Last updated: February 16, 2024
Learn how to cut and eat rambutans with this step-by-step guide, plus handy recipe tips for this delicious fruit.
Somewhere between a sea urchin having a bad hair day and a brightly colored alien lifeform is the rambutan.
Given its odd appearance, I don’t blame you for having some questions about how to handle it. Most notably, how do you cut and eat a rambutan fruit?
Read on and find out how to cut that hairy, leathery skin of the rambutan to get to the deliciously smooth, sweet-sour flesh.
How to Eat Rambutans
Originally from Southeast Asia but now common in many tropical locales, rambutan fruits are quite popular with anyone who’s ever had the opportunity to try one.
These odd-looking fruits, which are about the size of a kiwi, have a thick, leathery, pink-red shell with greenish-yellow “hairs” growing off of them.
Inside, the smooth white flesh has a texture similar to a pear or peeled grape and tastes sweet and sour with floral undertones. The flavor is similar to the closely related lychee but slightly less sweet.
Steps to Eat
To eat a rambutan, you have to cut through that tentacle-like skin. For this, it’s best to use a small, sharp knife. A paring knife, or other non-serrated knife, will work best.
- Hold the fruit in one palm, securing it with your fingers while exposing enough of the rind to use the knife safely.
- Pierce the skin in the center of the fruit using the tip of the knife.
- Run the knife horizontally around the middle of the fruit, applying just enough pressure to cut through the 2 to 4mm thick skin.
- Once you have cut all the way around, use your thumb to carefully slide one side of the peel off the slick fruit inside.
- Gently squeeze the remaining peel to pop the fleshy fruit out.
- If you have a “freestone” variety of rambutan, make a small slit in the top of the flesh and squeeze the pit out. If you have a “clingstone” variety, you’ll have to cut the pit out or eat around it.
- Your rambutan is ready to eat! You can enjoy it whole (minding the pit) or cut it up and add it to your favorite dish.
Pick a Ripe Rambutan to Eat
The inner flesh of the rambutan fruit is solid and separate from the outer rind. It will pop out of the skin easily with a bit of pressure.
Ripe fruits are distinguished by their bright red skin, as opposed to underripe fruit, which will be yellow or orange.
Don’t peel your rambutan until you plan to use it, as the fruit will spoil quickly and lose nutrients and flavor, even if kept cool. Store unpeeled rambutan in a paper bag inside the humidity drawer in your fridge.
The sweet and delicate rambutan fruit is most often enjoyed fresh out of the alien packaging. But it also makes a great addition to many dishes. Here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy rambutan.
Any greens salad that typically features grapes, pears, or dried cherries will benefit from a tropical makeover by substituting sliced rambutan.
It has the perfect tart but sweet flavor to offset bitter greens and creamy goat cheese, and a familiar texture that won’t change the character of the dish.
Want an easy, low-calorie way to add some tropical flavor to your yogurt and granola? Chopped rambutan adds a sweet and sour vibe without piling on the carbs.
Jam and Jelly
You can make rambutan jam or jelly the same way you would any tropical fruit. Or, for the same effect without the work, mash up the sweet flesh with a dollop of agave and spread it over your morning toast.
Whether you are putting together a traditional fruit salad with berries, apples, and bananas, or a more tropical bowl with mangos and pineapple, sliced or cubed rambutan goes great with them all.
Use your ice cream maker to add some subtle tropical rambutan vibes to your next batch. Use lime juice and honey to accent the flavors. It also makes a great topping for vanilla ice cream and frozen yogurt.
Use rambutan jam or smashed rambutan to create a delicious marinade for pork. It pairs surprisingly well with chicken, too.
Pair smashed rambutan with lime, vanilla, coconut, or other tropical flavors and mix with gin, vodka, or rum for a delightfully smooth adult beverage.
The pleasing texture of rambutan fruit makes it a great addition to coconut curries. It pairs especially well with pineapple, ginger, and spicy peppers.
Fresh with a Twist
Add some lime juice and cayenne pepper to freshly sliced rambutan for a tasty snack. Or try a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon.