The longan is a tropical fruit that originated from South East Asia and is part of the soapberry family. Revered by the Chinese, they call it the “dragons eye” or lùhng-ngáahn. Once the outer casing is removed, it’s easy to see why. The seed, surrounded by flesh, looks a lot like an eyeball!
If you’ve seen these fruits at a market or on the restaurant menu, you may be wondering what does a longan taste like? On the inside, a longan looks a lot like a lychee, loquat or rambutan. But do they taste the same? Please keep reading to get a complete overview of this exotic fruit. We'll also run through its best uses in the kitchen.
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Describing the taste of longan fruit
The longan has very sweet tasting flesh with a slightly tart, musky undertone. It is similar to a lychee in flavor, only blander, and it has a less pronounced floral aroma. The texture is gelatinous and closely mimics a grape, although it is a little chewier. It is also quite juicy, and the flesh is more transparent than that of a lychee.
The longan seed is black, and the shell is tan colored. They are both inedible and should be discarded.
Lychee vs. longan
These two fruits are similar in many ways but they do have their differences as well. Here's a comparison table that provides a quick summary.
|Skin||Inedible, dimpled pink||Inedible, light tan|
|Flavor||Citrus, rosewater||Musky, slightly tart|
|Texture||Gelatinous, like a grape||Gelatinous, like a grape|
|Flesh color||White||Off -white, translucent|
|Amount of flesh||Less||More|
Culinary uses for longan
1. Eaten out of hand
Eating fresh longan is a pleasant experience, and most prefer to eat them this way. Aside from the enjoyable taste, it’s easy to access the flesh. This fruit is a pleasure to pull apart, unlike noni fruit or kiwanos, which are a “challenge.”
Quick tip: When selecting longans at the market, look at the skin to ensure there are no spots of mold. You’ll also want to perform a “feel test,” making sure there’s no gap between the skin and the fruit inside. If the flesh has shrunken, it’s a sign that the fruit is going off.
- Before eating longans, it is a good idea to wash them as they tend to get very dirty.
- Dig your fingers into the skin, and once a hole appears, tear the skin apart. It should pull away from the insides easily.
- Pop the longan into your mouth and eat the flesh, ensuring that the seed is spat out. Alternatively, slice with a knife in half lengthways and remove the seed.
2. Sweet options
As with most tropical fruits, the longan is ideal for desserts. Toss them into a fruit salad for an ingredient that brings sweetness and visual appeal to the dish. They also make lovely sorbet, ice cream, or smoothies if you want a sweet treat that has a tropical theme to it.
You can lightly simmer the fruit in a simple syrup and serve with coconut rice pudding. Get more ideas for longan recipes here.
3. Savory dishes
Longans are perfect for balancing out a meal that’s too salty. A plate of beef in black bean sauce, a Thai stirfry, or duck confit on rice; they'll all benefit from a few pitted longans tossed in at the end of the cook. Other delicious options include adding them to Asian soups or skewered onto a Shish Kebab.
What does dried longan taste like?
Dried longan has less flavor intensity than the fresh fruit. It’s flavor profile changes significantly as the moisture is removed. The dried longan has a prominent chocolate flavor, although most agree that it isn’t as pleasant. As you’d expect, the texture is much drier and it loses its soft, chewy flesh. The white meat transforms into a yellowish-brown shade
Do you have a bunch of fresh longans that you’d like dried? To do this, boil the fruit for 5 minutes then place in the oven at 130°F (55°C). As the fruit shows signs of drying out, increase the temperature to 158°F (70°C) until they look shriveled and yellow. The drying process takes up to 20 hours. As an alternative, you can use a dehydrator, which is purpose-built for the job.
It is best to place longans in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Leaving a small opening in the bag will provide airflow and reduce the onset of mold. An open bag won’t affect the quality of the fruit inside the skin, although the skin will harden a little.
Longans can also be frozen for up to a year. Store in an airtight container or bag, with their skins on.
For thousands of years, traditional Chinese medicine has used the longan berry for a range of medicinal uses. Although the pulp is useful, the seeds and flowers also have their benefits and are rich in antioxidants. It Vietnam, they use the fruit as an anti-venom for snake bites.
The longan fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C, providing 40% of the recommended daily intake in one ounce of pulp. They’re also low in carbohydrates and calories and have no fat content.
- Longans are commonly found in Southeast Asia, China, and India. They are also grown in Australia, Hawaii, Florida, and other parts of the world that have a warm climate.
- A good quality dried longan will have a yellowish color, while the lower quality ones are much darker.
- Longan tea is a popular winter beverage option in Asia.
- The ackee is from the same family as the longan.
- Its seeds can be used for shampooing the hair.
- It is also known as lungan, and its binomial name is Dimocarpus longan.
- The longan fruit tree can grow to over 100 feet in height.
Are you trying to decide if longan fruits are worth eating? You may find that descriptions of the flavor and texture vary, depending on who you listen to. Different varieties will impact flavor, as will level of ripeness and freshness, to name a few. In general, the longan can best be described as sweet with a musky undertone. If you’ve ever eaten lychee, then you’ll have a rough idea of how it tastes.
Here at Cuisinevault, we’d all choose lychee or rambutan over longan. It seems a little bland and underwhelming. For anyone that prefers food without any intense flavors, then this may well be the ideal fruit for you.
Have you tried eating longans before? What did you think of them? Let us know in the comments below.