We love trying out new foods, and there are so many wild things out there to try! If you’re just as curious as us, you’re in the right place.
Some foods are cultural or local to places you don’t have access to, meaning they’re not “normal” options where you’re from. Rambutan is one such unique food, if you’re from the US.
It comes from a tree but it’s not something that you won’t just find in every grocery produce department like apples, oranges, and bananas. It’s a tropical fruit primarily found in Southeast Asia.
So, how do you eat rambutan? You can peel and enjoy them fresh, but there are several different ways that you can enjoy this fruit, such as adding it to a fruit salad or tropical cocktail, making smoothies or juice, and even adding it to curry.
While it might look scary to someone who isn’t familiar with it, rambutan is a deliciously juicy fruit that’s gaining popularity all over the world for a reason.
In this guide, we will share with you just how you can eat rambutan, give you some tips on different ways to enjoy this exotic fruit, and explain what it tastes like.
So stick with us to learn how to eat rambutan and more!
What Is Rambutan?
We touched on this just shortly, but let’s just break it down piece by piece.
We’ve included a reference photo for you, and as you can see, this alien-like fruit looks almost like a sea urchin – or a fuzzy strawberry.
Rambutan is a color similar to a strawberry and it’s a small, round fruit. The outer layer has little green fibers that stick out all over. This is the skin. When you take off that outer layer, rambutan is yellow on the underside of the skin and mostly a milky white color on the fruit inside.
In the US, we don’t see these at traditional grocery stores very often, but they come from Southeast Asia and are a popular snack food in a variety of tropical countries and locations.
Rambutan is harvested from December to January so they have a short season for harvest. However, from August to September, they actually produce a secondary harvest so people get two harvests a year out of their rambutan trees.
If you look at rambutan fruit and it appears scary thanks to those crazy fibers, don’t be alarmed. It might look awkward and poky, but the fibers are actually soft and the fruit is pretty tasty.
You just need to know what to expect and the best ways to enjoy it!
What Does Rambutan Taste Like?
People prepare rambutan fruit in a lot of different ways. You can simply enjoy it raw, but there are other really great ways to eat it as well. We will talk about those options here in a bit. But what does it taste like in the first place?
This is tropical fruit, so it will have the sweet, tangy, tropical notes in it that fruits like kiwi and pineapple have. This fruit is described as being both creamy and sweet. It has a slightly woody flavor to it, depending on how ripe it is as well.
If you’ve ever tasted lychee, the flavors are similar, but this has a note of creaminess to the flavor that lychee doesn’t have. Rambutan is soft and tender to eat. The best way to describe the flavor is a combination between a date, a pear, and a grape.
It’s sweet, it’s soft, and it’s tasty. It may have just a slight hint of bitterness in the flavor as well.
What Is The Texture Of Rambutan?
The texture of rambutan is pretty unique. The outside has a soft but protective shell that has a bunch of little hairs or fibers sticking out of it, kind of like an unpeeled chestnut.
While they look like they could be prickly, they are actually quite soft. This is the outer layer, a shell or a skin around the actual fruit.
When you look under the skin, you will find a soft and juicy center. The texture of that fruity center is compared to things like grapes for how it feels in your mouth.
It’s soft, juicy, and tender when you bite into it, even a bit fleshy. There is a seed inside of it as well and some people feel as though the area directly around the seed can sometimes be bitter.
How To Eat Rambutan Fruit
How exactly should you eat rambutan fruit when you decide to try it out? For starters, most people simply eat it fresh. They separate the inner fruit portion from the outer skin.
The outer skin can be a little tough to cut through, but it does feel soft to the touch. If you get a ripe rambutan, they are pretty easy to work with.
Rambutans are green while they are growing, but as they start to ripen, they change colors. They can be different colors, but ripe rambutan fruits will be orange, yellow, or red.
When they are harvested, those hairs on the outside are bright green. However, those spines do change colors and even harden just slightly after picking.
When the hairs change colors, it doesn’t mean the fruit is bad, but it could be getting close, so this is a good sign that it’s time to eat them before they go bad.
Before you eat the fruit, you will want to separate the skin.
Here’s how to eat a rambutan:
- Use a knife to make a cut along the skin, somewhere near the center of the fruit. Be sure to cut through the skin and the hairy exterior, but try not to pierce the flesh beneath.
- Once you’ve cut or torn the skin, go ahead and tear it apart. It tears pretty easily once you get it started. If you tear off just one side, the fleshy fruit inside will come out pretty easily.
- Be careful not to squeeze too hard, as the fruit is soft and juicy. You should notice that the fruit itself is either a pale yellow or white color and it might even look translucent.
- The fruit has a seed inside so you can slice it open and remove the seed, as it is inedible. Depending on which type of rambutan you have, the seed might slightly stick to the flesh of the fruit.
- Once you’ve removed the skin and the seed, you can just eat your rambutan. Pop it into your mouth or cut it in half if you like. You can also use it in recipes, and there are a lot of different options for enjoying rambutan in different ways.
If you’re looking to get a bit more experimental with eating rambutan, we’ve put together a list of ways to eat it below.
1. Fresh Rambutan
The very best way that you can enjoy rambutan is to just eat it fresh. It’s so juicy and flavorful that you can just pop them in your mouth and savor the flavor.
This is the most popular way to enjoy rambutan, although you can use it for a lot of other things as well.
If you like tropical fruits and grapes, you will definitely like eating these fruits fresh by themselves.
