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How to Tell if Grapefruit is Ripe

Whether you’re selecting grapefruits from the grocery shelf or picking them off a tree in your backyard, you should be able to tell when they’re ripe. After all, who doesn’t want to enjoy the intense grapefruit flavor of fully ripe, fresh grapefruit?

A grapefruit tree with yellow fruit on it.  Knowing how to tell if grapefruit is ripe is the difference between enjoying your grapefruit and not enjoying it!

We’ll let you in on a secret: you don’t have to be a fruit expert to determine ripeness. There are four easy ways to tell when a grapefruit is ripe.

Do you want to know what these methods are? Keep reading to find out how to tell if grapefruit is ripe and when it’s the right time to pick grapefruit.

How to Tell If Grapefruit Is Ripe — 4 Easy Ways

Grapefruit is a deeply red-hued citrus fruit that is in season from November to June. That means you have plenty of time to learn how to tell if they’re ripe without cutting into them.

Here are four simple ways you can master this skill.

1. Shape

The first and clearest indication of ripeness to look out for is the shape of the grapefruit. If the grapefruit resembles an oval—a bit flat on the top and bottom—then it is worth putting in your basket or picking from a tree.

Closeup of large yellow citrus fruit on tree -- grapefruit or pomelo.

When the fruit ripens and the flesh becomes heavier, it puts pressure on the skin and gives the grapefruit an uneven round or oval shape.

A perfectly round grapefruit, a triangle-shaped one, or one that looks lumpy is not your best choice of a grapefruit. So stay away from these as they have yet to ripen.

2. Texture

As grapefruits ripen, they develop a thin skin, which makes it easier to tell when they’re ripe. One of the easiest ways to tell if they are ripe is to touch them and observe their texture.

Close of a single grapefruit on a tree.

A ripe grapefruit should feel plump and full in your hands. The skin of the fruit will be fairly smooth yet firm and very thin. It will give slightly under a gentle squeeze, and it will bounce back when you release the pressure. If the grapefruit has tiny indentations on its surface, it’s time to open it up and enjoy its fantastic flavor.

The texture of the grapefruit should be consistent all around. If the skin has developed a soft spot or wrinkles in some areas, it is likely overripe or has already gone bad. It’s best to avoid such fruits.

3. Weight

Ripe grapefruits feel a bit too heavy for their size, while unripe ones are significantly lighter. This is because the fruit inside hasn’t developed enough juices to give the flesh some heft.

If you’re unsure how to determine ripeness by weight, here’s a solution. Pick two grapefruits that are similar in color and shape and hold one in each hand. Then, try to feel the force exerted by each fruit on your hands. The more ripe fruit will be the juicier and heavier one.

A woman choosing between two grapefruits.

You can also do this test with similar-sized grapefruits that are unripe or overripe. Unripe or overripe fruit is the opposite of what you’re looking for, and can still be a good point of comparison to help you determine ripeness.

4. Color

If you’re growing grapefruits in your backyard, it’ll be easier to track the changes in skin color as the fruit ripens. Grapefruits have a ripening cycle that lasts between 6 and 8 months. They emerge with a green peel and change colors as they grow and develop.

Note that grapefruits left to ripen on the tree turn out significantly sweeter, so you can wait until the peel has fully changed before picking them off.

Check your tree every day, and you’ll soon be able to tell when your backyard grapefruits are ripe with fresh grapefruit flavor.

Closeup of yellow-pink grapefruit on a tree.

Know Your Grapefruit Variety!

Varieties of grapefruits come in different colors: deep orange, bright yellow, pink, and even green flesh color. So you’ll want to know the specific characteristics of the grapefruit variety you’re examining in order to determine ripeness.

A common way to tell if grapefruit is ripe is by looking at its color. Deep orange or ruby red hues mean a grapefruit is ripe. The intense flavor has fully developed, and it is ready to be consumed.

Make sure that the peel color is completely even before you cut-up grapefruit. One clear sign that grapefruit hasn’t ripened is a deep green color of its skin or uneven green patches around its surface.

White grapefruit varieties will turn a bright yellow or pink once ripe. In contrast, other varieties like the Red Rio or Star Ruby have an all-over orange color when ready for consumption.

For white grapefruits or Oro Blanco varieties, the greenish-yellow fruit skin remains unchanged even when it is ripe. In such instances, it’s better to look at other signs like texture, shape, and weight.

Does Grapefruit Continue To Ripen After Picking?

Remember that grapefruits, like any other citrus fruit, do not ripen after they are plucked from the tree. This is why it is best to leave them on the tree until you have observed and determined that they are at their peak ripeness. This ensures the grapefruit tastes sweeter and will give you the best flavor for your recipes.

Man grasping grapefruit on a tree.

These fresh fruits have an amazing shelf life and can be stored at room temperature for up to 10 days or in the refrigerator for three weeks. They also do fine if left on the tree after they’ve matured.

Growing your own grapefruit trees can be difficult if you’re just starting out. But we’re here to help! Check our guide, How to Grow a Grapefruit Tree, for all you need to know.

Grapefruit Recipe Ideas

Here are a few grapefruit recipes to try out once you’ve picked or bought ripe grapefruits:

Closeup of grapefruit custard tartlets.
Grapefruit tartlets.

Conclusion

Being able to tell when grapefruit is ripe can seem like a magical skill if you aren’t familiar with the fruit. But now you know there’s little magic and more science to it. With some practice of these four methods, you will be able to tell the difference between a ripe and unripe grapefruit with a bit of observation and a squeeze or two.

A woman holding a grapefruit from a produce display.
Knowing how to tell if grapefruit is ripe will turn you into a pro at selecting just the right one!

Ready to get practicing? Get a couple of grapefruits and start doing the shape, color, weight, and texture tests!

Want to learn more about grapefruits? Next, visit our grapefruit trees page to learn all about this big citrus: planting, growing, caring, cooking, and more!