When can babies eat rambutan?
Rambutan may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Both the flesh of the rambutan and the seed inside can be choking hazards, so take care to prepare rambutan in an age-appropriate manner before serving.
Where does rambutan come from?
Rambutan is the juicy fruit of an evergreen tree that originated in Southeast Asia and thrives wherever the weather is warm and wet like the tropics of the Americas, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands, where the fruit is also known as chôm chôm, mak ngor, ngoh, and rambut. That last name, which means “hairy” in Malay, hints at rambutan’s appearance: the edible part of the fruit is protected by a thin, leathery casing that is covered with pliable spines.
Is rambutan healthy for babies?
Yes. Rambutan is packed with vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that not only aids in the absorption of plant-based iron, but also supports baby’s skin and bone health. The high fiber content in this tropical fruit helps digestion by nourishing a baby’s developing gut microbiome. Rambutan also contains a fair amount of zinc and a dash of vitamin E—essential nutrients that help support baby’s immune system and much more.
Depending on where you live, canned rambutan may be more accessible than the fresh fruit, but the canned fruit is typically high in added sugars, making it not ideal for babies and young toddlers. Soak or rinse canned rambutan in water to reduce the sugar content, then cut according to baby’s age and eating ability.
Note that the seeds and peels of fresh rambutan, while consumed in certain cultures, can be toxic when regularly consumed in large amounts (according to animal studies), and are best avoided for baby.1 2 3 The seeds are also a choking risk and should be removed before serving.4
Is rambutan a common choking hazard for babies?
Yes. You won’t find rambutan on most lists of the top choking hazards for babies, but the fruit’s chewy, firm, and slippery consistency poses a risk, as do the fruit’s seed and peel. To minimize the risk, remove the fruit from its peel, remove the inner seed, and cut the flesh into small pieces. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals. For more information on choking, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
Is rambutan a common allergen?
No, rambutan is not a common allergen, but allergic reactions to rambutan have been reported.5 6 People who are allergic to pollens and individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also known as pollen-food allergy) may be allergic to rambutan’s cousin, the lychee fruit, and possibly rambutan, by extension.7 8 Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching, tingling, or burning in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction. Fortunately, cooking the fruit can help minimize or even eliminate the reaction.9 10
As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
Can rambutan help babies poop?
Yes. Rambutan is a good source of both insoluble and soluble fiber and polyphenols – together, they contribute to overall digestive health and bowel regularity.11 12 13 Note that pooping patterns can vary significantly from child to child. Be sure to talk to your pediatric healthcare provider if you have concerns about your baby’s pooping and digestive function.
How do you prepare rambutan for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 9 months old: Finely chop fresh rambutan, seed and shell removed, and serve atop a soft, scoopable food like congee, mashed plantains, or yogurt. Refrain from offering processed rambutan products like jam, jelly, paste, or syrup at this age.
9 to 18 months old: Discard the shell and cut open to remove the inner seed. Cut the pulp into quarters to create bite-sized pieces. Serve the pieces of rambutan on their own for the child to practice picking up or mix them into grains or fruit salads. Of course, you may continue to finely chop the pulp.
18 to 24 months old: Continue to offer fresh rambutan that has been shelled, deseeded, and quartered or finely chopped. Encourage your child to chew well by modeling a dramatic chewing motion yourself. This is also a great age to introduce an age-appropriate fork, though keep in mind that eating with utensils can be exhausting for babies and toddlers, and many children toggle back and forth between feeding themselves with their fingers and utensils. Try not to apply too much pressure—consistent and accurate utensil use will come in due time, probably between 18 and 24 months of age.
36 months and up: When you feel your child is ready and understands instructions, try working with whole rambutan that has been shelled, coaching how to take bites from the fruit around the seed. You can also coach the child to squish the fruit and pull the seed out with their fingers. Be sure to stay within an arm’s reach in case they need assistance.
Read more about Sugar and Taste Preferences to help your child build a healthy relationship with sweet foods.
What are recipe ideas for cooking with rambutan?
