Jackfruit is a hugely popular ingredient that's a great alternative for many types of meat. Most often it's used to replace pulled pork, but it can be substituted for more than just that!
In this article, you'll learn how to prepare jackfruit, how to cook jackfruit, what is tastes like and even where to buy jackfruit! And of course, lots of jackfruit recipes are mentioned too.
A guide to jackfruit
Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) is almost exclusively grown in Southeast Asia, such as Thailand and Indonesia, but is consumed all around the globe.
It can be eaten raw or cooked and while it's ripe or unripe. Most recipes will use unripe jackfruit (AKA young jackfruit or green jackfruit), as this is when it mimics pulled pork or chicken the most. Young jackfruit is also pretty bland and absorbs flavours really well, just like tofu.
Ripe jackfruit is sweet and resembles mango. It can be used in desserts like crumbles, baked into pies or even featured in ice cream sundaes.
Jackfruit is a relative of the fig and breadfruit, and when it’s fully grown it has a thick, light green bumpy skin that has pods inside of it. That's where the delicious meaty jackfruit pieces can be found.
Additional facts: jackfruit is the national fruit of Bangladesh but the word "jackfruit" comes from the word 'jaca' which is Portugese and can be traced back to 16th-century explorers. It's derived from their pronunciation - 'chakka' which is the Malaysian name for jackfruit.
What is jackfruit?
Jackfruit, would you believe it, is actually a tropical fruit! It's an amazing whole food ingredient that is grown in hot climates in south and south-east Asia. It is grown on a Jack tree which grow well in tropical climates, each tree can produce anywhere from 200 - 500 jackfruits each year. It's the largest fruit that grows on a tree!
When fully grown, the whole jackfruit can weigh up to 55 kg (120 pounds), 90 cm (35 inches) in length, and 50 cm (20 inches) in diameter. It has a thick, light green bumpy skin with soft pods inside of it, containing fruit that is similar to mango.
When jackfruit is underripe, the outside is still green and knobbly but the inside is tougher and has a stringy texture.
Ripe and young jackfruit
As mentioned above, jackfruit can be eaten ripe and unripe, raw and cooked. The main difference is that unripe jackfruit is meaty, stringy and tough, while ripe jackfruit is softer and sweet.
Young jackfruit is used in savory dishes like jackfruit curry or jackfruit wraps, and ripe jackfruit is used in sweet desserts like jackfruit pannacotta or can even be used to make jackfruit smoothies and sweet treats (as above)!
What does jackfruit taste like?
Young jackfruit tastes quite mild and has a neutral flavor (until seasoned). It has a meaty and stringy texture and is also sometimes tough. Fully grown jackfruit is quite sweet, like mango and is softer than when it is unripe.
In addition, jackfruit takes on the flavors of all different styles of seasoning. It's naturally quite bland, chewy and fibrous, but when paired with a delicious seasoning, it is totally delicious.
How to prepare jackfruit
If using jackfruit from a can, it's so simple to prepare. Drain away the water or brine (or even syrup) and then it's ready to be cooked. It can be chopped into smaller pieces, or marinaded in spices to add extra flavour before cooking. Some people may also like to remove the jackfruit seeds. That's because they can be a bit tough, but it depends on preference, and how long the jackfruit has been preserved in the can. If it's been in the can for a long time, they'll be softer.
For fresh unripe jackfruit, it's slightly more complicated. It's best to use a very sharp knife to cut the jackfruit in half, and half again until you have more manageable pieces. It's best to remove the jackfruit pieces from each pod before cooking. To soften, they can be boiled for 45-60 minutes or placed in a pressure cooker for around 10 minutes.
The seeds can be discard or roasted, and the fleshy, meaty part can be cooked as part of a meal straight away, or it can be frozen or preserved. There will likely be too much for a standard recipe for four portions from a whole jackfruit!
Top tip: Cooking fresh jackfruit will need longer than cooking canned jackfruit. If a recipe uses canned jackfruit, the simmer time should be doubled for freshly picked jackfruit.
A quick safety note – jackfruit does actually contain latex. So if you (or any guests you might be cooking for) have a latex allergy, it would be wise to take precaution and make an alternative. Source.
How to Cook Jackfruit
Unripe jackfruit is best cooked before eating. It can be chopped finely before cooking, or it can be cooked on a long, low simmer so that it naturally falls apart during cooking, like pulled pork, just like in this jackfruit chilli.
Alternatively, jackfruit can be cooked in chunks, straight out of a tin (or out of its skin). It will be firmer and meatier when it is cooked in larger chunks, such as in this curried jackfruit where it is used instead of goat. In addition, it can be shallow fried and pulled apart in the pan, like in this jerk style jackfruit wrap. However it's cooked, it's usually very filling and makes a great addition to a meal.
Cooking with ripe jackfruit is different again. When jackfruit is ripe, it doesn't need to be cooked to eat, however it often adds to the overall texture and flavour of a dessert if it is cooked down with sugar first, just like any other fruit.
Jackfruit seeds are often thrown away, but they are perfectly edible once cooked. They can be roasted, like sunflower seeds, and used as a salad topper or eaten as a snack, like roasted chickpeas. This is a popular way to cook them. They can also be blended into dips and smoothies, or cooked in curry, which is traditional in some parts of India. They can also be boiled or simmered.
While jackfruit is often used as a meat substitute, as it resembles pulled pork when slowly cooked due to its meaty texture, it actually isn’t a great source of protein. It contains 2 grams of protein per 100g, as well as 95 calories per 100g.
According to the nutrition information on Healthline, it contains fibre, antioxidants, vitamin A and vitamin C, Riboflavin, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese – so it's packed with lots of good stuff!
In contrast to the benefits of jackfruit, some people may be allergic to it. Especially if they are allergic to birch pollen or latex. Find out more about jackfruit nutrition facts.
Where to Buy Jackfruit
Jackfruit is found in many major supermarkets in the UK and the US. It can also be bought in Asian supermarkets and health food shops like Holland & Barrett and many independents. Usually, it will be in the canned goods aisle, near tinned beans, legumes and other tinned vegetables.
It’s also often sold in pouches, which are usually marinaded in a gravy or sauce. So when buying jackfruit like that, it's best to pair the dish you're going to make with the sauce it comes in.
You can also buy jackfruit online. If you buy a few tins at a time, you usually get a bulk discount, which is always a winner.
Jackfruit is great for replicating difference types of meat. Young jackfruit is especially good in savory dishes like mimicking pulled pork, in a vegan chicken style curry or even veggie tacos or fajitas.
While jackfruit is a meat alternative, it doesn't naturally taste like meat. It becomes more meat-like in texture and flavor once it is seasoned and cooked. If it cooks slowly in stews or curries, it will go quite soft and will have a meaty texture. Melt in your mouth like chicken or pulled pork. If it is barbecued or roasted it will remain tougher. Overall, it is a fantastic whole food alternative to meat that is pretty easy to buy in the supermarket.
Yes, it is perfectly safe to eat raw jackfruit. It will be tastier to eat raw ripe jackfruit as it's sweeter (like a tropical fruit such as pineapple) and doesn't necessarily need flavourings. However, it is perfectly fine to eat young jackfruit raw, it's just bland.
In summary, jackfruit is a versatile and delicious fruit that can be enjoyed in both sweet and savory dishes. Its unique texture and flavor make it a popular ingredient in vegan and vegetarian dishes, and its nutritional benefits make it a healthy addition to any diet. With a little creativity and some basic preparation and cooking techniques, you can easily incorporate this delicious tropical fruit into your meals.