What is Jackfruit (And Does it Really Taste Like Pulled Pork)?
If you’re wondering what jackfruit is, we’ve got the stats on this misunderstood fruit. The concept of jackfruit is fantastical at best. The fact that a tropical fruit can somehow taste like pulled pork seems too good to believe. The taste of pork in a fruit. Really? Yes, really. It’s even an actual Mother Nature-produced item. No bioengineering going on here.
The next time you’re craving a thick and juicy BBQ pork sandwich but don’t want to risk raising your cholesterol and angering your physician, consider the merits of jackfruit. Let’s get started with all the facts, cooking tips and even the health benefits of this unique fruit.
Jump to Section
- What is Jackfruit?
- What Does Jackfruit Taste Like?
- Jackfruit Benefits
- Jackfruit vs. Durian
- Where to Buy Jackfruit
- How to Prepare Jackfruit
- How to Cook With Jackfruit
- Our Favorite Jackfruit Recipes
What is Jackfruit?
Jackfruit is part of the mulberry, breadfruit and fig family tree (literally, it’s a tree). It comes from (no surprise) the jackfruit tree. Grown in Southeast Asia, it’s the national fruit of Bangladesh and is eaten around the world.
Yellow in color, jackfruit looks like a large mango or an oblong honeydew melon. It can grow up to two feet in length and weigh about 40 pounds, making it the largest fruit to grow on a tree.
What Does Jackfruit Taste Like?
Are you wondering “What does jackfruit taste like?” The texture is like a banana, a pineapple or a mango. Some think it’s sweet, while others do indeed liken it to the taste of pulled pork. This is especially true when cooked, and you'll find it used regularly in the place of pulled pork or chicken in the best vegan cookbooks. The seeds are edible when cooked and similar in taste to a Brazil nut (sort of a milky and gummy taste).
Jackfruit has several nutritional benefits. It offers all the vitamins and minerals of fruit and is an excellent source of antioxidants, magnesium and vitamin B6. Because of the meat taste, it’s an excellent low-carb vegan meat substitute. And at three grams per serving, it even contains more protein than other similar types of fruits.
According to Healthline, jackfruit benefits may include the prevention of blood sugar spikes due to its low glycemic index (GI). GI relates to how quickly your blood sugar rises after eating a certain food. The fiber in jackfruit slows digestion, helping to prevent these blood sugar spikes. Low-GI diets have been known to be helpful in promoting blood sugar control.
Jackfruit can also potentially enhance immunity, improve digestion and help prevent osteoporosis with its calcium content. In addition, powerful antioxidants protect cells from inflammation that can lead to heart disease and cancer.
Jackfruit vs. Durian
Wondering about jackfruit vs. durian? Jackfruit is often confused with durian. They look similar and are both native to Southeast Asia, but that’s about it with similarity.
Durian has an intensely strong odor, so much so that consumption of it is often banned in public places in Southeast Asia. Jackfruit, on the other hand, has a sweet fragrance.
Durian fruit is smaller and has spiky thorns on the outside, while jackfruit has smooth bumps. Think of it like this: Durian is the porcupine, and jackfruit is the hedgehog. You can pick up a jackfruit, but durian could cut your hands (Who first came up with the idea of eating that, by the way?).
As far as taste goes, durian has a creamy and soft texture with a sweet and savory mix in the flavor department — a cross between bananas and onions. Durian is mainly used for sweet recipes and jackfruit as a vegan meat substitute.
Where to Buy Jackfruit
It has become much easier to buy jackfruit in the U.S. than it was in the past. While it’s harder to find a whole fresh jackfruit, you can find it canned or dried at stores like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, health food stores, Thrivemarket.com and even Walmart (it sells canned jackfruit on the website). Check out the canned and international sections as well as the frozen section.
If you’re specifically looking for fresh jackfruit, try Asian specialty markets.
How to Prepare Jackfruit
Since jackfruit has a sticky “sap-like” substance, the experts recommend using oil on the knife and cutting board to tone down the stickiness and make clean-up easier. Use a sharp serrated knife and put a bit of oil on your hands.
Speaking of hands, jackfruit contains natural latex, so if you have a latex allergy, you’ll want to wear gloves.
Start by cutting the fruit in half or like a pineapple. There’s a core inside. Pull the meat away from this — it typically pulls apart easily. The meat, which is “pod-like” in appearance, has the seeds inside of it. You’ll want to squeeze them out. It’s similar in technique to de-seeding a pomegranate.
You can also cut it into large pieces, leaving the skin on. It can then be boiled for about 45 minutes or until the flesh is tender. Once cooked, peel off the skin and seeds. The seeds are edible if they’re cooked (eating them raw can pose possible health risks). Roast the seeds and use them in salads and hummus or ground into flour.
How to Cook With Jackfruit
Jackfruit is fairly easy to cook with. It tends to soak up the flavors of other ingredients, which makes it an excellent choice for savory soups, stews and BBQ-based recipes. Since jackfruit doesn’t contain much protein, it’s recommended to add a protein source to the meal. Add something like beans, peas, lentils or tree nuts to a jackfruit meal.
To cook, use a non-stick pan and add one part water and one part sauce. The jackfruit will simmer and become tender in this mix. Once it has absorbed most of the sauce, it’s done.
If you want that crispy edge like real meat, slide it onto an oiled baking sheet and bake in the oven on 450 degrees for about 20 minutes. The edges will become nice and crispy.
Cooked jackfruit can be made into patties like a burger, filled in taco shells or piled on a brioche bun like a pulled pork sandwich. It’s used in curries in Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries. Think of it like chicken when deciding what type of recipes to use it with.
Raw jackfruit can be made into smoothies or used as a topping on ice cream and other desserts.
Jackfruit is one of the most popular ingredients in plant-based cooking classes in NYC or cooking class in Portland. If you really want to become familiar with what this versatile fruit can bring to your weekly meal rotation, check out cooking classes near you to learn from a world-class chef. There are even live, interactive online cooking classes if you prefer the privacy of your own home kitchen!
Our Favorite Jackfruit Recipes
From savory sides and sweet desserts to mains and appetizers, jackfruit can be enjoyed all year round. Here are a couple of our favorite jackfruit recipes to get started on your jackfruit-loving journey.
BBQ jackfruit – Get out the grill and prepare to sink your teeth into this tender and flavorful vegan rib recipe. A medley of spices such as paprika, pepper and garlic, onion and mustard powder kick up the flavor. This all gets mixed in with the pulled jackfruit before adding a couple of splashes of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and liquid smoke. Form into loaf-like shapes and toss it onto the grill to sear completely. Coat with BBQ sauce and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes.
- Vegan burrito bowl – Filled with jackfruit, pinto beans, vegetables and brown rice, this is a quick and easy meal to throw together on a busy weeknight. The jackfruit is cooked for about five minutes and then divided up into individual bowls, along with the rice, beans and vegetables. A mix of hummus, salsa and lemon juice — with a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds, avocado and cilantro — top this deliciously crunchy and filling vegan burrito bowl.
Hopefully you’ve discovered some new ways to add variety and unique taste to everyday meals. Give jackfruit a try with some of our suggestions and recipes. You just might find out that you can enjoy a vegetarian diet. At the very least, you’ll discover a fun way to surprise and possibly confuse your friends and family.
For even more ways to explore your favorite foods, check out other experiences happening on CozyMeal.