It is a small to medium-sized tree up to 25 m tall. The leaves are deciduous in the short dry season, but only fall shortly before the new leaves develop; they are pinnate, with 7-23 leaflets, each leaflet 3-5 cm long and 1.5-2 cm broad. The flowers are small, reddish-purple, produced in large panicles. The fruit is an edible oval drupe, 3-5 cm long and 2-3.5 cm broad, ripening red (occasionally yellow) and containing a single large seed.
It is now widely cultivated in tropical regions throughout the world for its edible fruit (it is eaten with salt before they ripen), and is also naturalised in some areas, including the Philippines and Nigeria. Numerous cultivars have been selected for fruit quality. It is also abundant in Central America.