Pineapples 101 – The Basics

Pineapples are a delicious, sweet tropical fruit that most of us are familiar with. Thanks to modern transportation, many grocery stores have fresh pineapples available year round. Yet, we also can choose from canned, dried, and even frozen pineapple too. Its availability makes it a handy fruit to have on-hand, ready to be used in oh-so-many ways! If you are looking for ideas for something different to do with pineapples, you’re in the right place. Below is a comprehensive article all about pineapples, from what they are to suggested recipe links, and everything in between.


Pineapples 101 – The Basics

About Pineapples
Pineapples are delicious, with the perfect balance of sweet and tart. They are an extremely popular fruit in America, second only to bananas. Pineapples are members of the Bromeliaceae family of plants. The name stems from the enzyme bromelain, contained in the fruit. They have a wide cylindrical shape with a green, brown, or yellow scaly skin with spiny blue-green leaves on the top. The flesh is yellow with a juicy, delicious sweet-tart flavor. The area closest to the base of the pineapple has the most sugar, so it will taste the sweetest.

It is believed that pineapples originated in South America, but they were first discovered in 1493 by European explorers when they visited the Caribbean island that is now Guadeloupe. From there, the fruit eventually was carried to areas with tropical climates where they thrived.

Pineapples were first cultivated in Hawaii in the 1700s. It is currently the only U.S. state where pineapples are grown commercially. The fruit is also grown commercially in Thailand, the Philippines, China, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Mexico. Interestingly, it takes about two years for one pineapple to reach maturity, so it has a long growth cycle. Pineapples are available in most grocery stores year-round, with their peak season being in the spring and summer months.

Nutrition and Health Benefits of Pineapples
Pineapple is an excellent source of Vitamin C and manganese. It also is a good source of copper Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, fiber, folate, and pantothenic acid. Pineapple has negligible fat, but it does contain a high amount of sugar, with a “medium” glycemic load of 56 in a ¾ cup serving. One cup of fresh pineapple chunks has about 83 calories.

Bromelain. Bromelain is a mixture of compounds found in the stem and core of pineapple. These substances have become known as bromelain and are often included in enzyme supplements. Bromelain is known for its protein digesting function. More recent research has found that bromelain extract has other health benefits, such as reducing inflammation, excess coagulation of the blood, and suppressing tumor growth. We’re not certain at this time if those same benefits can be obtained from the amounts received when the fruit is eaten in normal amounts.

Antioxidant protection and immune system support. Vitamin C is the body’s main antioxidant, protecting cells from free radical damage. This protection extends to guarding against atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease, asthma attacks, colon cancer, and osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore, Vitamin C is critical for proper functioning of the immune system, and a one cup serving of pineapple provides 105% of our daily needs for this vitamin. This alone makes pineapple a worthy addition to anyone’s diet!

Pineapple is an excellent source of Vitamin B1 and the trace mineral manganese. Both have vital roles in energy production and antioxidant functions. Along with Vitamin C, the nutrients in pineapple can play an important part in keeping us healthy and well.

How to Select a Fresh Pineapple
Choose a fresh pineapple that is heavy for its size. Choose one that is free of spots, bruises, and darkened “eyes” or scales, which indicates the fruit is old. Also, smell the pineapple at the stem end. It should smell sweet. Avoid one that smells sour, musty or fermented. Pineapples do not ripen after being picked, so opt for a ripe one that is still fresh and at its prime.

How to Store Fresh Pineapples
Pineapples may be left at room temperature for a day or two after purchase. It will not become any sweeter, but this will help it to soften some and be juicier. Pineapples are very perishable. So, if you do not plan to eat it soon after bringing it home, it’s best to wrap it in perforated plastic and store it in the refrigerator. It will keep like that for up to 3 to 5 days. For best flavor, allow the pineapple to come to room temperature before eating or cooking with it.

Store cut pineapple in the refrigerator in an airtight container. It will keep best if it is covered in pineapple juice. Fresh pineapple may be frozen in an airtight container and will keep for up to six months.

Dried vs Canned vs Fresh Pineapple
Dried Pineapple. Nutritionally speaking, the nutrient content of dried fruits is usually reduced when compared with their fresh counterparts. The heat and prolonged exposure to air causes these losses. Vitamin C, B-vitamins, calcium and potassium are all reduced to some degree in the drying of pineapple.

Despite the loss of some nutrients, dried pineapple retains its natural sugar content in the process so it is a deliciously sweet treat. It would be a great addition to granola, trail mix, cereal, and baked goods. Many manufacturers of dried pineapple often coat the fruit with added sugar in the process, making it even sweeter. Like this, it becomes more like a candy than a fruit. If you’re watching your blood sugar levels, you will need to restrict the amount of dried pineapple that you eat in one serving. It is possible to find dried pineapple without added sugar, so be sure to read labels carefully if you’re avoiding added sweeteners.

Canned Pineapple. As would be expected, some nutrients are lost in the canning process of pineapple. For example, almost half of the Vitamin C content of fresh pineapple is lost in the making of the canned version. However, a cup of canned pineapple still has about 28% of our daily value of Vitamin C, which can be a major contributor to the diet. Unfortunately, all of the important enzyme bromelain is lost in the canning process. Despite these losses, canned pineapple is a good staple food to add to your pantry collection. It’s available at a moment’s notice to be used any way you need, whether to be eaten as-is or used in a cooked dish.

