The many ways to enjoy jackfruit
The largest fruit in the world has vegans and foodies cooking up inventive and meatless recipes.
Jackfruit is an incredibly versatile fruit that originated in India, and has become popular with vegan chefs as a meat substitute. It’s the largest fruit that grows on a tree, and can reach a staggering 80 pounds and three feet long – a whole boatload of faux meat for those lucky chefs! But most jackfruits are about the size of a porcupine, and look similar with short spiky bumps around the outside shell. Jackfruits start out green, and then ripen to yellow, releasing a sweet, fruity fragrance.
Because of the fruit’s enormous size and sticky flesh coating, most consumers opt to buy already peeled and prepped jackfruit, either canned or frozen. A dedicated reporter, I went all out and purchased a massive jackfruit from my local supermarket, and went through the sticky, messy process of removing all the fleshy pods. The kind of thing you do once, and then never again.
But even before I purchased the monstrous edible porcupine, I first tasted jackfruit in a delicious dried version from the Israeli outdoor market, which I enjoyed immensely. And then in an interview with chef Tal Caspi of Portland’s Aviv, he mentioned using green jackfruit to create a vegan brisket sandwich. My curiosity was piqued, and I set out to try as many recipes as I could using this newly discovered fruit.
It’s important to know that there are two basic ways to use jackfruit – young, unripe, green jackfruit is used in savory dishes and has very little flavor, but a great texture similar to shredded chicken or meat. Ripe jackfruit has a fabulous flavor similar to mango, papaya, and other tropical fruits.
Check the label carefully on the jackfruit products you buy. There’s a significant difference between canned jackfruit in brine vs. water, and an even bigger difference between ripe and unripe jackfruit. Once you’ve played around with jackfruit a bit and tried a few recipes, you’ll be branching out on your own and having fun.
If you enjoy dried fruit, this version sold in the Israeli market is a real treat. It’s similar to dried apricot or mango, but with its own distinct flavor. You can enjoy it as a snack straight up, or chop it up and add to a dish of ancient grains along with some crushed nuts, herbs and Mediterranean spices.
I found some frozen jackfruit at Target, and threw it into my Vitamix with some frozen mango, 2 cups of baby kale, a peeled orange, a tablespoon of ground flaxseed, and a splash of almond milk. Incredible taste, superior nutrition. What a way to start your day!
Make the trendy jackfruit your new go-to ingredient. (Photo: Sarah F. Berkowitz)
Yeah, you knew I’d come up with a heavenly, moist muffin using this fruit. Our jackfruit muffin recipe uses frozen jackfruit, and makes for a perfect breakfast, snack, or after school treat.
Jackfruit 'crab' cakes
I’ve never tried a crabcake before, but I’m a big fan of salmon croquettes and imagine they’re not too different. This recipe is perfect as an appetizer when you’re serving a vegan dinner, or with soup and salad for a light lunch.
Pulled jackfruit chili
Using canned jackfruit and a boatload of spices, herbs, and condiments, Kristy at Keepin’ It Kind shows us how to whip up a batch of heartwarming vegan chili on a cold winter day.
The Nosher gives us an easy way to turn a few cans of Trader Joe’s jackfruit into an entree that will please the vegans and the omnivores alike. And if you’re really short on time, simply pour a bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce into a frying pan, add a few shakes of water and the canned jackfruit, and cook it up for half an hour.
Jackfruit chickpea coconut stir-fry
Vegan Richa’s recipe uses chickpeas, coconut, and Indian spices for a really different jackfruit entree. This one’s perfect if you’re a fan of Indian food, or just love those chickpeas and curry!
Baked jackfruit & mushroom spring rolls
Asian flavors give these fabulous spring rolls their unique taste, and the jackfruit mushroom combo gives you incredible umami taste in every bite.
Jackfruit pot pie
Comfort food at its best! An old classic meets the new fruit on the block, or the new vegan ‘meat’. This pot pie from Soy Division has all the veggies you expect – potatoes, carrots, and peas, and tastes similar enough to the real thing that you won’t miss the meat.
Ripe jackfruit straight up
Fully Raw Christina shows viewers how to slice and enjoy ripe jackfruit straight out of the shell, with no processing involved. Looks delicious, and if you can get your hands on the fruit when it’s perfectly ripe (don’t buy any with brown skin, that’s a sign it didn’t ripen in the sun), it’ll be quite the treat!
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