Rambutan Nutrition Facts

Calories, Carbs, and Health Benefits of Rambutan

rambutan fruit
Si Ththi Phngs Mun La Sri / Getty Images  

If you’ve ever tried a rambutan, you may not have chosen it for its appearance. With its hairy-looking, neon-colored shell and egg-like shape, the rambutan’s exterior has been likened to that of a sea urchin. But beneath an other-worldly outer portion, the interior white flesh of the rambutan boasts a taste many people find pleasant and refreshing. The offers a number of nutritional benefits and is well worth adding to your diet.

Native to Indonesia and its neighboring countries, rambutans grow in clusters on an evergreen tree known as Nephelium lappaceum. These fruits have long been enjoyed in Southeast Asia for their sweet taste and creamy texture. Most people compare their flavor with other tropical fruits like lychee or longan—not surprising since the three species are related. If you’re not familiar with lychee or longan, however, you might say the rambutan’s fruit tastes a bit like a grape. Though rambutans vary in size and weight, a typical single fruit is about the size of a small apricot.

As more consumers have become interested in international foods, demand for rambutans has increased in the United States. Once only available at Asian markets, these unique, spiky-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside fruits have now made their way into the produce departments of many mainstream grocery stores. Here’s a look at rambutans’ nutrition profile and how to incorporate them into your diet.

Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided for a 100-gram serving of rambutan.

  • Calories: 68
  • Fat: 0.3g
  • Sodium: 16mg
  • Carbohydrates: 16g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Sugars: 13g
  • Protein: 1g

Carbs in Rambutan

Like most fruits, rambutans contain carbohydrates because of their fiber and sugar content. A 100 gram (or 3.5-ounce) serving of rambutan (about 11 pieces of the fruit) has 16 grams of carbohydrate. About 13 of those come from the fruit’s natural sugars and three come from fiber. 

Fats in Rambutan

Similar to most fruit, rambutan contains a very minimal amount of fat, with just 0.3 grams in a 100-gram serving. 

Protein in Rambutan

Like other fruit, protein values in rambutan are also quite low. A 100-gram serving of the fruit provides only one gram of this macronutrient.

Micronutrients in Rambutan

Rambutans contain small amounts of several micronutrients like calcium, zinc, iron, and vitamin C. A 100-gram serving of rambutans also provide about 10 percent of your daily requirement of manganese and copper.

Health Benefits

Most healthy diets include plenty of fruit, so adding rambutan to your diet can certainly help you meet your daily target. Its high vitamin C content supports the immune system, boosts the body’s ability to absorb iron, and helps create collagen for healthier skin, hair, and nails.

The copper in rambutan is also beneficial for health. Copper aids with red blood cell production and helps maintain healthy bones, nerves, and blood vessels.

Intriguingly, a large body of research focuses on how the rambutan’s peel and seeds might be used to create anti-inflammatory medications for treating a number of chronic diseases. Though most studies have been conducted on animals, some have indicated that rambutan peel and/or seeds could have sufficient antioxidant compounds to combat diabetes or serve as a natural anti-aging therapy.

Common Questions

How exactly do I eat rambutan?

The good news about rambutan’s hairy exterior is that this part of the fruit is not intended to be eaten. Rather, to access the fleshy fruit inside, you’ll need to peel away the outer shell. This can be done simply by inserting a knife or your fingernail into the skin of the rambutan, then tearing or slicing it open. The fruit inside should slide easily out in one whole piece.

How can I tell when it’s ripe?

Since rambutan is a fairly foreign fruit to most Westerners, discerning its ripeness can be an unfamiliar task. Rambutans start out green, so if the outer shell is totally green, it means the fruit inside is not yet ripe. As different varieties of rambutan ripen, they turn orange, yellow, or red (red being the most common type sold in the United States). More intense color signifies more ripeness, so look for brightly colored fruit. Eventually, the spiky “hairs” on the outside of the fruit will begin to turn brown or black, indicating the rambutan has passed its peak of freshness. The fruit will likely remain edible for a few days after the spikes darken, but use your senses to determine whether a rambutan is still good. An unpleasant smell or mushy texture will tell you if the fruit has turned.  

Can I eat the seed?

Once you’ve extracted the jelly-like fruit of a rambutan, you’ll need to be careful not to eat the hard seed at its center. Although the seeds can be cooked and eaten, consuming them raw is not recommended. You can either slice the fruit away from the seed or eat around it and discard it.

Recipes and Preparation Tips

You may not find recipes for rambutan in standard American cookbooks, but there are plenty of ways to incorporate them as an interesting ingredient in various food preparations. One simple idea is to slice rambutan away from its internal seed and serve it along with other tropical fruits in a fruit salad. You might also add it to a refreshing fruit smoothie. With its natural sweetness, rambutan could also stand in for other fruits like mango or pineapple in a sorbet.

Allergies and Interactions

It is possible—though rare—to be allergic to rambutan. People who are allergic to latex appear to have an increased risk of allergy to tropical fruits in general. This cross-reactivity occurs because latex and tropical fruits contain similar types of proteins the body may react against. (The relationship is common enough that it goes by the names “latex-fruit syndrome” or “latex food syndrome.”)

Cross-reactivity has also been reported between birch pollen allergies and allergies to some exotic fruits. If you know you’re allergic to latex or birch pollen, you may want to exercise caution when consuming rambutan for the first time. For most people, however, rambutan is a unique food choice that can add novelty and nutrients to the diet. 

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