Not quite sure what the latest super-food of the moment - jackfruit - even is? You’re not alone.
Grown across crops a little further afield than the shores of the UK, jackfruit is native to Southeast Asia, Brazil and parts of Africa, and originates from India.
And as the largest tree-growing fruit in the world - growing up to a whopping 100lbs - it’s hardly one you’d spot on the shelves of your local supermarket. So how has jackfruit become so popular?
Let’s start with some of the basics…
What is jackfruit?
The tropical fruit may be a surprising food trend when you first come across it. Jackfruit trees originate in India, but are commonly found throughout Bangladesh and Southeast Asia - and produce jackfruit ranging from 10-100 lbs in weight, with the average jackfruit weighing in at 35lbs.
So, how does such a large, exotic fruit find its way into the kitchens around the world?
Unripe, green jackfruit have a rough, spike-covered outside, protecting their yellow, fleshy inside. Once jackfruit begin to ripen, their green exterior will start to yellow.
When unripened, the fruit’s blandness and stringy consistency - similar to pulled pork or chicken - is what’s making it so popular amongst vegetarian and vegan communities (particularly when it comes to whipping up the latest fad - Vegan BBQ ‘Pulled Pork’).
What does jackfruit taste like?
When picked fresh from the tree, young jackfruit is quite bland, taking on the flavour of whatever it’s paired with. This makes it ideal for savoury dishes, especially as raw, unripened jackfruit should always be cooked to avoid an upset stomach. Ripe jackfruit, however, can be eaten raw, as it takes on a sweet, fruity flavour.
What are the health benefits of eating jackfruit?
- 157 calories
- 3 grams of protein
- 2.5 grams of fibre
- 38 grams of carbohydrates
- High levels of Vitamin A and Vitamin C
- Calcium, Potassium and Magnesium
Whilst the nutritional composition of jackfruit is partly what makes it such a great addition to a diet, the antioxidants it’s packed with have been linked to improving a number of health conditions too.
Most importantly, some studies have shown that one antioxidant - resveratrol - has been linked to potential anti-obesity effects. So, whilst more research needs to be done, initial studies suggest that jackfruit could aid weight loss, as well as providing our bodies with some vital nutrients.
What’s more, it’s higher-than-average protein levels (for a fruit) mean that it can provide small amounts of this nutrient to people who struggle to get it from elsewhere, like vegetarians and, in particular, vegans.
What is jackfruit used for?
The variety of using jackfruit for both sweet and savoury dishes is what makes the fruit so popular. Once ripened - losing it’s sharp exterior along the way, making it easier to handle - jackfruit can be used to make:
- Fruit salad
- Fruit tarts
- As a topping for yogurt, ice cream and porridge
Unripened, fresh jackfruit is commonly used in:
- Stir fry dishes
- As a meat alternative in pulled pork or chicken recipes
Simple jackfruit vegan BBQ ‘pulled pork’ recipe
- 2 cans of jackfruit (in water - not syrup)
- 1 cup vegan BBQ sauce
- 1 tsp paprika
- ½ tsp of chilli powder
- 1 chopped garlic clove
- A pinch of salt and pepper
- Drain and dry the jackfruit - remove and discard of the centre, whilst coating the rest in the spices.
- Add jackfruit and 1 tbsp of oil to a pan and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.
- Stir in the BBQ sauce and reduce to a low heat. Cover with a lid and cook for up to 30 minutes to allow the flavours to develop. Stir occasionally, and gently shred the jackfruit as it cooks to create the ‘pulled pork’ texture.
- To finish, increase the heat to medium-high for 2 minutes before removing from the heat. And you’re done!
Tip: If you’re making tacos, chilli or burritos, think about adding beans or rice for an extra punch of protein.
Is jackfruit a good meat alternative?
Whilst the texture and versatility of jackfruit is great - particularly with the additional fibre and nutrients it offers - it’s not quite the solution to a protein-rich meat-free diet.
As I discussed in a recent blog, the ideal protein intake for a 65kg person is 104 grams - 130 grams per day. So the 3 grams of protein you get from a serving of jackfruit isn’t going to do you any harm consumed as a meat substitute, but it shouldn’t be seen as a reliable, healthy source of protein.
If you’re a vegetarian, eggs are great way to add more protein to your diet. And vegans should look at incorporating tofu (14 grams of protein per 100 gram when baked) or chickpeas (14.5 grams of protein per 164 gram portion) into their recipes, alongside some flavoursome jackfruit.
Where can you buy jackfruit?
Whilst whole jackfruit may be hard to come by in local grocery stores, shops in Chinatown districts are likely to sell the fruit, particularly in pre-prepared tins and packets.
The fruit is notoriously hard to prepare yourself - the sticky inside is so strong that it can be compared to glue, and the sheer size of jackfruit can make it hard to handle.
Luckily, as the fruit has become more mainstream, some big-name supermarkets are starting to sell it in cans and packets - even pre-seasoned for your ease. Local supermarkets in the UK have started stocking jackfruit on its shelves in this form, so if you’re intrigued by the tropical fruit, you can try out our Vegan Pulled Pork recipe tonight!