Have You Tried Jackfruit, the Fruit With the Meaty Texture?
What is Jackfruit?
Jackfruit is a large fruit from the jackfruit tree that is used as a meat substitute. A single jackfruit can weigh up to 80 pounds but it is typically harvested at 15 to 30 pounds, making it the world's largest tree fruit.
Jackfruit can be eaten ripe, like a traditional fruit. Or, as is becoming popular, it can be served unripe in savory dishes, much like you would pulled pork or shredded chicken. The ripe fruit is custardy and soft, with a mild mango flavor. Under-ripe jackfruit takes on the flavors around it. Unripened jackfruit is more mild and starchy, making it a great candidate to be marinated and then braised.
For many years, jackfruit has been available in canned form, a staple of some Indian curry dishes. But now it's starting to show up on restaurant menus and in pre-flavored, ready-to-eat packages in specialty supermarkets.
Where is Jackfruit from?
While jackfruit is native to India, it grows well in all humid tropical and near-tropical climates. In Central and South America, the production of jackfruit (jaca or yaca in Spanish) is growing steadily. Jackfruit season depends on the climatic region, so it's pretty much available year-round.
What Does Jackfruit Look Like?
The outside of the jackfruit looks like an urchin -- or a watermelon that broke out in hives. It's drab green or yellow when ripe, covered in close-packed knobby bumps. The interior contains large edible bulbs of yellow, banana-flavored meaty flesh whose scent resembles pineapple and banana. The jackfruit seeds are also edible.
What Does It Smell and Taste Like?
Ripe jackfruit is intense, with an aroma that's been compared to Juicy Fruit gum.
What Is Jackfruit Good for?
One cup of jackfruit contains 157 calories, making it a low-calorie food with excellent nutritional value. Jackfruit is a good source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, and some other essential vitamins and minerals.
Jackfruit is rich in fiber, which benefits digestive health and weight management and can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and type-2 diabetes. The potassium in jackfruit can help reduce blood pressure.
Keep in mind, though, that jackfruit is not a good source of protein, it contains only about 2 grams of protein per half-cup serving. When substituting jackfruit for meat, like in a jackfruit bbq where you put jackfruit slices on the grill, make sure to add a good protein source to your meal, such as tofu or other soy products, or pulses such as lentils, chickpeas, or beans.
What is Jackfruit Used for?
How you eat jackfruit depends on how you buy it. Jackfruit is available fresh, canned or as ready-to-eat pre-flavored packages.
The easiest way to start cooking with jackfruit is to buy a package of the ready-to-eat stuff, like those made by Upton's Naturals or The Jackfruit Company. It's perfect for quick meals. Simply heat and eat. Pop curry-flavored jackfruit over rice. Tuck barbecue jackfruit between the halves of a soft bun and top it with coleslaw. Upton's Chili Lime Carnitas Jackfruit is perfect for taco night.
Once you're more confident with jackfruit, seek out the canned, water-packed variety and mix it with your favorite seasonings and sauces for pulled "pork,"jackfruit curry and more.
Fresh jackfruit is covered in sticky resin, so when handling the fresh fruit, you'll want to coat your hands in cooking oil for easier clean-up. Use a sharp knife to remove the fruit's core and free the edible jackfruit pods. Trim away the fibrous strands around each pod. Slit the pod lengthwise to remove the pit. The flesh is now ready to use in recipes like a low-carb Jackfruit Pancake.
Some Favorite Jackfruit Recipes
"For vegans and anyone else who wants an interesting and healthy version of pulled pork," says SarahVictoria. "It satisfied the craving of this 9-year vegetarian. You may eat this right away by making a sandwich with coleslaw or however you choose, but it is best to let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. Then, reheat it. This is especially important if you do not have a slow cooker and choose to cook it in a skillet instead."
"Your lunchroom favorite goes vegetarian," says Buckwheat Queen. "Slow-cooked green jackfruit adds texture without compromising flavor. Pop this in the slow cooker in the morning, and you'll have thick and tangy sloppy Joes by lunchtime. Serve with pickles and vegetable chips. No hairnet required."
The perfect filler for a gyro or wrap, pizza topping, taco, lasagna, enchilada, or any recipe calling for a savory and meaty gluten-free ingredient.
"Jackfruit is a great vegan alternative to shredded chicken to use in tacos," says Cassidy Carolino. "These jackfruit tacos are delicious and vegan! Choose your favorite taco toppings, such as lettuce, tomato, cilantro, avocado, vegan cheese, and vegan sour cream."
"Move over, tofu. Jackfruit is here," says Buckwheat Queen. "I absolutely loved this recipe. This was my first time eating jackfruit. I was so surprised at how delightful it is. The meat itself has little taste. The texture is like biting into a tuna steak or very tender chicken."
Check our our full collection of vegetarian and vegan recipes.