Durian Fruit: Nutrition Facts, Health Benefits, Uses & Recipes

Durian fruit
iStock: luknaja

Durian fruit is a rather unique tropical fruit that is grown in Southeast Asia, where it’s also very popular.

There are about 30 varieties, nine of which are produced to eat. The Durio zibethinus species is the only one available internationally, while many others are only available locally.

There are a few distinguishing factors of this aptly nicknamed “king of fruits.” One is that it is extremely nutrient-dense and considered one of the most nutritious fruits in the world. Another is its appearance.

Durian fruit is quite large and has a hard, spiked outer shell. The flesh is either yellow or white. It’s most notable factor, however, might be its scent.

Some have suggested that durian fruit “smells like hell and tastes like heaven.” Its custard-like yellow or white flesh is known for its foul smell, and it remains that way when its intact.

This characterization may be unfair, though. Many who share a native land with the fruit describe the scent more like a perfume, while it’s typically foreigners who ascribe to the preceding description!

Some of the aromatic compounds in durian fruit also contribute to the scents of skunks, caramel, rotten eggs, fruit, and soup seasoning. So, depending on what scent your nose picks up, it could smell sweet like caramel or rotten eggs.

Durian is largely grown in the tropical climates of Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, Brunei, Thailand, and the Philippines.

Durian Nutrition Facts

Amid polarizing opinions on its smell and taste, there’s one thing everyone can agree on: durian is extremely nutritious.

Here is what you’ll get in a 100-gram serving of the edible portion of the fruit:

Nutrient Amount Daily Value
Calories 147 7%
Protein 1.5 g 3%
Fat 5 g 8%
Carbohydrates 27 g 9%
Fiber 4 g 15%
Magnesium 30 mg 8%
Phosphorous 39 mg 4%
Potassium 436 mg 12%
Copper 0.2 mg 10%
Manganese 0.3 mg 16%
Vitamin C 20 mg 33%
Thiamin 0.4 mg 25%
Riboflavin 0.2 mg 12%
Niacin 1.1 mg 5%
Vitamin B6 0.3 mg 16%
Folate 36 mcg 9%

Aside from these vitamins and minerals, durian fruit is also a rich source of anthocyanins, carotenoids, polyphenols, and flavonoids. These compounds are all recognized for antioxidant capabilities.

Health Benefits of Durian Fruit

When it comes to potential durian fruit benefits, there are a lot of unknowns.

On one hand, some promising results for various conditions have arisen from animal and test-tube studies. The fruit is also a rich source of a number of nutrients and antioxidant plant compounds that are known to promote good health and optimal function.

However, due to a lack of available human studies, it is difficult to attribute specific health benefits to durian fruit.

Potential benefits of durian fruit include:

  • Improved digestion: Because durian fruit is a good source of fiber, it can aid digestion and promote a healthy gut bacterial population.
  • Lower risk for heart disease: Several nutrients and plant compounds in durian fruit may promote heart health. They may work by reducing cholesterol and limiting the likelihood of atherosclerosis. It is also a good source of potassium, which plays a central role in heart health.
  • Anti-aging: There are a number of antioxidant compounds in durian fruit that can fight against free radicals that cause cell damage. This can help keep your cells and organs young, potentially delaying the appearance of visible (wrinkles, etc.) and invisible signs of aging.
  • Anticancer: Another impact of antioxidants is that they can prevent cellular damage that leads to cancer. Test-tube studies have indicated durian extract could stop the spread of breast cancer cells.
  • Fights infection: Traditional medicinal uses of durian fruit are centered around its potential to fight illness and promote a healthy immune system. The fruit may have antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and vasoconstrictive properties.

Durian Fruit Uses & Preparation

Durian fruit is often used in salads, as an ingredient in Southeast Asian-style dishes, spread over sticky rice, or consumed on its own.

How do you eat durian fruit? It is really up to you! It can be eaten raw, fried, or even turned into ice cream. The challenge is not so much in finding ways to eat it, but rather in getting it open and enduring the odor it emits. Remember, durian fruit is not for everybody!

Because of the tough, spiky shell, you’ll need to be very careful when trying to access the edible flesh. You may want to wear gloves or mitts when trying to get it open (this will also prevent the smell from sticking to your hands).

You can break through the shell with a knife, then carefully pry it open to reveal the custard-like flesh inside. You can pull it out and eat it, or cut it up for recipes.

Here are four detailed steps for how to cut durian fruit:

Step 1: Place the fruit stem-side down.

Step 2: Use a large, sharp knife to make a three- or four-inch incision through the skin.

Step 3: Put down the knife and peel the skin back—it should rip easily.

Step 4: Scoop out the edible part and remove the stones before eating.

2 Tasty Durian Recipes

Durian Ice Cream

Prep Time: 20 minutes    Cook Time: 45 minutes     Serves: 3-4


4 to 6 segments fresh or frozen durian

2 large egg yolks

3 tbsp granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 cup whole milk

1 cup light cream


  1. De-seed the durian, then scoop out the flesh and place in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low-to-medium speed until the flesh turns into a paste.
  2. Push the paste through a fine sieve to produce four ounces of durian paste. Add more if needed. Chill until ready to use.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla essence.
  4. Bring the cream and milk to a near boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to low. Add egg mixture, stir constantly to thicken. Do not let mixture reach boiling, or the milk will curdle. (If bubbles start to form at the edge of the saucepan, remove from heat).
  5. Once the mixture reaches a thick consistency, remove from heat and let the custard cool. Chill in the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes, until it is beginning to harden.
  6. Slowly stir in the durian paste, one tablespoon at a time, until it is completely incorporated.
  7. Return mixture to the freezer and continue to freeze. Stir several times throughout. Alternatively, you can finish the ice cream in an ice cream maker.​

Durian Thai Salad

Prep Time: 15 minutes          Total Time: 5 minutes           Serves: 3-4


1 or 2 bird’s eye chilies (or 1/2 chili for a milder taste)

1 clove garlic

2 to 3 tbsp palm sugar

2 limes

1/3 cup fresh green beans cut into one-inch sticks

1 cup unripe durian, cut into chunks

1/2 cup grated carrot

3 tomatoes, quartered

salt to taste


  1. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the chilies and garlic into a paste. (You can also finely chop the chilies and garlic and smash them in a bowl with the back of a spoon.)
  2. Add the palm sugar and limes and mix into a paste.
  3. Add in the green beans and durian chunks. Pound lightly, or break up into smaller pieces manually.
  4. Add remaining ingredients, and pound until the vegetables are soft and have absorbed the juice. Alternatively, knead the salad with your hands, squeezing with your fingers to break down.
  5. Serve inside a hollowed-out durian shell.

Durian Fruit Is Worth the Experience

Durian’s smell and appearance can be off-putting, but if you come into contact with one, many say it is worth the experience. The fruits are pretty hard to find outside of Asia, so there’s a good chance you won’t see them at your local grocer. For most, the best of durian’s tastes may be found at your local Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese or Filipino restaurant.

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