Have you seen a large, spiky, green fruit in your local supermarket lately? It’s probably jackfruit, and you’re going to see much more of it.
Originally found in the tropical lowlands of Southwest India (and now in your local supermarket), the jackfruit is soaring in popularity for vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians alike because of its distinct meaty texture. Jackfruit can be a little intimidating, however, as it can weigh up to a hefty 35kg and measure up to 90cm in length, with a thick skin that can be tough to get into. That’s why we’ve explored exactly what jackfruit is, why people are eating it, and how to use it – so you can start including this weird but wonderful fruit in your meals.
What Exactly Is Jackfruit?
Jackfruit, AKA jack tree or ‘tree-mutton’ (you’ll find out why), is a fruit from the same family as both figs and mulberries. The fruit itself can be pretty big – up to 35kg – but in reality, not all jackfruits come quite that large.
You can use both the ripe and the unripe fruit and even the seeds in cooking – used most commonly in South and Southeast Asian meals, as well as the more tropical regions of the world.
However, as more and more of the western population turns to veganism (around 1 million Brits are now full-time vegans), jackfruit has exploded in popularity. That’s because unripe jackfruit acts as a tasty vegan- and vegetarian-friendly meat substitute, as it has a surprisingly meaty texture and a mild flavor.
Ripe jackfruit is naturally sweet with an aroma similar to ripe bananas and mangoes – often used in sweet dishes like cakes and custards, as well as alongside shaved ice. The seeds can be used, too, and they’re said to taste a little like brazil nuts – served as a salty snack or even inside a curry.
Jackfruit flesh is a great source of starchy carbohydrates and fiber – great for slow-release energy and digestion. Plus, the fruit contains high quantities of vitamin B6 (helps with amino acid, glucose and lipid metabolism, amongst more), and pretty decent levels of vitamin C (helps maintain healthy skin, protects cells and helps with wound healing) and potassium (helps nutrients move into cells and maintains healthy heart function).
However, although jackfruit makes a great meat-substitute for its texture and flavor, it’s unfortunately not as high in protein as the real thing. In fact, contrary to popular opinion, the flesh only contains around 2% protein (while your average chicken breast comes in at around 24%).
How To Prepare Jackfruit
Fortunately, you don’t have to buy the entire fruit when you fancy including a bit of jackfruit in your dinner. Save yourself the effort and mess (and not to mention risk – let’s not make jackfruit hand the new avocado hand) and buy your jackfruit canned.
Another thing to know about jackfruit is that the unripe (or young/green) fruit is pretty different from the ripe version. If you’re looking for a meaty substitute with a similar consistency to pulled pork, go for unripe, young or green jackfruit, as labelled on the can or on the fruit label itself.
If you are going to buy the whole fruit and prepare it yourself, use a large, sharp knife to cut your way through the thick skin. You can then cut it into segments and use a small paring knife to cut out the flesh, much like you would a melon. Cut into chunks and boil in water for around 30-40 minutes to give it a stringy texture. Now you can use it as a meat substitute in your favorite dishes.
What Meals Can I Make With Jackfruit?
Unripe jackfruit can be used in a whole host of meals – from faux pulled pork burgers and burritos to stir-fries and curries. In southern parts of India, it’s actually cut into slices and made into chips, whereas in Thailand, it’s often boiled in coconut milk with spices and eaten with rice. The world is your oyster (or, indeed, your jackfruit) – be creative!
Jackfruit BBQ Pulled ‘Pork’ Recipe
Makes: 4 burgers
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 garlic clove (crushed)
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. hot chili powder
- 1 cup ketchup (try sugar-free ketchup for a low-sugar version)
- 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (use vegan Worcestershire sauce for vegan)
- 1 tbsp. honey or agave syrup
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 orange (juiced)
- 10.5 oz. canned young, green jackfruit
- 4 burger buns and your favorite toppings
1. Place a large pan onto a medium heat with the olive oil. Once the pan has heated through, add the olive oil and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.
2. Add the paprika and chili powder and stir through for 30 seconds to cook the spices through.
3. Add the ketchup, honey/agave, apple cider vinegar and orange juice and boil and bubble for 3-4 minutes until the sauce becomes glossy.
4. Drain the canned jackfruit and add the fruit to the pan. Cook through for 5-7 minutes until it’s hot through and the flavors have been taken on.
5. Serve in a bun with your favorite burger toppings (we suggest crunchy coleslaw and a squeeze of lime juice to bring out the flavors).