Gardening Recipes

Buddha’s hand citron: Make tea, candy & simple syrup from one recipe

Buddha's hand citron: Make tea, candy & simple syrup from one recipe thumbnail
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Buddha’s hand citron is an ancient citrus variety, and one of the most interesting looking fruits you’ll ever see. In this article, you’ll find out what you can make with Buddha’s hand citron! 

We live in Ag Zone 7b at the base of the Appalachian Mountains in Greenville, SC. This area is not exactly known as the citrus capital of the world.

However, years back we decided we were going to figure out how to grow citrus here, so we could enjoy our own fresh organic citrus straight off the tree. (Read: How to grow organic citrus anywhere.)

Some of the potted citrus plants growing at Tyrant Farms.

Some of the potted citrus plants growing at Tyrant Farms.

As such, each fall and winter day when the temperatures drop below the mid-30s, we roll our large citrus pots into our garage with a specialized pot moving device. During the rest of the year (or on days when temps are 40+ degrees), the plants are outside.

Yes, most citrus varieties–especially when they’re mature–can tolerate freezing temps, but they don’t necessarily enjoy it.

There are an astounding number of citrus varieties out there, many of which you’ll never see at a grocery store. Currently, we’re growing blood oranges, makrut limes, Meyer lemons, pink ‘lemonade’ lemons, satsuma mandarins, kumquats, Australian blood limes, calamondins/calamansi, and Buddha’s hand citron.

Our favorite thing to do with meyer lemons is make lemon curd, which uses both the zest and the juice of the fruit, along with ducks eggs from our back yard.

Our favorite thing to do with Meyer lemons is make lemon curd, which uses both the zest and the juice of the fruit, along with ducks eggs from our Welsh Harlequins.

Of all the citrus varieties we grow, the one that always gets the most attention from guests is indisputably our Buddha’s hand citron. “What is that thing?” “What do you do with it?” “Do they bite?”

No, they don’t bite, although we’ll teach you how to bite them in just a moment…

Buddha's hands citron hands? Why not. Making a weird face while tending our potted citrus on a chilly day.

Buddha’s hands citron hands? Why not. Making a weird face while tending our potted citrus on a chilly day.

About Buddha’s hand citron

Scientists believe that all modern citrus varieties and cultivars came from four original citrus fruits —mandarin, papeda, pomelo, and citron — which were growing wild in southeast Asia long before some unknown group of intrepid humans said “these are good, we should domesticate and breed them.”

Citron (Citrus medica) may be the oldest of these four, and Buddha’s hand citron (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis) is likely not that far removed from the original wild version of the fruit.

One of the fun things about growing food, is you can grow unusual things you can't usually find at the grocery store. Buddha's hand citron (left), Hibiscus sabdariffa calyxes (center), and makrut limes (right). Yum!

One of the many fun things about growing food is that you can grow unusual things you can’t usually find at the grocery store. Buddha’s hand citron (left), Hibiscus sabdariffa calyxes (center), and makrut limes (right). Yum!

What do Buddha’s hand citrons look like?

A Buddha’s hand citron fruit looks like a small, bright yellow octopus. Why are they called Buddha’s hands? The fruits also have a resemblance to human hands in various mudra meditation positions which is how they earned their name. 

Each Buddha’s hand citron cultivar is a little different: some have “open hands,” some have “closed hands.” There is also quite a bit of variability from fruit to fruit on the same tree. Our trees produce both open and closed hand fruit.

Pollinators, such as our neighbor's honeybees, LOVE our citrus flowers. Here's a native syrphid fly (a great pollinator and predator) foraging on our Buddha's hand flowers.

Pollinators, such as our neighbor’s honeybees, LOVE our citrus flowers. Here’s a native syrphid fly (a great pollinator and predator) foraging on our Buddha’s hand flowers.

Buddha’s hand citron fruit has long been used as a ceremonial offering at Buddhist temples. If you plan to offer one to Buddha at a temple, apparently the preference is for closed-handed fruit since it better symbolizes prayer and meditation.

A ripening Buddha's hand citron with a more open-handed form.

A ripening Buddha’s hand citron, with a more open-handed form.

What can you make with Buddha’s hand citron?

No, you don’t want to use Buddha’s hands citrons for fresh eating or to make lemonade. That’s because most cultivars, like ours, don’t have any pulp/juice inside. They’re all skin (flavedo) and pith (albedo).

However, compared to most other citrus varieties, the skin and pith of Buddha’s hand citron is sweet and mild, with barely any bitter.

So, what the heck do you do with such a fruit?

Lots, actually. They’re candied, pickled, made into jams, confections, teas, liqueurs, and perfumes. Buddha’s hands also smell absolutely amazing, which is why they’re also used as an air-freshener in Asia, where they’re considered a symbol of good luck, fortune, and happiness. (A few slices can scent a whole home.)

One Buddha’s hand citron recipe, three treats

Our favorite use for our fruit thus far? Buddha’s hand candy. 

One of the best things about this recipe is that it’s actually a 3-in-1 recipe because you’ll get sun tea, candy, and simple syrup by the time you’re done.

Top: the starting point - citron is sliced uniformly to about 1/3

Top: the starting point – citron is sliced uniformly to about 1/3″ thick to reveal the beautiful flower pattern. If it’s warm and sunny out, start by making these into sun tea, otherwise blanche them on the stove to help remove any bitter in the final candy. Bottom: the finishing point – Buddha’s hand citron candy.

buddah hand citron candy

Buddha's hand citron candy and simple syrup

Course: candy, Dessert, Drinks
Keyword: Buddha's hand citron, Buddha's hand citron simple syrup, citrus candy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 20 servings
Author: Aaron von Frank

Once you're done making Buddha's hand citron sun tea (6-10 hours), strain out the citron to make this delicious candy recipe, then save the left over simple syrup for drinks, sorbets, and more!


