Few fruits can be described as notorious, but durian (known as “the king of fruits” to some) is arguably just that. In fact, many airlines, including Air New Zealand and China Southern Airlines, have banned it completely. It seems a little excessive to ban a fruit from a plane—but durian has previous for holding up flights. In 2018, an Indonesian plane was grounded because of it. And if you’re thinking: how on Earth could a fruit hold up an entire plane? We’ve got two words for you: the smell.

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Yep, durian is renowned for being super stinky. According to USA Today, some have described it as pig droppings, while others have compared it to hot summer garbage in New York City. And yet, durian is still incredibly popular. It is eaten frequently across Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, and, in the last few decades, it has been rapidly growing in popularity across China. And you can also find it in the US.

We hear you. Why would you want to eat something that smells like garbage? Well, it turns out, many think the taste of durian is actually delicious. In fact, in major contrast to the smell comparisons, some have described its texture as soft and custardy with a flavor like caramel.

Durian is incredibly divisive, and there’s no guarantee you’ll love it. But you don’t know until you try. Below, we’ve listed a few vegan recipes from people who swear by durian. And if you needed more of an incentive to give it a go, we’re pleased to say this potent fruit is packed with nutrients, too.

Durian FruitPexels

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What is durian fruit?

Durian is a tropical fruit native to Southeast Asia, but it’s also cultivated in other tropical regions, too. The most common variety, Durio zibethinus, has a thick outer husk, which is covered in sharp spines, but inside, the edible flesh is creamy and yellow with large seeds. These segments are usually scooped out and eaten raw, but they can also be transformed into desserts or smoothies, too (as you’ll see below!).

Durian’s, let’s say distinctive, aroma is due to “turbocharged” volatile sulphur production, a team of Singapore researchers concluded in 2018. In the wild, this would help attract animals to fruit, who would then eat it and in turn, help to disperse its seeds.

What does durian do to your body?

Durian’s smell might be offputting, but its nutritional content is far from it. In fact, it’s actually one of the world’s most nutritious fruits. It’s packed with fiber (one cup provides around nine grams), and it’s also a source of carbohydrates, protein, vitamin C (one cup contains around 80 percent of the daily value!), vitamin B6, and minerals, including thiamine, riboflavin, and magnesium.

Plus, durian contains beneficial plant compounds, like carotenoids and flavonoids, which have an antioxidant effect on the body. This means that they help to neutralize free radicals, which over time, can lead to chronic diseases, like heart disease and cancer. More research is needed into durian’s health benefits, but some initial test tube studies suggest that consuming durian regularly may help to stop breast cancer from spreading and reduce the risk of heart disease. 

How to cook with durian: 5 vegan recipes to try

It is possible to buy durian from a few places in the US, including farmer’s markets and health stores, but one of the easiest places to order it from is Amazon. Buy the flesh freeze-dried from brands like Chavi and Bestore for ease of preparation (and to reduce the intensity of the smell, but beware it’s not eliminated completely).

Once you’ve got your durian, transform it into a delicious dessert or smoothie by following one of the vegan recipes below.

Durian Panna CottaDavina Da Vegan

1 Durian Panna Cotta

According to recipe developer Davina Da Vegan, this recipe for durian panna cotta is “unbelievably simple.” She notes: “You should need no more than a total of 15 minutes in the kitchen and the rest is waiting time for the panna cotta to set in the fridge.” After that, the end result is a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth dessert you’ll want to make again and again.
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Durian SmoothiesThe Global Girl

2 Pineapple & Durian Tropical Smoothie

With its creamy texture, durian is the perfect smoothie ingredient, especially when it’s combined with other tropical fruits, like pineapple and bananas. “This smoothie is not only pretty, it’s loaded with beautifying goodies and it’s the perfect summer thirst-quencher,” says recipe developer The Global Girl.
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Durian CheesecakeFoodaciously

3 Durian Cheesecake

Creamy, mashed ripe durian stands in for cream cheese in this vegan, gluten-free, tropical cheesecake. Together with silken tofu and agar powder, it makes for a delicious, dairy-free, no-bake treat.
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Durian Ice CreamTwo Plaid Aprons

4 Durian Ice Cream

This no-churn durian ice cream is an easy, refreshing dessert for hot summer days. While the recipe from Two Plaid Aprons calls for condensed milk and heavy cream, it also notes that these can be swapped for vegan alternatives. “Even though this ice cream is not made with traditional methods, it is still creamy like classic ice cream and full of durian flavor,” notes the blog.
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Maca Durian PuddingThe Maca Team

5 Maca Durian Pudding

According to The Maca Team, maca and durian are a “divine” combination, and this recipe is the proof. It’s super easy to make, too. All you need to do is combine maca powder, durian flesh, and coconut water in a blender, before sprinkling with cinnamon, and it’s ready to eat!
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