Let’s explore the mystery that surrounds blue foods and find out why it’s so rare in nature. We’ll also highlight the best blue fruits and vegetables to give your dishes that otherworldly pop of style and flavor!
Let’s be honest, what’s the first thing we think about when we hear the term ‘blue foods’?
Artificial food coloring, probably.
This cynical tendency we have towards the color blue isn’t by chance. The occurrence of the color blue in nature is so rare, our brains are practically hardwired to exhibit a bit of disbelief when it comes to blue foods.
In fact, if we were tasked to list as many naturally blue foods as we can think of, we would probably just say ‘blueberries,’ and draw a blank after that. Sadly, our limited knowledge of blue foods means that we also have a limited understanding of the potent health benefits of these foods.
What Gives Blue Foods their Blue Color?
Anthocyanins are the plant pigments that are responsible for the blue colors that we see in some fruits and vegetables. To be more specific, anthocyanins refer to plant compounds such as:
- Cyanidin, delphinidin and pelargonidin (which are most often found in fruits), and
- Peonidin, petunidin and malvidin (which are most often found in flowers).
These 6 anthocyanins are present in many fruits and vegetables in various combinations. The specific combination of these anthocyanins is what produces colors such as red, magenta, purple, and blue.
However, anthocyanins are very unstable when faced with changing pH, humidity, sunlight, oxygen levels and so on. Furthermore, if any other types of pigments (such as chlorophyll or carotenoids) are present in the plant, they tend to predominate. This means that for the color blue to stand out, there needs to be a distinct lack of other types of pigments present in the plant.
So basically, a host of conditions need to be just right for the accumulation and combination of the specific anthocyanins needed for a blue hue. In a way, it’s like blue fruits and veggies won the natures lottery, which makes naturally blue foods nothing short of miraculous.
Blue is not a color that is easily found in the animal kingdom. However, some seafood can have a blue hue, such as the European blue lobster and the Chesapeake blue crab.
Blue lobsters are actually regular lobsters that have a mutation which causes an excess of a specific protein. This protein interacts with a blue carotenoprotein called alpha-crustacyanin. The interaction produces a blue hue in the lobster’s exoskeleton.
However, when blue lobsters are cooked, the color changes to resemble that of the American lobster.
Chesapeake blue crabs have claws and legs that are a light steel blue in color due to the blue pigment alpha-crustacyanin.
Blue cheese is made with regular cow’s milk (or alternatively, sheep or goat’s milk), which is processed using Penicillium mold. This ripening process creates dull-blue veins where the mold has been added.
What Are the Health Benefits of Blue Foods?
Anthocyanins are members of the flavonoid family. They are potent antioxidants which protect the body against free radicals. Thus, they lower the risk associated with diseases caused by oxidative stress.
Anthocyanins also exhibit anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, antimicrobial, and neuroprotective effects when consumed. This means that eating blue food helps us to avoid cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and cognitive decline.
All the Blue Foods that Are Veggies
Blue potatoes are native to South America and have dark blue skin with light blue flesh. This variety of potatoes can also have purple flesh and is known to have a rich nutty taste.
Blue potatoes are rich in potassium and manganese, as well as vitamins C and B6.
Try making these delicious mashed potatoes with blue potatoes.
Blue Oyster Mushrooms
Blue oyster mushrooms are a member of the pearl oyster mushroom family. They have a similar flavor profile, but a much chewier texture. Blue oyster mushrooms are bright blue during their initial growth stages, but appear to be a light steel blue color when mature.
Blue corn is native to Mexico and is known for its sweet, nutty flavor profile. Unlike yellow corn, blue corn cannot be eaten raw, and is usually ground into a fine powder for use in cooking and baking.
Indigo Milk Cap
The indigo milk cap mushroom, also known as the ‘blue milk mushroom,’ originates from Mexico and Guatemala. When cooked, its flavor resembles that of the portobello mushroom.
Blue Pea Flower
The blue pea flower, also known as the blue butterfly pea flower, is a flowering plant (more specifically a vine) native to Asia. It also goes by many other names, including the bluebellvine and the Asian pigeonwings. However, the proper scientific name is the ‘clitoria ternatea’ (this name makes sense if you’ve seen the flower).
When prepared as a tea, it appears as blight blue in color and tastes like chamomile. However, the blue pea flower is also frequently used as a natural blue food dye, especially in cocktails. In addition, it can be added to salads for an extra pop of color.
Red cabbage is native to Southern Europe, and its flavor is peppery and crisp but slightly sweet when cooked.
