

Nicole Guini, Pastry Chef, Blackbird

“I love kumquats! I use them often in desserts. My favorite way to prepare them is to slice them thin in rounds and dehydrate them overnight. They become delightfully crunchy. I toss them into salads, granola, cereal, et cetera. At Blackbird, I incorporate them into crunches and streusels for textural contrast. Once dehydrated it extends their shelf life and we can use them for the entirety the dessert lives on the menu.”

Nick Leahy, Chef/Owner, AIX and Tin Tin

“Depending on the variety, they can be great raw (try the Fukushu), but they are a very versatile ingredient. This year, we've made a great marmalade for the charcuterie board, a kumquat and golden beet jam, a chili and kumquat infusion for a cocktail at the bar, and have given them a quick poach in simple syrup to garnish our rice pudding dessert.”

Mike Simmons, Chef/Partner, Café Marie-Jeanne

"I like kumquats poached whole in simple syrup with a splash of orange blossom water, lemon juice, and then stored in the syrup. Then, they can be used in all sorts of ways: spooned over bostock whole, blended and frozen into a sorbet, or baked into tea cakes.”

Try this recipe for layered parsnip cake with candied kumquats:

Jen Yee, Executive Pastry Chef, Resurgens Hospitality Group

"To be honest, kumquats are not my favorite of the citrus family. I see people eating them raw like grapes, and I don't know how they do it! We just confited a bunch of the skins the other week with sugar and vanilla, which of course mellows out a lot of that 'in your face' bitterness. One of our cooks is making a vinegar with the pulp, but we won't get to taste that for a while. Pickling kumquats is a great way to preserve them, and they are lovely with cheese.”

Travis Swikard, Former Culinary Director for Daniel Boulud

“I have vivid memories of eating kumquats off the tree as a young boy. My brothers and I would jump over my grandmother’s fence into her neighbor’s yard, where we’d gorge on all kinds of citrus until we were chased off by honey bees. While I love the bitterness and acidity that kumquats naturally have, if you must cook them, my favorite way is to halve them, scrape out the seeds, then cover them in cold water and bring to a simmer. Repeat the last two steps again, and then pour a syrup of lemon, orange juice, sugar, lemon thyme and water over them and allow to marinate overnight. The blanching makes the bitterness a little more palatable. These are great served for breakfast on a yogurt parfait, served in an escarole salad or on a tartine with chicken liver mousse!”

John Cox, Chef/Partner, The Bear and Star 

“At the height of their season, kumquats are fantastic thinly shaved over raw fish or tossed into a spring radish salad. I also like to preserve them to use throughout the year. There are many ways to do this, but some of my favorites include: Pickling sliced kumquats with sliced serrano peppers, lime leaves and ginger; a sliced kumquat marmalade accented with cardamom and vanilla; preserving the whole kumquat by packing in sea salt, a touch of sugar and pink peppercorns (a variation on preserved lemons and used the same way).”

Check out these recipes for more citrus-forward inspiration.

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