rambutan

The health benefits of rambutan are “out of this world” so it’s no wonder this oval shaped fruit looks the way it does! But getting your hands on a rambutan might be harder than it seems, leaving people to ask, “who sells rambutan?” and “what does rambutan taste like?”

Underneath the outer shell comes a yellow flesh with a mildly chewy texture, with both a sweet flavor and sour flavors combined. It’s quite remarkable.

rambutan cracked open

Facts About Rambutan

Rambutan can be found in a few different countries in Southeast Asia such as Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines. It is an oddly shaped sweet fruit with an unexpected flavor.

Bitter?

Some people claim it has a bitter kick with a bitter flavor but the wacky flavor can be masked in fruit salads, savory recipes, savory dishes, and will help give daily vitamin and nutritional benefits many other tropical fruits don’t have.

More on how rambutan benefits the immune system shortly.

rambutan fruits

Rambutan Origin

The word rambutan comes from the Malay word rambut, meaning hair due to diverse hair-like, soft spines on the outside. The outer shell looks like a sea urchin with a floral undertone.

rambutan sweet

Rambutan’s vibrant red skin will catch the eye of those in supermarkets and groceries stores because it’s unlike any tropical fruit most of us have ever seen.

A rambutan tree bears fruit twice a year. It takes 5 to 6 years after planting before fruit starts to appear on the rambutan tree.

Rambutan Fruit

The other day I was at the grocery store (Asian market) getting my normal array of fruits and vegetables when I noticed this odd-looking tropical fruit sitting next to the ginger.

rambutan skin

Out of curiosity, I picked one up, squished it with my fingers, and realized this was something I could eat! Clearly, yes, this was a tropical variety of some sort but what was it?

Rambutan Feel

Picking them up, they did feel like short hair. Well, sorta. Their outer skin was very rough and the hairy skin felt like steel wool.

what does rambutan taste like

After holding these exotic fruits in my hand for a while, these are the thoughts that popped into my head:

  • blood vessels?
  • same family as maybe lychee or longan?
  • were there other rambutan varieties?
  • if this is what an uncut rambutan looks like, what about the inside?
  • do fresher ones have similar flavors?
  • is it sweet?
  • how long have these been on the shelf? Should they be eaten fresh?

rambutan flesh

Pronounce Rambutan

I’m sure I had other thoughts but I was trying to think of how to pronounce this new find… rambutan rambutans rambutan rambutans… lol

I grabbed a perforated plastic bag and started shoving them in. I think I bought about 10 of them even though they were a little more expensive than I had hoped… but who cares?

Delicious Fruit?

I was hoping rambutan became one of my favorite foods because it had a distinct smell, like mildly fresh pineapple, and I hoped that it had a natural sweetness and taste similar to pineapple. I was ready to try this new variety!

rambutan hair like texture

Curious

When I got to the checkout line and started putting my groceries on the conveyor belt, the checkout lady looked at me and said, “Is that fresh rambutan? I’ve only seen them in videos but have never tried one. What does rambutan taste like?”

I replied that I had never tried rambutan either but was very excited to try them. I offered the checker one (and offered to pay for it) but she declined because she wasn’t allowed.

rambutan flavor

Impatient

On my drive home, I remember clearly how I associated the look of rambutan to the durian and lychee. While rambutan doesn’t necessarily look like either fruit, they all three are very strange-looking.

I pulled up to a stoplight and after a few seconds of thinking, I decided to try one rambutan in the car.

How to Eat

Since I had no idea how to eat them, I just bit into the rambutan and looked at the inside. No, I didn’t wash it 😂 but don’t worry, it didn’t make me sick.

Man, it was juicy! The rambutan’s flesh was very bitter on my tongue but the floral undertones were so inviting I couldn’t resist.

Eating Rambutan: Sweet and Sour Flavors

The edible part of the rambutan is white/yellow in color and looks like a skinless grape. After biting into it, I realized it contained an inedible seed, much like that of a cherry.

I knew there was an easier way to consume the rambutan fruit but had to wait until I got home to do some research.

Rambutan Research

When I got home, I watched a few YouTube videos that said I could open the fruit with just my hands (twisting it), not with a knife, so I tried it out and it worked even better than with the knife.

The twist method even worked better than biting it open with my teeth.

What Does Rambutan Taste Like?

The taste of rambutan is different from anything I’ve tried. I can’t think of a better way of describing the flavor/texture other than it kept reminding me of grapes.

They weren’t as sweet as grapes and gave my mouth a strange after-feeling; you know, like when you eat with a wooden spoon and it leaves your mouth feeling dry like cotton?

I could only consume a few of them before I lost interest. However, I will say that if I’m ever in a Southeast Asia country, I will definitely try them again because I know to eat rambutan or other varieties, they need to be FRESH.

Rambutan Tasted Weird

I remember going to an Asian market months before trying rambutan. When I walked into the store, I smelled fish; markets like this are known for carrying lots of seafood.