At this point, you might be wondering why red cabbage is listed as a blue vegetable. Red cabbage is an honorable mention because it turns blue when cooked (or when salt is added, as is the case of this Pickled Red Cabbage recipe). The cooking process changes the pH of the red cabbage, which needs an acid component to retain its red color.
One cup of chopped red cabbage contains more than half of our daily requirement for vitamin C and more than 20% our daily requirement of vitamin K.
Red cabbage is also a great source of fiber, folate, and potassium.
Native to Southeast Asia and widely cultivated in Pacific islands, blue taro is a striking tropical root vegetable notable for its vibrant blue hue. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, it offers a nutty and slightly sweet flavor profile, and its versatility shines when incorporated in both desserts and savory dishes, adding both color and depth to a variety of culinary creations.
Distinct from its popular relative, the Swiss chard, blue chard captivates with its rich blue-green leaves and crisp texture. With a taste profile that’s a blend of earthy and salty nuances, blue chard stands out as a nutritious addition to various dishes, be it sautés, salads, or even smoothies, bringing both color and robust flavor.
A variant of the cherished green kale, blue kale is a nutritional titan, offering an array of vitamins and minerals in its bluish-green leaves. While it possesses a slightly bitter undertone when raw, this flavor profile becomes beautifully mellow and subtly sweet when cooked, making it a versatile ingredient for everything from salads and stir-fries to green smoothies.
Blue Banana Squash
Exhibiting a unique, elongated shape with an intriguing bluish skin, blue banana squash stands out in the world of winter squashes. Hidden beneath its exterior is a rich, sweet orange flesh that’s supremely tender when cooked. It’s a preferred choice for a variety of preparations, including roasting, pureeing, or even transforming into comforting soups and stews.
All the Blue Foods that Are Fruits
Blueberries are small, round, blue colored fruit that grow on shrubs, and are native to North America. Ripe blueberries are slightly sweet, with a tart aftertaste.
Most naturally blue snacks are blueberry flavored. For example, this delicious Sugar-free Blueberry Jam by Nature’s Hollow.
Similar to blueberries, concord grapes are native to North America. Concord grapes are small, round fruit that is extremely sweet and juicy when ripe. This variety of grape is known for the ease with which its skin can be removed while keeping its flesh intact.
Damson plums, also known as European plums, are oval-shaped stone fruit that has dark blue skin and are extremely sour. They are not usually eaten raw and are mainly used to make jam or jelly.
Blue Sausage Fruit
The blue sausage fruit, also commonly known as the ‘dead man’s finger,’ is a long, sausage-shaped blue fruit native to East Asia. Its blue skin is entirely inedible, but its blue flesh is slightly sweet and reminiscent of melon or cucumber. It also contains many large seeds.
Juniper berries are native to the northern hemisphere, including Asia, Europe, the UK, and North America. They have a bitter, woodsy flavor that resembles gin (the beverage).
Looking for more blue fruits? We’ve got you covered!
Blackthorn (or Sloe) Berries
Found on the blackthorn bush, these dark blue berries have a tart flavor, primarily used to make the famous sloe gin.
Blue Aquatic Foods
Blue American Lobster
A stunning rarity in the marine world, the Blue American Lobster boasts a vivid blue exoskeleton due to a genetic mutation, causing an overproduction of a certain protein. Although its striking hue is a marvel in its natural environment, when cooked, it turns the familiar reddish-orange, akin to other lobsters.
Native to the Atlantic Coast of North America, the Blue Crab, particularly the Chesapeake variety, is distinguished by its vibrant blue-green claws and legs. A staple in many coastal cuisines, this crab offers tender and flavorful meat that’s a favorite in dishes ranging from crab cakes to seafood stews.
Renowned in the sushi world, bluefin tuna, when raw, showcases a rich blue hue and is celebrated for its buttery texture and deep flavor.
Native to the cold waters of the North Atlantic, blue mussels are prized for their briny taste and tender texture, often steamed or added to seafood stews.
These marine algae come in a variety of colors, including a striking blue hue, and are rich in nutrients, offering a unique umami flavor that’s prized in cuisines worldwide, particularly in Asian dishes.
Unique for its blue-green flesh when raw, the lingcod turns white upon cooking and offers a mild, flaky texture, making it a seafood lover’s delight.
More Blue Colored Foods
Steeped in rich history and native to Central and South America, blue tortillas are crafted from the nutritious blue corn. Their arresting blue hue not only adds an aesthetic appeal to dishes but also provides a slightly sweeter and nuttier undertone, elevating the flavor profile compared to conventional yellow or white tortillas. They’re a testament to the blend of culture and gastronomy.
