Cantaloupes are a popular and delicious type of melon fruit enjoyed around the world. Their sweet, refreshing flavor and soft, juicy texture make them a favorite summer treat. But cantaloupes aren’t the only melon on the market. There are actually several other types of melons that share similarities in taste, texture, appearance, and nutrition with cantaloupe.
Melons Related to Cantaloupe
Cantaloupes belong to the Cucurbitaceae family of plants, which includes melons, squash, and cucumbers. More specifically, cantaloupe is a type of netted or reticulated muskmelon. This means it has a net-like, textured rind. Other common melons in the muskmelon species include:
- Santa Claus
These muskmelons are all related to cantaloupe and share some similarities, though each has its own unique qualities. For example, honeydew has a smooth, pale rind unlike the netted cantaloupe. But its flesh is still juicy and sweet like cantaloupe.
In terms of appearance, cantaloupe has an oval or round shape with a rugged, tan rind covered in net-like fibers. The rind ranges in color from pale green to brown. Underneath lies the sweet, bright orange flesh.
Honeydew, Crenshaw, and other muskmelons look quite different on the outside. But when cut open, their flesh also ranges from pale orange to deep salmon in color. The melons tend to be round or oblong in shape.
Cantaloupe and other muskmelons have a smooth, creamy texture when ripe. The flesh is juicy and soft, but still firm enough to slice. There is a succulent mouthfeel and easy chew.
Some variances in texture exist between types of muskmelon. For example, Crenshaw melons tend to be drier while honeydews are more moist and tender. But in general, the muskmelon family shares a similar lush, juicy texture when ripe.
One of the most defining features of cantaloupe is its sweet, perfumed flavor. It has a rich, mellow taste with notes of both honey and fresh citrus. Other muskmelons mimic this sweetness while also offering unique flavor profiles.
- Honeydew has a cooler, more floral sweetness.
- Crenshaw provides a spicy sweetness.
- Casaba is milder tasting.
- Persian has a rosy sweetness.
So while not identical, the spectrum of flavors among the muskmelon group are comparable to cantaloupe, especially in their sugar content.
Cantaloupe and other muskmelons contain a similar nutritional profile. They are excellent sources of vitamins and antioxidants. Some of the main nutrients found in cantaloupe and its cousins include:
As you can see, cantaloupe and honeydew provide high amounts of vitamin C and other valuable micronutrients. The full lineup of muskmelons delivers similar benefits.
Non-Muskmelon Comparable Fruits
Outside of the muskmelon group, there are a few other fruits that can be considered comparable to cantaloupe:
- Watermelon – Also in the Cucurbitaceae family, watermelon shares a similar shape, texture, and juiciness as cantaloupe. It is lighter in flavor but still provides a sweet, thirst-quenching quality.
- Papaya – This tropical fruit mimics some of the floral aroma notes and vibrant orange hue of cantaloupe flesh. It’s Smooth, supple texture is reminiscent of ripe melon.
- Mango – Also tropical, mango offers a creamy mouthfeel and exotic sweetness that evokes muskmelon. Unripe mangos even have a similar greenish rind.
- Peach – The soft, juicy flesh and sweetness of a ripe peach can be comparable to cantaloupe. Peaches pair well with melon in fruit salads for this reason.
The Best Cantaloupe Substitutes
When it comes to finding the closest match for cantaloupe, looking within the muskmelon family provides the best results. The chart below ranks a few top alternatives, based on the criteria of appearance, texture, taste, and nutrition:
As you can see, the melons in the muskmelon group take the top spots. Honeydew is the closest match, offering the same juicy texture, orange flesh, and high sweetness. Crenshaw and Santa Claus follow closely in similarity. Watermelon and papaya rank the highest among non-melon options.
Tips for Finding a Good Cantaloupe Substitute
When shopping for a cantaloupe alternative, keep the following tips in mind:
- Choose fully ripe, in-season melons for the best flavor.
- Look for a smooth rind free of major blemishes.
- Opt for heavyweight melons which indicate juiciness.
- Sniff the blossom end for a fresh, sweet scent.
- Press gently on the rind to feel slight softness.
With so many delicious varieties to choose from, finding a quality cantaloupe substitute is easy. Any sweet melon can provide those familiar juicy and refreshing flavors you love. Honeydew, Crenshaw, and other muskmelons are your best options to replicate the taste, texture, and appearance of ripe cantaloupe.
In summary, the fruits most comparable to cantaloupe are other members of the muskmelon family, including honeydew, Crenshaw, and Santa Claus melons. These share a similar shape, orange flesh, smooth yet supple texture, sweet aroma, and high nutrient content. Watermelon and tropical fruits like papaya and mango can also substitute for cantaloupe in some uses based on their flavor, juiciness, or appearance. But for the closest match, stick with cantaloupe’s delicious melon cousins. Choosing ripe, in-season melons and properly storing them will ensure you can enjoy their full cantaloupe-like flavors.