Jackfruit is an ingredient and legume that has recently come into the common gastronomy of modern eaters.
Many may not have heard of this fruit before but it has recently become popular among vegans and vegetarians as a plant based meat substitute.
In terms of an actual fruit it is both botanically and nutritionally interesting and unique.
In this article we will explore why jackfruit has become popular, what it tastes like, as well as how you can use it in everyday cooking.
Keep reading to learn more about this unique fruit and what it tastes like.
What Is Jackfruit?
A jackfruit is a type of fruit that grows on the jacktree.
It grows most endemically in the regions of southern India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and rainforest areas of Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
It grows naturally in tropical climates so is not a fruit many westerners are familiar with.
For a westerner, the jackfruit is most closely related to the fig tree, mulberry tree, but is also very similar to breadfruit.
The actual jacktree is like most tropical trees, it is evergreen and has a short but very thick and woodsy trunk with a very dense treetop.
A jacktree can easily reach a height of 50 feet and likely even more, meaning the harvesting of its fruit can require some work, and a ladder.
The fruit itself has a quite hard exterior with a rough texture and within this shell the flesh of the jackfruit is held.
The flesh of the jackfruit is what is eaten and used in culinary practices.
The flesh is very similar to breadfruit and is quite fibrous, resembling meat in many ways.
The flesh can be eaten raw and is the main part that is harvested and exported.
The seeds are also edible when cooked and can be compared to raw cacao.
Why Is Jackfruit So Popular Now?
Jackfruits have existed for a long long time and have historically made up a lot of the vegetarian cuisines in Asian countries, commonly being used in things like curries.
They are also popular in areas of South America and Africa.
In these countries, jackfruit was used like tofu, but came to the West long after tofu.
Since around 2019 jackfruit has become more widely available in Western supermarkets, cleaned and ready to cook, usually exported as a canned good.
Jackfruit is so popular now as it has become recognized in the west, while historically in the East, as a plant based meat alternative.
The fibrous nature of the flesh of a jackfruit is an ideal meat substitute; It naturally has a meat-like texture.
Jackfruit is also quite absorbent, being around 70% water, meaning that when cooked it can absorb the flavor of whatever is being cooked in particularly well, like tofu.
For many western vegetarians and vegans, jackfruit has become a great alternative to tofu in terms of a plant based meat alternative.
In terms of a global economy, jackfruit is great because it grows naturally in tropical regions and many jackfruit businesses have been set up in these underdeveloped countries, creating jobs for those who need it.
Moreover, jacktrees are quite good for the environment even when cultivated for food exportation, albeit an invasive species in certain areas of Brazil.
In terms of nutrition it can be pretty light which can work for and against it as a meat substitute.
The edible flesh is around 70% water and around 20% carbohydrates, the latter being primarily sugars.
While it has a large amount of Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C, in 100g there is around 1-2g of protein.
So in one adult serving of jackfruit you may get around 5g of protein, while tofu has at least double the amount of protein, albeit much less vitamins.
That said, as a meat substitute the texture of jackfruit is unrivaled by other plant based meat substitutes.
What Does Jackfruit Taste Like?
This is tough to answer and can depend on the usage of the fruit’s flesh.
Put simply, a jackfruit doesn’t really taste of much, like raw tofu doesn’t really taste of much either.
You can generally ascribe the flavor of raw jackfruit flesh as being quite similar to a banana or pineapple but in a very mild way, consider that jackfruit flesh is mostly water.
If you have seen a dish or recipe that is jackfruit based, you need not worry too much about the dish having a strong taste as a result of the jackfruit.
Jackfruit will basically taste like whatever you are cooking it in which is why it is so good to use in culinary applications.
For example, if you add jackfruit to your curry, it will basically taste like the curry sauce you cook it in.
In Western culinary usage jackfruit flesh is commonly used in vegan replicas of meat dishes like BBQ pulled pork.
Here are some common jackfruit recipes.
BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich
At a vegan BBQ, albeit you don’t need the actual BBQ itself, there is no better meat substitute than jackfruit to resemble the texture of pulled pork or chicken.
It is surprising how much this can taste and feel like BBQ meat.
Jackfruit Pot Pie
In this recipe, the tender jackfruit soaks up the savory flavors and acts very much like roasted chicken in a quite an interesting way that will surprise you.
You could fool any meat eater with this dish.
South Asian Jackfruit Curry
This recipe does well to resemble the types of urry where jackfruit has been historically used in South Asian cuisine.
For a westerner this is quite a lot like a chicken curry in its texture, and is super healthy.
So, jackfruit is quite a strange one for Westerners to wrap their heads around, while being pretty traditional for Asian countries, and South Americans.
Jackfruit will ultimately taste like the sauce you cook it in, on its own, or eaten raw, it doesn’t have a particularly strong flavor, until cooked with.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 can un-ripe jackfruit
- ½ cup water
- To make the BBQ sauce, combine the chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, ketchup, vinegar, garlic, mustard, paprika, cumin, and a few grinds of pepper in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Set aside.
- Use your hands to remove, shred, and discard any of the core’s harder pieces as you prepare the jackfruit (see photo). 1 tablespoon of olive oil should be heated to medium heat in a big skillet. Salt and the thinly sliced onion should be added at this point. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, lowering the heat as needed. The shredded jackfruit should then be added and cooked for 5 minutes while stirring occasionally. Add a little water if necessary to prevent it from sticking to the pan. Add the half of the BBQ sauce and the 1/2 cup of water.
- Then, for 20 minutes, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer. Half of the remaining BBQ sauce is added after removing the lid; the other half is saved for serving.
- To make the slaw, combine the cabbage, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
- Together with the jackfruit, remaining BBQ sauce, slaw, and other toppings, serve the sliders.