I am not, particularly, a fruit person. I’ve always preferred veggies. But something about watching the TikTokkers on my For You Page glide their knives through watermelons, star fruits, and lychees is making me salivate.
They don’t just cut fruit. Many of the fruit videos I come across are instructional, demonstrating the best way to cut open common and uncommon fruits. But the most captivating videos don’t focus on the fruit at all. Instead, chatty vloggers detail their love lives and inner thoughts, filling my gossip-starved brain with doses of drama while they slice through their fruit of choice.
One of the TikTokkers who does this best is Kirsten Titus, otherwise known as @pepperonimuffin. She started cutting up fruit just to have something to do with her hands while she talked about her life online. That’s what most of her account, which she’s dubbed “a public diary,” focuses on.
“The very first fruit video I did, I wasn’t purposefully cutting the watermelon, I just so happened to be cutting the watermelon,” said Kirsten. “And it took me like four or five videos before I noticed they were doing well, that people thought it was funny. And then I was like OK, I’m just gonna keep doing this.”
Kirsten is from Hawaii, where she spent her summer with family. Being there gave her access to a plethora of fruits not steadily accessible to mainlanders, including dragonfruits, pomelos, and papayas. These are the fruits that her followers are most intrigued by, and the ones she will sometimes focus on rather than her personal stories, which range from conversations about her dating life to a breakdown of her job history.
“Big fruits help. And papayas are good because it’s so interesting to watch all the seeds come out,” she said. “It needs to be an interactive fruit.”
Lala, who goes by @lalaleluu on TikTok, makes similar videos, albeit almost accidentally.
“A lot of my TikToks [when I started making them] were life hacks. And someone asked me how to cut a watermelon, and that’s how it started,” said Lala. “It’s pretty boring to describe what I’m doing because they can literally see it, so I just started telling stories while I did it. And I don’t know what it is, but I know every time I take out a fruit, that video will get a lot of views.”
One thing is clear: There’s something mesmerizing and educational about watching someone slice fruit while chatting away. It gives viewers something to both watch and listen to, and it doesn’t matter that one has nothing to do with the other.
The evolution of fruit-slicing videos
Cutting fruit on screen isn’t a new phenomenon. In its first iteration, back before TikTok was even born, fruit videos often focused on how-tos for particularly difficult-to-slice produce. These videos found their home on YouTube, where Google search results for “fruit slicing on YouTube” yield more than 100,000 relevant videos (note: YouTube does not display total number of search results).
Search “fruit slicing” on YouTube today, and you’ll find tutorials dedicated to the best methods, made by food bloggers, chefs, and food publications. You can find tutorial videos from more than 10 years ago up to about a year ago, with people chopping everything from the everyday apple to a difficult durian. The most popular videos are platformed by culinary-focused publications like Epicurious, whose 2019 video featuring chef Frank Proto slicing a multitude of fruits has raked in more than 34 million views.
What links these earlier fruit videos together is who, generally, was behind them. The how-tos came from seasoned food industry professionals, or platforms that wanted to showcase these experts. Yes, there will always be the random at-home foodie who wants to show off their knife skills, but the most popular fruit videos were often made by those who really knew what they were doing. That is, until recently.
As our attention spans shrunk and short-form video took over, so did TikTok’s version of fruit-slicing videos. Sure, you can still find how-tos from well-practiced food pros teaching the ways of the knife on TikTok – like sushi chef @_mynameischo demonstrating the best way to artfully cut an avocado – but you can also just as often find regular ole people doing the same thing.
TikTok user @metemgeeblog demonstrates how to cut a pineapple.
Credit: Screenshot: TikTok/@metemgeeblog
Cutting out the eyes is essential!
Credit: SCREENSHOT: TIKTOK/@METEMGEEBLOG
Is there such a thing as too much instruction? I suspect the answer is yes. These days, some of TikTok’s most popular fruit-slicing videos don’t actually teach you anything. Viewers are drawn to the action itself, or conversation that isn’t about the fruit at all. Popular TikTokker @alexthefruitninja consistently chops up fruit for her fans, usually with no instruction beyond the visual element.
Some silent instruction on how to cut a kiwi.