Worry less about how to turn them into something fancy, and let Mother Nature serve you her own simple recipe.
2. Tropical Cocktails
A lot of people like to use rambutan to make mixed drinks as well.
You can make a lot of different types of drinks and some places even use the rambutan skin as a garnish on mixed drinks. Other places use the fruit itself, out of the skin, as a garnish too.
Here are some great cocktail or mixed drink options to consider:
- Mojito with rambutan
- Rambutan martini
- Sweet and spicy rambutan cocktail
- Limoncello rambutan martini
- Rambutan vodka mixer
- Rambutan alcoholic lemonade
These are just some basic examples, but you can create just about any fruity or tropical cocktail that you want to.
3. Fruit Syrup
Another great use for rambutan is to create a sweet syrup out of it. You can use that syrup to make juices, smoothies, cocktails, or even toppings for dishes.
To make a syrup, we recommend that you simmer peeled rambutan with some aromatics or florals. You can also mix in other fruits if you want to create your own tropical vibe.
4. Fruit Salad
Rambutans can contribute to a really awesome fruit salad. Try making a tropical fruit salad and you will be disappointed!
Everyone loves a good fruit salad, but it’s always nice to change it up a bit and switch to tropical fruits rather than traditional melons, grapes, and berries.
There’s a really great recipe for rambutan marshmallow sugar cookies by Kelly Lynn’s Sweets and Treats that we’ve linked for you to check out.
If you get the chance, you should definitely try this recipe. It’s super delicious with all the sweetness and exotic tropical flavor of rambutan.
This simple recipe uses rambutan, marshmallows, lemon juice, powdered sugar, and a few other traditional baking ingredients.
6. Smoothies And Juices
Another popular use for rambutan is to make homemade smoothies or even homemade juices out of them. These juicy fruits add really great flavor to either of these options and they pair well with other fruits too.
Anything that pairs with a tropical fruit can be used to make juice or smoothies and the results will be delicious!
Our last food recommendation for rambutan is summer rambutan curry. The sweet flavor of rambutan makes a really great summertime dish.
The rambutan is paired with things like garlic, turmeric, kaffir, and chilies to create a sweet and spicy curry meal that is absolutely delicious.
Do You Eat Rambutan Skin & Seeds?
Both the peel and the seeds of rambutan are not edible. It’s not recommended that you eat these parts of the fruit.
You can roast rambutan seeds and potentially enjoy them that way, but you certainly should not eat them raw.
Both of these items are bitter in flavor and won’t even taste good. The common practice is to ditch them, and there is no evidence that they offer any benefits.
In fact, there is potential evidence that eating an excessive amount of the skin is potentially toxic, but there are very few studies to really know for sure on this topic.
Overall, we recommend that you don’t eat the skin or the seeds of rambutan fruit.
We do want to mention that it is not uncommon to roast the seeds. You don’t want to eat them raw for sure, but you might try roasting them if you are curious.
The downside to roasting them is that, again, more research needs to take place. Even roasted, they tend to be bitter and there is question that they may contain narcotic properties, so it’s really not a great choice.
Health Benefits Of Rambutan
Rambutan is thought to have some associated health benefits.
While there certainly is no guarantee, it’s always interesting to know what the potential health benefits are, or at least know the positive aspects of the fruit and whether it’s worth your efforts to consume regularly.
In this section, we will take a look at some of the anticipated health benefits and main nutrients of rambutan. Keep in mind, these benefits are not guaranteed but are possible based on the nutrients within.
1. Antioxidant Properties
Rambutans are loaded with antioxidants. They have some great compounds, vitamins, and minerals in them as well.
The antioxidant properties are thought to be beneficial for your digestive health. It’s high in fiber and most of the fiber is located in the flesh of the fruit. This flesh is actually insoluble, so when it passes through your gut, it does so undigested.
This makes the flesh insoluble fiber, which can aid in digestive health and help with both constipation as well as loose stool.
Some people feel as though it’s a great option for improving gut health, as it also contains short-chain fatty acids which can improve the gut and reduce inflammation.
2. Vitamin C
Rambutan is rich in Vitamin C. Vitamin C is also known for its antioxidant properties. Vitamin C can be beneficial for absorbing iron as well.
The positive thing about Vitamin C is that it promotes the health of your body’s cells and boosts your immune system.
Did you know rambutan contains copper? And copper actually has health benefits. Copper can be helpful for the growth and maintenance of cells that make up your bones, brain, and heart.
We hope that you find this guide to understanding how to eat rambutan to be a valuable resource.
It’s a unique fruit but it’s very tasty and a healthy option. If you like tropical fruits or sweet fruits, you really can’t go wrong with rambutan.
We invite you to take a look at the following question and answer section for some additional details that could be useful.
Can You Eat Rambutan Raw?
Absolutely! In fact, this is the most popular way to consume rambutan.
You will want to remove the skin and the seed before you eat it, but once those parts are out of the equation, rambutan is considered safe to eat raw and it’s pretty delicious this way as well.
Are Rambutan Seeds Poisonous?
They are not necessarily poisonous in small amounts, but they could be toxic in large doses. Rambutan seeds have been shown to contain saponin, which is considered toxic in large doses. These seeds are also known for having narcotic properties.
How Many Rambutans Should You Eat?
There isn’t necessarily a magic number. According to studies, 5-6 rambutan contains about 50% of the daily recommendation for Vitamin C.