When you think of the stereotypical orange, you’re most likely picturing a navel orange. Orange on the inside and out, navels have a characteristic protrusion at one end of the fruit that resembles a human navel, giving them their name. Blood oranges, on the other hand, are typically smaller in size and have a darker peel. Once you get past the peel, expect to see dark red to dark pink fruit that may contain some blotches of a lighter color.
Both varieties are fairly similar in texture, but there are some subtleties you should be aware of. Blood oranges are generally much easier to peel, which may be due to their tangerine heritage. Additionally, though blood oranges are smaller than navels, they tend to feel heavier for their size, as they have a higher juice content.
Aside with color, this is where the two types of oranges really stand out. Navel oranges have that classic “orange” taste while staying sweet and juicy. They can be slightly more bitter than other types of common oranges, but this is balanced out by a fresh, pleasant aroma. Blood oranges are entirely different beast, offering a distinctly rich orange taste that contains notes of raspberry. The sweet yet tart fruit is exceedingly aromatic and juicy, making it a potentially messy fresh eater.
While each variety can be used in both savory and sweet dishes, their different qualities make them better suited to specific tasks. With their strong aromatics and unique flavor, blood oranges are better suited for dishes that don’t call for a classic “orange” taste. Instead, opt to use them as a showcase flavor. Additionally, their high juice content makes them better suited to juicing than navels, but they will create a slightly different tasting juice than a standard orange jucie. If you’re looking to serve fresh segments or eat an entire fruit, navels are easily one of the best options, as they’re durable and easy to work with. Their peels are good for zesting too, so try adding it to cocktails or simple syrups for a unique twist.
Health conscious chefs will be glad to know that both varieties have a low carb and calorie count, but they can be a little high in sugar due to their sweetness. The legendary vitamin C content of oranges is intact in both too, although navel oranges pack a slightly bigger punch. The biggest difference between the two is blood orange’s anthocyanin count, which gives the fruit its characteristic red hue. Anthocyanins are flavonoids that help reduce your risk of heart disease and are nonexistent in navel oranges. While both varieties are good options in terms of nutrition, this does give blood oranges a slight leg up on the competition.