Veganism is a hot-button topic right now, and everyone wants to try plant-based eating. This couldn’t make me happier because I think it’s a healthy choice and saves animals from cruelty and exploitation.
Many new vegans come to me and ask about various foods they know nothing about. They’re confused about what to do with them or how they may taste.
Fresh ripe jackfruit is very sweet like honey and has a stringy appearance. Canned jackfruit is typically from underripe jackfruit so that there is a more neutral taste. This jackfruit may taste slightly salty from the brine it’s stored in but with an overall neutral meaty flavor.
Unless you grew up in Asia where it’s the staple food or already follow a vegan diet, you might feel that jackfruit is foreign and confusing. It looks strange, but it can be a healthy substitute to meat and be part of your healthy eating plans.
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What Is Jackfruit?
Jackfruit is a tropical fruit native to India and is the largest fruit born from trees. One jackfruit could weigh 100 pounds or more, and mature trees can produce up to three tons of fruit each year.
What Does Jackfruit Taste Like?
The fruit itself looks quite strange. When you open it up, the texture is similar to shredded meat – think pork. Ripe jackfruit features a sweet flavor, almost like a combination of banana, pineapple, and mango. If you’ve ever tried Juicy Fruit gum, you get the idea.
If using jackfruit as a plant-based pulled pork substitute, you’ll want to use slightly underripe jackfruit so the fruity behavior doesn’t overwhelm the dish.
What Are the Benefits of Jackfruit?
Like almost all plants, jackfruit is healthy and beneficial. Young jackfruit can have up to three times the amounts of fiber as other standard sources (nuts, grains, vegetables, and other fruits).
Most Americans lack this critical nutrient, so this is an excellent way to get what you require. One cup of the jackfruit has roughly three grams of fiber. Women less than 50 years old should take in 25 grams of fiber a day, and men of the same age bracket require 38 grams. Typically, Americans only get 16 grams of fiber each day. (source)
Roughly five percent of the population do eat the recommended amounts. Fiber is essential to your health; you can lower your risk for stroke, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and various cancers.
Jackfruit has a lot of protein, too. It doesn’t offer as much as other meat alternatives, such as beans or tofu, but it has more than most fruit. A single cup of the fruit has up to three grams of protein. You get other vitamins, such as riboflavin, vitamin C, and Vitamin A, as well as potassium and magnesium.
Another great benefit is that jackfruit doesn’t contain cholesterol and saturated fat like many meat products. It has fewer calories, less sodium, and sugar. Plant-based meat alternatives aren’t as processed, but there is some manufacturing, and there isn’t with jackfruit.
How Do You Eat Jackfruit?
I like jackfruit because I can prepare it in many ways. You can barbecue it and cook it as you might any meat. This is helpful for beginners to the vegan lifestyle. It allows you to feel like you’re eating meat or preparing things normally and makes it easier to adjust to veganism.
Jackfruit is highly versatile and can be used as a tasty treat or a replacement for meat products. It is usually prepared like pulled pork because it’s naturally stringy and wants to shred. The texture is what you desire for a plant-based variation of pulled meat. I like that it carries marinade and sauce flavors effortlessly.
You can choose to use it at any part of the meal, from the appetizer to the dessert. It’s possible to eat jackfruit ripened or unripe. Most people prefer to use the non-ripe version as a meat substitute, such as for pulled sandwiches, tacos, and curry dishes.
At that point, the taste is almost neutral, so it really takes on the sauce or spice flavors you choose. Ripened jackfruit is sweeter, so it works well in desserts. Most people eat it raw when ripe and don’t add anything else to it.
If using fresh jackfruit, you’ll remove the seeds and harvest the surrounding seed pod to eat. The seeds can be cooked and eaten as well. The remaining parts of the jackfruit are inedible but one jackfruit gives more than enough food to feed a family.
Where Can You Buy Jackfruit?
Asian and specialty stores should be the first place you look because they’re more likely to have it. Many grocery stores realize how important this fruit is to vegans and non-vegans, so they carry it, too.
It’s possible to buy jackfruit four ways: fresh, canned, frozen, and vacuum-sealed. I recommend that you buy it in its frozen form if you’re making ice cream or smoothies.
The vacuum-sealed products are pre-seasoned, so they work well as a meat substitute. These packages might contain processed ingredients and dairy, so check the label before tossing it in your cart.
Canned jackfruit is available, but sometimes it is packaged in syrup. This might make it too sweet for a savory dish and could contain non-vegan elements. Consider buying it in brine, but always check the ingredient list.
Fresh jackfruit is available at some places, but it’s hard to find. Make sure you check the aroma, color, and firmness of the fruit. Ripe jackfruit has a yellow or gold color and should smell pleasantly sweet. There should be a touch of give (think avocados or peaches).
Young jackfruit has no smell and is green, providing no give if you put any pressure on it.
The interior texture of jackfruit makes it hard to clean up. There is natural latex inside the fruit, so it is very sticky. Have coconut oil available to help clean your hands and kitchen tools. I recommend putting coconut oil on your hands and the knife before cutting open a jackfruit.
Jackfruit is one of nature’s unique gifts because it’s highly versatile. You can use it in savory and sweet dishes or eat it raw as you do other fruits. It looks odd, but it’s a great source of protein and fiber, making it ideal for vegans and those who want to lead a plant-based lifestyle.
Some people believe jackfruit can fit into any recipe out there. Try it in Indian, Mexican, and Italian dishes. Experimentation is a great thing.
I prefer to use jackfruit as a meat alternative, but I enjoy it in baked goods, too. People worried about switching to a vegan lifestyle may find that it’s not as hard when jackfruit is introduced to the menu.
How did you find the taste of jackfruit to be? Do you prefer it savory or sweet?