Rambutan, the Spiny Exotic Fruit



I was in the produce section of our local grocery store this past Sunday and I came across the strangest thing. These spiny looking reddish brown balls in a container caught my eye. What the heck is this, I thought. The label read ‘Rambutan product of Guatemala’.

Now I was interested, so I opened the package and pulled one out. Each rambutan is about the size of a golf ball with these little red spines sticking out all around. It reminded me of when I was a kid. Our babysitter had a tree that had these little things that grew off of it like little prickly balls that me and the other kids would throw at each other. The spines were hook shaped on the end and would stick to our clothes. One day our little game of throwing these things at each other ended when my sister had a bunch stuck in her hair.

Anyway, I’m in the store holding this rambutan asking myself if I were lost and starving in some Guatemalan jungle and I stumbled across a tree of these things, would I eat them? Heck no I wouldn’t, I would be thinking that it has to be poisonous. So I bought them because now I was curious how they taste.

I did a little reading on this exotic fruit that I bought. Rambutans grow in Africa, Costa Rica, Southeast Asia, South America, Australia, Hawaii, and the Caribbean islands. They grow from trees and when I saw a picture of them hanging from a tree I shuddered because the fruit hung in clusters like a giant hornet’s nest and the way all the little spines looked from a distance made it appear kind of fuzzy like mold. It was just downright nasty.

The day after we bought these little exotic fruit my kids had a friend over that just happened to be from Guatemala, and they were in the kitchen looking for a snack. I pulled a rambutan from its package and asked my kids’ friend if she knows what it is. Her response was, ‘I ain’t eating that!’

Later that day after dinner I cut a couple rambutans open so we could try them. The edible part of this fruit is inside the prickly looking exterior. I found it to be very easy to get to the inside of the fruit. I used a sharp knife to cut a circle around the skin which surprisingly came right off. I didn’t even have to peel the skin away like a kiwi, the inside could have just fallen out if I wasn’t careful.

The inside of the fruit was translucent with a texture similar to the inside of a pear, or kind of like a really big grape without any skin. In the center was a pit that looked just like an almond, so you need to be careful if you’re going to bite into one of these things. The taste was sweet with maybe a little sourness, kind of reminding me of a pear. I thought it tasted good and would definitely eat them again. My wife and kids, they thought the rambutans were pretty good, but not enough to make me go out and buy more that night.


My oldest daughter asked me if I’m going to make a rambutan recipe, but after we tried a couple I was only left with three. So I thought if I lived in Guatemala and had a rambutan tree in my back yard, what would I make? Well since it’s a tropical fruit and it reminds me of a pear maybe I would make a fruit salad along with mango, kiwi, and pineapple. Maybe I would just cook some rambutans with honey and a little cinnamon and ginger, and serve it on my Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream.

If you’ve used Rambutans in a recipe tell me what you made in the comment section. Even if you’ve just eaten one of these, let me know.

2 Responses to Rambutan, the Spiny Exotic Fruit

  1. Jo July 28, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

    I grew up in Malaysia and my grandmother had a lovely old rambutan tree in her garden. It would fruit in abundance, seasonally, and we would gorge ourselves on these sweet, juicy morsels. To split the skin, I was taught to dig my thumbnail in to make a slit and then pull the skin apart – much like cracking eggs! Then – into the mouth goes the slippery fruit, munch around the seed and spit the seed out when it’s all stripped of fruit. We’d end up elbow deep in spiny skins (which are usually a bright, gorgeous red when perfectly ripe, tending towards black as it ages) and mounds of seed. It’s not a fruit that one would cook with – it was enjoyed on its own, and in season.
    Asian grocers usually stock cans of rambutan, peeled and seeded, in syrup. If you’re still keep to make a recipe out of it – perhaps an ice cream or sorbet?

    • James Cutler July 29, 2014 at 10:25 am #

      Thank you Jo for stopping by and leaving a comment! That must have been great having an entire tree if this fruit to eat with your sister. I agree, a sorbet or ice cream made with rambutans would be delicious. I’ll keep my eyes open for them at grocery stores. 🙂

Leave a Reply