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Durian Fruit: Smelly but Incredibly Nutritious

Durian Fruit: Smelly but Incredibly Nutritious

  • What it is
  • Uses
  • Nutrition
  • Benefits
  • Downsides
  • Preparation
  • Odor
  • Bottom line

Durian is a unique tropical fruit.

It’s popular in Southeast Asia, where it’s nicknamed “the king of fruits.” Durian is very high in nutrients, containing more than most other fruits.

However, it also gets a bad rap due to its strong smell.

This article tells you everything you need to know about durian.

What is durian fruit?

Durian is a tropical fruit distinguished by its large size and spiky, hard outer shell.

It has a smelly, custard-like flesh with large seeds.

There are several varieties, but the most common one is Durio zibethinus.

The fruit’s flesh can range in color. It’s most commonly yellow or white, but can also be red or green.

Durian grows in tropical regions around the world, particularly in the Southeast Asian countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand.

The fruit can grow up to 1 foot (30 cm) long and 6 inches (15 cm) wide. A typical durian fruit has about 2 cups (486 grams) of edible pulp.


Durian is a tropical fruit that grows in countries in Southeast Asia. It has a spiky outer shell and a smelly flesh that can vary in color.

How is it used?

Durian is used in sweet and savory dishes. Both the creamy flesh and seeds are edible, though the seeds need to be cooked.

The flavor is described as tasting like cheese, almonds, garlic, and caramel all at once.

Common food preparations of durian fruit include:

  • juice
  • seeds, boiled or roasted
  • soup
  • candy, ice cream, and other desserts
  • side dish

It’s also used in traditional medicine and has some medicinal properties that are currently being studied.


Durian is an ingredient in both sweet and savory Southeast Asian dishes. It’s also used in traditional medicine.

One of the most nutritious fruits

Durian is very high in nutrients compared to most other fruits.

One cup (243 grams) of pulp provides (1Trusted Source):

  • Calories: 357
  • Fat: 13 grams
  • Carbs: 66 grams
  • Fiber: 9 grams
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Vitamin C: 80% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Thiamine: 61% of the DV
  • Manganese: 39% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 38% of the DV
  • Potassium: 30% of the DV
  • Riboflavin: 29% of the DV
  • Copper: 25% of the DV
  • Folate: 22% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 18% of the DV
  • Niacin: 13% of the DV

This nutrient profile makes durian one of the most nutritious fruits worldwide.

It’s also rich in healthy plant compounds, including anthocyanins, carotenoids, polyphenols, and flavonoids. Many of these function as antioxidants (2Trusted Source).


Durian is a very nutritious fruit that’s rich in fiber, B vitamins, vitamin C, and various healthy plant compounds.

Health benefits of durian

All parts of the durian plant — leaves, husk, roots, and fruit — have been used in traditional Malaysian medicine to treat various illnesses, including high fever, jaundice, and skin conditions (2Trusted Source).

Studies suggest that durian fruit offers the following health benefits (2Trusted Source3Trusted Source):

  • Reduces cancer risk. Its antioxidants may neutralize cancer-promoting free radicals. In one test-tube study, durian extract prevented a strain of breast cancer cells from spreading.
  • Prevents heart disease. Several compounds in durian may help reduce cholesterol levels and your risk of atherosclerosis, or the hardening of your arteries.
  • Fights infection. The rind contains compounds that have antibacterial and anti-yeast properties.
  • Lowers blood sugar. Durian has a lower glycemic index (GI) than many other tropical fruits, meaning it may spike blood sugar levels less.

While these studies show promise, many have been done on animals or in test tubes. No solid claims can be made until the health benefits of durian have been confirmed by controlled studies in people.


Durian contains nutrients and plant compounds that may offer several health benefits, including for cancer, heart health, infections, and blood sugar control. However, no human studies have been conducted.

Potentially harmful in combination with alcohol

Consuming durian at the same time as alcohol can cause problems (2Trusted Source).

Scientists believe that sulfur-like compounds in durian may prevent certain enzymes from breaking down alcohol, causing increased alcohol levels in your blood.

This could lead to symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and heart palpitations (2Trusted Source).

To be safe, avoid eating durian and drinking alcohol at the same time.


Durian contains compounds that may prevent alcohol from being fully metabolized, causing symptoms like nausea and vomiting.

How to eat durian

Opening a durian’s hard, spiky shell often requires gloves or mitts to protect your hands.

You need to cut the shell with a knife and pry it open with your hands before gently removing the durian flesh.

You can then eat it fresh on its own, paired with sticky rice, or as an ingredient in various dishes.

You can find tutorials on how to open a durian fruit, as well as many recipes, online.

The flesh is also sold frozen, which slightly changes its texture, making it looser and more stringy.

Durian is also used in prepared foods, such as candy. Yet, while this may give you a sample of its flavor, it won’t provide you with the health benefits.


You can buy fresh or frozen durian and eat it directly or combined with other ingredients in recipes.

Why does it smell so strongly?

Opinions are mixed about durian’s smell. Some people love it, while others hate it.

The smell is very strong and has been described as a combination of sulfur, sewage, fruit, honey, and roasted and rotting onions.

A study on the aromatic compounds in durian found 44 active compounds, including some that contribute to scents of skunk, caramel, rotten egg, fruit, and soup seasoning (4Trusted Source).

The fruit’s smell is so potent that it’s banned in many hotels and public transport systems in Southeast Asia.

Your impression of the fruit depends on whether you smell the sweet-smelling or stinky compounds more strongly.


Durian contains aromatic compounds that give it a strong smell. Some people enjoy the smell, while others hate it.

The bottom line

Durian fruit is incredibly high in healthy nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin C, minerals, plant compounds, healthy fats, and fiber.

However, the smell and taste may not be for everyone.


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