Starflowers, with their resplendent blue petals, are not just nature’s ornament but also carry culinary significance. Besides being a visual treat in gardens and vases, they have made their mark in the culinary world with their mild and faintly sweet taste, finding their way into rejuvenating teas and vibrant salads, reflecting the blend of beauty and flavor.
Beyond their marine counterparts, these gelatinous desserts are an epitome of culinary delight. Using a blend of natural food dyes or blue-flavored components, jellies can be fashioned into a spectacular blue, delivering a delightful wobbly texture and sweet taste. It’s a dessert that promises visual allure and gustatory satisfaction in equal measure.
Emblematic of subtlety and elegance, borage flowers grace dishes with their soft blue petals. Their unassuming cucumber-esque flavor profile makes them a versatile addition, finding favor as dainty garnishes in refreshing salads and sophisticated cocktails, adding a touch of nature’s charm to every plate and glass.
Blue Dandelion Flowers
Far from being mere garden residents, blue dandelion flowers are nature’s hidden culinary gems. Their flavor, a delicate balance between bitter and sweet, lends itself beautifully to diverse preparations, from calming teas to crunchy salads, showcasing the versatility of this often-overlooked bloom.
A staple in many Asian cuisines, adzuki beans, especially those of the deep blue variety, are a testament to nature’s palette. Beyond their striking appearance, they are treasured for their sweet and nutty essence, finding their place in a myriad of desserts and dishes that bridge tradition and taste.
Though not native to the African continent, adzuki beans, with their sweet and nutty profile, have found their way into some African dishes, enriching the diverse culinary tapestry of the region.
Butterfly Blue Pea Tea
A brew that’s as mesmerizing in color as it is in taste, Butterfly Blue Pea Tea owes its vibrant shade to the petals of the butterfly pea plant. More than just a beverage, it’s a natural colorant, lending its rich blue to other drinks and even to dishes like rice, turning the ordinary into the extraordinary with every pour and stir.
- Blue Potatoes
- Blue Oyster Mushrooms
- Blue Corn
- Indigo Milk Cap
- Blue Pea Flower
- Red Cabbage
- Blue Taro
- Blue Chard
- Blue Kale
- Blue Banana Squash
- Concord Grapes
- Damson Plums
- Blue Sausage Fruit
- Juniper Berries
- Blackthorn (or Sloe) Berries
Blue Aquatic Foods
- Blue American Lobster
- Blue Crab
- Bluefin Tuna
- Blue Mussels
- Blue Lingcod
More Blue Foods
- Blue Tortillas
- Borage Flowers
- Blue Dandelion Flowers
- Adzuki Beans
- Butterfly Blue Pea Tea
- Choose a blue food.
- Cook recipe.
Blue Food FAQs
What are some blue food?
There are several blue foods, both naturally occurring and artificially colored. Examples include blueberries, blue corn, blue potatoes, and certain seafood like blue crab and blue American lobster. Additionally, there are foods like blue tortillas and blue cheese which incorporate blue hues in their presentation or features.
Is there any naturally blue foods?
Yes, there are naturally blue foods, though they are rarer compared to foods of other colors. Blueberries are a prime example, and others include blue corn, blue potatoes, and the blue sausage fruit. Nature’s color palette for blue foods is limited, but they stand out because of their rarity.
What food or fruit is blue?
The most commonly known blue fruit is the blueberry. However, there are also fruits like damson plums and blue sausage fruit which showcase blue hues. Additionally, certain foods, such as blue corn and blue potatoes, exhibit natural blue tones.
What are blue zone foods?
Blue Zones refer to regions in the world where people live longer and healthier lives. Blue Zone foods are those commonly consumed in these areas, emphasizing a plant-based diet rich in legumes, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. They are minimally processed and are often locally sourced. Olive oil, fish, and moderate amounts of wine are also part of the Blue Zones dietary pattern.
Yummy Recipes Using Naturally Blue Foods
Here are a few yummy blue recipes that are guaranteed to be a big hit with family and friends!
Prepare to experience a fluffy, moist, delicious cake bursting with blueberry goodness. Now add a sweet, crunchy streusel topping and you’ll have a hard time sharing this tasty treat!
Use a pre-made pie crust to make this easy ‘no-bake’ blueberry-topped custard cream pie. What better way to enjoy blueberries as a blue superfood than in a mouthwatering dessert?
Make a delicious blueberry tart by swapping out the apples for blueberries in this easy tart.
Sometimes all you want in life is a delicious pie. Use frozen or fresh blueberries in this recipe instead of cherries for a classic pie you’ll make again and again.
More About Food and Colors
Have questions or suggestions about blue foods? Leave them in the comments below.
Like posts like this one? You might also like our list of foods that start with E.