If you’ve never tried jackfruit, it’s hard to explain the allure of this unusual fruit.
Although jackfruit has been a subsistence crop that has provided valuable nutrition to humans living in tropical climates for millennia, it’s also a fruit with a deep and interesting flavor that can be used in delicious gourmet cooking.
Vegans and vegetarians are some of the biggest converts to jackfruit, specifically, because it has a meaty taste when cooked that can replace pulled pork. Adding a bit of barbecue sauce to jackfruit brings out the meatlike, wholesome flavor.
In this article, we’ll look at jackfruit, what it tastes like, and how you can experience it for yourself.
What Is Jackfruit?
Jackfruit is the world’s largest growing tree fruit, growing up to 100lbs. It looks like a massive bulb covered in tiny spikes that protrude from its thick skin. It is a relative of the fig and breadfruit.
Jackfruit only grows in tropical climates on trees that are 30 to 50 feet tall. The fruit is so large and heavy that it can be dangerous and can hurt you if it falls on you.
In the wild, jackfruit trees support tropical scavengers like coatis, who eagerly dig into the fallen fruit for sustenance.
Throughout human history, jackfruit has been instrumental in providing tropical human communities with the vitamins, protein, and carbohydrates that we need.
If you cut a jackfruit from the top to the bottom with a machete, you will notice that the flesh is fibrous and surrounds large seeds. You’ll probably also notice the sickeningly sweet alcohol smell that jackfruit is famous for.
Jackfruit can be eaten fresh by cutting right into the flesh or shredded and cooked. Even the seeds of jackfruit are edible. Cooked jackfruit seeds taste a little bit like cashews.
What Does Jackfruit Look Like?
A jackfruit is round, or elongated in roughly the shape of a potato. Most are very large, weighing up to 100lbs. It may be green or yellow, depending on how ripe it is. The skin is bumpy, with each bump being slightly pointy.
The exterior skin is hard with a rough texture. Inside, the jackfruit is yellow and filled with chewy, fibrous fruit flesh that wraps around hard seeds.
What Kind Of Texture Does Jackfruit Have?
The texture of jackfruit is different depending on how ripe it is and how it is prepared.
Ripe, fresh jackfruit is fibrous but also soft and chewy, like a banana or a mango. It’s easy to eat with a sweet flavor. You probably wouldn’t describe the flavor or the texture as “meaty”, although it has a chewy quality to it.
Green or unripe jackfruit is harder and denser, and less suitable to be eaten without being cooked first. Green jackfruit is tougher, and when it is shredded and cooked it does have a meaty texture that evokes pulled pork or chicken.
Where Does Jackfruit Come From?
Jackfruit is the world’s largest tree fruit. It grows on trees that are 30 to 50 feet tall in exclusively tropical regions.
Although jackfruit grows in tropical regions around the world, including Mexico and Latin America, it is most popular in India, where it originated, and in Africa and Southeast Asia.
Partly because it needs to be shipped whole and sold in pieces (almost no one is ready to cook and eat an entire jackfruit, no matter how large their family), and partly because it has a divisive smell and texture, jackfruit never really caught on in the west and it may be one of the most foreign looking and tasting foods you can eat.
Is Jackfruit Healthy?
There is a ton of nutritional value in jackfruit, which is a powerhouse of antioxidants, phytonutrients, carbohydrates, protein, and fiber.
Adding jackfruit to your diet may be beneficial in improving your immune system and reducing your overall risk of disease, including heart disease.
Anecdotally, jackfruit may help your skin health and prevent signs of aging.
Jackfruit is also a very low glycemic index food and is ideal for people who are diabetic or trying to control their blood sugar.
The presence of additional protein in jackfruit serves to slow digestion and reduce short-term blood sugar spikes, and extracts from jackfruit have been shown to reduce the level of blood sugar in people who are fasting.
Jackfruit is a healthy fruit, and adding it to your diet comes with many different benefits.
However, it is worth mentioning an important note here, especially for vegans and vegetarians:
Jackfruit contains more protein than most other fruits. That is great.
However, don’t get confused about the amounts in jackfruit – it is not a meat replacement, and if you are hoping to get the same amount of protein from a jackfruit sandwich as you would from a BBQ pulled pork sandwich, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
There is more protein in jackfruit than in comparable fruits, but dramatically less protein than you find in meat or tofu. Jackfruit makes a great protein supplement, but a terrible protein replacement.
What Are The Dangers Of Eating Jackfruit?
It is generally safe to eat jackfruit, but there are some exceptions.
If you have an allergy to latex or birch pollen, you are probably also allergic to jackfruit and you should avoid it.
There is also a lot of potassium in jackfruit, which can be harmful to people with chronic kidney conditions.
However, for most people, the only danger in eating jackfruit is getting a little bit drowsy. Jackfruit can act as a mild sedative (think about a turkey dinner) and can cause some people to feel tired or drowsy after a meal.
