What is jackfruit? Is it good for you? And what should you do with it? We have answers to all those questions.
One thing’s for sure: Jackfruit is here to stay. What started as the latest plant-based food craze—herbivores and carnivores alike were drawn to its meat-like consistency—is now a bonafide culinary star. You’ll find it popping up on menus across the country, and food manufacturing companies like The Jackfruit Company are bringing it to your grocery store aisles in everything from its raw form to meal starter kits to ready-to-eat entrees.
What Is Jackfruit?
Native to Asia, jackfruit is a member of the fig family and grows on trees in the form of large, bumpy pods; cut open the thick, oval-shaped shell and you’ll find yellow flesh with large, flat seeds. If you’re lucky enough to find a whole jackfruit, here’s how to cut it:
That fleshy interior makes jackfruit an attractive vegan meat substitute that’s free of soy (unlike tofu, tempeh, and other faux meats; it’s also gluten-free, unlike seitan). Jackfruit can be pulled into shreds shockingly reminiscent of pulled pork or chicken, and the taste is mild enough that it takes on whatever flavors you add to it.
The Jackfruit Company Thai Green Chile Jackfruit Meal, $3.49 from Thrive Market
This jackfruit is already prepped and seasoned with coconut green curry and veggies; just add rice!
The seeds can also be eaten, but you won’t find them in cans or packages of jackfruit flesh, only in the whole fruits.
Is Jackfruit Good for You?
Indeed! Jackfruit packs an impressive amount of essential nutrients (fiber, protein, potassium, magnesium, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E, and B) into its bumpy, oversized rind. A cup of plain jackfruit contains only 80 calories and has no sugar or fat, but does give you 4 grams of protein. It’s a boon not just to vegans, but to anyone wanting to eat a more plant-based diet.
What Kind of Jackfruit Should You Buy?
When buying plain jackfruit (as opposed to already-seasoned BBQ jackfruit shreds and other flavored varieties), be sure to buy cans with labels that say young jackfruit or green jackfruit in brine or water—not in syrup, unless you want to eat it as a dessert.
Aroy-D Young Green Jackfruit in Brine, 6 cans for $20.75 on Amazon
Plain jackfruit lets you add any seasonings and sauces you like.
Canned green jackfruit (in brine or water) is the kind with an extremely mild flavor, and exactly what you want when using it as a meat substitute. Ripe jackfruit (in syrup) is much sweeter and tastes something like a cross between pineapple and grapes, according to Your Daily Vegan. Maybe good for snacking, but not so much for slathering in BBQ sauce.
What Should You Do with Jackfruit?
While it’s becoming an increasingly mainstream ingredient, you might be a bit puzzled as to how best to cook it up. That’s why we asked professional chefs to share their favorite jackfruit-inspired dishes that are perfect for your next Meatless Monday dinner. Here, 15 jackfruit recipes to try:
1. Pulled “Pork” Jackfruit
Say hello to vegetarian barbecue that actually tastes good. “Jackfruit resembles pulled pork, visually and in texture, once it’s cooked,” says David Burke, renowned chef and restaurateur (of, among others, Woodpecker in New York City). “Braise it in my B1 sauce (available in my restaurants or on Amazon) along with cumin and smoked paprika. It will satisfy any meat eater.” As a substitute for his B1 sauce, Burke suggests using any non-sweet barbecue sauce, horseradish, or Worcestershire to mask some of the fruit’s natural sweetness.
Upton's Naturals Vegan Bar-B-Que Jackfruit, $4.99 from Thrive Market
You can also buy BBQ jackfruit that's ready to turn into quick tacos, grain bowls, sandwiches, and more.
2. Jackfruit Smoothie
“Blend jackfruit, mint, green grapes, spinach, water, and ice cubes together to create a green smoothie with a sweet, tropical-esque flavor,” say the chefs at Vitamix.
3. Jackfruit “Tuna” Melt
Here’s a twist on a lunchtime classic: Substitute jackfruit in place of canned tuna. Mix with your favorite tuna salad add-ins (we love the combo of mayo, chopped celery, and a shake of smoked paprika and cayenne), then add a layer of lettuce and eat it as a cold sandwich, or top it with a piece of cheddar cheese (or vegan cheese!) and grill the sammy in a pan for a crispy, gooey bite.
4. Jerked Jackfruit
“I like to smoke it and simmer it in a jerk-based sauce,” says Thomas Boemer, executive chef and partner at Corner Table and Revival in Minneapolis. Serve it alongside a pile of rice and peas or stuffed into a pillowy roll.
5. Jackfruit Tacos
Sub in jackfruit for your favorite meaty taco filling. “Jackfruit is incredibly versatile, due to its ability to absorb flavors. Stuffing it into a taco is one of my favorite applications—I love it so much I actually added it to the menu at our 40 nationwide locations!” says Peter Olsacher, executive chef at Bahama Breeze.
6. Jackfruit Stir-Fry
Reach for jackfruit instead of tofu for your next vegetarian stir-fry. Sauté with classic Asian ingredients like garlic and plenty of ginger, than add in veggies like onions, peppers, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, and snap peas. Add an optional swirl of soy sauce or squirt of Sriracha, then pile on a mound of white or brown rice and devour.
7. Jackfruit Tomato Sauce
For a plant-based version of a hearty Italian meat sauce, sub in jackfruit instead. Plunk it into a classic marinara, then let it slowly simmer before scooping it over a plate of your favorite pasta.
8. Jackfruit Nachos
“It can have a soft texture, so it’s important to serve jackfruit alongside ingredients that have some crispiness,” says Olsacher. Top salty tortilla chips with Mexican-flavored jackfruit, then smother it in nacho essentials like beans, jalapeños, chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro, sour cream, and cheese.
9. Jackfruit “Sausage” and Peppers
Saute jackfruit with olive oil, fennel seeds, garlic, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and a pinch of salt to create a faux Italian sausage crumble. Cook up onions and sweet bell peppers, then pile it all on a crusty Italian roll.
10. Jackfruit Pizza
Jackfruit is mild on its own and picks up whatever flavors you introduce to it. That’s why it makes the perfect meat-free pizza topping. We love sauteing it with a bit of barbecue sauce, then building a pizza with the jackfruit mixture, frozen or fresh corn, red onion, and plenty of mozzarella cheese.
11. Jackfruit Ramen
Add the fruit to a savory vegetable broth, then pour over a mound of noodles and garnish with your favorite ramen toppings, suggest Vitamix chefs.
12. Jackfruit Stuffed Peppers
Stuffed peppers are healthy and filling, not to mention delicious and super easy to assemble. Mix jackfruit with whatever veggies (chopped) you have in the house, then fold in cooked quinoa, rice, or couscous, then stuff it all into a hollowed-out bell pepper and bake.
13. Jackfruit Fried Rice
For a quickie fried rice, use jackfruit instead of chicken or pork. You’ll save time (it cooks up faster than meat) without losing the textures and flavors you know and love.
14. Jackfruit Pitas
This is sure to satisfy your next Greek craving. Cook jackfruit in a pan with olive oil, black pepper, and oregano, then layer in a pita with hummus, tzatziki, lettuce, tomato, and red onion. Delish!
15. Jackfruit Macaroni and Cheese
Healthy up comfort food by stirring jackfruit into your go-to mac ‘n’ cheese mixture, then bake in the oven until the top layer of cheese is golden brown and bubbly.
Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.