The Absolute Best Ways To Keep Fruit Salad Fresh

Fruit salads can be served up in a moment's notice or stored away for a quick midday snack. There are elevated fruit salads that have some unexpected herbs or boosted with protein-packed quinoa. The variations on this classic dish are endless. The problem most chefs face is how to keep their delectable fruit salad creations fresh.

As soon as many cut fruits' flesh is exposed to air, enzymes break down and oxidation occurs in a process called enzymatic browning, according to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Bananas turn brown and chopped pieces of apple become mushy quite fast. Particularly during warmer months when this treat is at its most satisfying, the fruit seems to race even quicker toward a soggy and sad finish line. Sure, you can wait until the last minute to slice those bright strawberries and pears for tonight's side dish, but are there any other tricks to help keep these delicate salads presentable when prepared earlier? Take a breath and read on because we have a few tips up our culinary sleeves for your dilemma.

Add citrus

You've squeezed lemon into creamy avocado spreads to keep them from browning, but have you considered doing the same for your fruit recipes? While coating sweet bananas in tart lemon juice sounds like it will end up in a bitter surprise, trust us: Citrus can be the fortifier your salad needs. The natural antioxidants found in citric acid protect the diced fruit, according to Everyday Health. Not to mention that citrus fruits add immunity-boosting health benefits to fruit recipes (via Healthline).

Can't quite convince yourself that a zesty lemon is a right addition to your carefully prepared salad? Lime, orange, and pineapple juice can also help extend the life of your fruits (via Taste of Home). Whether you decide to add extra pieces of fruit to your dish or squeeze fresh lime on top as a finisher, remember that even a small amount of citrus may give your fruit salad longer staying power. 

Include honey

A touch of sweetness to your fruit salad doesn't just taste good, but it may also prevent the unappealing browning that we're eagerly trying to avoid. Though oxidation is inevitable, a spoonful of sugar, simple syrup, or honey can be the sweet solution that you're looking for to keep fruit salad fresh. From making your own syrup in a saucepan or drizzling a honey-enhanced vinaigrette over beautifully cut pears, sugar acts as a fruit preservative (via Mind Over Munch).

If you're worried that added sweetener will amp up the sweet flavor profile of your summer side dish, you do have options. First, give your fruit salad a taste. If you find that it is too sweet, balance the excessive sugariness with herbs. The Washington Post recommends using culinary lavender, mint, or fresh basil. When the carefully prepared platter is perfected, store it in an airtight container in the fridge. 

Use dressing

Your grandmother's old-fashioned fruit salad recipes may use heavy creams and for good reason. According to Taste of Home, thicker dressings can keep fruit from oxidizing quickly. When you coat cut fruit in whipped or sour cream, you protect certain fruits like apples and watermelon from turning soft and mushy. According to Fed & Fit, yogurt can also be used to preserve a fruit salad in your refrigerator for up to five days. So now that leftover yogurt has a whole new purpose.

Set yourself up for hosting success by combining the yogurt with citrus, like in this charred citrus salad recipe. Just be sure to cover and store the salad properly. Remember, the goal here is to reduce exposure to air as much as possible.

If you're worried your planned fruit salad will turn gooey or mushy with added liquid, fold in bananas and other fragile fruits last, suggests Joyfully Mad. You can also store your dressing in a separate container and add a dollop or two right before serving. Fruit salads can be adjusted depending on your preferences, so don't be afraid to get creative and experiment to keep your salad fresh longer.