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What the hell is jackfruit?

Reading time:
approx. 5 Minutes

In addition to vegetarian proteins like tempeh, tofu and seitan, you may have heard of a new meat substitute: jackfruit.

Jackfruit is an odd-looking but delicious fruit that's popping up on store shelves and restaurant menus alike. Fans say it's the perfect substitute for pulled pork, shredded chicken and even beef steak.

It has a mild flavor that pairs well with a variety of spices, and it's stringy (in a good way), making it easy to shred.

What is jackfruit?

Jackfruit is a tropical fruit that is relatively new. Each jackfruit is huge, so if you're at the supermarket, it's hard to miss. They start at 4.5 kg, but can grow up to 45 kg each!

Where does jackfruit grow?

This giant fruit - it's the largest tree fruit in the world - is native to South and Southeast Asia.

Jackfruit recipes can be found in Indian, Thai and Balinese cuisine, and jackfruit is the national fruit of Bangladesh. In countries such as Sri Lanka, the ripe jackfruit is eaten as a meal or side dish.

The fruit has a thick, spiny skin that starts out green and then turns yellow with darker spots. When green, jackfruit has no particular odor, but when ripe, it smells sweet, musky and fruity.

Green jackfruit used as a meat substitute has a similar taste and texture to artichoke hearts.

What does jackfruit taste like?

Wondering what jackfruit tastes like? Well, that depends! Because the flavor develops as the fruit ripens. It is similar in texture and flavor to a mango and a pineapple. Young jackfruit is heartier but tasteless and can be shredded, seasoned and cooked to mimic meat.

Although young, green jackfruit is very trendy right now, you can also find ripe, whole jackfruit or canned jackfruit packed in syrup in Asian markets.

What are the benefits of jackfruit?

While jackfruit is popular as a meat substitute, it doesn't contain much protein - so that's not one of the benefits of jackfruit. Each 100g of jackfruit pieces contains 96 calories, 1.7 grams of protein, 24 grams of carbohydrates and 0.7 grams of fat. It also contains calcium, magnesium, vitamin C and potassium.

Although jackfruit has been touted for its ability to feed the world, you don't have to make it a new staple in your healthy diet. Jackfruit is a superfood that you can incorporate into your diet to boost your health.

If you're craving comfort food and miss pulled pork (either on a plant-based diet or if you're avoiding high-fat meats), this is definitely a great option - both flavor and texture-wise.

As with portobello mushrooms or spaghetti squash sliders, jackfruit is not a burger and therefore not an exact macronutrient equivalent. It may have a meaty texture, but as the name implies, it's actually a fruit - and therefore has more carbs and less protein and fat.

Since jackfruit doesn't have as much protein as meat, like to serve it with plant-based protein sources like beans, lentils, tofu or tempeh. For example, serve jackfruit with barbecue sauce and black beans in a roasted squash bowl.

Another benefit of jackfruit?

It's naturally high in fiber.

How to eat jackfruit

Are you ready to learn how to eat jackfruit? You have two basic options: Find a whole, unripe jackfruit and prepare it yourself, or buy a can or package of plain green jackfruit in brine (a much easier option).

Even if you can buy already seasoned jackfruit, watch out for the added sugar and salt.

Since jackfruit isn't as high in fat and protein as pulled pork, your jackfruit pulled pork recipe won't fill you up like the real thing. So you should add other foods that provide those macronutrients.

If you're making jackfruit for the first time, try this recipe for a healthy barbecue sauce and serve it with avocados or another healthy fat to help you feel fuller.

Fry the jackfruit in a non-stick pan before adding the sauce to add another layer of flavor. To get some color on the jackfruit, pat it dry before adding it to the hot pan with a little oil.

Jackfruit tips for carnivores

Jackfruit is not just for vegans and vegetarians. If you don't want to eat a plant-based diet, try these jackfruit tips for meat eaters.

Try mixing Pulled Pork and Jackfruit together to add more fiber and phytonutrients to your regular meat-based barbecue meal.

Try incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet and reducing high-fat meat consumption. Replacing one or more meat-based meals per week has been shown to improve health.

For example, the Mediterranean diet, considered one of the healthiest in the world, contains little meat. You could also incorporate jackfruit into a flexitarian diet.

Jackfruit can be part of a healthy diet rich in other fruits and vegetables, plant proteins and healthy fats.

How to prepare jackfruit

If you've decided to process a whole jackfruit yourself, you should plan ahead. Preparing jackfruit can be a little tricky. That's why we're giving you step-by-step instructions:

  • Cover your work surface with newspaper or dish towels. Put on an apron or old clothes.
  • Rub your hands with cooking oil (such as coconut or olive oil) and put on rubber gloves, as jackfruit contains sticky natural latex that makes a stringy mess.
  • Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the fruit in half and then into manageable pieces. Optionally, oil the blade of your knife to keep it from sticking.
  • Cook until the fruit is soft (thin slices will only take 10 minutes, thicker pieces can take up to 45 minutes).
  • Remove the skin to reveal the fibrous interior and seed pods, and discard the seeds. (Note: These are edible when cooked until soft. The outer shells must be removed, and they are said to taste like potatoes. )
  • Once you've processed all of the fruit, you can proceed with your recipe as planned.

The added value

Jackfruit is a delicious vegan substitute for pulled pork and other ground meats. Jackfruit has more carbohydrates and less protein than the meat it can replace in a recipe. So combine it with a vegetarian protein like legumes.

The taste and texture may not quite fool meat eaters, but they can benefit from adding chopped young jackfruit to dishes as a way to eat less meat.

The easiest way to eat green jackfruit is to buy it canned or packaged, but you can also process whole jackfruits.

More information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure that the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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