There are different varieties of rambutan, each with their own distinctive flavor, but most have a floral aroma and sweet and sour taste that is similar to pulasan and lychee, tropical fruits in the same family. Once removed from its spiny shell, the translucent egg-shaped fruit can be eaten fresh, pickled, preserved, or cooked in sweet desserts or savory curries, salads, salsas, and more. Try finely chopped or minced rambutan in savory and sweet warm cereals, coconut rice or quinoa, and chia puddings.
Recipe: Rambutan Coconut Quinoa
Yield: 3 cups (700 grams)
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Age: 6 months+
- 3-6 whole rambutans
- 1 cup (170 grams) dry quinoa
- 1 tablespoon (15 milliliter) unrefined virgin or extra-virgin coconut oil (ideally from a BPA-free container)
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) unsweetened full-fat coconut milk (ideally from a BPA-free can)
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) water
- 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
This recipe contains coconut, which is classified as a tree nut by the U.S. FDA. While coconut allergy is rare, only serve to a child after coconut has been safely introduced.
- Peel the rambutans, then cut away or pull the flesh from the seeds. Finely chop the flesh. Discard the shells and seeds. If you are working with canned rambutan, drain the rambutan flesh and rinse to remove excess sugar.
- Rinse the quinoa in a colander until the water runs clear.
- Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- When the oil shimmers, add the quinoa and stir to coat the grains. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add the finely chopped rambutan, coconut milk, and water to the pot and stir to combine. If you like, add the cinnamon stick for an extra layer of flavor.
- Cook with the cover on the pot until the grains have absorbed the liquid, between 15 and 20 minutes.
- Remove the quinoa from the heat. Uncover the pot. Fluff the grains.
- Scoop some quinoa into baby’s bowl. Exact serving size is variable. Let a child’s appetite determine how much is eaten.
- Season quinoa for adults and older children with salt to taste. Let baby’s serving cool until it is warm, not hot.
- Let baby try to self-feed. To encourage the use of a utensil, pre-load a spoon and rest it next to the quinoa for baby to try to pick up. Alternatively, pass the pre-loaded spoon in the air for the child to grab.
To Store: Rambutan Coconut Quinoa keeps in an air-tight container in the fridge for 4 days or in the freezer for 2 months.
J. Truppi, MSN, CNS
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP
K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT
S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)
R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist
- Thinkratok, A., Suwannaprapha, P., & Srisawat, R. (2014). Safety assessment of hydroethanolic rambutan rind extract: acute and sub-chronic toxicity studies. Indian journal of experimental biology, 52(10), 989–995. Retrieved February 3, 2022
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- Morton, J. (1987). Rambutan. p. 262–265. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL. Retrieved February 3, 2022
- Lee YR, Cho HM, Park EJ, Zhang M, Doan TP, Lee BW, Cho KA, Oh WK. (2020). Metabolite Profiling of Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum L.) Seeds Using UPLC-qTOF-MS/MS and Senomorphic Effects in Aged Human Dermal Fibroblasts. Nutrients. 12(5):1430. doi: 10.3390/nu12051430. Retrieved February 3, 2022
- Kelso, J. M., Jones, R. T., Yunginger, J. W. (1998). Anaphylaxis after initial ingestion of rambutan, a tropical fruit. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 102 (1), 145-6. DOI: 10.1016/S0091-6749(98)70066-1. Retrieved February 3, 2022
- Jirapongsananuruk, O., Jirarattanasopa, N., Pongpruksa, S., Vichyanond, P., & Piboonpocanun, S. (2011). Glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase as a major allergen in rambutan-induced anaphylaxis. Annals of allergy, asthma & immunology : official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, 106(6), 545–547. DOI: 10.1016/j.anai.2011.03.008. Retrieved February 3, 2022
- Raap U, Schaefer T, Kapp A, Wedi B. Exotic food allergy: anaphylactic reaction to lychee. Department of Dermatology and Allergology, Hannover Medical University. (2007) Retrieved November 25, 2019
- Valsecchi R, Leghissa P. Contact allergy due to Lychee. Departments of Dermatology and Occupational Medicine, Bergamo General Hospital. (2012) Retrieved November 25, 2019
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