When it comes to plant-based meat, jackfruit is unique! This healthy fruit can go from replacing pulled pork to starring in a smoothie. So if you're thinking, "What is jackfruit?" or "How do I cook it?", read on.
If you’ve been searching for a healthy vegetarian substitute for meat that isn’t the usual soy or wheat gluten products (like tofu or seitan), you may have just found your perfect match. Jackfruit is the rare fruit that effortlessly doubles as a hearty meat substitute. It’s rich in fiber and nutrients while providing that meaty texture you crave.
What Is Jackfruit?
Jackfruit is an ancient fruit grown on trees in tropical climates. It’s native to south and southeast Asia—think Bangladesh, Thailand and India—where it is served regularly. While it’s relatively new on the scene in North America, jackfruit has been used for hundreds of years as both food and medicine. It’s believed to have antimicrobial and antifungal properties, as well as being rich in antioxidants.
Jackfruit has thick, bumpy skin and is filled with plump, stringy pods. When ripe, these pods have a sweet banana-like quality. However, when used for savory dishes, the fruit is typically underripe and a bit more firm, giving it a meatier texture.
Jackfruit is rich in vitamins and fiber. A 100-gram portion of jackfruit contains 95 calories, 2 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the combination of potassium, fiber and antioxidants in jackfruit can benefit heart health, as well as decrease inflammation in the body.
It’s helpful to remember that while jackfruit has the same consistency as meat, the nutrient profiles are quite different. Like all fruit, jackfruit is relatively low in protein (just 2 grams in a serving) so it won’t fill you up the same way other meatier dishes will—to compare, one serving of a pulled pork sandwich packs 28 grams of protein. The protein content of jackfruit is lower than other meat alternatives too. A serving of tofu has about 7 grams, while a bean burger loads up with 12 grams.
What Does Jackfruit Taste Like?
When it comes to flavor, underripe jackfruit is very mild. Its neutral flavor typically pairs well with more savory dishes—it’s often used as a substitute for pulled pork or chicken. Once chopped or shredded, the starchy fruit is ready for flavorful sauces or marinades. While jackfruit does have a hearty taste and a firm texture, and easily soaks up flavor from sauces, it’s not going to fool anyone into thinking it’s meat.
Ripe jackfruit, on the other hand, has a sweet flavor. The taste is similar to other tropical fruits like mango or pineapple and makes a great addition to smoothies.
How to Prepare Jackfruit
The easiest way to prepare jackfruit is to buy it already prepared! However, if you’re feeling ambitious and are able to find fresh jackfruit, roll up your sleeves and go for it. Start by cutting the jackfruit in half and removing the pods and seeds with your hands. The pods of the jackfruit can be eaten raw or cooked. Try pan-frying them or tossing them in the slow cooker with a tangy sauce. The inside of jackfruit can get pretty sticky, so gloves may be helpful.
If you opt for prepared jackfruit, it will most likely come in a can or pouch. Most canned types are packed in salty water, so give it a good rinse to cut down on the sodium content. If it’s already seasoned, then all you need to do is throw it in a pan over medium heat to warm and enjoy. Canned jackfruit can be heated up and then tossed with any savory flavors like barbecue sauce or fresh salsa.
How Do You Use Jackfruit?
Unripe jackfruit can be used just about anywhere you’d use chopped meat. Try adding it to tacos, sandwiches, burritos, omelets and stir-fries for a start. Seasoned jackfruit is great in soups, stews and chilis. Try serving it at your next get-together with taco seasoning, corn tortillas, a light slaw and a few lime wedges. Once you start incorporating more jackfruit recipes into your routine, you may not be able to stop!
Where to Buy Jackfruit
When buying jackfruit, stick to the canned aisle of the grocery store rather than the produce section. (Add jackfruit to your plant-based grocery list.) Fresh jackfruit is hard to come by in the United States and is usually found in Asian markets and specialty stores. This heavy fruit can weigh up to 40 pounds, and the thick rind is often difficult to remove.
