Using jackfruit in western cooking seems to be becoming more and more popular lately. This is most likely because of it’s somewhat meaty texture and the rise in vegetarianism and veganism.
So what is it, where does it come from and why should you eat it?
What Is Jackfruit?
Although now widely cultivated across the tropical regions of the world, it’s origins lie in Southern India and the rain forests of Malaysia.
Jackfruits are large, fleshy fruits that grow on jack trees and are widely used in South and South-Eastern Asian cuisines. That being said, they can now be bought fresh and canned globally and are used by many in both sweet and savoury dishes.
Jackfruits are big! Some can weigh as much as 55kg and they are the biggest and heaviest fruit to grow on trees.
On the outside, it is green and bumpy, but once opened you’ll find a beautiful yellow flesh, similar to that of a mango.
Individual bulbs of flesh fill the inside of the jackfruit, and these are the parts that ultimately create that lovely ‘meaty’ texture.
The seeds of ripe jackfruit are edible and have a creamy taste similar to that of Brazil nuts. The seeds can be roasted (where they take on a similar taste to chestnuts), boiled or baked and eaten as healthy snacks.
Canned jackfruit has a meat-like texture, which has led to its very appropriate nickname, the “vegetable meat”.
The unripe fruit has a stringy, more fibrous texture that many have compared to pulled pork.
Fresh ripe jackfruit has a texture similar to pineapple, but it is less juicy. Instead, the texture of ripe jackfruit is a bit waxy.
Raw jackfruit has a sweet flavour, depending on the variety. Many describe the flavour as a fresh mix between pineapple and banana, making it great for custards and cakes.
Canned/unripe jackfruit has a far more mild taste and a meatier texture, which lends to its popularity in vegan/vegetarian savoury dishes.
How To Prepare Jackfruit So You Can Cook With It
Preparing Canned Jackfruit
In the UK, you’re unlikely to find an entire jackfruit that requires cutting and preparing. Some specialist stores do stock whole jackfruit, although you’re more likely to find it canned in the tinned fruit section of the supermarket. In this case, very little preparation is needed – simply drain the jackfruit and follow your recipe’s instructions.
However, if you do find yourself in the possession of an intact jackfruit, you’re in for some fun.
Preparing Fresh Jackfruit
Instead of slicing through it like you would a melon, score around the diameter of the jackfruit and then break the two sides apart. This can be tricky as the flesh is strong, so you may need to use your knife.
Once you’re in, the bulbs can be removed – again you may wish to use some oil on your hands to help you remove the pods more easily and stop them from getting stuck together. Once removed, they are ready to cook with or they can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Cooking Techniques and Meal Ideas
How to make vegetarian or vegan pulled pork
The most popular recipe that it is used to make is the meat-free version of pulled pork. Thanks to the fibrous texture, jackfruit makes an excellent meat substitute for recipes that require shredded meat. To prepare, all you need to do is shred the bulbs with a fork and marinade with bbq sauce and your favourite spices.
This vegetarian jackfruit ‘pulled pork’ is delicious served in a big wholemeal burger bun with a healthy salad or slaw on the side.
A great substitute for chunky meaty meals
The big, fleshy jackfruit bulbs make absolutely fantastic meat substitutes for meals that usually contain big chunks of meat. Treat your jackfruit in the same way you would meat – ensure it’s well coated with seasonings and marinades so that the flavours can be absorbed into the heart of the flesh. Use the bulbs in this way for curries, stews, casseroles, pies and more.
Although jackfruit shares the same texture as meat, its protein content is significantly less. Unlike meat substitutes that you can often buy in the frozen section of the supermarket, it has not been specifically formulated to provide the same sort of protein intake as meat gives you.
Therefore it’s important to ensure you’re planning healthy, balanced vegetarian and vegan meals. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as jackfruit still contains more than 3g of protein per cap – much more than the <1g of other fruits such as apples and mangoes.
Don’t let the protein content stop you from piling your plate high with delicious pulled jackfruit though! What it lacks in protein, jackfruit makes up for in nutrients. It actually contains some of almost every vitamin and mineral that you need to function, as well as providing a great source of fibre.
Why You Should Be Eating Jackfruit
It has become a popular ingredient among vegetarians and vegans, and it’s clear to see why. It is packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Additional studies have even suggested that jackfruit has several properties that may help with blood sugar management! The texture is great for replacing pulled meats in dishes such as pulled ‘pork’ and shredded ‘duck’; as well as chunkier meaty dishes like stews and curries.
Other ingredients tips you may like
If you like to cook with different ingredients and find different ways of using them then here are a few other articles I think you might like.
Free gifts for you
Are you struggling to exercise, lose weight or feel good about yourself? The free resources and support programmes I have to help you might be just what you need! Check them out by clicking the image below!