What Is Durian Fruit?

If you can get past the smell, there's a wonderfully sweet and creamy surprise waiting inside.

durian fruit

What Is Durian?

Known as "The King of Fruits" in many countries in Southeast Asia, durian is a unique and intriguing treat. Durian is a fruit that grows on several different species of trees across southeast Asia. The outside is covered in a thick, brown rind coated in large spikes, while the inside houses light yellow, fleshy pods.

Durian is often confused with jackfruit since they are both large, spiky fruits used in Asian cuisine. The main difference is their size. It's easy to tell them apart side by side because jackfruit is much bigger. Similar to jackfruit, the outer rind of the durian is covered in jagged spikes. However, the spikes on durian are usually much sharper and more pronounced, making it difficult to handle.

What Does Durian Taste Like?

Fresh, ripe durians have an incredibly delicious and sweet flavor. It's often described as custardy, and its flavor is compared to caramel, vanilla, and even cheesecake. The texture is soft and somewhat pillowy. This, combined with durian's sweet, rich flavor, makes it an ideal flavor component in desserts — though it is also sometimes used in savory recipes.

Some people are familiar with durian due to its distinct scent. It's known to have an extremely pungent smell that is unpleasant to some though it doesn't affect the delicious flavor. It contains a chemical called ethanethiol that is emitted as the fruit ripens, so the riper the durian, the more potent the smell will become. The scent can be so offensive to some that it's actually illegal to consume on public transportation in Singapore and is banned from some hotels.

Everyone has their own unique sensitivities to smells, and durians in different stages of ripeness can emit different amounts of odors, so don't let this hinder you from trying this delicious fruit — if you don't mind the scent of stinky cheese, you'll likely be ok with the smell of durian.

How to Cook With Durian

So you've bought your fresh durian and brought it home, but now what? It can look intimidating, but it's actually easier than it seems to break down this spiky fruit. Rubber gloves might be the safest option depending on how sharp the spikes are on your fruit, so start by grabbing a pair of those and setting up your workstation with a cutting board set on a wet paper towel and bowl for the durian pieces.

Use a sharp knife to carefully cut the durian lengthwise. Then, peel the rind off the pods and discard. Using your hand, open each pod and remove the seed, and you're done! Fresh durian is an excellent addition to desserts, especially creamy ones or recipes where the flavors of durian are mimicked — think vanilla, almond, caramel. A durian custard makes for a memorable cream puff, and durian puree swirled in vanilla ice cream can really level up an otherwise dull dessert.

Cekodok Durian, or durian fritters, are a popular sweet treat using the whole durian pod, battered and fried to crispy deliciousness. Durian is versatile enough to be served both raw and cooked, so it's easy to incorporate it into your favorite recipes. Already have a cheesecake recipe you love? Swirl in your fresh pureed durian for a fun twist. Love to spoon fruit compote over your signature pancakes? Try cooking down some durian with a bit of brown sugar into a crave-worthy topping.

Where to Find Durian Fruit

If you're on the hunt for fresh durian, you can start by checking out the tropical fruits section of your local supermarket and chatting with the grocer to see if they stock it. Since it's not commonly found in Western stores, try your local Asian market for a better chance of finding this fascinating fruit.

If you want to try durian but aren't keen on the work of breaking it down, you can buy pre-cleaned, packaged durian in Asian markets as well as online. It's usually frozen and can be found as just the pods, the pods with seeds, and even pureed. You can sometimes even find it freeze-dried, perfect for snacking!

How to Store Durian

Overripe durian is often unpleasant so when buying durian, make sure you have a plan to eat it soon. After just a few days on the counter, your fruit may become spoiled. After purchasing, store your unopened durian on the counter at room temperature. Once you've opened the fruit and pulled out the pods, rinse them in cool running water and store them in the fridge in an airtight container for up to three days.

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