What’s Rambutan, and How Do You Eat Them?

Maybe a food with a name that translates to “hairy fruit” wouldn’t be at the top of your shopping list, but underneath a rambutan’s urchin-like, vibrantly red and green peel is a juicy, sweet-tart tropical fruit. Read on to learn more about its background, flavor, and how the heck you crack one open.

What is Rambutan?

Image Credit: By Tu7uh – Own work (CC BY 3.0)

Rambutan is a tree native to the tropical climates of Southeast Asia. The tree’s golf-ball-sized fruit shares the same name, which, because of its peel, comes from the Malay word for hair. As a relative of lychee and longan (more on them here), peeled rambutans look very similar to those tropical fruits, showing a translucent white flesh and a seed in its middle.

What Does Rambutan Taste Like?

Alternately described as tart, sweet, creamy, and floral, a rambutan tastes like a lychee fruit with a little more complexity. It is supremely juicy and refreshing.

How Do You Eat Rambutan?

Image Credit: By Midori – Own work (CC BY 3.0)

Okay, you’re sold on the taste, but how do you get in there? The hairy spines on a rambutan’s shell aren’t sharp and can easily be bypassed with fingers or a knife. Pry it open and peel the skin away to reveal a smooth, pearly flesh surrounding a large seed. You can then enjoy the juice and the jelly-like fruit straight out of the skin.

Uses for Rambutan

It’s hard to argue with fresh tropical fruit, and this is the way rambutans are commonly eaten throughout Asia, Oceania, and increasingly, in other world regions. They muddle well into cocktails or beverages, and could put a fun twist on a lychee martini. Rambutans lend themselves well to experimentation, and could appear in salads (perhaps alongside dragonfruit and guava), or atop yogurt or ice cream and other desserts. They even show up in curries, like Saveur’s Summer Rambutan Curry.


Image Credit: Flickr user grenade (CC BY 2.0)

Rambutans contain some vitamins and minerals, especially manganese, and are a good source of fiber and hydration. Their thick, leathery skins keep the fruit juicy and according to The Daily Meal, make them a good way to keep hydrated under a hot sun.

Buying Rambutans

Most common throughout Asia and Australia, rambutans have made their way to other parts of the world. In the United States, they can be found in specialty produce stores or Asian markets. Delicate rambutans don’t keep longer than a day or two, but once you taste one, we bet they won’t last even that long.

Feature Image: Peggy cci from Pixabay

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