Have you tried jackfruit pulled pork yet? If not, surely you’ve seen the delectable photos on social media that have made your mouth water and your mind wonder what jackfruit tastes like. In the last few years, jackfruit has become a go-to vegan meat replacement because of its texture, taste, and health benefits. But we'd venture to guess you meat-eaters out there will love jackfruit too!
Jackfruit first came to prominence as a healthy, non-grain or legume meat replacement because it takes on the flavors of the spices and herbs it is partnered with. Jackfruit BBQ is one of the most searched for jackfruit recipes and this tropical fruit holds up to the flavors and complements BBQ sauce and spices beautifully.
Jackfruit, unlike pork, contains no saturated fat or cholesterol and is low in calories. And jackfruit nutrients include potassium, protein, fiber, vitamin C, manganese, and omega-3 fatty acids. Where jackfruit is grown and served, it is often enjoyed ripe. However, when used as a meat replacement, green or young jackfruit is used.
This is a unique fruit with a distinctive flavor and an interesting texture that easily replicates the texture and “strings” of pulled pork. It is easy to see why vegetarians and vegans are flocking to young green jackfruit as a meat replacement.
Jackfruit was once considered an exotic and rare fruit, but today ripe fresh jackfruit is popping up in health food stores as well as in Indian and Asian markets. And, green jackfruit is now readily available canned or in the refrigerated section of most large grocery stores as the demand for healthy, tasty, and nutrient-dense meat replacements increases.
What Is Jackfruit?
Jackfruit is the world’s largest tree-borne fruit. Indigenous to rainforests in western India, the jackfruit tree is referred to in botanical terminology as the Artocarpus heterophyllus evergreen tree, and the jackfruit is related to breadfruit, bread nut, figs, and mulberries.
Today, the jackfruit tree grows throughout southeast Asia, the Philippines, parts of eastern Africa, and in Brazil. It thrives in humid tropical climates and certain species are being raised in southern Florida with mixed results.
The leaves of the jackfruit tree are deep green, long, and oval with a glossy and almost leather-like quality. The jackfruit tree produces fruits that average between 30 pounds and 50 pounds each—with some of the largest fruits topping the scales at 80 pounds or more and reaching 36 inches long and 20 inches in diameter.
When ripe, the jackfruit is a lovely shade of yellow, with a dimpled skin. Unripe jackfruit, what is typically used as a vegan meat replacement, has a lime green hue. When you break open a jackfruit, it is like no other fruit you’ve seen.
Inside there are large yellow-hued bulbs that contain a large pit. The taste of ripe jackfruit is often compared to a cross between a banana, a pineapple, and hearts of palm. Ripe jackfruit emits a somewhat displeasing odor—that of onions. But once open, the aroma changes to reflect the beautiful tropical fruit that it is.
Ripe jackfruit is sweet and is generally consumed raw in salads or as a dessert. It is best served chilled.
Green, unripe jackfruit has a texture similar to that of meat, and it stands up well to long simmers and braising, making it perfect for BBQ recipes including jackfruit pulled pork.
The jackfruit really has an outstanding nutrient profile. It is very low in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and calories, and it is a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and manganese. It evens contains a healthy amount of omega-3 fatty acids!
- Calories: 155
- Carbs: 40 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Protein: 3 grams
- Vitamin A: 10% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 18% of the RDI
- Riboflavin: 11% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 15% of the RDI
- Potassium: 14% of the RDI
- Copper: 15% of the RDI
- Manganese: 16% of the RDI
- Omega-3 fatty acids: 39.6 milligrams
- Omega-6 fatty acids: 104 milligrams
6 Jackfruit Health Benefits
Jackfruit health benefits echo many of the outstanding health benefits of breadfruit and figs. For centuries, Southeast Asian cultures have harvested jackfruit and consumed both ripe and green fruits, making them central to their native cuisines.
Jackfruit is fibrous and quite starchy and is packed with nutritional flavonoids that researchers are finding promote a number of health benefits.
1. Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels
According to researchers from the Department of Biochemistry at the University Ruhuna in Sri Lanka, jackfruit significantly improves glucose levels in both diabetic patients and healthy patients alike. This study was published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, and researchers note they tested both the leaves of the jackfruit tree and the flesh of the fruit.
In a study published in the journal Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin, researchers found that jackfruit helps to mediate certain complications associated with diabetes, including weight loss and a reduction in cholesterol levels.
2. Fight Inflammation
In a study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, researchers identified that the flavonoids in jackfruit inhibit specific immune responses, bestowing upon jackfruit the potential to be used as a potent anti-inflammatory agent.
The jackfruit’s peel has been found to have outstanding flavonoid content, including a variety of polyphenols like quercetin. In a comparative study published in the journal Natural Product Research, researchers note that the skin of the jackfruit exhibits “maximum anti-inflammatory activity” and that further evaluation is warranted.
3. Promising Treatment for Colorectal Cancer
A preliminary study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry indicates that the compound artocarpin found in jackfruit demonstrates promising colorectal cancer therapy potential. Researchers note that this jackfruit compound appears to suppress colon cancer cell growth in mice and that further study of jackfruit is warranted to fight colorectal cancer.
4. Potential Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment
In the peer-reviewed bio-medical journal Oncotarget, researchers from Taiwan have found that artocarpin from jackfruit has the potential to encourage non-small cell lung carcinoma cellular death. This emerging research echoes other studies that show that this jackfruit compound can kill a variety of different cancer cells.
A study published in the journal Food Chemistry found that the peel of the jackfruit, the pulp, and the seeds are excellent sources of antioxidants. The authors of the study also note that jackfruit contains strong hypoglycemic agents and may help to regulate blood sugar levels.
6. Antibacterial Agent That Fights E. Coli
In a landmark study from researchers in Thailand, Indonesia and Macau, artocarpanone, another compound from jackfruit, exhibits strong antibacterial activity against certain bacterium. The authors of the study note that they were looking for it to fight MRSA and P. aeruginosa, but that it showed weak activity against these bacteria. However, this jackfruit compound showed strong antibacterial activity against E. Coli, and researchers say that with further study artocarpanone may be capable of fighting MRSA.
Emerging Research on Jackfruit
In addition to jackfruit’s polyphenols, flavonoids, anti-inflammatories, and antibacterial properties, the peel of the jackfruit may provide bone-healing applications.
In a study published in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, researchers identify jackfruit’s anti-inflammatory properties and strong cell adhesion characteristics that may make jackfruit peel an excellent and well-tolerated bone graft material.
3 Delicious Jackfruit Pulled Pork Recipes
Have you been tempted to try a jackfruit pulled pork recipe? If it's your first time working with the jackfruit, no need to bust out a cookbook. Here are three similar recipes, with slightly different flavor profiles to suit every taste and every type of eater...from vegans to carnivores!
1. Jackfruit Pulled Pork Sandwiches
From the Food Network Kitchen, this BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Sandwich takes less than an hour and a half to prepare and cook. Drain, rinse, and dry canned jackfruit and mix with a prepared barbecue sauce, a touch of brown sugar, and some chili powder (we're okay with you substituting in cayenne pepper if you'd like, and why not use homemade BBQ sauce while you're at it?). Then, it is piled onto a soft potato bun and topped with a tart apple cider vinegar coleslaw. The texture and the taste closely resemble Carolina-style BBQ sandwiches.
2. Crockpot Jackfruit Pulled Pork Recipe
Do you love your slow cooker? Here is a jackfruit pulled pork recipe with pineapple that will delight you. This vegan Slow Cooker Whiskey Pineapple Pulled Pork Recipe from Stacey Homemaker will blow your mind. It’s the perfect recipe to take to family gatherings and office events—no one would ever guess this is meat-free BBQ! Clocking in at 3 hours 20 minutes total time, never fear, because you can walk away and let that crockpot do its magic.
