Why is Orange Juice Yellow?


Have you ever wondered why commercial orange juice is yellow? “Who cares? As long as they taste like orange,” most people would say. It’s different for OJ lovers. This question is one we simply couldn’t sweep under the rug. We all grew up with the belief that it should be orange, so just imagine our disappointment when we pour that juice of its packaging and see yellow liquid. Why is this different? Why is orange juice yellow? Here are the different factors that give the packaged variety its color.


The Type of Orange


For packaged orange juice, manufacturers use a specific type of orange. The Valencia variety’s rind, flesh and juice have a different hue than others. When ripe, it does take on a bright orange hue but upon close inspection, you would notice streaks of yellow-green. It is never fully orange or yellow-orange. And although its flesh may be orange in color, as soon as it is squeezed, the juice it produces comes out as a yellow-green color instead of the orange we would normally expect from OJ.


Previously, manufacturers used the fruit’s navel variety. It is believed to have the best flavor among all types, plus they are easier to use for extraction. Aside from not having seeds, their rind is easy to peel. However, since they grow only during the winter season, juice makers opted for a better alternative, the Valencia orange.


Unlike the navel orange, the Valencia type thrives beyond the normal citrus season. It can be harvested quickly, contains a high level of juice, and has an amazing resistance to almost everything, from bad environmental conditions to chemicals used by growers. The FruitGuys says it is even capable of withstanding extreme heat conditions due to its high chlorophyll content, which is the cause of this type’s yellow-green streaks.


Although the Valencia orange has a thin rind that’s easy to peel during extraction, it is not seedless. Nonetheless, next to the navel variety, this type is considered by OJ lovers and manufacturers as perfect for making juice.


Thermal processing


So how does the Valencia’s yellow-orange juice turn yellow? The answer is through thermal pasteurization. This process is used by manufacturers to increase their product’s shelf life. In particular, it eliminates the microbes which cause spoilage over time.


A study published in Science Direct has proven this by experimenting with Valencia OJ. Researchers claimed that the change in color was significant after the juice went through thermal pasteurization. They actually monitored the compounds which gives the fruit its orange color. After processing, they observed a reduction in the level of these compounds. Physical changes were also apparent. The juice’s hue lost plenty of lightness and saturation, from yellow-orange it became yellow.


When in Doubt, Make Your Own Juice


It is normal to hesitate drinking the packaged variety especially when you are wondering why is orange juice yellow. After all, you are just looking out for your own health. So when you are in doubt, there is no better solution than to make your own juice. It is the only way you can ensure that your drink is safe from harmful chemicals.


There are also numerous ways to preserve your own fresh drink. The Modernist Cuisine suggest dipping your orange in water at boiling point for at least three minutes. This will kill the enzyme which causes homemade juice to spoil faster.


Natural preservatives can also help with retaining both hue and taste. You can use ascorbic or citric acid. Honey is also a great choice. However, if you are really keen on using any other ingredient on your juice, just a spritz from a newly-opened orange would do.


Do you have your own technique for preserving your fresh juice? Or do you know any other factor that could affect why is orange juice yellow? Do not hesitate to share! We would love to hear from you.