July 12, 2022

12 Thai fruits you have to try

Here are 12 Thai fruits you’ve got to try – plus easy ways to try them.

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The top 12 Thai fruits to try

Which of these 12 Thai fruits will be brand new fruity adventures for you? Well, would you eat a snake fruit? What about 2 kinds of apples you’ve probably never heard of? How about a fruit that’s so heavy – and pointy – you’d struggle to lift it?

Whether found waiting for you in a fruit bowl, fresh from nearby fruit trees, purchased from a smiling market vendor discovered in a Thai fruit salad during a beach breakfast – here are 12 Thai fruits you’ve got to try – plus easy ways to try them at home.

1. Dragon fruit

A fruity ugly duckling story. Dragon fruit (called pitaya in other parts of the world) is the gorgeous product of the ugliest plant you’ve ever seen. Think of Medusa as a cactus and you’re on the right track. While white fruit is most common, you'll also find purple dragon fruit and – rarer still – yellow dragon fruit.

I’ve been growing dragon fruit from seed for about thirteen years and it’s nowhere near fruiting. Unless you’re in a tropical climate, you’ll get a huge head-start starting with a dragon fruit cactus. Thailand’s dragon fruit season lasts into autumn.

How to try dragon fruit?

Plus! grow your own dragon fruit and make dragon fruit kombucha

2. Jackfruit

A Thai fruit that weighs as much as a German shepherd. Only in the tropics! Enjoy the fruit alone or with ice cream; the massive seeds have a variety of uses in Thai cooking. Thailand’s jackfruit season lasts into spring. Jackfruit can grow up to three feet long and might weigh up to 80 pounds.

Let’s double-check something crucial. Are you sure you can tell a durian from a jackfruit? Study up – it's a mistake you'll only make once!

How to try jackfruit?

3. Mangosteen

Mangosteen fruits resemble a little present. Cut through the thick red skin to find a bite-sized treat waiting within. Thailand has a second mangosteen season, in autumn. Freeze-dried mangosteen is a decent substitute if you can’t find it fresh near you.

How to try mangosteen?

4. Durian

Expensive, malodorous and possibly a weapon – the durian has seemingly little to recommend it. Be brave – the king of fruits has loyal followers for a reason (just don’t try carrying it home in a taxi). Dare to try it? If you’re a wimp, durian candy and dehydrated durian are a good place to start. Though I can’t stomach the raw fruit, durian chips are unbelievably good (forget kale chips). Coming from an avowed durian-avoider – that’s some strong praise!

How to try durian?

5. Tamarind

Sticky stick stick! Tamarind is tart and tangy when fresh, cloyingly sweet when dried. Bash the shell into pieces and chew pieces of the fruit. Beware of hard seeds hidden within. (Tamarind is the magic main ingredient in Pad Thai sauce. You're two points ahead in the food round now ... can you handle the pressure?)

How to try tamarind?

6. Rambutan

Perhaps the most visually striking of Thai fruits – rambutans are also one of the cheapest. A delicious fruit to be inhaled in mammoth quantities. Dig in! Rambutan is cheap and abundant when in season and makes an ideal breakfast.

How to try rambutans?

7. Custard apple

Rip custard apples in two with your hands and eat the insides with a spoon. They’re amazingly good! Want to amp up the gluttony? Look for (or make your own) custard apple ice cream. *Also called sugar apples.

How to try custard apples?

8. Rose apple

A crunchy, bitter fruit with a texture like a very moist apple. Thais often top rose apples with spiced sugar.

How to try rose apple?

9. Pomelo

The biggest citrus is really an improved grapefruit; a pomelo is at once both sweeter and easier to eat. For convenience, buy one that’s already been cut up (stand back and watch Thai supermarket employees wield immense cleavers).

How to try pomelo?

10. Sapodilla

Remove the peel and eat a sapodilla as you would a pear. This fruit makes a forgiving target for Thai fruit carving practice, or, try to grow it yourself from seed.

How to try sapodilla?

11. Salak fruit

I’ve saved the weirdest for all but last. While opening a snake fruit’s scaly skin requires some creativity, the neat white cloves of this fruit are a brand new experience. Weirdly tangy in a way that surprises when you reach for another. Persistent peeling should be encouraged. Thailand’s salak fruit season runs from late spring into summer. *Also called snake fruit (because of the skin).

12. Thai bananas

Thailand has over 100 varieties of bananas (or maybe it has 20, or 28, or 50 … depending on who you ask). Whatever the number, it’s likely you’ve spent your whole life eating just one kind – the ubiquitous Dole Cavendish – and Thailand’s bananas, straight from the tree, are set to blow your mind. Buy Thai finger bananas fresh from a roadside stand, you’ll see!

How to try Thai bananas?

Honourable mention: nam dok mai mangoes

I intended this list of Thai fruit to introduce you to types of fruit (or Thai varieties) that might be new to Western taste buds. Mangoes? Everyone's had mango. So I left it off the list ... until I started to get outraged emails: "you can't list Thai fruit without mango!?!?!?".So, whether you'd rather eat mango or grow your own mangoes ... behold the nam dok mai variety and plan to make a serious study of its splendour. Most Western supermarkets carry Ataulfo mangoes, often from Mexico. Nam dok mai is Thailand's best-known variety – spot the stack of them at the Koh Samui fruit stand, below.

How to try mangoes?

Recap: The top 12 Thai fruits

  • dragon fruit
  • jackfruit
  • mangosteen
  • durian
  • tamarind
  • rambutan
  • custard apple
  • rose apple
  • pomelo
  • sapodilla
  • salak fruit
  • Thai banana
  • nam dok mai mango

More ways to enjoy Thai fruit and tropical living