Credit: Screenshot: TikTok/@alexthefruitninja
Credit: Screenshot: TikTok/@alexthefruitninja
That brings us to the talkative TikTokkers that have stolen my heart. Kirsten and Lala are perhaps the two biggest accounts that simply chat and chop, the action unrelated to the story, and this fits in with their vlog-like content. Watching these videos feels like you’re on FaceTime with a friend. They make big TikTokkers feel like real people, and the accessibility may be what makes these videos — and creators like Kirsten and Lala — so popular.
As I scrolled through my For You Page, I also found former Survivor contestant Lauren-Ashley Beck demonstrating how to cut open a coconut as she answered FAQs about the show. The FAQs are part of her consistent content, but the coconut isn’t always present. In this case, the fruit was relevant to Survivor as a show, but didn’t relate directly to the questions she was answering.
And there are plenty of seemingly regular people prepping their fruits while complaining about their days, or talking about Taylor Swift lyrics, or doing just about anything else. These videos may have emerged based on the popularity of fruit-cutting from creators like Kirsten and Lala, but more than likely, these regular people are just looking for something to occupy their hands while talking to the camera. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that they reached for a fruit. Or perhaps there’s something about fruit that is particularly alluring for the short-form audience. It is pretty darn satisfying to see a fruit go from whole to sliced in the space of a minute.
TikTok’s fruit video era has one small issue: It’s really hard to find them. Unlike tutorials, which are easily searchable with terms like “how to cut fruit,” the laid back talk-and-chop videos that are so fun to watch aren’t united by one search term or hashtag. It’s another mysterious underpinning of the TikTok algorithm, which has somehow figured out that I enjoy this intersection and continuously feeds them to me on my FYP.
OK, the gossip I get, but…why fruit?
The short answer? The reaction to watching these videos can mimic ASMR, which stands for “autonomous sensory meridian response.” ASMR is a type of bodily reaction to sensory triggers that ranges from a pleasant tingly feeling to a deeply relaxing, possibly sleep-inducing state.
There are entire accounts dedicated to weirdly satisfying fruit content; for instance, @cccase2000, who specifically peels and squishes fruits for viewers’ enjoyment. These textures, sounds, and visuals are all classic ASMR-inducing triggers.
“Our published research has shown that there are several brain regions activated during ASMR,” said Dr. Craig Richard, founder of ASMR University and host of the podcast Sleep Whispers. “One of these is the medial prefrontal cortex, which responds to social behaviors and is rich with oxytocin receptors. Oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, may be strongly released during ASMR and inducing the common feeling of relaxation and comfort.”
But to be honest, the original ASMR videos, like those that feature gooey substances or close-ups of people eating, can also be a little too much for some viewers. The combination of slicing through various fruit textures, the sound of a knife on a cutting board, and hearing about someone else’s life gives you the satisfying triggers for ASMR – repetitive sounds and the feeling of devoted attention – without the creepy crawly ones – intimate whispers or particularly messy textures on screen.
“When I first started [making the videos,] it’s because personally when I’m watching a TikTok, I like people to be doing two things at once,” said Kirsten. “You know that ADHD brain, it likes to see two things. You can get into the story, you can pay attention to the [fruit,] you can do both. You can decide.”
Fruit also often holds a special place in our hearts. Lauded as the healthy alternative to sugary sweets, they come in a vast variety, which usually means there’s something for everyone to love. For children of immigrants in particular, fruits can even go so far as be a love language.
Almost everyone has a personal connection to a fruit. And it’s just fun to see popular accounts interact with something you relate to, whether it’s fruit you want to learn to cut, a piece of produce that you’ve never tried, or the fruit your mom used to cut up for you.
“The fruit-slicing video is probably not a strong stimulator of ASMR, but it still can be beneficial to the viewer,” said Richard. “The viewer may still enjoy the simulated attention from the individual and also enjoy the story, which may lower stress hormones and release healthy brain chemicals.”
If you’ve found yourself doomscrolling a bit too much lately, let me recommend searching for Kirsten or Lala’s videos. If you enjoy them, you can start to train your TikTok algorithm to feed you more fruit chat by intentionally watching and finishing these videos, which should send your FYP the message that you want more. They leave me feeling much more relaxed than I’d like to admit, and I often walk away having inadvertently learned something new without having to exert much mental energy. Really, what more can you ask for these days than a good mental break?