What oranges are used for orange juice?

Orange juice is a breakfast staple for many people. That refreshing, tangy liquid is how millions start their day. But have you ever wondered what specific types of oranges are used to make all the orange juice we drink? There are actually quite a few different varieties that go into making fresh squeezed OJ.

Overview of Orange Varieties for Juice

Oranges come in many types, but not all are ideal for juicing. The best orange juice comes from varieties that contain a lot of juice and have a good balance of sweetness and acidity. The most common types used for commercial orange juice production are Valencia, Hamlin, Pineapple, and Navel oranges.

Here’s a quick rundown of the top orange varieties used for juicing:

  • Valencia – Known as the “juice orange”, Valencia oranges are widely used for juice and have few seeds.
  • Hamlin – Smaller oranges that produce a tart, flavorful juice.
  • Pineapple – Sweeter juice with a distinctive pineapple-like flavor.
  • Navel – Sweet, seedless oranges that produce juice with a rich orange color.

Beyond those major varieties, some other types like Jaffa, Parson Brown, and Marrs are also used in certain regions. Now let’s take a closer look at each of the main orange varieties and what makes them good for juicing.

Valencia Oranges

If you could say there’s one orange variety tailor-made for juice production, it would be the Valencia. Valencia oranges are considered a “summer” orange, meaning they are harvested between March and June in peak season. Their peak juicing season lasts from June through October.

Grown extensively in Florida and California, Valencia oranges have a number of characteristics that make them ideal for juicing:

  • Thin, smooth rind that’s easy to peel
  • Pale orange color interior with light orange flesh
  • High juice content and yield
  • Few seeds
  • Sweet flavor with mild acidity

Valencias contain about 15-20% juice content by volume. When squeezed, they produce a pale orange colored juice. It has a mild, sweet citrus taste balanced with moderate acidity. The juice generally has a higher sugar content than other varieties. While not as flavorful on their own, Valencia juices blend well with other varieties to make well-balanced commercial orange juice.

Hamlin Oranges

Hamlins are a smaller orange variety commonly grown in Florida. They are actually a hybrid created by crossing a pineapple orange and Valencia orange. Hamlins are harvested from November to March.

Here are some of the traits that make Hamlin oranges popular for juicing:

  • Small to medium round shape
  • Smooth, thin rind
  • Abundant juice content
  • Few to no seeds
  • Bright orange pulp
  • Tart, acidic, and flavorful juice

The juice content of Hamlins ranges from around 22-28%. They produce a bright orange colored juice with a tart, sweet-sour flavor. The acidic taste of Hamlin juice adds a nice tanginess when blended with milder Valencia and mid-season orange juices. A higher acid content also makes Hamlin juice very stable for processing, canning, and freezing.

Pineapple Oranges

As the name suggests, Pineapple oranges have a tropical, pineapple-like flavor. They are smaller oranges grown primarily in Florida. Pineapples are harvested between late October through December.

Here are the main characteristics of Pineapple oranges:

  • Oblong round shape
  • Thin, smooth rind
  • Rich in juice
  • Few or no seeds
  • Pale yellow internal color
  • Sweet, aromatic pineapple/citrus flavor

Pineapple oranges have a medium to high juice content of around 22-26%. The juice produces a light golden color. It has a super sweet flavor with tropical notes reminiscent of pineapple and mango. A small amount of Pineapple orange juice adds nice complexity to Valencia and Hamlin orange juices. Too much can make the flavor overly sweet.

Navel Oranges

Navel oranges are one of the most common eating oranges. They are also used for juicing, especially in California and Australia. Navels are actually seedless oranges that derive from a mutation with a conjoined twin fruit opposite the stem, forming a navel-like shape on one end. They have a winter harvest from November to April.

Here are the main traits of Navel oranges:

  • Medium large round fruit with navel on one end
  • Thick, bright orange rind
  • Sweet and juicy pulp
  • Seedless
  • Rich orange colored juice
  • Mild sweet flavor

Navel oranges contain around 15-20% juice. They produce a bright, carotene-rich orange colored juice with a very sweet, mild flavor. Navel juices have low acidity. They can lack depth of flavor on their own, so are often blended with other varieties. Just a small amount of Navel orange juice adds nice color and sweetness to juice blends.

How Oranges are Grown for Juice Production

Orange groves in the major growing regions like Florida and California supply oranges year-round for both eating and juice purposes. The varieties are strategically planted so oranges are continuously ripening throughout the seasons.

Groves may contain a single variety like Valencia planted in blocks. But they often contain a mixture of several late, mid, and early season orange varieties. The timing of harvests are planned so there is always a ready supply of juice oranges.

For example, early season varieties like Pineapple and Hamlins will be picked starting in October. Mid-season oranges like Navels follow through the winter months. Valencias take over from late spring through summer as other varieties become depleted.

