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Once found mainly in southern China and Southeast Asia, this tropical fruit has since spread across the globe. Its sweetness, fragrance and juicy pulp put lychee in a class all by itself!

Nutritional Highlights

Need your vitamin C for the day? Use 3/4 cup of fresh lychee (140 grams) in a recipe-for-one, and you'll get at least 150 percent of your Daily Value of this essential antioxidant.


Lychee originated in China. Records dating back to 2000 BC make mention of this unique and much-revered fruit. Starting around 1600 AD, intercontinental trade brought lychee to Europe and the Americas. Today, it's still grown primarily in Southeast Asia, though, domestically, it also gets cultivated in Florida and Hawaii.

The lychee is a one-of-a-kind fruit. Since it's the only member of its genus (called Litchi, appropriately enough), lychee doesn't have many cousins to be compared to. Its closest relative is longan, a small, whitish, grape-like fruit with a hard brown covering that grows in Southeast Asia.

Basically, lychee is something like a cross between a plum and a grape. Its grows on trees in large clusters. Each fruit is roughly the size of a large globe grape, complete with a red pebbly outer skin. Inside this rind is whitish fruit with a single, large pit.


The most common kind of lychee grown in the U.S. is called the Kohala, which is a cultivar that comes from Hawaii and Australia. However, internationally, there about two dozen different varieties whose popularity varies by country.

When is Lychee in Season?

Typically, lychee is harvested between May and September. You can also find canned lychee all year long, as well as a dried version called lychee nut.

How to Choose Lychee

To choose good fresh lychee, pick those that have bright red or pink skins, since these have ripened on the tree and so retain the most flavor.

How to Store Lychee

Lychee do not ripen any further once picked, so it's best to store them immediately in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They'll keep for about a week.

How to Prepare Lychee

To remove the hard, rough skin of lychee, use a paring knife to cut a large circle around the circumference of the fruit. Use your fingers to peel or crack away the outer shell. Next, tear open the white fruit and discard the pit. Now enjoy!

Key Measurements

Lychee usually goes into recipes in cups of peeled, pitted fruit.


For a close replacement, use the tropical fruits rambutan or longan. As a simpler substitute, try peeled grapes instead.

Flavor Profile of Lychee

Lychee's flavor is tough to get across. It's sweet and very juicy. Generally, fresh lychee tastes something like grapefruit, with a strong, perfumy aftertaste.

Lychee in Recipes

In place of grapes, use lychee in recipes like Chicken Chow Mein, Fruit and Yogurt and Fruit with Yogurt-Poppy Seed Dressing for an exotic dish that'll have your guests asking you what the secret ingredient is.

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