If you’re into vegan cooking, you’ve likely seen jackfruit burgers, tacos, and even curry.
But what is jackfruit, and how do you cook it?
Jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world and is typically found in Asia, Africa, and South America. It has thick, uneven skin and stringy yellow flesh that is safe to eat raw or cooked. It’s the national fruit of Bangladesh and looks a little like a bumpy honeydew melon.
With the rise in vegan dieting (and people looking for meat-free meals in general), jackfruit has become pretty trendy in recent years.
So much so, many larger grocery stores, such as Publix, carry it as part of their regular produce section!
Of course, it’s much easier to work with out of a can, which is how I always buy it.
But if you’ve never tried it and are still wondering, “what is jackfruit?” keep reading. I’ve got all the answers you need below.
What Is Jackfruit?
(Scientific name: Artocarpus heterophyllus)
The first thing to know about jackfruit is that it is, in fact, a fruit. Both scientifically and commercially.
It’s not one of those strange things we call a fruit when it’s really something else.
In fact, it’s what most scientists refer to as a multiple (or collective) fruit. That means each large jackfruit contains numerous “pods” or individual fruits.
Jackfruit is a fruit grown mainly in Southeast Asia for cooking and medicinal purposes. It’s believed to contain antimicrobial and antifungal properties and is rich in antioxidants. It can weigh between ten and 60 pounds and is in the same plant family as figs and mulberries.
The skin is thick with raised bumps covering it, and the inside contains thick, yellow pods.
Now, let’s talk about what those pods taste like.
What Does Jackfruit Taste Like?
Jackfruit tastes totally different depending on how you eat it. And it’s possible to consume it underripe – and many people do – or ripe.
Jackfruit pods taste very sweet when they’re ripe. Some people compare them to bananas, while others say they taste like Juicy Fruit gum. The taste is bland when underripe, which is why it’s more often used as a meat alternative. Either way, the pods have a slightly tough and stringy texture.
In my experience, it tastes more like overripe peaches when it’s ripe, stopping short of being too sweet.
It’s different but delicious and easy to consume by itself as a snack.
When raw, it’s perfect for vegan BBQ because it has a meat-like texture and is filling but has little taste on its own.
That allows it to take on the flavors of other ingredients in the recipe, such as sauces and seasonings.
While it doesn’t taste precisely like meat, it’s similar enough for most vegans.
Health Benefits of Jackfruit
Besides being a great meat substitute, jackfruit has many health benefits. These include the following:
- It’s high in fiber and low in carbs and calories.
- It’s a great source of vitamin B6 and magnesium.
- It improves digestion.
- It’s packed with antioxidants.
- It can improve heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- It may have antifungal and antimicrobial properties.
- It can help fight cancer and osteoporosis.
(Note that many of these benefits come only from regular jackfruit consumption.)
Where to Buy Jackfruit
Buying jackfruit is easier now than it’s ever been. My local Publix always has some available in the produce section.
I’ve even seen it at Walmart once or twice.
If you need help locating fresh jackfruit, try organic food stores. (Such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.)
If your area has an Asian market, that’s also a good place to look.
You can also buy canned jackfruit (both ripe and underripe) online or in many larger supermarkets.
These online retailers typically have canned jackfruit:
- Thrive Market
You can also find freeze-dried jackfruit at many health and vitamin stores.
How to Prepare Jackfruit
The easiest way to eat jackfruit is to slice it open and eat the ripe fruit raw. However, there are other ways to enjoy it.
Before we get to those other ways, let’s check out the steps for cutting a jackfruit:
- Prepare your hands, knife, and work surface by coating them in coconut oil.
- Cut the fruit in half lengthwise. (Like cutting open a watermelon)
- Separate the two halves completely.
- Cut each half in half lengthwise a second time. (You should have four quarters.)
- Remove the seeds by hand.
- Make 3/4 cuts through the center of each quarter everywhere you see a pod.
- Remove any newly exposed seeds.
- Pull each fruit pod loose from the fruit’s interior.
Once you know how to cut the fruit and remove the pods, you can prepare it in several ways.
Most require you to shred, season, and marinate the jackfruit first. After that, you can cook it in any of the following ways:
- Grill it
- Saute it
- Puree it
- Slow cook it
- Braise it
Now let’s talk about how to eat it once you’ve prepared it.
How to Use Jackfruit
Other than eating it right out of the skin, you can add raw jackfruit to yogurt, sandwiches, or salads.
You can also toss it in the blender and make smoothies with it.
If you’re using cooked jackfruit, there are even more options.
Use it to make pulled “pork” sandwiches, vegan tacos or taquitos, or chile con “carne.”
It makes an excellent “meaty” sauce for spaghetti or a hearty stew.
Whatever you decide to do with it, marinate and season it well.
As I mentioned, underripe jackfruit has almost no taste of its own. However, it soaks up other flavors brilliantly.
As long as you give it enough extra oomph, it’s sure to taste great.
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