You Don't Know Jackfruit
A Guide to the World's Biggest Fruit
Google "jackfruit" – go on, give it a try – and you will see something that looks like a science experiment gone wrong. This giant, bulbous mass is, believe it or not, a real fruit. It even grows on trees. Don’t ask me how. There’s been a lot of buzz about jackfruit recently so here is your complete guide to this tropical fruit, why it’s so popular, and how you can eat it and cook it at home.
Jackfruit 101: What is it, Where is it From, and Where Can I Buy it?
Jackfruit is the biggest fruit in the world. The world’s heaviest jackfruit according to Guinness came from India, clocking in at 42.72 kilograms (yes you read that right), was 57.15 centimeters long and had a circumference of 132.08 centimeters. But believe it or not the jackfruit tree is actually from the same family as a fig tree. I’m not making this up, I swear.
Jackfruit is a common fruit in India, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines. It’s also grown in central and eastern Africa, and is popular in Surinam and Brazil. It turns from light green to yellow as it ripens and aside from its giant size is quite distinctive with its nubby blunt spiked texture.
You can buy jackfruit in cans at many specialty grocery stores and supermarkets, or whole at Asian food markets. I’d recommend opting for the canned versions which are easier to handle when preparing recipes. You can find jackfruit canned in water (great for savory recipes) and syrup (for desserts).
Ripe vs Unripe Jackfruit
Ripe jackfruit is very different from unripe jackfruit. It’s actually the unripe jackfruit that is used in most recipes, and that’s what you’ll find on store shelves. The young, green, unripe jackfruit is chewy and mild, making it perfect for soaking up the flavor of the savory dishes you’re cooking. You can use a riper version for sweet dishes like desserts. In its ripe version, it’s typically too sweet to use in savory dishes.
Why Has Jackfruit Become Such a Hot Topic?
Jackfruit is the fruit of the moment in the vegan community. It’s sort of like the best answer to meat you can get. The texture is substantial, very similar to pulled pork and the flesh of the fruit is very good at soaking up whatever flavors you marinate it with. Many vegans choose it over meat substitutes like tofu or soy- or bean-based products, and things like Portobello burgers. It’s a versatile ingredient that works in many different recipes. It’s just really good in the texture department, and until we figure out how to grow meat (stay tuned – that’s happening) this fruit tops the vegan-friendly list.
Researchers even claim that jackfruit could be an answer to the world’s food security problems. Because it’s packed full of nutrients (potassium, calcium, iron) and calories, grows well in warmer climates, is robust against pests, disease, and drought, it could serve as an answer to dwindling yields of the crops we rely on most today like wheat and corn.
Irresistible Jackfruit Recipes
1. BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches with Avocado Slaw (by Minimalist Baker)
- 2 20-oz cans young green jackfruit in water (not syrup or brine)
- ¼ cup BBQ seasoning (2 tbsps brown sugar, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper, ½ tsp chili powder)
- 1-2 tbsps olive oil
- ¾ cup BBQ sauce + more for topping
- 2 cups shredded carrots and cabbage
- ½ ripe avocado
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 lime, juiced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4-6 whole grain buns
- ½ cup roasted salted cashews
1. Rinse, drain and dry jackfruit. Chop off the center "core" portion of the fruit and discard. Place the rest in a mixing bowl, add BBQ seasoning and toss to coat.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1-2 tbsp olive oil and seasoned jackfruit. Cook for 2-3 minutes to achieve some color.
3. Add BBQ sauce and water to achieve desired consistency. Stir, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use two forks to shred the jackfruit as it cooks down.
4. Add avocado, maple syrup, lime, salt and pepper to a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Thin with water until you get a thick sauce, then add carrots and cabbage, and toss to coat. Store in the refrigerator until serving.
5. Place generous portions of slaw on the bottom buns, top with generous serving of BBQ jackfruit and cashews. Serve with extra BBQ sauce!
2. Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes (by Veganosity)
- 2 17-oz cans of jackfruit in water – rinsed, drained and patted dry, chopped until it resembles lump crab meat
- 2 tbsps ground flax seed + 6 tbsps water – mix well and let sit for 10 mins
- 1 tsp mustard powder + 1 tsp water – mix well
- 2 tbsps + 1 tsp of Old Bay spice
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper
- 3 tbsps chives, finely chopped
- ¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped
- ½ cup classic breadcrumbs + ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
1. Put the mustard mixture, Old Bay spice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and lemon juice in a large bowl and whisk together until completely combined.
2. Add the jackfruit, flax mixture, salt, pepper, chives, cilantro, and both kinds of breadcrumbs. Combine with your hands until the mixture begins to stick together. Form into little cakes about 1 inch thick. Place the cakes on a plate and refrigerate for at least an hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 375°F and put the cakes on parchment paper lining a cookie sheet. Squeeze lemon juice over the top of the cakes and bake for approx 10 mins or until golden brown. Flip and squeeze lemon juice on the top of the cakes and bake until golden brown and firm to the touch.
4. Cover the bottom of a large skillet with a thin layer of oil (1-2 tbsps) and heat on medium-high. When the oil is spitting hot add the cakes and cook until golden brown (approx 5 mins). Flip and cook until golden brown and firm to the touch.
5. Serve with aioli or sriracha and a lemon wedge. You could also serve these with the avocado slaw from recipe 1.
3. Indian Sweet Jackfruit Balls (by Paleo Flourish)
- ½ lb (250 g) sweet jackfruit segments (you can buy jackfruit canned in syrup)
- 2 tbsps honey
- 1/3 cup coconut flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tbsp + 4 tbsps coconut oil
1. Place the sweet jackfruit segments, honey, salt, and ½ tbsp of coconut oil into a blender and blend well.
2. Place the puree into a bowl and mix in the coconut flour. Form small balls from the dough. The mixture should make approx 9-12 balls.
3. Add the 4 tbsps of coconut oil to a frying pan and pan-fry the balls until golden brown. Use a spoon to move the balls around so that they're fried evenly on all sides.
4. Serve with honey drizzled on top.
Jackfruit is a pretty impressive fruit on all fronts: size, nutrition, texture, resilience as a crop, and versatility in cooking. It may even come to replace the world’s biggest staples like wheat and corn. Try out these recipes and let me know what you think!