What Are Cotton Candy Grapes, Exactly?

They’re a sweeter, juicier variety of the fruit that is popping up in grocery stores around the country.

Published May 26, 2023.

I love wandering grocery store aisles and looking for new items I haven’t tried before. That’s how I first encountered Sumo citrus. A few weeks ago, I was surprised to find Cotton Candy grapes at my supermarket. I’ve always heard about them, but I could never find them because of their short growing season (from August to September).

But as these grapes have gained popularity, farmers have started to grow them in other parts of the world, allowing them to be stocked in grocery stores for more months out of the year. With Cotton Candy grapes finally within reach, I took the plunge.

Would they really taste like cotton candy? 

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What do Cotton Candy grapes taste like?

Yes—they really do taste like cotton candy. It’s truly remarkable how identical they taste to the classic spun-sugar treat. When you bite into one, you’re instantly flushed with a cotton candy flavor vaguely like that of a superripe, peak-season honeydew. The grapes have almost no tartness, unlike their more traditional cousins, and they have a crisp, firm texture and are supremely juicy.

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How do you grow Cotton Candy grapes?

Horticulturist David Cain is responsible for the creation of these fascinating grapes. It took him and his team at International Fruit Genetics, a company based in Bakersfield, California, years of trial and error—almost 100,000 tries—to achieve this unique flavor. Cain relied on crossbreeding different grape varieties to create the plant that would eventually become a supermarket superstar.

“When you go to the supermarket, there’s like 15 kinds of apples—Fuji, Pink Lady, Gala, Braeburn,” Cain said in an interview with NPR. “We want to give consumers the same array of flavors for grapes.”

Are Cotton Candy grapes nutritionally different from regular grapes?

Developed for the California company Grapery (which also sells a grape that tastes like gumdrops), these little spheres of sweetness are just as good for you as regular grapes, with a slightly higher sugar content. A half-cup serving has about 50 calories and 14 grams of sugar.

When are Cotton Candy grapes available?

As I mentioned, these grapes used to be available only in the late summer, when they were harvested from the Grapery’s groves in California. But now that they are grown in other countries, such as Mexico and Peru, these grapes are available at grocery stores from around April through June, before returning later in the summer. I found them for around $4 a pound.

They may sound gimmicky, but give them a try. They truly are nature’s candy.

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