Spanish Lime (Mamoncillo): Benefits, Taste And Uses

Spanish Lime, or Mamoncillo, is a tropical fruit native to Central and South America. It has yellow-greenish skin with a sweet, juicy interior. The pulp can be eaten raw and made into juices, jams, jellies, smoothies, and other desserts. Spanish lime is also known as mamoncillo in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and limoncillo in Costa Rica. Here is everything you need to know about this delicious, unique fruit.

What is Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo?

Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo (Melicoccus bijugatus) is a small round fruit that grows in tropical climates. The fruit is typically yellow-green and has a sweet, juicy interior. It’s very similar to lychee but slightly bigger, and it has a unique flavor that is hard to explain.

Spanish Lime Description

History and Origin of Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo

The Spanish lime, also known as mamoncillo or quenepa, is a tropical fruit throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean. It has been cultivated since pre-Columbian times, with evidence of its use dating back to 1200 AD in Mexico. The name “Spanish Lime” is thought to have originated in Spanish-speaking countries, where limes were a common ingredient in cooking and drinks.

The fruit is also known as melicoccus bijugatus or Genipa Americana.In its native range, the Spanish lime is cultivated for its edible fruits, which are sweet but acidic and contain numerous small seeds. It is often eaten fresh but can be cooked into jams and jellies or made into syrup. In some countries, it is also fermented and distilled to make alcoholic beverages.

Spanish lime is becoming increasingly popular in many countries worldwide due to its versatility and nutritional benefits. It can be found in supermarkets, specialty stores, farmers’ markets, or home gardens. The fruit can be enjoyed as a snack, incorporated into cakes and desserts, or used as an ingredient in savory dishes. The Spanish lime is a great addition to any kitchen with its unique flavor and health benefits.

Description of the Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo

The Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo, also known as Melicoccus bijugatus, is an evergreen tree native to tropical America. It grows up to 10 m (33 ft) tall and has a short trunk with thick, dark bark. The leaves are alternate and elliptical with dentate margins, measuring 8–15 cm (3–6 in) long and 5–8 cm (2–3 in) wide. 

The flowers are yellow and fragrant, arranged in clusters of 1-3. The fruits are green, becoming yellow or orange when ripe. They have a leathery skin with white pulp and small edible seeds, measuring 3–5 cm (1–2 in) across. The fruit has a sweet, tart flavor and can be eaten raw or used in desserts and jams. It is also known for its medicinal properties and is often used to treat stomach ailments. Its seeds are commonly used as a spice in Latin American cuisine. The tree also produces oil for several purposes, including insect repellent and wood preservative. 

Flavor Profile of Spanish Lime

The Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo has a complex flavor profile: sweet and tart. The flavor is dominated by citrus notes, with hints of apple, mango, pineapple, and even lychee. It can also have a slightly bitter aftertaste due to its high tannin content. Its texture is firm yet juicy, with small edible seeds inside. It is often described as a tropical lemon-lime flavor.

The Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo is loved by many for its unique flavor and aroma, making it a popular choice for adding sweetness to drinks and desserts. It can also be enjoyed as a snack or incorporated into salads, salsas, and sauces. The Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo is an incredibly versatile fruit that adds flavor and nutrition to any dish. 

Health Benefits of Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo

The Spanish Lime, or Mamoncillo, is a nutrient-dense fruit with many health benefits. It contains antioxidants, vitamins A and C, dietary fiber, and minerals like calcium and potassium. This fruit is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation. Additionally, it may aid digestion by stimulating the production of digestive enzymes and aiding the absorption of nutrients. Finally, Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo has been shown to have antimicrobial properties, making it a great choice for fighting off bacteria and other pathogens.

Cultivation of the Spanish Lime

The Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo tree prefers tropical and subtropical climates for optimal growth. It should be planted in USDA Hardiness Zones 10A to 11 when growing in the United States. It likes full sun and moist but well-draining soil. The tree can grow to a height of 5 meters (15 feet). Pruning will help the tree grow in a more manageable shape and size.

The Mamoncillo fruit is yellow-green or light green with a red blush when ripe, resembling a small lime. The Spanish Lime is mostly eaten fresh but can also be used to make jams, jellies, and drinks. Fertilizing once or twice a year with an all-purpose fertilizer will help ensure healthy growth and increase fruit production. The trees bloom in late spring to early summer with white flowers that form yellow-green fruits from summer to fall. Harvesting the fruits when they are ripe will help prevent them from falling off the tree, which can lead to rot.

