Blood Orange Sorbet: A splash of color in winter

While we grow a lot of our own citrus at Putney Farm, we do not get warm enough in the Bay Area to grow one of our favorites, Blood Oranges. At our farmers market, we do get Moro blood oranges from the lower central valley, usually from about 100-150 miles away. Local enough. 

And certainly good enough. Blood oranges are a fantastic ingredient and worth the time to seek out. The color can be a beautiful, intense, reddish purple that just pops visually. It screams FLAVOR, and it does not disappoint. The juice has distinct raspberry overtones along with traditional orange flavors and sometimes features a pleasant tartness. While I love pure, sweet orange flavor, the added complexity (and beauty) of the blood orange really shines in cocktails and sorbet. Blood orange sorbet may be one of the best “bang for your buck” desserts you can make at home- and it is easy to make.

The sorbet recipe we use is loosely based on a David Lebovitz recipe / guideline that is an excellent starting formula for many sorbets (see here). We add a bit of lemon for complexity, adjust on sugar to taste and also suggest using Sauternes (if you happen to have it) as the optional alcohol ingredient instead of Champagne (a small amount of alcohol improves texture). Even in very small amounts you may note the “tang” of the Sauternes, this is mostly for “foodie” fun, but it tastes good, so why not?  I also have a note on being gentle in the juicing process that makes a big difference in flavor.

We serve blood orange sorbet by itself, with a splash of champagne or sparking wine in more formal events, or with chocolate cake as a substitute for ice cream. This deserves special mention. Carolyn makes a very rich, moist and dark chocolate cake but adds a very tangy, not too sweet, cream cheese frosting. Adding the blood orange sorbet instead of ice cream provides the same coolness, but the blood orange sorbet also adds brightness, complements the chocolate and combines with the cream cheese frosting for a “creamsicle” note. It just rocks. Cake recipe coming soon. 

If you can’t get blood oranges locally, they are also imported from Italy and Israel and can be found at many gourmet groceries and produce markets. If there is an ingredient where you may want to ignore “carbon footprint” this might be it.

Blood Orange Sorbet:

Notes Before You Start:

–       The recipe will work for any volume of juice, but we assume 2 cups. Adjust as needed, as it is a straightforward conversion.

–       There are a few different varieties of blood orange (more here). But the general flavor profile that features a berry note is consistent throughout. Some blood oranges’ skin and flesh are more red than others, but the recipe will work regardless. Moro blood oranges are the most colorful.

–       Be gentle when juicing the oranges, particularly if using an electric juicer. We have an awesome electric juicer but if we press too hard we grind tiny amounts of bitter pith into the juice. It seems trivial, but leaving a bit of juice in the fruit and avoiding pith makes for dramatically better flavor. Be gentle, give up a few tablespoons of juice to get a few cups of perfect flavor.

What you get: A sweet but tangy citrus sorbet that is good by itself or in combination with richer flavors. This is a beautiful dessert that will impress your guests.

What you need: An ice cream maker is required equipment. We use our Kitchen-Aid attachment, but any good home or pro ice cream maker will work. A reamer or juicer is a big help but not required. Sauternes or Champagne are nice ingredients (if somewhat rarefied) but 1/2 teaspoon of vodka will also do just fine. The alcohol is mostly here to soften texture, any extra flavor is a bonus. Also don’t use any more alcohol than recommended, as it can retard freezing if you add too much.

How Long? 15-30 minutes to juice the oranges and make the mixture, faster with a juicer. 2+ hours to chill the mixture before churning. 10-20 minutes to churn the sorbet (depending on your ice cream maker). 1-3 hours in the freezer to harden. The sorbet is best the same day but can be kept a few days in the freezer, just let it soften a few minutes before serving. If you make it after lunch it will be ready for dinner.


–       2 cups of freshly squeezed blood orange juice. 10-15 blood oranges, depending on size. Juice the fruit at room temperature to get more juice.

–       Sugar. ¼ cup of sugar per cup of juice, PLUS sugar to taste based on sweetness of juice.

–       4 tablespoons Champagne, sparking wine or Sauternes.

–       2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (juice of ½ a lemon)


  1. Juice blood oranges into a large bowl or container.
  2. Place sugar and just enough orange juice in a small non-reactive saucepan under medium low heat. Stir until completely dissolved. Add juice and sugar mixture back to bowl with rest of juice. Taste- it should be openly sweet, if not add more sugar.
  3. Add lemon juice and Champagne / Sauternes (if using) to blood orange mixture. Stir.
  4. Chill thoroughly- the mixture needs to be cold to churn properly.
  5. Freeze in your ice cream maker.
  6. Eat immediately or harden in freezer before serving.

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