Fresh Pineapple. If you’re looking for the highest nutritional value in pineapple, fresh is best. Fresh pineapples are found in many grocery stores most of the time, so they are usually available when needed. Although they do take some time to prepare, nothing can beat the taste of sweet and juicy fresh pineapple. They can be eaten raw or enjoyed in cooked dishes and baked items. Another advantage is that they are often inexpensive, considering how much edible fruit you get from one pineapple. Even though there are great uses for dried pineapple, and canned pineapple is very convenient, give the fresh variety a try if you haven’t already done so. You’ll be glad you did!

How to Prepare a Pineapple
First remove the top and base of the pineapple with a sharp knife. There are many ways to remove the skin. A simple way is to rest the pineapple on its base, then cut downward along the sides to remove the skin. Take a paring knife to remove the “eyes” that remain. The pineapple may also be cut into quarters, leaving the core or removing it with a knife. The quarters can then be sliced, then the skin cut away.

Pineapple corers are also found in many stores. They are a convenient way to remove the core and rind from the fruit. However, they will also likely remove a lot of edible fruit too, so they may or may not be your best choice.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Pineapple
Pineapples are delicious tropical fruits that can be enjoyed in many ways from breakfast to supper time desserts, and anything in between. It can be used raw or cooked, and is commonly used in American, Asian, and Caribbean cuisines. If you’re looking for ideas for something a little different, here are some suggestions…

* Make a shrimp salad with cooked shrimp, diced pineapple, grated ginger, and a drizzle of olive oil. Season to taste and serve on a bed of lettuce.

* Make a pineapple salsa with diced pineapple and chili peppers. Serve with fish.

* Drizzle maple syrup over pineapple slices. Broil until lightly browned, then top with yogurt.

* Make a quick salad with chopped pineapple, grated fennel, and chopped cashews. Serve with chicken.

* Make a tropical fruit salad with diced pineapple, papaya, kiwi, and mango.

* Add chunks of pineapple to a coleslaw or carrot salad.

* Add pineapple to your morning smoothie for a delicious flavor boost.

* Top pineapple with yogurt for a delicious, creamy dessert or snack.

* Top your favorite burger with a pineapple ring for a tropical twist.

* Add pineapple as a topping on pizza.

* The next time you fire up the grill, add some grilled pineapple rings to the menu. You’ll be glad you did! It can be served with your protein of choice, included in a dessert, or paired with a vegetable or cooked grain.

* Add pineapple to pico de gallo for a sweet flare.

* Make an easy pineapple sorbet by freezing canned pineapple with its juice in a shallow container. When frozen, remove the container from the freezer and let it sit on a counter for 10 minutes to partially thaw. Break it into chunks and place them in a food processor. Carefully process it until smooth and serve immediately. Return any leftover to the freezer and repeat the process next time.

* Make easy pineapple popsicles. Blend 3 cups of fresh or drained canned pineapple with 1/3 cup milk of choice, and ¼ cup of sugar (or sweetener of choice). Pour into popsicle molds or paper cups and insert wooden sticks. Freeze until firm and enjoy!

Herbs/Spices That Go Well with Pineapple
Basil, chili powder, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, curry powder, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, mint, nutmeg, pepper, rosemary, sage, salt, star anise, vanilla

Foods That Go Well with Pineapple
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Beans (esp. black), cashews, chicken, fish, ham, nuts (esp. almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia, peanuts, pistachios, walnuts), pork, seeds (i.e. pumpkin, sunflower), tempeh, tofu

Vegetables: Beets, bell peppers (esp. red), chiles, cucumbers, hearts of palm, jicama, mushrooms (esp. Portobello), onions, parsnips, scallions, sweet potatoes, tomatoes

Fruits: Apricots, avocados, bananas, berries (esp. blueberries, raspberries, strawberries), coconut, other fruit in general (esp. tropical fruit), grapefruit, kiwi, kumquats, lemon, lime, mangoes, melon, orange, papayas, passion fruit, raisins

Grains and Grain Products: Rice, seitan

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, cheese (i.e. ricotta), coconut milk, cream, ice cream, sour cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Agave nectar, caramel, chocolate (white and dark), gin, honey, lavender, liqueurs, maple syrup, molasses, oil, rum, sugar (esp. brown), vinegar (esp. apple cider, red wine, rice, white wine)

Pineapples have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Baked goods (i.e. cakes, esp. pineapple upside-down), Caribbean cuisines, chutneys, curries, drinks (i.e. piña coladas), Hawaiian cuisine, salad dressings, salads (green and fruit), salsas, sauces, skewers (i.e. fruit), smoothies, sorbets, soups, stews, stir-fries, Vietnamese cuisine

Suggested Flavor Combos Using Pineapple
Add pineapple to any of the following combinations…

Almonds + vanilla
Apple + brown sugar + ginger + orange juice + soy sauce
Banana + brown sugar
Brown sugar + honey + rum + vanilla
Brown sugar + lime
Chiles + cilantro + garlic + lime + red onions
Cilantro + lime
Coconut + brown sugar
Coconut + ginger + rum
Coconut + passion fruit + white chocolate
Coconut + yogurt
Ginger + maple syrup
Honey + mint + yogurt
Peanuts + sweet potatoes

Recipe Links
Baked Ham with Pineapple

Easy No-Bake Pineapple Cheesecake

Smoked Pork Chops with Pineapple

Refreshing Watermelon Pineapple Smoothie

Coconut Pineapple Paleo Popsicles

Cucumber Salad with Pineapple and Cilantro

Baked Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Blueberry Salsa

Pineapple Fried Rice

Pineapple Salsa

Grilled Salmon with Pineapple Salsa

Grilled Pineapple Salsa


Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

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