What Is Lychee? Here’s How to Pick and Prep It

Updated: Dec. 17, 2021

The perfect blend of sweet and tart, lychee is the tropical summer fruit you need to try. Here are our best tips for selecting and eating the fruit.

Walking through the produce aisles at your favorite grocery store, you might see tropical, exotic fruits that prompt you to ask, “How do I eat this?” Like the rambutan and dragon fruit, lychee is a fruit that can stump even the most adventurous eaters. Once you get the hang of it, peeling and enjoying this fruit is a refreshing summer treat.

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What Is Lychee?

Native to Southeastern Asia, this golf ball-sized tropical fruit looks similar to a strawberry. Its bumpy skin covers a translucent white flesh that’s a good source of Vitamin B, Vitamin C and potassium. In the US, California, Texas and Florida are all home to the exotic trees, which grow lychee fruit in bunches.

What Does Lychee Taste Like?

The lychee fruit has a sweet, aromatic taste to it. Some people say it tastes like a grape with a hint of rose, while others claim it tastes more like a pear or watermelon. The combination of sweet and tart means the lychee pairs well with other tropical flavors.

How Do You Pick Lychee at the Supermarket?

When selecting lychees, choose fruit with a bright red skin that’s about 1 inch in diameter. The skin should give a little when pressed, but if it’s too soft, it’s probably overripe. The fruit should also have a floral smell. It may be tough to find fresh lychees, but many grocery stores have canned versions, especially in Asian markets.

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How Do You Peel and Prepare Lychee?

Though brittle, the outer rind of a lychee is pretty thin. If the fruit is ripe, it’s easy to pierce the skin with your fingernail and pull the rind off. If that doesn’t work, use a knife to score and split the fruit. Remember to remove the pit before eating. Fresh lychees can be refrigerated for up to two weeks.

How Do You Eat Lychee?

The delicate flavor of lychee can be lost when cooked, so it’s best to eat them raw. They’re great additions to fruit salads, green salads, ice cream, and drinks, like smoothies, martinis and mojitos. The lychee’s aromatic flavor makes a sweet sauce for savory meat and fish dishes as well. If you’re looking for a unique dessert, try this popular Hawaiian dish: stuff peeled lychees with cream cheese and top with macadamia nuts.

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