Mangos are one of the most popular fruits in the world. Due to its creamy fruity taste they can be eaten fresh or used in sweet and savory dishes, but what does mango taste like?
This colorful tropical fruit could be described as having a slightly pine or woody taste alongside the floral and fruity notes and is cultivated in most frost-free tropical and sub-tropical regions.
What is a mango?
Mango is a tropical stone fruit, meaning it’s a fleshy food that surrounds a single pit, or stone, that grows on trees.
There are many types of mangoes that vary in size, color, shape, flavor, and seed size. Although their skin can vary in color, the edible flesh is mostly a golden yellow color.
What do mangos taste like?
In any mango flavor description, you’ll see the words sweet, woodsy or pine, and fruity. Mangos, in general, have a pine or evergreen flavor with additional notes of floral, terpenes, and sweet flavors.
When you break down the compounds that give mangos their unique flavors you’ll find a complex combination that gives mangos a vibrant flavor to match their bright yellow color. Some of these compounds are also found in strawberries and pineapples (furaneol) and pine, woodsy aromas (3-carene).
A ripe mango will smell deliciously sweet and fruity at the same time. While this sounds vague, you’re looking for a smell that’s a tropical combination of pineapple and coconut with light woody undertones, maybe even with a hint of melon.
Also, a unique attribute of mango is its texture. While unripe mangoes can be hard and fibrous, biting into a ripe mango will fill your mouth with a creamy, juicy, and silky texture that complements its flavor fully.
The closest fruit to compare it to would be the flesh of a peach, slightly squishy and soft. You won’t find many mango flavor descriptions that don’t talk about their amazing texture.
Differences in Taste Between Ripe and Unripe Mangos
A ripe mango is soft and juicy, has a golden yellow color, and has a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Think of the combination of peach, orange, and cantaloupe. This mild-tasting fruit is sweet and a tiny bit tart, almost like a pineapple. Part of the pleasing flavor of mangos is the smooth, velvety consistency of the flesh.
While fibrous, the flesh of the mango, if ripe, isn’t noticeably stringy due in part to the juice and softness. If you don’t like pulp in your orange juice, then you may not enjoy a whole mango.
Unripe mangos will have a sweet-sour taste combined with a hard and fibrous texture. Unripe mangos are full of oxalic, citric, malic, and succinic acids compared to lower sugar levels which give them a far more sour flavor, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad for you.
6 Different Types of Mangos
1. White Alfonso
Commonly listed as the best mango in the world, the White Alfonso defines the mango scent with tropical flavors of coconut and pineapple, with terpene and green notes. The combination of tropical flavors with the pine and coconut gives this variety the well-rounded flavor that most desire.
This Indian variety of mango with its short season is often found on the “1,000 things to eat before you die” lists.
Can you think of something better than a combination of peach, nectarine, apricot, and melon, and then throw in some honey and citrus taste with a side of smooth and buttery texture?
2. Praya Sowoy
The Praya Sowoy would be the choice for those who like less sweet flavors. This mango tastes milder, less sweet, and more subtle on the fruity notes found in others. With a little more of those pine and floral flavors,
3. Royal Special
This variety sets itself apart with a subtle raspberry flavor in combination with the typical sweet and terpene, fruity notes.
Like the Praya Sowoy variety, the Royal Special is not as sweet as other mangoes, but with those raspberry notes, has the tart and sweet combo that we crave in berries while maintaining those typical woodsy flavors of a mango.
For a full tropical flavor, the Malindi mango has the stereotypical mixture of green, woodsy, terpene, pineapple, and tropical tastes. The best way to describe the taste of a Malindi mango is to take all of the previous varieties and mix them.
The well-rounded taste of this mango combines a sweet, but still mild flavor that brings in those tropical pineapple notes alongside the pine and floral flavors that mellow out the sweet juice.
5. Honey (Ataulfo)
This high flesh-to-seed ratio variety tastes more like sweet and tangy fruit, almost berry-like with peachy notes to round it out.
The honey mango is a smaller variety, but the flavor and texture beat out many of the others, with a complex flavor that beats out most others. Its flesh is very creamy and soft as there are no fibers like the other types, so you get all that tropical flavor with a delectable velvet texture.
Helpfully, this mango also wrinkles when it’s ripe and prime for eating.
This sweet and slightly sour variety is a favorite for juicing. The tender flesh, with limited fibers, holds more of that soft and sweet fruit that’s both sweet and rich. With a later season, going into February, these are popular summer fruit in the United States.
How to Pick the Perfect Mango
While each variety of mango has different signs that it’s perfectly ripe, there are a few general rules to follow when determining which mango to buy at the grocery store or farmer’s market.
Typically we all gravitate towards the mangos with the brightest peels and the least amount of green. Unless you are a mango expert and know the 1,000 varieties of different mangos and their visual signs of ripeness, this can be deceiving.
Most of the time, the orange and red colors on the peels are only a sign of sun exposure. Skin color really doesn’t have anything to do with the ripeness of the inner flesh and therefore best taste.
Your best bet is to pick up a mango and squeeze it. If the flesh gives a little under your fingertips, then it’s ripe and ready to eat. If it doesn’t give under a little pressure and is hard, then it’s unripe.
If all you can find is hard mangoes, all is not lost! Unless you need your mango that day, grab an unripe mango, put it in a paper bag, and leave it on your counter. In a couple of days, you’ll have a perfectly ripe mango. The texture is the best way to determine a ripe mango.
Unripe mangoes are typically green. A ripe mango doesn’t have to be fully orange, but it should have mostly orange and yellow spots.
Again a lot of the color is dependent on variety and sun exposure, so please don’t choose based on color alone!
Fragrance and Sap
If sniffing mangoes at the market doesn’t embarrass you, then the fragrance is the best indicator of ripeness. Ripe mangos get very fragrant and will even ooze sap without any prodding.
If you can smell that mango before it even reaches your nose, then it’s a good bet that your mango is ripe for the picking.
What fruits taste like mangos?
- Peach: while they have their own flavor and texture, peaches are the closest in taste and texture to mangos and can be used as a replacement in any mango recipe
- Nectarine: with a firmer texture and lighter flavor, nectarines are a close alternative
- Papaya: with their sweet tropical and melon-like flavor, papayas are a great alternative if you need that tropical flavor
- Apricot: with a similar color and texture, the strong fruity flavor of apricots is a good substitute for mangos, even for your favorite mango chutney
- Cantaloupe: similar texture if not quite as velvety, but the flavor is brighter
- Banana: provides a similar texture rather than flavor
Why do mangos taste like pine?
It’s a fact, especially unripe mango tastes like pine. More than 30 different chemicals contribute to what mangos taste like and of those, 5 compounds are also 5 of the 6 compounds found in pine needles: α-pinene, β-pinene, limonene, myrcene, and camphene.
Interestingly, these compounds are all of the terpene family which are known to ward off herbivores and insects that would potentially eat them.
When are mangoes in season?
This is a complicated question. Much like picking a ripe mango, it’s really dependent on the variety of mango. For example, the honey mango’s peak season is in mid-February or March through July, while the Kent mango’s peak season is December to early- February.
In actuality, some varieties of mango are in season all year round, it all depends on which country the mangos are coming from.
At the end of the day, the taste is really in the mouth of the beholder. Mangos come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Each one tastes slightly different from another and yet, we love them all. We hope that this guide helps you zero in and try to find your favorite mangos.