The fresh e-commerce industry has seen a sudden and substantial rise since the outbreak of COVID-19. The rapid development of this industry calls for a comprehensive and systematic review of its research status, hotspots and future trends, which will have significant implications for researchers in related fields. This paper first conducts a current situation analysis of the core literature on fresh e-commerce retrieved from four databases – CNKI, CSSCI, Wanfang and VIP – to categorize the research status of fresh e-commerce in three dimensions: the year of publication, article sources, and distribution of subjects. CiteSpace is then used to perform a bibliometric analysis of the data and to create visualized knowledge maps. The results show that the research on fresh e-commerce can be divided into three stages: rapid development (2012-2015), exploration and transformation (2016-2019), maturity and upgrade (2020-present). At each stage, the research evolves toward diversity and maturity with policy developments and changes in the external environment. Cold chain logistics, business models, freshness-keeping of products and e-commerce are ongoing research hotspots in fresh produce e-commerce, while later studies focus more on the transformation and upgrade of products, logistics, distribution and platforms to better serve consumers’ consumption habits and environmental requirements. This study provides valuable insights for researchers and enterprises who are engaged in the industry and for those who are interested in the development of fresh e-commerce in China.