Popular in summer fruit salads, cantaloupe and muskmelon are a mainstay of poolsides and barbecues everywhere. Known for their sweet taste and beautiful orange color, these melons are dictionary-definition refreshing. And yet, while the two are used interchangeably, it turns out muskmelon and cantaloupe aren't one in the same, and according to some they're two completely different fruits. So, before you grab a melon baller and head to the kitchen, I'm here to settle the cantaloupe vs muskmelon debate once and for all. In this article, you'll learn exactly what each is, what makes them different, and how to showcase each at your next barbecue.

What is Muskmelon?

Muskmelons are a type of melon. Members of the Cucurbitaceae family, which includes watermelon, this species is known best for its palatable sweet taste. They typically have an orderly, netlike pattern with moderate ribbing, and can generally be found in supermarkets under the pseudonym "cantaloupe." That's right — the cantaloupe we devour every summer is actually a commercially grown muskmelon, but more on that later.

Muskmelons, thanks to their size and high water content, are jammed with sneaky health benefits, making them the perfect snack for a fiending sweet tooth. Rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene, muskmelon is known to improve vision. Moreover, muskmelon is a significant source of vitamin C, helping you fight a dreaded summer cold.

What is Cantaloupe?

melon, cantaloupe, sweet, vegetable, watermelon, honeydew melon
Nicole Witte

As it turns out, you probably haven't seen a true cantaloupe ever. Truthfully, you've been eating muskmelons masquerading as cantaloupes your entire life. I know, this betrayal is catastrophic. Take as much time as you need to let it sink in. 

A real cantaloupe is a European Cantaloupe, which is not grown commercially in the United States. Its rind has a harder texture and lacks the ornate, distinct netting endemic to muskmelon. Cantaloupe is harder to grow and has a more subtly sweet flavor than its commercial counterpart, but still retains all the same health benefits.

Cantaloupe vs Muskmelon

Besides the subtle difference in appearance and taste, muskmelon and cantaloupe are basically the same fruit, which is why the produce industry has been able to "Parent Trap" us this entire time. 

But, if we must get technical, according to a professor at the University of Illinois, all cantaloupes are muskmelons, but not all muskmelons are cantaloupes. Muskmelon is simply an overarching term used to describe melons sweet in flavor and fragrance. These include honeydew, canary melons, and yes, cantaloupe.

When to Use Each

melon, watermelon, sweet, vegetable, salad, cantaloupe, berry
Leah Valenti

Seeing as we've been eating the pair interchangeably for years, you can swap muskmelon for cantaloupe in any recipe. Try this Cantaloupe Blackberry Basil Salad for a refreshing summer snack that packs an aesthetically pleasing punch. For an appetizer that will definitely up your dinner party game, try these Melon Basil Summer Rolls. These spring rolls are the perfect mix of fruit and vegetables and are fresh enough to keep you coming back for more.

Looking to add cantaloupe to your dinner mix? Try this simple Cantaloupe and Goat Cheese Salad as a side dish. Its refined yet sweet flavor will pair well with any main course from salmon to chicken. 

The bottom line? Cantaloupe and muskmelon are technically the same fruit, at least according to your local grocer.