The snake fruit is native to Indonesia and thrives in the tropical climate of Southeast Asia. In most parts of this region, they’re as popular as apples or bananas and are sold in supermarkets, and by street vendors; hotels often include the fruits in their buffet breakfasts.
If you’ve stumbled onto this fig-shaped fruit for sale, or you are considering growing your own palm tree, then you may be wondering what does snake fruit taste like? Is it worth spending money on? We’re about to reveal the fruit’s taste, texture, aroma, and more. Let’s dive in.
Describing the taste of snake fruit
Snake fruit has a tropical flavor that is sweet and sour in one bite. It has a citrusy, astringent undertone that leaves the tongue tingling, similar to a pineapple. Many people describe the taste as being a combination of banana, apple, jackfruit, and pineapple.
The skin of a snake fruit consists of reddish-brown scales that cannot be eaten. A quick pinch of the top of the fruit will allow the thin skin to easily be peeled off. The three light yellow lobes of flesh should be firm and have a similar crunchy texture to apple, or even garlic. Some varieties are juicy and sponge-like, while others have much less juice, with a dry, flaky texture. Snake fruit also have large, hard seeds that are inedible and should be discarded.
The fragrance of snake fruit can vary by variety. For example, the Salak Bali has very little smell; the Salak Pondoh has a similar scent to a durian. Whichever type you get your hands on, don’t let them over-ripen, because they all begin to smell foul eventually.
Quick tip 1:
There is a fine membrane that encases the fruit lobes – peeling off the outer layer will help reduce the astringent flavor.
The most popular way to eat snake fruits is out of hand - they’re easy to peel, a lot like figs. Thai locals enjoy dipping their fruit into a sugar and salt mixture. But not everyone enjoys them on their own. Some other useful cooking applications include:
- Make a sweet and tart jam.
- Bake a rhubarb and snake fruit pie.
- Include them in a fruit platter.
- Turn into a pickle, relish, or chutney.
- Dehydrate and add to muesli.
- Add to your favorite smoothie recipe.
- Create delicious sweet confectionery.
Quick tip 2:
Keep an eye out for the Salak Pondoh variety as it has smaller, edible seeds.
How to make rujak
Rujak, or rojak, is a traditional Javanese dish that combines a mix of fruit and vegetables into a salad. There are few "hard and fast" rules to making this dish so you will see many different variations of the recipe. It will usually have a bowl of spicy palm sugar dressing on the side.
- ¼ teaspoon shrimp paste
- 200 gram palm sugar, chopped
- 1 Tbsp tamarind paste
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 5 Thai chilies, seeded
- 1 cup pineapple, diced
- 1 cup honeydew melon, diced
- 1 cup snake fruit, diced
- 1 cup yam, boiled and diced
- 1 cup jicama, diced
- To make the dressing, toast shrimp paste in a small pan until pale. Allow cooling then process the paste in a blender with palm sugar, tamarind paste, salt, and chilies until well combined. Scoop into a serving bowl and set aside.
- Add pineapple, honeydew melon, snake fruit, yam, and jicama to a large platter and serve with the separate bowl of dressing.
Where to buy
The snake fruit isn’t easy to find in the United States; your best option is to look at Asian grocers or visit fruit stores that have a wide range of exotic produce. Most of Indonesia’s exports are sent to the Middle East, Europe, and China.
The snake fruit is revered in Indonesia for its high levels of pectin and potassium. It is known as the “Fruit of Memory” as the nutrition it offers is believed to assist brain development. Other useful nutritional benefits include calcium, vitamin C, iron, and thiamine.
Locals in Indonesia will often warn newcomers to snake fruit to eat them in moderation. They are known to block up the digestive system and cause constipation if eaten in larger quantities.
Fast Facts about snake fruit
- Around thirty varieties exist, most of which are extremely bitter and must be cooked before eating.
- They are classified botanically as Salacca zalacca and are a part of the Arecaceae family.
- The skin looks like a python as it is scale-like.
- Fruits are harvested on the salak palm tree which can grow up to six meters in height.
- The fruits grow on the base of the tree in small clusters.
- Snake fruits that are smelly, moist, or aren’t their usual color should be discarded.
We love creating resources for our readers about some of the lesser-known fruits. Check out our articles which describe the taste of hala fruit, starfruit, pomelos, and soursops. All unique looking tropical fruit that are more readily available in the United States than the snake fruit.
The first time you set eyes on a snake fruit, the scaly reptile-like skin can look a little daunting. But once the outer layer is peeled back, you’ll find unassuming lobes of fruit that look a lot like the arils of an ackee. So does a snake fruit taste any good? Let’s start by saying that they won’t be ideal for most kids who haven’t been brought up eating them. The flavor will be too much for their sensitive palettes. As for the adults, it seems that there are two divided camps on this question. The lovers of snake fruit will tell you that its a mixture of various delicious fruit, all under one skin – a refreshing fruit with a perfect balance of sweet and tart. The detractors can’t seem to get past the astringency which leaves a dry mouthfeel.
You’ll never find agreement online about whether this food tastes good or not. There are many varieties and often, people are comparing different types when describing taste. Your best option is to simply try a snake fruit for yourself and see what you think.
What is the most unpleasant fruit you’ve ever tasted? Please let us know in the comments below.