Harvesting of the Spanish Lime

The harvesting of Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo usually begins when the fruits reach approximately 5 cm in size. The fruits should be harvested when green and unripe, as they will not ripen once picked from the tree. It is important to note that the riper a fruit gets, the more sour it becomes.

Once harvested, the fruits should be washed and stored in a cool, dry place until they are ready to be consumed. Additionally, it is important to note that Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo must be eaten as soon as possible after harvesting since they have a short shelf life. Harvesting the fruit with gloves is also recommended due to its spiky skin.

Harvested Spanish Lime

Where does Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo Grow?

Spanish lime or mamoncillo grows in tropical and subtropical climates throughout the world. It can be found in South and Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. While it is most commonly associated with Mexico due to its abundance there, it also grows wild in other regions worldwide.

The tree is a popular ornamental plant cultivated in many areas, so it can also be found in home gardens. The tree does best in humid climates with sunshine and moderate rainfall. It is also tolerant to drought conditions, so it can survive in areas where water is scarce.

What are the things you need to keep in mind when buying Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo?

  1. Check the skin color: Spanish Limes and Mamoncillos should have a bright yellow color. They are still unripe and will not have as much sweetness or flavor if they are more green.
  2. Feel the weight in your hand: Spanish Limes may be large or small, depending on the variety. Choose a fruit that has some heft to it and feels heavy for its size – this means it is full of juice and flavor.
  3. Check for any defects: Make sure there are no visible bruises, cuts, or discoloration on the skin, as this could affect how sweet or flavorful the fruit is.
  4. Smell before buying: A ripe Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo should have a strong, sweet, fragrant scent.
  5. Buy from a reliable source: Purchase your Spanish Limes or Mamoncillos from a trusted market or grocery store with good quality produce. This way, you will be assured of getting the best possible fruits.

What is the best way to Store Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo?

The best way to store Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo is to keep them in a cool, dry place. Store them in an airtight container to help preserve their freshness and taste. Ensure they are away from direct sunlight and heat sources, which may cause the fruit to spoil quickly.

It is also important to ensure that the container is properly ventilated, as this will help to keep the fruit from becoming too moist. When it comes time to use Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo, rinse them off before using them in recipes or eating them raw.

How to Use Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo in recipes with others?

There are many ways to use Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo when cooking, baking, and making beverages. Here are a few recipes that you can try:

  1. Salsa de Mamoncillo: Blend one cup of mamoncillos with garlic, onion, cilantro, tomato or bell pepper, jalapeno (optional), lime juice, and salt. Blend until smooth. Serve with chips or raw vegetables.
  2. Mamoncillo Margarita: In a blender, combine one cup of mamoncillos, 1/4 cup tequila, 3 tablespoons triple sec, 2 tablespoons of lime juice, and 1 tablespoon sugar (optional). Blend until smooth. Serve in a margarita glass with lime wedges and salt.
  3. Mamoncillo Pie: Combine one cup of mamoncillos, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and a pinch of nutmeg in a medium bowl. Pour into a pre-baked 9-inch pie shell and bake at 375F for 30 minutes. Let cool before serving.
  4. Mamoncillo Smoothie: In a blender, combine one cup of mamoncillos, 1/2 banana, 1/4 cup yogurt or almond milk, 2 tablespoons honey (optional), and 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger. Blend until smooth and serve immediately.

These are just a few ways to use Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo in recipes. With imagination, you can create your unique dishes and drinks with this versatile fruit. 


Spanish Lime, or Mamoncillo, is a delicious and versatile fruit in many recipes. It has a sweet and tart flavor that pairs well with many other ingredients. When buying or storing Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo, keep them dry and avoid becoming too moist. To use this fruit in recipes, simply rinse, peel, and blend the mamoncillos with other ingredients such as garlic, onion, cilantro, tomato or bell pepper, jalapeno (optional), lime juice, tequila, triple sec, sugar (optional), yogurt or almond milk. With a little imagination, you can create your unique recipes with Spanish Lime or Mamoncillo. Enjoy!

Mitch Baylis