Lychee and rambutan are two fruits that are often confused with one another. Both their appearance and taste can be similar, and at times it might seem a little bit difficult to tell the difference between the two.
Most of us are familiar with lychees, which are an exotic fruit commonly found in Asia, but which is also grown across the world. The rambutan is a close relative of the Lychee and is also widely used in Asia.
So, what is the difference between lychee and rambutan? Lychee is slightly smaller and sweeter than rambutan and has smoother skin, whereas rambutan is about the size of a golf ball, a bit more acidic tasting, and has hair-like spines covering its skin.
Keep reading to find out all the differences between lychee and rambutan, so you can better tell the two apart, and enjoy them in the best way possible!
What Is A Lychee?
Lychee is a popular fruit that many people are familiar with. It grows on the tropical lychee tree, which is native to China. As the popularity of lychee grew, the fruit began to be cultivated in many tropical areas around the world.
Lychee is a small round fruit that has a skin with a pink-red-brown hue, which is rough and quite hard.
This is not edible, but once peeled away, the fruit has a wonderful white, translucent flesh that is juicy, sweet, and incredibly refreshing.
Lychee flesh has a beautiful floral aroma, and the juiciness and mild sweetness are what make it such a popular fruit in the summer.
The skin of lychee is fairly easy to peel away, but only once the fruit is ripe. Once the skin has changed from a green to a deep red or pink color, you know that it is time to enjoy the fruit!
What Is A Rambutan?
Rambutan is a tropical fruit, grown on a tree of the same name.
It is an odd-looking fruit, with skin that can be either neon green or dark orange, featuring hair-like spines all over the surface. It is roughly the size of a golf ball and is round or oval in shape.
Once peeled, a rambutan has white, juicy flesh. This has a juicy and sweet taste, with a slight hint of acidity.
The best time and place to find rambutan would be in Thailand, between the months of June and September every year. This is when they are grown the best, and when they are most readily available.
You should only eat the flesh of the rambutan, as the seed and the skin are not great for eating!
Difference In Appearance
The size, color, and texture of the fruits are both unique, and knowing the difference will help you determine which is which just by having a look!
The first noticeable difference is that rambutan is larger than lychee. Rambutan is around the size of a golf ball, and lychee is smaller than this.
Rambutan and lychee also have different outer skins. Rambutan has a red outer skin, which features thin prongs all around the shell, which can be either green or orange, or somewhere in-between in color.
The skin of lychee is thinner. It is a rough surface but does not have the prongs like rambutan, and is a deeper red color, which can also be slightly brown.
The skin of lychee feels quite hard and dry, but it is quite thin, making it easy to peel away.
The skin of both rambutan and lychee have very unique appearances, but the flesh of both fruits look more similar. Both have white flesh that holds a large seed or pit in the middle.
People often confuse the two fruits when looking at the flesh, as it is very difficult to tell the white flesh apart!
Without being able to tell the difference between the two peeled fruits, and if the size of the fruit isn’t helping, you will have to give them both a taste to try to determine which fruit it is.
As both fruits ripen, they turn from a green to a dark red, almost brown. You will also battle to open either one if they are not ripe, as the skin is hard and more difficult to peel away.
Once lychee or rambutan is red and darker in color, you should be able to peel away the skin easily!
Difference In Taste
Although the flesh of rambutan and lychee look similar, they both have their own distinctive taste. While both do have a fresh tropical taste, you can still tell the difference between the two with just a bite!
The flesh of a lychee has a wonderfully crisp bite and has a sweet, floral taste. Sometimes lychee can have a slight tang to it, but the sweetness balances this out wonderfully.
It is a great fruit to have in the summer, and the juicy flesh is great for hot summer days!
The taste of rambutan is slightly different from that of lychee. Rambutan has a creamier taste, which carries a much richer flavor. The sweetness of rambutan plays perfectly with the sourness that it can sometimes have as well.
The creaminess of rambutan is what helps you tell the difference between the two fruits. Both can be eaten as is, and both taste delicious when peeled and eaten, but both can also be used to make desserts and beverages too.
Crisp, sweet and tart lychee and creamy, rich, and sweet rambutan are both perfect fruits to enjoy in the summer months, as they both have that tropical flavor and refreshing taste that only some fruits can give you on a hot day!
Difference In Cultivation
While the two fruits are considered cousins, they originated from different areas in Asia.
Lychee was first grown in Fujian and Guangdong in China, whereas rambutan was grown in the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia. Both are tropical fruits that are commonly found in the summer.
There is a difference in where the two grow best, and how they are cultivated.
Lychee grows best in areas with high humidity and rainfall, in a frost-free tropical climate. Whereas rambutan grows best in deep soil with sandy loam, on a hilly terrain that offers good drainage.
Lychee is easier to grow, and this has seen it spread all over the world to other subtropical regions. Rambutan has not spread too much outside of Southeast Asia, only being found to grow in Central America.
So both are tropical fruits grown mainly in Asia, but both require different climates and soil to be able to grow well.
These requirements are possibly why one has been able to spread around the world more, and the other is still mainly found only in Asia.
