Cooking Classes

Got Mangos: Five Ways to Use Them That Don't Involve Smoothies

A plethora of mangos from one morning's harvest.
A plethora of mangos from one morning's harvest. Photo by Jen Karetnick
Just as there's always a day that celebrates some food substance or other, there are also always seasons to revel in. But unlike the marketing tools that are the former, the latter are naturally occurring. And right now it’s mango season, a time of year that’s near and dear to the hearts of many South Floridians.

At least, it’s close to our hearts at the beginning of mango season, when the first ovals of colorful, fragrant fruit begin to fall. You treasure each and every one, fighting off the squirrels and birds for your fair share. You also have to fight off neighbors, friends, and even strangers who come to steal them. But in the middle of the season, when the mangos come down fast, you can’t even give them away.

That’s when you need something to do with all that fruit.

Miami New Times readers may remember that my husband and I farmed a backyard mango grove of 14 trees for two decades (before selling the property right before the pandemic struck).

It took us a while to learn the ins and outs of mango tree care and picking (or picking up). But boy, did we get an education. In addition to practically running our own U-Pic, supplying half the chefs in town, and writing Mango (University Press of Florida, 2014), we came up with plenty of easy ways to process large piles of fruit in short amounts of time. In the interest of saving you the time and energy we lost over the years, here are five favorites.
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Three kinds of home-preserved mango salsas — the method is easier than you might think.
Photo by Jen Karetnick

Mango Salsa

You can use any type of mango. You can use a mixture of just-ripe ones that retain some firmness and/or some overripe juicy ones that’ll give you a saucy mix. It depends on the style you’re after. Add chopped onion, jalapeño pepper, cilantro, lime juice, and a touch of apple cider to give it a bit of acid. For variety, change out the type of chili pepper, making it spicier with Scotch bonnets or smokier with chipotle. You can also add pineapple and cucumber, which changes the acidity and texture; or a mixed berry-mango salsa. Mango is a great palette for any additional fruit or vegetable: passionfruit, carambola, red bell pepper, and corn, for example. Always store salsa in the refrigerator. You can also jar and seal it, which is easier to learn than you might think. Home-preserved food keeps for a year.

Grilled Mango Cheeks

Possibly the easiest side dish ever, grilled mango cheeks need no preparation and hardly any plating. Simply cut the larger cheeks off each side of the fruit and grill them face-down alongside whatever else you’re cooking — fish, steak, pork, what have you. The sugars in the mango caramelize during the grilling process. Then flip it upright, squeeze a little lime over it, and serve it alongside your meat for a sweet barbecued treat that took no time at all to make.

Mango and Cheese

Presented cold on a cheese board or hot and melty from an oven, mango and cheese are terrific partners. Top a ripe Brie or Camembert with mango and enjoy as-is or pop into the oven for ten minutes (or until the cheese begins to ooze). You can also sprinkle the top with sliced almonds or ring the mango with macadamia nuts. Young provolone also pairs very well with mango, whether cold or hot. A favorite is provolotera, procured from local Argentine/Uruguayan butcher Gaucho Ranch many years ago, to melt fruit and cheese together in the wells.

Mango Jam

There is no better way of processing a large amount of fruit than cooking it down. Purée the raw fruit, then boil it in large pots for 40 to 45 minutes until it turns a darker hue. Skim the foam off the top from time to time and stir frequently to keep it from burning. Unlike other fruits, mangos do not need added sugar or pectin for structure. We bottled our jams, using a professional canner we kept in the house. But you can use any pot to sterilize empty jars and another pot to seal the filled jars in boiling water afterward.


After puréeing the mango, cook the pulp for a brief 20 minutes to get rid of impurities, skimming the foam and stirring to keep it from burning. Meanwhile, in a food processor, mince onion, a variety of bell peppers, and cucumber. After the mango cools, stir it all together, add some lime juice and/or cider vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate and enjoy all week.

Of course, you can also eat all the mangos you want out of hand. However you choose to utilize your mangos — or someone else's, should you be that lucky — make sure you wash them thoroughly. Even if they look pristine coming off the tree, remember that all sorts of creatures, from squirrels to iguanas to rats, are crawling over them. We've seen far too many people pick (or pick up) a mango and bite right into it, either to suck out the juice or to get started on peeling it. Then they'd call us later to tell us that something was wrong with the mango and they'd gotten sick.

And remember, if someone who has lots of mango trees allows you to come on their property to get some: heads up. Mangos don't wait to be picked. They fall when they're ready. So watch the ground for old fruit that you might trip over, and the sky for incoming ones.
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Jen Karetnick is an award-winning dining critic, food-travel writer, and author of the books Ice Cube Tray Recipes, Mango, and The 500 Hidden Secrets of Miami.
Contact: Jen Karetnick