Fortunately, many health food stores and grocery stores sell prepared jackfruit that has already been peeled and cut. It may come in a can or pouch, often prepared with seasonings and sauces. The pouches are usually found in the refrigerated section near the other meat substitutes. A pouch of Upton’s Naturals, one of our favorite vegetarian brands, costs about $5 and serves four.
Oh, and odd as it sounds, skip the jackfruit dishes if you have an allergy to latex or birch pollen. These allergies can have a cross-reaction with jackfruit, so it’s just not worth the risk.
So if you’re ready to get a little adventurous in the kitchen, grab your favorite sauce and get sizzling. You might just find yourself craving this healthy, easy-prep meal more often than you think!
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With pasta salad, it’s easy to change up ingredients. We like to add grilled chicken and pine nuts, and sometimes we substitute black beans for the garbanzo beans. —Julie Kirkpatrick, Billings, Montana
My family goes meatless several nights a week, and this recipe is one of our favorites. I usually puree a can or two of chipotle peppers in adobo and freeze them in ice cube trays so I can use a small amount when I need it. —Amy Bravo, Ames, Iowa
These vegetarian enchiladas use a lot of garden favorites in a quick weeknight meal. Feel free to substitute with whatever vegetables you have from your garden: yellow summer squash, eggplant and corn—all taste great! —Elisabeth Larsen, Pleasant Grv, Utah
This veggie potpie is so savory and satisfying! The spring veggies, easy prep and impressive presentation make it a perfect addition to Easter or other family dinners. —Deanna McDonald, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Getting my meat-loving husband and two sons, ages 5 and 7, to eat more veggies had always been a struggle until I whipped up this stir-fry. I was shocked when they cleaned their plates and asked for seconds. —Abbey Hoffman, Ashland, Ohio
I love to make healthy meals with produce from my latest farmers market trip. This pasta takes just 30 minutes from pantry to dinner table. You can easily make it a meat entree by adding cooked, shredded chicken. —Jerilyn Korver, Bellflower, California
This colorful entree combines popular taco ingredients—minus the ground beef. And you won't miss the meat at all! I top each serving with a creamy guacamole dressing, crunchy corn chips and cheese. —Kimberly Dray, Pflugerville, Texas
Here’s a healthy one-skillet meal that’s quick and easy to prepare yet elegant enough for company. I often take this stew to my school’s potlucks, where it is devoured by teachers and students alike. —Jane Siemon, Viroqua, Wisconsin
I used to make this dish with beef, but substituting with portobella mushrooms turned it into my family's vegetarian favorite. It's quick, nutritious, low fat and tasty. —Greg Fontenot, The Woodlands, Texas
Raita, an Indian condiment made with yogurt, elevates this vegetarian dish to a satisfying gourmet wrap. If you're in the mood to experiment, try diced mango or cucumber for the pineapple and add fresh herbs like cilantro or mint. —Jennifer Beckman, Falls Church, Virginia
I love the curly noodles in this creamy recipe. Cavatappi, also sold under the name cellentani, is a corkscrew pasta, but any type of spiral pasta will work. This dish is fun to make and looks so pretty topped with extra cheese and crunchy, golden crumbs. I like to add ground pepper to my serving. —Sara Martin, Brookfield, Wisconsin
I love Southwest-inspired cuisine, but the dishes are often unhealthy. As a dietitian, I try to come up with nutritious twists on recipes, which is how my stuffed peppers dish was born. —Amber Massey, Argyle, Texas
I have three hungry boys in my house, so dinners need to be quick and filling, and it helps to get in some veggies, too. This one is a favorite because it's hearty and fun to tweak with different ingredients. —Kim Van Dunk, Caldwell, New Jersey
With its flavorful ginger sauce and fresh vegetables, this tasty dish is a favorite. I get rave reviews every time I serve it, and it doesn’t bother my husband’s food allergies. Check out our guide if you’re new to tofu. —Phyllis Smith, Chimacum, Washington