Difference In Nutritional Content
The great thing about both rambutan and lychee is that both taste absolutely delicious, and are still really great for you.
Both are packed with a range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which we could all do with a little more of!
The nutritional composition of the two fruits, the fiber, calories, and sugar content, are very similar, making both a great fruit to include in your diet when the weather warms up.
Rambutan is a standout when it comes to health benefits. It is believed that rambutan can help decrease the risk of diabetes, as it has considerably low sugar content.
It has a high amount of vitamin C too, which can help boost the immune system.
Lychee has a good vitamin C content, as well as containing vitamin B-complex, phytonutrient flavonoids, and manganese, magnesium, copper, folate, and iron. There is also a high antioxidant content which helps to prevent early aging.
Both fruits are a great source of essential vitamins and minerals, and with them tasting so great as well, there is no reason you shouldn’t enjoy them!
How To Eat Lychee And Rambutan
There is a difference when it comes to how you prepare and eat lychee and rambutan. Both can be eaten fresh or added to smoothies, salads, beverages, or desserts, but the preparation of each is slightly different.
When preparing lychee, you need to first peel away the skin. You can try and break the skin using your fingers, but if this does not work, you could try making a small incision using a knife. Ripe lychee should be able to be peeled easily.
Slowly peel the skin away with your fingers, trying not to damage any of the white flesh inside. Once the skin has peeled away completely, you can slowly open up the white flesh and remove the black pit from the middle.
The lychee can then be eaten as is, enjoying the juicy, tangy and sweet white flesh, or it can be prepared to be added to a variety of dishes and drinks, whether sweet or savory!
Rambutan takes a little more work to prepare before eating, but it is still fairly simple.
First, you will need to cut a slice into the skin on the rambutan. Make sure to hold it down firmly on a flat surface.
Place your knife over the middle of the fruit, scoring it along the skin as though you were cutting the fruit in half – but make sure to only cut the skin and not the flesh.
Use this sliced section to peel away the skin using your fingers. Some people use their teeth to open the rambutan, and while this is fine as the spines along the skin are soft, they do taste very bitter.
Peel away the skin and pop out the ball of white flesh, which should come away from the skin very easily. Then cut a slice into the flesh to remove the seed.
The seed is only edible when cooked, so make sure to remove it if you are eating it as is.
Some of the seeds of rambutan are clingstone, so they are difficult to remove, and others are freestone and should pop out easily. If you cannot remove a clingstone easily, just eat around it and spit it out when you are done.
Enjoy the rambutan as is once peeled, or save it to be added to a dish or drink.
How To Enjoy Lychee
Here are some great ways to enjoy lychees:
- Peel the lychee and enjoy it fresh as is.
- Chop up some lychee and top it onto a fresh salad.
- Use chopped lychees to top desserts such as compote or rice pudding
- Cook up the lychee following a recipe to create some lychee jam. This can be combined with pineapple juice, apple sauce, and lemon juice.
- Use chopped lychees on top of your breakfast food, such as oats or pancakes.
- Use lychee juice, lychee pulp, some lime juice, and some soda to make a refreshing lychee cooler.
- Add lychee to main dishes such as beef, chicken, or pork, along with seasonings such as ginger, cinnamon, cumin, and nutmeg.
How To Enjoy Rambutan
Here are some great ways to enjoy rambutan:
- Enjoy the rambutan fresh once the skin has been peeled away and the seed removed.
- Add rambutan to your favorite dessert as a topping.
- Follow a recipe to make rambutan jam.
- Use rambutan pulp, some rambutan or lychee juice, soda, and some ice to make a summer drink.
- Rambutan can be added to main dishes to add a certain sweetness. It goes well with pork and chicken.
- Chop up some rambutan and sprinkle it over some ice cream or yogurt.
- Rambutan can be sliced up and added to salads for a refreshing sweetness.
Now that we’ve gone over the main differences between lychee and rambutan, let’s tackle a few more questions related to the topic!
Is rambutan healthy to eat?
Rambutan is considered healthy to eat. It is low in calories, but still contains a good amount of nutrients and vitamins to fill up your daily requirements.
It is also believed to help with digestion, boost your immune system, and help with weight loss.
How do you know if a lychee is bad?
A ripe lychee will have a pink-red shell and a beautiful floral scent. If a lychee is bad, it will have a dark brown husk which might have some cracks, with liquid seeping through. Bad lychee might also have a fermented smell.
How long can I keep lychee in the fridge?
If you wrap lychee in plastic wrap or keep it in an airtight container, the fruit can stay in the fridge for up to 7 days. Kept at room temperature, the fruit should be eaten within 3 days.
Do lychees ripen after being picked?
Lychees do not ripen after they have been picked, so you do need to refrigerate them once you have bought them.
Can you freeze lychee and rambutan?
Both lychee and rambutan can be frozen.
They can both be frozen in their skin, and you will just need to seal them in a plastic freezer bag, squeezing out as much air from the bag as possible before placing it into the freezer.
Just leave them in the fridge overnight when you want them to thaw.
Up Next: Can You Freeze Baked Potatoes?