Durian’s reputation precedes itself, literally and figuratively, due to its strong signature odor. To some, durian fruit’s pungent fragrance is a crave-worthy amalgamation of funky cheese, tropical sweetness and aromatic vegetables.
To others, durian fruit smells like a less-than-enticing mashup of hot garbage, teenage body odor and raw onions.
Nevertheless, durian (Durio zibethinus) earned the nickname The King of Fruits throughout its native Southeast Asia for its massive size, nutritional value and distinctly complex flavor profile.
Fragrant, thorny and bulbous, durian is a large tropical fruit native to Borneo and Sumatra that has a showy rind of spiky green thorns. Inside, individual sections of dense durian fruit, called arils, are known for their complex flavor that is starchy, sweet and savory with an oniony heat that has a slight numbing effect.
On the outside, durians are a muted green color and can vary in shades of green and golden yellow. Inside, the compartment walls of durian are white with arils of birthday cake yellow or creamy white flesh. Seeds of durian are a smooth brown.
Knowing whether a durian is ripe is a highly calibrated skill and a multisensory experience. A mature durian is roughly the size and shape of a chunky football. Durians that are ripe have a thick rind composed entirely of spiky green thorns and a thick, intact stem. When at peak ripeness, durian fruit will shake a bit inside the pod and sound hollow inside.
To test a durian for ripeness, give it a good shake and a few hard taps with your finger (but not too hard, those durian thorns are no joke!). Finally, a ripe durian will greet you with its stenchy goodness. If you smell a potent fragrance when sniffing your durian fruit, it’s a good sign that the durian is ripe.
To prepare durian, it must first be removed from its thorny husk. The easiest way to slice a durian is by using a sharp knife to carefully score the durian pod along its natural seams about a quarter of an inch deep. The seams on a durian peel look like valleys between long, bulbous mounds of thorns. Once you’ve scored the durian pod, use your fingers to pry the husk apart.
Inside the durian pod you’ll see the inner compartments called carpels that hold pillowy arils of durian flesh. The arils are shaped like big beans with creamy white to golden yellow flesh. The flesh of durian has a somewhat dense texture and a richness that’s both starchy and slightly juicy.
Each aril of durian flesh contains a large seed that should be separated from the flesh. Durian seeds are only edible when cooked, providing a starchy component to durian recipes.
Durian flesh can be separated into chunks and eaten raw, used in juices and smoothies, and desserts. Even though raw durian isn’t known for high sweetness, durian is predominantly used in recipes for cakes and other sweet desserts like sticky rice and ice cream. Durian is also enjoyed in many Southeast Asian cuisines in savory dishes.
Usually prepared by boiling, durian seeds are edible when cooked. Baked and boiled durian seeds are often described as having a starchy and slightly fibrous texture and a mild, starchy flavor.
Durian fruit grows natively in Borneo and Sumatra, and is cultivated throughout Southeast Asia in countries including Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
Durian fruit’s funky fresh flesh is known to be quite nutritious. This rare fatty fruit’s nutrients are reflected in durian’s custardy and somewhat starchy flesh. Below are some of the durian fruit’s nutritional offerings including fat, protein, carbohydrate and loads of vitamins and minerals.
1 cup of durian contains:
Read more nutritional information about the nutrient-packed durian fruit from the USDA here.
Durian season lasts roughly from June to September, peaking in July. The exact timing of the durian fruit season will depend largely on the species and location where it grows.
Durian fruits are used in Southeast Asian cuisines in recipes for drinks, snacks, candies, desserts, sauces, side dishes and main courses. The king of fruits is predominantly used in desserts and sweet recipes, but durian is also popular in savory recipes as well.
Tasting durian at least once is an experience that we at FruitStand think everyone should have in their lifetime. We know it stinks. But some people say that love stinks too. And durian is one of those things that you love deeply or not at all. So pinch your nose and give love (and durian fruit) a chance!
Once you get past the olfactive experience of it, many people say that durian tastes much better than it smells. While encouraging, it’s a low bar that might not entice you to try the exotic durian fruit. Those who love the king of fruits say that the complexity of the durian flavor is what makes it their all time favorite. When you try durian for the first time, you’ll actually feel a physical sensation that’s similar to eating raw onion, accompanied by an aromatic flavor of onion, garlic and chive. Durian fruit’s texture is somewhat custardy and creamy, with a sugary flavor. According to Lindsay Gasik, a durian-obsessed writer and travel guide, says “It’s supposed to taste like diced garlic and caramel poured into whipped cream.”
Durian flavor description is highly controversial. Depending on who you ask, you may hear that durian tastes like anything from turpentine soaked stinky gym socks to a delicious custard and pineapple flavor. Insert shrug emoji here.
Have you smelled or eaten durian? Tell us what you think on Instagram @fruitstandcom!
Some say that you can subsist entirely off of durian. Something tells us that might take some endurance training. Until then, begin by eating durian raw or in an array of sweet recipes in which durian is predominantly used like sticky rice, ice cream and pastries. Durian is also popular in savory Southeast Asian cuisine in recipes like curries, fritters and rice dishes.
Durian fruit flesh is dense and rich, giving body and distinct flavor to drink recipes. From an alternative coffee creamer to “milkshakes”, juices, syrups and smoothies, durian is a daring addition to beverage recipes for adventurous fruit fans.
Durian fruits provide a generous amount of fruit that takes careful storing. Keep durian fruit in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to four days.
Durian is known to freeze well, perhaps in part because of its high fat content. To freeze durian fruit, first remove the fruit and seeds from the husk then carefully wrap the flesh in plastic. Place the wrapped durian flesh in an airtight container before storing it in the freezer for up to two months.
Durian flesh is not known to be toxic to dogs, and is generally ok for them to have in small amounts. The outer rind of durian is toxic to dogs, however, and should be kept out of reach of pets.
Your FruitStand fam encourages you to clear the safety of any new fruits or veggies with your veterinarian before offering them your pooch.
Depending on the ripeness of your durian, eating the fruit can be quite tidy or a bit messy. While many durian fruits are very light in color, they can leave a stain on certain fabrics if left untreated.
The king of fruits can cause a royally delicious mess. If you drop a durian on your clothing, table cloth or napkins, immediately treat the spot with a stain remover that’s safe for that particular fabric. Follow the directions on the product to prevent the spot from setting, and pop the item into the washer as soon as you can.
Durian and jackfruit are commonly compared, leaving many to wonder what, if any, difference between them might be. Durian is actually quite different from jackfruit. Both durian and jackfruit have an interesting outer texture, but durian is covered in spiky thorns vs. jackfruit’s bumpy nubbins.
Both fruits are known for their fragrance-forward nature, but durian fruit’s smell is much more pungent and would never come close to being confused for bubble gum, which jackfruit is known to have. The flavor, odor and texture of durian and jackfruit flesh are quite distinct from one another.
If there’s durian fruit involved, strong smells are part of the experience. Durian has a short shelf life and can begin to spoil quickly once the outer shell begins to crack. If you’re concerned about lingering aromas of durian in your home, prepare the fruit in a well ventilated and clean workspace, or even outside if possible.
Be sure to store your durian fruit in sealed containers in the refrigerator to keep the pulp fresh and its scents to itself.