Jackfruit Nutritional Information
Per 1 cup of sliced Jackfruit (165g) according to Healthline.com
|Vitamin A||10% of RDI|
|Vitamin C||18% of RDI|
|Riboflavin||11% of RDI|
|Magnesium||15% of RDI|
|Potassium||14% of RDI|
|Copper||15% of RDI|
|Manganese||16% of RDI|
Quick Table: Jackfruit Recipes
|Vegan Pulled-Jackfruit Tacos From Lazy Cat Kitchen||243||1 Hour 45 Minutes|
|Kentucky-Fried Jackfruit From The Veg Life||119||30 Minutes|
|Vegan BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches From Emilie Eats||505||40 Minutes|
Tacos are one of those dishes where the protein is so important, so key, yet there is also an abundance of other flavors at play, from avocados and greens to sauces like salsa and sour cream.
Tacos are perfect for jackfruit, which really shines alongside these other condiments.
The secret to making mind-blowing pulled-jackfruit tacos is all in the preparation of the jackfruit, by slowly simmering it in a mix of spices and ingredients that allow the green and unripe jackfruit to absorb all the flavors we want it to.
This recipe calls for paprika, liquid smoke, red onions, and more, along with Indonesian chili paste, sambal oelek, for an extra kick.
If you love tacos and want to experience the best vegan version out there, try these pulled-jackfruit tacos.
Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
There are so many recipes out there trying to turn jackfruit into pulled pork (for good reason, it works perfectly), but people often neglect how much jackfruit can embody chicken.
A chicken breast has the same meaty fibers that pulled pork does, and unripe jackfruit is just as good as absorbing the spices we use for chicken as it is soaked in barbecue sauce.
This recipe recreates Kentucky Fried Chicken (particularly their popcorn chicken) using jackfruit as a base.
By the time you add a crispy coating, deep fry them and dip them in a dipping sauce, you’ll be unable to tell the difference between a bucket of jackfruit and a bucket of chicken.
Total Preparation Time: 30 minutes
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One of the classic and best uses of jackfruit is to simulate pulled pork, which it does magnificently.
Every time I make a recipe that mixes jackfruit and barbecue sauce, I’m shocked at how well this flavor combination works and how delicious and convincing the end result is.
These vegan BBQ jackfruit sandwiches are one of my favorite ways to serve the BBQ “pulled pork” jackfruit.
Adding the barbecued jackfruit to freshly toasted sourdough bread brings out the superb balance in this dish, and highlights the meaty, tangy, delicious flavor of jackfruit.
Total Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Jackfruit Really Taste Like Meat?
This one might make the vegans angry, but honestly… no. Jackfruit doesn’t really taste like meat.
Jackfruit tastes like a fruit, but green or unripe jackfruit has a meaty texture and can absorb a ton of flavor. When you cook jackfruit in a certain way, it absorbs all of the flavors we associate with meat and takes on a similar texture as well.
Jackfruit doesn’t taste like meat at all, but just like some other neutral-tasting meat replacements like tofu or tempeh, it can take on important flavors and act as a meat replacement for vegans and vegetarians.
By adding the flavors we associate with meat, like liquid smoke, salt, fat, and certain spices, you can cook jackfruit so that it has a meaty taste and works as a great replacement for chicken or pulled pork in many dishes, but it will never taste just like the real thing.
Is Jackfruit The Stinky One?
This is a complicated question.
Some people do consider jackfruit to be “stinky.” It has a strong, sweet smell that some people find sickening or overpowering, like overripe fruit that gets to the point of smelling like alcohol.
Cutting into a jackfruit you will smell a strong, sweet odor, and some people really hate that smell.
However, “the stinky one” here might refer to a durian, which looks a lot like jackfruit but smells MUCH worse.
Durian is another large, tough, bulbous fruit. It looks spikier than jackfruit and doesn’t get as large. Although it looks very similar to jackfruit and grows in some of the same areas, they aren’t closely related.
Durian is famous for its horrible smell, which has been compared to garbage and decay. In many places in Asia, there are signs forbidding the eating of durian in public because the smell bothers people.
Jackfruit has a smell that some people don’t like, but compared to durians, it’s not the stinky one!
Can Jackfruit Be Eaten Raw?
Yes, you can eat jackfruit raw. There is no requirement that you cook it to make it safe, and plenty of people enjoy the sweet and fruity taste of fully ripened jackfruit, fresh.
Jackfruit is typically sold in two forms: the green, unripe jackfruit that is meant to be cooked, and the fully ripened jackfruit that is intended to be eaten raw or used in sweet desserts.
You can eat green jackfruit raw without any health issues, but it’s not very appetizing. The flavor is neutral, and it is hard, rubbery, and chewy.
If you want to eat raw jackfruit, you’re better off either cutting into a fresh jackfruit or buying canned ripe jackfruit at the grocery store. When jackfruit is fully mature, it becomes softer and more enjoyable to eat raw.
Why Does My Jackfruit Smell Like Gasoline?
Ripe jackfruit has a strong smell that continues to get stronger as it ripens. Some call it sickeningly or cloyingly sweet.
This smell comes from ethylene gas that the fruit gives off as it ripens. Some people have compared the smell to gasoline or rubbing alcohol.
If you notice that your jackfruit has an intensely sweet smell that borders on alcohol or gasoline, it’s not a problem, and your jackfruit is still safe to eat. You just might want to plug your nose.
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