Have you ever wondered exactly how to eat rambutan? It's a juicy, exotic fruit that is fun to eat - it looks a bit alien-like or similar to a sea urchin.
I’ll show you how to enjoy this fantastic tropical fruit as well as answer commonly asked questions about fresh rambutans.
What is a rambutan?
Rambutan (nephelium lappaceum) is a small fruit native to Southeast Asia (primarily in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines) with a sweet flavor.
It's a unique fruit that has bright red skin and looks kind of hairy. In fact, in Vietnam, it's called "chôm chôm", which means "messy hair". The name rambutan is derived from the Thai word rambut, which means hair.
It may look a little confusing to eat because of this hairy shell exterior. The spine-like protrusions, called spinterns, may look sharp but they are soft and pliable (and won't poke you)! Inside the fruit there's a tasty piece of fruit with translucent white flesh and a large seed.
Rambutan is similar to lychee and longan fruits, they all have tough outer peels with translucent flesh interiors.
How to tell when a rambutan is ripe?
Ripe rambutan has bright red skin. Green skin indicates an unripe rambutan - they go from green to yellow to orange to red. Rambutans with a little yellow or orange can still be ripe.
The 'hairy' parts of the rambutan should be yellow or green. If they (or the rambutan peel) have gone black or the skin is black, they are overripe.
The rambutans in the photo below are verging on a little too ripe, but they still taste quite nice!
What does a rambutan taste like?
A rambutan tastes a little like a grape mixed with a bit of tartness. It's similar to lychee fruit. The flesh is quite soft and juicy.
If they are overripe, they'll have a sour, fermented flavor.
Is the skin of a rambutan edible?
The skin of rambutans is inedible and should not be eaten. The skin has toxic substances, so please discard the skin (Source).
Are rambutan healthy?
There are several health benefits to eating rambutans. They are a good source of folate and potassium, which is vital for heart health and kidney function. They're also rich in vitamin C which helps fight infections and supports your immune system (Source).
Can you eat raw rambutan?
Yes, you can eat raw rambutans - in fact it's one of the best ways to enjoy them!
Rambutan can be used in ice creams, curries, cocktails, and fruit salad. I don't recommend eating the rambutan seeds though - they are inedible unless boiled and are quite bitter.
Why is rambutan fruit so expensive?
Rambutan is not a cheap fruit. It ranges from about $8 to $12 a pound (or about 50 cents per fruit) in grocery stores and Asian markets and can be up to $15 a pound at specialty produce markets.
The fruit grows on rambutan trees that take several years mature before they being producing. It grows in humid, tropical countries but Thailand is the main producer of rambutans.
When is rambutan in season?
The main harvest season for ripe rambutan fruits is in December and January, but there is a second smaller harvest in August and September.
How to Store Rambutan
You can store rambutan for a few days at room temperature or for up to two weeks in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
How to Cut a Rambutan
Place the rambutan on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut a slit in the center of the rambutan.
Continue cutting around the center of the rambutan and pull the skin away from the top.
Squeeze the base of the rambutan to pop the fruit out.
Serve it immediately.
How to Eat Rambutan Fruit
Here's how to cut and eat a delicious rambutan fruit!
- Ripe rambutan fruit
- Place the rambutan on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut a slit in the center of the rambutan.
- Continue cutting around the center of the rambutan and pull the skin away from the top.
- Squeeze the base of the rambutan to pop the fruit out.
- Serve it immediately.