What is Jackfruit, and What is it Good For?
If you’re a frequent customer at vegetarian or vegan restaurants, then it’s pretty likely that you’ve seen something with jackfruit on the menu. Although a popular ingredient in vegetarian and plant-based cooking, jackfruit is not commonly seen in mainstream North American grocery stores. Curious new plant-based eaters may find jackfruit a bit of a mystery, especially when seeing recipes for BBQ pulled jackfruit or jackfruit carnitas. How can a fruit be used for such savory recipes? In today’s blog we’ll be giving everyone an introduction to this unique tropical fruit and its many uses in plant-based diets and recipes.
What Is Jackfruit?
So, what is jackfruit? It’s right in the name! Jackfruit is a tropical fruit that’s related to breadfruit, mulberries, and figs and originated in South India. They have a hard and spiky outer skin and can be round to roughly pear-shaped. Jackfruit is the largest fruit that grows on trees, and they can be as heavy as 120 pounds! The part of jackfruit that’s edible raw is the aril, the flesh surrounding the seed. The flavor of fresh, ripe jackfruit can best be described as something between a banana and a pineapple. The arils and seeds are enveloped by a sticky, fibrous pulp that can be quite difficult to remove with just soap and water, so we recommend rubbing your hands with cooking oil if you can’t get it off.
How to Prepare Fresh Jackfruit?
Fresh jackfruit may be difficult to find depending on where you live, but your best bet will be at South or Southeast Asian grocery stores. If you’ve managed to find a whole fresh jackfruit, you might be a bit intimidated by its size and spiny exterior. Once you get started, you’ll find that it’s only a bit harder than preparing a watermelon or large squash.
- Jackfruit is often sold as a whole fruit, or in sections. For most people, just a section of this hefty fruit will be enough, but a whole fruit would be a great way to make a large portion of fruit salad for a party.
- If you’ve purchased a whole jackfruit, your first step should be cutting it into smaller, more manageable chunks. The sap found inside jackfruit is sticky, so wiping your knife with an oiled paper towel may help you cut it more easily.
- Once your jackfruit is cut into sections, you can easily separate the arils and seeds from the pith and enjoy! You can even plant the seeds to grow your own jackfruit sprout.
How to Cook Jackfruit?
In the past few years, jackfruit has become an incredibly popular ingredient among plant-based eaters because of its versatility in both sweet and savory dishes as well as its use as a flavorful meat substitute. Young, unripe jackfruit in particular has become a favorite ingredient of plant-based chefs because it has a neutral flavor and a texture that allows it to replace meat in dishes like curry, barbecue pulled pork, and tacos.
Using jackfruit in a savory recipe is even easier than eating it raw! Savory jackfruit recipes almost always use canned young green jackfruit. Canned young jackfruit is usually packed in brine or in water, so the first step is to drain, rinse, and then dry your jackfruit. Once you’ve done that, all you have to do is to cut or shred it to your desired texture and add it to your curry, barbecue sauce, or spice mixture! Jackfruit is a great source of fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants and also has a unique quality among fruit: it’s a good source of B vitamins. Keep an eye on the PlantX Recipe Section for plant-based jackfruit recipes, or head to the PlantX Forum to discuss your favorite recipes with other plant-based eaters.