What Exactly Is Jackfruit?
Jackfruit, AKA jack tree or ‘tree-mutton’ (you’ll find out why), is a fruit from the same family as both figs and mulberries. The fruit itself can be pretty big – up to 35kg – but in reality, not all jackfruits come quite that large.
You can use both the ripe and the unripe fruit and even the seeds in cooking – used most commonly in South and Southeast Asian meals, as well as the more tropical regions of the world.
However, as more and more of the western population turns to veganism (around 1 million Brits are now full-time vegans), jackfruit has exploded in popularity. That’s because unripe jackfruit acts as a tasty vegan- and vegetarian-friendly meat substitute, as it has a surprisingly meaty texture and a mild flavour.
Ripe jackfruit is naturally sweet with an aroma similar to ripe bananas and mangoes – often used in sweet dishes like cakes and custards, as well as alongside shaved ice. The seeds can be used, too, and they’re said to taste a little like brazil nuts – served as a salty snack or even inside a curry.
Jackfruit flesh is a great source of starchy carbohydrates and fibre – great for slow-release energy and digestion. Plus, the fruit contains high quantities of vitamin B6 (helps with amino acid, glucose and lipid metabolism, amongst more), and pretty decent levels of vitamin C (helps maintain healthy skin, protects cells and helps with wound healing) and potassium (helps nutrients move into cells and maintains healthy heart function).
However, although jackfruit makes a great meat-substitute for its texture and flavour, it’s unfortunately not as high in protein as the real thing. In fact, contrary to popular opinion, the flesh only contains around 2% protein (while your average chicken breast comes in at around 24%).
How To Prepare Jackfruit
Fortunately, you don’t have to buy the entire fruit when you fancy including a bit of jackfruit in your dinner. Save yourself the effort and mess (and not to mention risk – let’s not make jackfruit hand the new avocado hand) and buy your jackfruit canned.
Another thing to know about jackfruit is that the unripe (or young/green) fruit is pretty different from the ripe version. If you’re looking for a meaty substitute with a similar consistency to pulled pork, go for unripe, young or green jackfruit, as labelled on the can or on the fruit label itself.
If you are going to buy the whole fruit and prepare it yourself, use a large, sharp knife to cut your way through the thick skin. You can then cut it into segments and use a small paring knife to cut out the flesh, much like you would a melon. Cut into chunks and boil in water for around 30-40 minutes to give it a stringy texture. Now you can use it as a meat substitute in your favourite dishes.
What Meals Can I Make With Jackfruit?
Unripe jackfruit can be used in a whole host of meals – from faux pulled pork burgers and burritos to stir-fries and curries. In southern parts of India, it’s actually cut into slices and made into chips, whereas in Thailand, it’s often boiled in coconut milk with spices and eaten with rice. The world is your oyster (or, indeed, your jackfruit) – be creative!
BBQ Pulled Jackfruit on Sweet Potato Recipe
- 1 tbsp. coconut oil
- 4 medium sweet potatoes
- ½ tsp. sea salt
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- 2 x 400g tins young green jackfruit
- 150ml Sugar-Free BBQ Sauce
- 2 medium avocados
- Bunch coriander leaves
- Preheat your oven to 180°C or 160°C for fan-assisted.
- Place the sweet potatoes onto a baking tray and grease with coconut oil, then season with sea salt and black pepper. Bake for 45 minutes on the middle shelf.
- While you’re waiting for the sweet potatoes to cook, prepare the jackfruit. Drain the tins of young jackfruit then pour the fruit meat into a deep baking tray. Add half of the Sugar-Free BBQ Sauce and stir, then seal tightly with tin foil. Bake on the same shelf as the sweet potatoes for 40 minutes.
- While waiting prepare the toppings. Simply chop the avocados in half lengthways and spoon out the flesh, then roughly chop. Roughly chop the coriander leaves.
- Once the sweet potatoes and jackfruit are cooked, remove from the oven. Mix through the remaining Sugar-Free BBQ Sauce with the jackfruit, then cut open the sweet potatoes.
- Top with the pulled BBQ jackfruit, avocado and coriander. Plant-based perfection.