  • 5 citrons each of ours weighed about 8 oz
  • 5 cups organic sugar for cooking + 1 cup sugar for rolling/coating the finished fruit candy
  • 6 cups water for cooking


  1. Cut each citron into ~1/3" thick slices (see photo above) to reveal the internal flower shape. Use the "finger" pieces too.
  2. (Option A: Sun Tea) If it's warm (over 70 degrees) and sunny out and you'd like to make sun tea, place the slices into a jar and fill with water. Put jars in a sunny spot for the day. Strain out citrus to make candy and put "citron tea" into fridge until ready to drink (sweeten to taste).
  3. (Option B: No Sun Tea) If it's cold or you're in a rush for time, jump right in to candy-making mode. You'll need to blanche the citron to remove the bitter flavor. Put the citron slices into a pot and cover with water. Simmer (low boil) just long enough to make pieces translucent (30-40 minutes). Pour out water.
  4. Add 5 cups water back to the pot + sugar. Cook just until the temperature of the mix reaches 230 degrees F. A candy thermometer is REALLY helpful for this. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  5. Pour the citrus-flavored simple syrup from the pan into jars and refrigerate until you're ready to use them. Strain the citron pieces out and place them on cooling racks to dry for 24 hours.
  6. Pour organic pure cane sugar into bowl. Toss each piece of citron in sugar until thoroughly and uniformly coated. Place back on drying rack for 1-2 days. (Or put in a dehydrator for 6 hours.)
  7. If candied pieces are still tacky/sticky after initial sugar coating, toss them in sugar one more time and allow to dry for another 1-2 days on racks.
  8. Once dried, place in airtight container in refrigerator for long-term storage (more than 1 month). If you plan to eat them within a couple of weeks, you don't have to refrigerate them.


Where can you buy a Buddha’s hand citron tree?

If you’re like us, there’s zero chance you’re going to find a Buddha’s hand citron bush/tree for sale at your local plant nursery – and you’re probably not going to find the fruit at the grocery store. The good news is you can get a healthy Buddha’s hand citron tree delivered straight to your door from Hirt’s Nursery.

If you do start growing your own citrus, we highly recommend using organic methods.

  • Fertilizer – We only fertilize with compost, compost tea, liquid gold, or kelp emulsion.
  • Pest Control – In the winter when our plants are indoors and predatory insects aren’t around, we sometimes get spider mites or scales. If/when that happens, we use organic, OMRI listed products: neem oil, or mineral horticultural oil.
Buddha's hand citrus candy drying on cooling racks.

Buddha’s hand citrus candy drying on cooling racks.

Lastly, if you want to pick up a candy thermometer to help with this recipe or others like it, here’s a good one!


Other articles citrus-lovers will enjoy: 

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  • Reply
    November 17, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    Hubby works in the whole foods produce department, and they brought in a case of these over the weekend, so excited to get ahold of one! candied, diced, and soaked in brandy or sweet wine you can’t beat them in fruitcake over the holidays. So often I google for recipes with my odd produce (grown and purchased) and lo and behold, your blog pops up! Lucky to have a fellow resident of Greenville writing so much useful info. I had no idea we could grow them here, do you keep yours potted? are they more/ less hardy than Meyer lemons? Thanks for the recipe!

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      November 17, 2020 at 10:48 pm

      Hi Elizabeth! Glad to meet a fellow Greenvillian with similar interests. Great idea using brandied Buddhas hands in fruitcake! It’s fairly difficult to grow citrus here, but not as difficult as other fruits we grow like guavas, bananas, papayas, and a handful of other tropicals that are much more sensitive to cold temps. Most citrus cultivars can pretty easily take a frost or even a freeze. Our Buddhas hands are far less cold-hardy than other varieties we grow like tangerines, kumquats, blood oranges, and Meyer lemons. We grow all of them in pots and cart them into a heated garage on cold nights. Lot of work, but worth it to get piles of fresh, organically grown citrus each year. If you’d like to give citrus growing a shot in our Ag Zone, here’s an article that may help:

    • Reply
      November 20, 2020 at 9:14 am

      Hi Elizabeth – I work in Whole Foods in MA and I was thrilled to see some Buddha Hands in stock. I am making some candy and syrup today. Such an amazing treat and this is a great recipe and full of detailed information for such an elegant fruit.

      • Reply
        March 11, 2021 at 3:31 pm

        Ok, I followed your directions but after putting it in the fridge overnight the syrup is really hard! There’s no way I could strain it, it’s like a huge piece of hard candy. What did I do wrong?

        • Aaron von Frank
          March 12, 2021 at 10:28 am

          Hi Noe! Sorry for the unexpected outcome. Sounds like the sugar:water ratios must have been different from when we make it. Too much sugar relative to water and you end up with a really thick syrup or (apparently) even a candy. This may be due to having a different quantity of fruit, cooking out the water longer than we did, or perhaps even accidentally adding different quantities of water or sugar up front. Perhaps try bringing it to room temperature or giving it a warm water bath to get it back to a liquid state? From there, you can simply add more water so that it forms a syrup rather than a candy.

          One other remote possibility is that your fridge is really cold and the syrup is frozen? We got a new fridge recently and it was a bugger to get it set to a temperature where things didn’t freeze in our fridge.

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