What is Jackfruit?
Published Oct 22, 2018, Updated Oct 26, 2021
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Have you heard of jackfruit? It’s a tropical fruit that is sweet when ripe, but makes an excellent plant-based meat substitute when unripe — great for bbq sandwiches, sloppy joes and tacos.
To be honest, until a couple months ago I was totally a jackfruit newbie. I’d seen it on restaurant menus before, but hadn’t ever purchased it myself and I didn’t really know much about it besides that fact that people use it as a meat substitute. If you’re in a similar boat with jackfruit, get excited because I’ve done a little research and I’m going to break down all things jackfruit so you know what it is and how to eat it!
What is Jackfruit?
For starters, jackfruit is in fact a fruit. You never know, right? Produce is occasionally named confusing things, but whoever named jackfruit is kept things straight-forward for us. It’s grown on trees in tropical areas of the world (places like India, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines) and is in the same family as figs.One of its distinguishing features is that it’s HUGE! I read they can get up to 100 pounds! From the outside, it is greenish, yellow in color and has a tough, spiky skin. The inside has small fleshy pods that surround large seeds. Both the fruit pods and the seeds are edible when ripe and unripe so it can be used in sweet or savory dishes.
What Does Jackfruit Taste Like?
When ripe, the flavor is really sweet and has been compared to Juicy Fruit gum – almost a combination of fruits like mangos and bananas. When unripe, the flavor is really mild (almost similar to a artichoke) which allows it to soak up whatever seasonings or sauces you use. Both the flesh and the fruit pods are both edible when jackfruit is ripe and unripe so it can be used in sweet or savory dishes, but most recipes you find are for savory dishes using unripe jackfruit. The texture of jackfruit is similar to shredded meat which makes it an awesome plant-based meat alternative.
Is Jackfruit Good for You?
Yes. Jackfruit is low-calorie but high in antioxidants, fiber, potassium and Vitamin C. One important thing to note is that it’s often used as a meat substitute because of it’s texture, but it doesn’t offer a significant amount of protein. There are about 3 grams of protein per cup of jackfruit.
How Do You Cut up a Jackfruit?
This is where I got intimidated if I’m being honest. How the heck do you prepare this enormous fruit? It actually wasn’t that bad! I’ll walk you through it:
- Either wear gloves or lubricate your hands with oil (there is a sticky substance in jackfruit that you don’t want to mess with).
- Cut it in half.
- Cut out the core. This releases all of the fruit pods.
- Cut out one pod. They are yellow in color and have strands wrapped around them.
- Remove the strands from the pod and cut the part that connects the pod to the skin.
- Slit the pod lengthwise and remove the seed.
- Eat the jackfruit flesh!
- You can also eat the seeds – boil for 20-30 minutes or roast them until soft. I saw somewhere that you can make hummus with the seeds. Yum!
Don’t want to deal with preparing your own? Lucky you… there are a few options for you! You can find canned jackfruit at Asian grocery stores, health food stores, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and multiple retailers online. A lot of grocery stores have also started selling pre-prepped jackfruit in the refrigerated section by tempeh and you can find ripened (sweet) jackfruit in the freezer which would be great for smoothies!
Where to Buy Jackfruit?
I’ve seen the fruit for sale at Whole Foods and Asian markets. It’s usually chopped into sections because whole jackfruits are so large. That said, most recipes call for unripe jackfruit which you can buy canned, packed in water. I’ve seen jackfruit at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, natural markets and multiple retailers online. A lot of grocery stores have also started selling pre-prepped jackfruit in the refrigerated section by tempeh and you can find ripened (sweet) jackfruit in the freezer which would be great for smoothies! For the canned route, I really like the Native Forest brand.
Ready to try jackfruit for yourself? Check out my BBQ jackfruit recipe.
I saw one at Whole Foods for the first time about a year ago. I took a pic of it because my daughter was about the same size of the fruit (toddler) and my friend has a son named Jack. I sent her the pic haha. It was so big!