With its tantalizing pinkish-red shell hiding a translucent white flesh, the lychee fruit captivates people with its exotic tropical allure. But for lychee newbies, one question remains: what does lychee taste like?
In this in-depth guide, we’ll uncover everything you need to know about lychee flavor, texture, uses, storage and health benefits. Read on to become a lychee connoisseur!
What is Lychee
Lychee, also spelled litchi, is a round to oval-shaped fruit native to Southern China. Lychee trees now grow across subtropical regions including Hawaii, Florida, Taiwan and Vietnam.
About the size of a large grape, lychees have a tough, bumpy pinkish-red peel. Removing the skin reveals the smooth, glistening white flesh surrounding a large central seed.
Lychees are in season from June to October, with peak summer availability. When fresh lychees are unavailable, they can also be purchased canned, dried or frozen.
So what does this coveted tropical fruit actually taste like? Let’s peel back the layers and find out!
Describing the Signature Taste of Lychee Fruit
Taking your first bite of lychee rewards you with a sweet, perfumey and floral flavor that’s completely unique. The taste has been compared to a cross between fresh grapes, strawberries and watermelon.
When perfectly ripe, lychees offer a lush, juicy sweetness balanced by bright, tangy acidity. They have a potent fruity aroma with notes of rose, honey and musk.
The smooth, slippery flesh has a delicate, gelatinous texture similar to grapes or Asian pears. Lychees offer an indulgent tropical flavor as soon as you pierce through the skin.
While exotic in appearance, lychees contain no harsh or sour flavors. The predominant taste is sweet and fragrant tropical fruit.
How Lychees Compare to Rambutan Fruit
Lychees are closely related to rambutan, another spike-skinned Southeast Asian fruit. Although different looking, lychee and rambutan offer remarkably comparable flavors.
Both fruits contain a translucent white flesh and a large inner seed. Lychees tend to taste sweeter while rambutan has more bright, tangy acidity.
But their overall fruity perfume and juicy tropical essence is quite similar. The main difference is the outer shell—rambutan has a hairy green and red exterior while lychee skins are pinkish-red and smooth.
How Ripeness Impacts Lychee Flavor
Like any fruit, lychees develop the most complex sweet flavors and perfumed aroma when allowed to fully ripen.
Underripe lychees will have starchy, crunchy flesh with undeveloped flavors. Perfectly ripe lychees offer the signature sweet/tart balance and ambrosial fragrance.
Look for lychees with vibrant red, slightly flexible skins. Avoid fruits with dry, cracked or discolored peel. Underripe lychees are very firm while overripe ones feel mushy.
Letting green, firm lychees sit at room temp for a day or two helps improve both the flavor and texture.
Enjoying Lychees: Usage and Serving Suggestions
Looking for ways to enjoy lychees’ sweet perfume? Here are some delicious ways to eat them:
- Peel and eat lychees fresh as a healthy snack
- Add lychees to fruit salads and plates
- Make sorbet, popsicles or smoothies using blended lychees
- Mix chopped lychees into yogurt, oatmeal or cottage cheese
- Use lychees to garnish cakes, tarts, pavlovas and ice cream
- Make salsas with lychees to pair with pork or fish
- Simmer lychees into a syrupy sauce for duck or chicken
- Craft jelly or jam from fresh or canned lychees
- Infuse vodka, champagne or cocktails with lychee puree
- Candy whole lychees by coating them in chocolate
- Bake lychees into pies, crisps or crumbles
Lychees pair well with other tropical fruits like pineapple, mango and kiwi. They also complement vanilla, almond, rosewater and citrus flavors.
Add lychees anywhere you want a touch of tropical essence!
Health Benefits and Nutrition of Lychee Fruit
In addition to their sweetness, lychees deliver ample nutrition and health benefits. Here’s what makes them good for you:
- Vitamin C: With over 100% of your daily vitamin C in one cup, lychees support immune function.
- Antioxidants: As a brightly colored fruit, lychees contain antioxidant polyphenols that reduce inflammation.
- Fiber: A serving of lychees provides 5 grams of dietary fiber for digestion and heart health.
- Copper: Lychees are high in copper, which aids energy production and heart function.
- Potassium: With more potassium than a banana, lychees help control blood pressure.
- Folate: Lychees offer folate to assist with cell growth and tissue production.
- Omega fatty acids: The seeds provide omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that benefit heart and brain health.
With all these nutrients packed in, adding lychees to your diet is a healthy choice.
Handling and Storing Lychees
Now that you’re a lychee expert, here’s how to store them:
- For fresh lychees, store unwashed fruits in the fridge in a breathable container for 1-2 weeks.
- Ripen firm lychees at room temp out of the sun, then refrigerate once ripe.
- Wash lychees right before eating. Peel off the bumpy outer shell with your fingers.
- Eat fresh lychees within a few days for the best quality.
- Refrigerate cut lychee flesh in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
- Frozen lychees will last for months. Thaw before using.
- Sealed, canned or jarred lychees last for a year. Refrigerate after opening.
- Look for plump, moist dried lychees. Rehydrate in water if very dried out.
Follow these storage tips and you can enjoy lychees year-round!
Enjoying the Sweet Tropical Essence of Lychees
With their fruity perfume, pop of sweetness and fun peel-off shells, lychees offer a truly singular eating experience. Their floral grape and melon notes make them as beautiful as they look.
Simple to peel and eat fresh, lychees also lend tropical character to everything from fruit salads to cocktails. And their fiber, vitamins and antioxidants make lychees a nutritious choice.
If you love exotic tropical fruits like pineapple, guava and papaya, it’s time to try luscious lychees! Their sweet floral flavors will transport your tastebuds to the tropics.