Specialized harvesting machines pass through the groves shaking the tree canopies. The ripe oranges fall onto conveyors and are collected into bins. They are promptly trucked to local juicing facilities to extract the maximum fresh juice yield.

How Orange Juice is Made Commercially

To produce commercial orange juice, oranges go through an industrial scale juicing and pasteurization process. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Oranges are washed and sorted at the juice plant facility.
  2. Oranges pass through juicing machines that squeeze and extract the juice. This may involve crushing, centrifugal spinning, or tube squeezing.
  3. The fresh squeezed juice is screened to remove excess pulp and solids.
  4. Juices from different orange varieties are blended in large tanks to achieve the desired flavor and consistency.
  5. The raw orange juice is pasteurized by heating briefly to a high temperature to kill microorganisms and enzymes.
  6. The orange juice is homogenized to break down the pulp to a consistent size.
  7. Juice is chilled, stored, packaged, and shipped out for distribution.

The process produces a consistent, shelf-stable orange juice product year-round. While not exactly like fresh squeezed, the flavor is closer than artificial orange drinks. The blending of juices from different orange varieties throughout the seasons helps maintain a relatively consistent taste.

Nutrition Content of Orange Juice Varieties

All orange varieties contribute their own unique blend of nutrients to orange juice. Here’s a look at how some of the main orange types compare in certain key nutritional values (per 100g of juice):

Orange Variety Calories Sugars Vitamin C Folate Potassium
Valencia 42 8.4g 50mg 30mcg 170mg
Navel 47 9.1g 70mg 40mcg 200mg
Hamlin 51 12.2g 55mg 20mcg 180mg
Pineapple 60 14.3g 45mg 25mcg 190mg

As you can see, while the main orange varieties have a similar nutrient makeup, there are some differences. Navel oranges tend to be highest in vitamin C. Valencia and Hamlins offer the least sugars. Pineapple has the most calories and sugars due to its super sweet flavor.

Ideal Orange Juice Blends

To make the best tasting and most nutritious orange juice, manufacturers blend the juices from different orange types together. This helps balance out flavor profiles and nutritional values. It also ensures consistent quality since different oranges have peak seasons.

Here are some ideal orange juice blends:

  • Summer Blend – 60% Valencia, 20% Hamlin, 10% Pineapple, 10% Navel
  • Fall Blend – 40% Hamlin, 30% Pineapple, 20% Valencia, 10% Navel
  • Winter Blend – 60% Navel, 20% Valencia, 10% Hamlin, 10% Pineapple
  • Spring Blend – 50% Valencia, 20% Navel, 15% Hamlin, 15% Pineapple

Adjusting the percentages of the different orange varieties through the seasons helps maintain a relatively stable overall flavor and nutrition profile for orange juice. More mild, sweet Valencia and Navel oranges typically form the majority of the blends.

Specialty Orange Juices

Beyond the common orange juice blend, some specialty juices highlight specific orange varieties. Here are a few to look for:

  • Hamlin Juice – 100% juice from tart Hamlins, sometimes sold as champagne or acidless orange juice.
  • Pineapple Juice – 100% Pineapple orange juice with a tropical flavor.
  • Valencia Juice – Single variety Valencia juice known for its mild flavor.
  • Navel Juice – Sweeter juice that showcases the Navel orange flavor.
  • Blood Orange Juice – Made from blood oranges with a rich red color and raspberry notes.

Specialty orange juices allow you to taste the distinct character of juices from specific orange varieties. They can be fun to try if you want to experience something different from standard blended orange juice.

Making Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice at Home

For the very freshest orange juice, many people prefer to squeeze it themselves at home. This lets you control the flavor and tailor the juice to your liking.

Here are some tips for making fresh squeezed OJ at home:

  • Choose ripe, thin-skinned juicing oranges like Valencia, Hamlins, or Navels. Meyer lemons also work.
  • Wash the oranges. Roll them on a hard surface to soften them up before squeezing.
  • Cut the oranges in half or quarters. Use a citrus juicer or reamer to squeeze out the juice.
  • For sweeter juice, soak oranges in hot water for 5 minutes before juicing. For more sourness, juice them right away.
  • Experiment with blending juices from different orange varieties to find a flavor balance you love.
  • Strain the juice through a mesh sieve to remove excess pulp if desired.
  • Enjoy the fresh orange juice right away. Store any extra juice in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days.

Home juicing lets you take advantage of seasonal oranges at their peak. Go ahead and get creative with your own orange juice blends!


Orange juice owes its popularity to the complementing qualities of different orange varieties used in the blends. Valencia, Hamlin, Pineapple, and Navel orange juices each contribute their own flavors, nutrition, acidity, sweetness, and color. Understanding what goes into the juice you drink not only satisfies curiosity, but helps appreciate the subtle complexities in every glass.

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