More and more people in my workplace are becoming vegetarians. When we cook or eat together, the focus is on fresh produce. This salad combines some of our favorite ingredients in one dish—and with the hard-boiled eggs and kidney beans, it delivers enough protein to satisfy those who are skeptical of vegetarian fare. —Elizabeth Kelley, Chicago, Illinois
The last time I was in the U.S., I had an amazing mushroom and beer potpie at a small brewpub. It was so rich and comforting. I tried numerous versions when I got home and I think I've come pretty close! —Iben Ravn, Copenhagen, Denmark
These vegetarian tacos are stuffed with a blend of sauteed cabbage, peppers and black beans so filling, you won't miss the meat. Top with avocado, cheese or a dollop of sour cream. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
This meatless version of your favorite restaurant salad packs 13 grams of protein per serving and is bursting with juicy flavor. It's a brilliant choice for lunch or a busy-day dinner. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
This fresh rice dish tastes like the Mediterranean in a bowl! It is short on ingredients but packs in so much flavor. For a hand-held version, leave out the rice and tuck the rest of the ingredients in a pita pocket. —Darla Andrews, Boerne, Texas
I've been trying to eat more meatless meals, so I experimented with this hearty saute and served it over brown rice. It was so good that even those who aren't big fans of kale gobbled it up. —Teri Rasey, Cadillac, Michigan
This vegan tortilla soup recipe is healthy, filling and family-friendly! We love how hearty and flavorful it is. We like to play around with the different toppings we add each time it's served. —Julie Peterson, Crofton, Maryland
I found this entree a while ago and decreased the cheese and increased the herbs called for in the recipe. It’s one of my toddler’s favorite meals. She always smiles when she sees it on the table. —Wendy Kelly, Petersburg, New York
Cauliflower, garbanzo beans and tofu are each subtle on their own, but together they make an awesome base for curry. We have this recipe weekly because one of us is always craving it. —Patrick McGilvray, Cincinnati, Ohio
I love to prepare dishes without gluten or dairy products, and this recipe meets the criteria when you use gluten-free pasta. It's proof you can use delicious, healthy products to create a crowd-pleasing meal. It's also soy-free, nut-free and vegetarian. —Amie Valpone, New York, New York
I serve portobello fajitas family-style so guests can build their own. Just pass the tortillas and garnishes like salsa, cheese, guacamole and sour cream. —Carolyn Butterfield, Lake Stevens, Washington
Even though the preparation for this meal seems time-consuming on a busy night, it's so worth it. The recipe will leave you with plenty of leftovers so you won't have to do any cooking the next night. These also beat the veggie burgers from the freezer section. —Amber Massey, Argyle, Texas
I love this quick and healthy Indian-inspired dish so much I always make sure to have the ingredients stocked in my pantry. It makes weeknight dinners feel a little more special. —Janeen Judah, Houston, Texas
The only cooking in this easy bulgur salad is heating the broth and bulgur. You can adapt the recipe to your preference; if you want to add chopped cooked chicken, use chicken broth in place of vegetable broth. —Carole Resnick, Cleveland, Ohio
This tasty Asian tofu was the first meatless recipe my fiance made for me. Tofu is a wonderful light protein and is so easy to pair with broiled or grilled veggies, such as eggplant and asparagus, or even tomatoes. —Emily Steers, Los Angeles, California
When my husband's cholesterol numbers rose, I quickly lowered the fat in our family's diet. Finding dishes that were healthy for him and yummy for our five children was a challenge, but this fun taco recipe was a huge hit with everyone. —Michelle Thomas, Bangor, Maine
Now a freelance health and food writer, Carrie worked as a nurse for over a decade. When she isn't hunched over her laptop with a baby in hand, you will find her cooking her grandmother’s recipes, lacing up her running shoes or sipping coffee in the bathroom to hide from her three young children.