What are the best tropical fruits? 15 exotic types to try

How many of these unusual and exotic fruits can you recognize? (And how many have you actually tried?)

Well, it’s definitely not like comparing apples and oranges! Outside of occasional appearances on sci-fi TV shows (as food from other planets, you know), many of these fruits are still a little alien to most people in the US — including the ones actually grown here.
Here, see what 15 of these tropical and exotic fruits look like, so you can recognize them the next time you see them on display in the produce aisle at your local gourmet or Asian grocery store.
1. Mangosteen

The Mangosteen grows mainly in Southeast Asia, but also in tropical South American countries such as Colombia, as well as in Puerto Rico.

The fruit of the mangosteen is sweet and tangy, juicy, fragrant and somewhat fibrous, with fluid-filled pieces — much like citrus fruits), with an inedible, deep reddish-purple rind when ripe.

Mangosteen exotic tropical fruit

Photo thanks to B Furnari

2. Durian fruit

Some people call it the “corpse fruit” because of its strong, distinctive odor. That should tell you something.

Anthony Bourdain once said that the durian’s flavor is “indescribable, something you will either love or despise… Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.”

Durian fruit exotic tropical fruit

Photo thanks to Mohd Hafizuddin Husin

6. Passion Fruit/Granadilla

The seeds are crunchy and covered in a sweet slimy film. In Brazil, the purple passionfruit is used for eating, while the yellow version is more commonly used for juice and jams/preserves.

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Passiflora ligularis - Sweet granadilla

Photo thanks to umami

1. Rambutan

“The rambutan, Nephelium lappaceum, is a fruit considered exotic to people outside of its native range,” Notes rambutan.com. “To people of Malaysia, Thailand, the Phillippines, Vietnam, Borneo, and other countries of this region, the rambutan is a relatively common fruit the same way an apple is common to many people in cooler climates.”


Photo thanks to Tatters

2. Lychee fruit

Lychee, Litchi chinensis, was first introduced into Hawaii 100 years ago, but has been cultivated in China for nearly 4,000 years, says the USDA. Peeled before it’s eaten, the fruit is whitish colored, as seen below.

lychee fruit - whole and peeled

Photos thanks to topsynette & Neeta Lind

3. Pineberries – White strawberries

Pineberries are much smaller than the strawberries we are used to see today, but what makes the pineberry so distinct is their white flesh studded with red seeds, says VitalBerry BV, European soft fruit suppliers. “The aroma and flavor of pineberries never disappoints — the striking berries have a pineapple flavor.”

Pineberries - white strawberries exotic tropical fruit

Photo thanks to Akiko Ogata

7. Jackfruit

The Jackfruit is native to parts of South and Southeast Asia, and is believed to have originated in the southwestern rain forests of India.

The jackfruit is widely-cultivated and a popular food item in tropical regions of India, Africa and Asia — and is even the national fruit of Bangladesh.

Jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit, reaching as much as 80 pounds in weight, 36 inches in length, and 20 inches in diameter.

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Jackfruit whole and sliced

Photo thanks to Simon Schellpeper & Alex Popovkin

8. Snake fruit

The taste of Salak (snake fruit) usually has sweetly acidic taste; an aroma that may remind you of bananas, pears and pineapple; and a dry, crumbly texture.

Salak - Snakefruit exotic tropical fruit

Photo thanks to Ken Marshall

9. Buddha’s Hand

Buddha’s hand (Citrus medica/bushukan/fingered citron) is a fragrant citron variety whose fruit is segmented into finger-like sections. The origin of Buddha’s hand plant has been traced back to Northeastern India or China.

Buddha's Hand fruit

Photo thanks to imelda

10. Dragonfruit: White inside

The Dragonfruit (pitaya fruit) comes from a climbing-vine cactus species native to the tropical forest regions of Mexico and Central and South America, according to the US Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida.

They also note some of the reasons for the attention being given to this tropical fruit include the reported health benefits associated with the fruit’s high antioxidant properties; and the dragonfruit’s popularity at high-end restaurants is due to its unique taste, beauty and versatility — it can be eaten fresh or turned into juice, desserts, jam, ice cream, cocktails and wine.

Dragonfruit - white inside exotic tropical fruit Photo thanks to Alan Sheffield

11. Pitaya, aka Dragonfruit: Pink inside

Pitaya aka Dragonfruit exotic tropical fruit

Photo thanks to Vanessa Pike-Russell

12. Cherimoya/Custard Apple

Mark Twain called the cherimoya “the most delicious fruit known to men.”

The white pulp offers a mild flavor likened to a blend of banana, vanilla, mango, papaya, pineapple or coconut, according to SpecialtyProduce.com.

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The fruit experts go on to say that the refreshing texture is soft, smooth and melting, and the flesh is studded with large, black, inedible seeds. “Almost custard-like, is also known as the custard apple.”

Cherimoya exotic tropical fruit

Photo thanks to Sandy Austin

13. Brazilian Grape Tree

Jabuticaba (Myrciaria cauliflora) fruits

Jabuticaba - Myrciaria cauliflora fruits - Brazilian Grape exotic tropical fruit

Photo thanks to mauroguanandi

14. Horned Melon/African Cucumber

The melon has a sweet and tart, banana-lime taste — a flavor which is enhanced when chilled, say the experts at SpecialtyProduce.com, adding that the brighter the orange skin, the sweeter the flesh of the fruit.

The Horned melon is the size of a large pear and generally weighs less than one pound. Both the seeds and the flesh are edible.

Horned Melon

Photos thanks to Jannes Pockele & McSkeletor

15. Prickly pear (cactus fruit)

Prickly pears, found on paddle-shaped cactus plants, were originally native only to the Americas. Therefore, it’s not truly exotic for Americans, because these fruits are found all over several Southwestern states, including Arizona — even if they aren’t often eaten.

Prickly pears - cactus exotic tropical fruit

Photo thanks to cobalt123

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