As I walked to the fruit/vegetable section, I noticed a lot of fruit had flies swarming around them; that’s because the fruit was very, very old and rotten.

Get Fresh Tropical Fruit

The problem with trying exotics like durian, lychee, rambutan, jackfruit, etc, is that there really isn’t a good way to transport these fruits from the country they’re grown in.

It either takes weeks to deliver (and the food goes bad before it gets to the store), the food is under ripe before it ships (and never ripens successfully), or the fruit just isn’t good when it’s shipped (and it goes to the store like that).

A lot of times you’ll see a frozen version of the fresh fruit or items laid out on counters, covered in saran wrap.

Frozen Durian

That’s how I tried my first durian: frozen. UGH! It was disgusting.

With this knowledge (hindsight), the rambutan in the Vons supermarket was probably shipped under ripe and it never grew to its full flavor potential.

When fruit is under ripe, it’s not always the sweetness/flavor that changes. The after taste can be gross too.

Nutrients in Rambutan

There is so much good stuff found in a rambutan:

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin A
  • iron
  • potassium
  • sodium
  • calcium
  • fibre
  • beta carotene
  • magnesium
  • protein
  • zinc
  • niacin

citrus fruit

With so many vitamins and minerals in rambutan, I think I’m going to juice them in my Nama J2 Juicer or Nama Vitality 5800 for a nutritious afternoon drink!

Recipes With Rambutan

Green Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rambutan (peeled, removed from skin)
  • 2 handfuls of spinach
  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 1 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1 fuji apple (without the seeds and core)

Instructions:

Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender for 1 to 2 minutes. Consume immediately!


Rambutan or Lychee Martini

This recipes comes from cookingontheweekends.com.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 8 fresh rambutans
  • 4 to 5 ounces vodka
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup ice

Instructions:

Add the sugar and water to a small sauce pan and place it over medium-high heat. Heat just until the sugar has dissolved, then pour this into a small bowl to cool. Peel and pit the rambutans. Be very gentle as you carefully remove the thin skin from the fruit.

Now use your fingers to dig into the flesh of the rambutan to remove the pit. You’ll notice a very thin, white layer from the white pit, that will remain on the the inside of the fruit. Don’t remove this.

What to do Next

Place the rambutan in a cocktail shaker and and muddle only until they are broken enough to release their juices. Add the vodka, lime juice, vanilla, ice, and cooled syrup. Cover and shake fairly vigorously for about 30 seconds.

Strain into two martini glasses and add a few of the pieces of the rambutan flesh that you strained out as well. Garnish each glass with a small lime wedge and part of the rambutan skin.

There are plenty of other rambutan recipes online, such as a summer rambutan curry.

Tropical Fruits

In my quest to add to my favorite fruits list and find delicious goodies that are high in vitamin C like rambutan, these are some other fruits I’d LOVE to try:

  • Lychee (lychee fruit) / Litchi – can be canned lychee
  • Longan
  • Jackfruit (I’ve tried the canned version)
  • Dragon fruit (I’ve only tried the white flesh. I want to taste the red flesh fruit)
  • Papaya (Not my favorite flavor)
  • Mangosteen
  • Soursop (Just tried a soursop drink and I’m hooked!)
  • Coconut (I’ve had young Thai coconut and LOVE it!)
  • Pineapple (who hasn’t eaten pineapple before??)
  • Guava
  • Sapindaceae (soapberry fruit)
  • Star fruit (tried it, some are delicious, some aren’t)

Overall, I did enjoy my experience trying rambutan, though the flavor wasn’t my favorite. I like trying new foods. I’m looking forward to the day where I can also try the above fruits.

I remember seeing a video once (couldn’t find it on YouTube) where this guy traveled to Hawaii’s Ono Farms and did an exotic fruit tasting.

soursop fruit

What He Tried

He tried things like: peanut butter fruit, custard apple, cherimoya, and others. Those are the types of videos that get me excited to try different fruits.

Have you tried rambutan?

In conclusion, rambutan helps aid a healthy digestion and if you do end up with a dinner party or afternoon lunch bunch, make sure to serve rambutan fresh instead of 8-week old food (like I tried). This new snack contains dietary fiber, complex carbohydrates, and I don’t see any reason to avoid rambutan unless you live in the Malay Peninsula where it’s widely cultivated and you’ve eaten so much you’re completely full!

rambutan fruit

I Need Your Help!

What does rambutan taste like, really?!?! If you live in Thailand or Southeast Asia and you’ve tried sweet, fresh rambutan, can you leave a comment explaining exactly what fully-ripe rambutan tastes like?? I need to know!

About Michael Johnson

I'm not your typical social-media vegan. I don't have washboard abs, I don't live on a beach, and I don't always eat a smoothie bowl for breakfast. However, I'm passionate about animals and love sharing insights & tips for those interested in going vegan! Learn more about why I decided to go vegan.