3. Vegan BBQ Jackfruit
This jackfruit pulled pork recipe pumps up the flavor with the addition of smoked paprika and liquid smoke to give it a true BBQ taste. From The Minimalist Baker, this vegan recipe takes less than 45 minutes from start to finish. Easy Vegan BBQ Jackfruit was created to eat as a sandwich, but it would be delicious stuffed inside of a baked sweet potato. Forgo the traditional hamburger bun and put it inside a gluten-free bun and it's a meatless meal to remember. And don't forget to indulge in that avocado slaw!
7 Delicious Recipes to Add Jackfruit to Your Diet
Once you get addicted to jackfruit’s flavor and texture, rest assured there is culinary life outside of BBQ. Here are some of the best non-BBQ jackfruit recipes we’ve found focusing on flavors from around the world.
1. Jamaican Jackfruit
Feeling a little spicy? This vegan Jamaican Jerk Jackfruit Caribbean Bean Wrap is an excellent recipe to spice up your Meatless Monday. Just shred the jackfruit, sauté in a large skillet on medium heat with Jamaican spices, and then top with tropical fruits including mango and highly-flavored black beans for a savory jackfruit recipe that packs a punch in flavor and nutrition.
2. American Comfort Food Jackfruit
From Soy Division comes this stunningly comforting Vegan Jackfruit Pot Pie. The texture of the jackfruit is a perfect meat substitute here, and the spices lend a hearty flavor, but feel free to spice up the pie according to your taste preferences. We think a dash of cumin and onion powder would be an added delight. The almond milk provides the creamy texture that the traditional pot pie ingredients float in. And it’s topped with a puff pastry top! What could possibly be better on a cold winter’s night?
3. Jackfruit as Seafood?
Yes! This Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cake recipe from Veganosity has the texture of a great lump crab cake, as well as the traditional flavor. Of course, it is flavored with Old Bay spice—what would a crab cake be without that iconic spice combination? Two cloves garlic (or garlic powder), mustard powder, lemon juice, and salt and pepper are your go-to spices, and bread crumbs make for the crispy consistency we crave with crab cakes. This recipe calls for baking the crab cakes for just 10 minutes or so, making this jackfruit cuisine great for quick weeknight meals that require very little prep time.
4. Jackfruit Soup
We’ve talked about how jackfruit resembles the texture of pork when cooked, but it also resembles the texture and taste of chicken. This Jackfruit Chicken Noodle Soup from Plant-Based on a Budget has all the veggies you love in a great bowl of chicken noodle soup—but it is chicken free!
5. Classic Tuna Melt, but Vegan
From Keepin’ It Kind comes this amazing Jackfruit Tuna Melt Sandwich. It is creamy, highly flavored with pickles and aromatics, made heart healthy with the addition of olive oil, and topped with a vegan cheese that makes it the best kind of gooey. Flaking the jackfruit apart gives it the consistency of canned tuna, without that unpleasant fishy smell. Go ahead, enjoy this healthy vegan tuna melt sandwich whenever you need a bite of something decadent and nutritious.
6. Italian Jackfruit Sauce in an Instant Pot
Who doesn’t love a big plate of Italian Ragu over pasta? If you’ve given up meat or are just looking for healthy and satisfying options for Meatless Monday, this Jackfruit Ragu must be tried. The jackfruit fills in for the beef and pork in a typical ragu recipe, and it is accompanied by all the other common ragu ingredients, including onions, carrots, celery, and herbs. As a bonus, this recipe comes together quickly thanks to an Instant Pot!
7. Breakfast Smoothie
This recipe from Vegan Kitchen Gone Wild uses frozen ripe jackfruit chunks to create a delicious and satisfying tropical smoothie. This Jackfruit Mint Smoothie recipe is just a bit tangy from the pineapple juice, and it is super creamy from the coconut milk. The fresh mint and ginger punch add to the jackfruit nutrient health benefits and make this an excellent smoothie to start your day.