Are you hearing the buzz about jackfruit—the latest superfood taking America by storm? If you’ve seen a fresh jackfruit in the market, you may have wondered what is jackfruit? Jackfruit is loaded with vitamins A, B, and C, as well as essential minerals including calcium, iron, and potassium. And it is a moderate source of protein, which is why this newly minted superfood is touted as a healthy vegan meat alternative.
What Is Jackfruit?
At first glance, fresh jackfruit may appear otherworldly. And, as the largest tree-borne fruit in the world, in some ways it is. A relative of the mulberry tree, breadfruit tree, and fig tree, the jackfruit is a huge tropical fruit that can weigh in at 50 pounds or more. This fruit is oblong in shape and has a bumpy or spiky lime green-colored rind.
The jackfruit tree is believed to have originated in the rainforests of the Western Ghats of India. But this fruit’s unique ability to mimic meat when cooked contributed to its rapid-fire spread through India, Southeast Asia where it's the national fruit of Bangladesh, and the Philippines. The jackfruit is now grown in humid tropical and near-tropical climates, including in the United States in parts of California, South Texas, Florida, and Louisiana.
Before you rush out and purchase a jackfruit tree, let’s take a moment and give props to the size of the tree required to produce 50-pound fruit! According to Gardening Know How, the jackfruit tree can grow up to 80 feet tall and may reach 30 feet across at the widest part of the tree.
Jackfruit trees produce a latex-like sap on the leaves, fruit, and trunk, so if you have a latex allergy, you should avoid jackfruit, as cases of jackfruit anaphylaxis have been reported.
What Does Jackfruit Meat Taste Like?
When eaten raw, ripe jackfruit tastes like a combination of mango, pineapple, and banana—just a touch sweet with a bit of a dense and gummy texture. But when green jackfruit is cooked, this exotic tropical fruit becomes more like braised pulled pork in both flavor and texture. That is why you see so many jackfruit “pulled pork” recipes on social media.
When you cut open a jackfruit, the inside contains fleshy pods with a large seed inside. Jackfruit seeds are edible, with a flavor reminiscent of a Brazil nut or a chestnut. If you are wondering how to eat jackfruit seeds, they are best when cooked. These seeds can be boiled in water, oven roasted, or pan roasted in a cast iron skillet. In some parts of the world, the jackfruit seed is ground into flour.
It is fair to be concerned about fresh jackfruit’s smell. This tropical fruit is not related to the notorious durian fruit, even though it has a similar appearance. However, the jackfruit smell can take some getting used to. Some people describe the aroma of fresh jackfruit as musty, while others have a much harsher reaction and describe it as a combination of dirty socks and cooked onions. You be the judge!
Is Jackfruit Good for You?
Yes! Jackfruit health benefits include stabilizing blood sugar, fighting inflammation, treating cancer, and even defending against E. Coli. Jackfruit is a nutritional bonanza packed with vitamins and minerals.
Bonus: jackfruit calories are moderate. Let’s take a look at jackfruit nutrition.
One cup of jackfruit contains:
- Calories: 143
- Protein: 2.4 grams (5% DV)
- Carbohydrates: 39.6 grams (13% DV)
- Total fiber: 2.6 grams (11% DV)
- Omega-3 fatty acids: 39.6 milligrams
- Vitamin C:11.1 milligrams (18% DV)
- Riboflavin: 0.2 milligrams (11% DV)
- Vitamin B6: 0.2 milligrams (9% DV)
- Vitamin A: 490 IU (10% DV)
- Potassium: 500 milligrams (14% DV)
- Magnesium: 61.1 milligrams (15% DV)
- Calcium: 56.1 milligrams (6% DV)
- Iron: 1 milligram (6% DV)
- Copper: 0.3 milligrams (15% DV)
The Reality of Using Jackfruit as a Meat Substitute
Jackfruit does contain 2.6 grams of protein in 1 cup, but this doesn’t even come close to the 22 grams in 3 ounces of pork tenderloin or the 43 grams of protein in 1 cup of diced chicken breast. If you're depending on a jackfruit taco dish to meet your protein needs, you're going to fall short.
Is Jackfruit Good for Weight Loss?
Wondering if jackfruit is good for weight loss? Maybe. Jackfruit has a moderate amount of calories and fiber, but it does contain a lot of carbohydrates. If you are on a carb-restricted diet or living the keto life, eat jackfruit in moderation.
Good News About Jackfruit and Thyroid Health
There are reports online that say jackfruit is good for the thyroid—especially for individuals with hypothyroidism. Emerging research from Serbia indicates that blood concentration levels of essential trace elements found in jackfruit, including copper and selenium, may influence hormone production and conversion in patients with hypothyroidism. But again, this is emerging research without specifics on the delivery of copper or the amount necessary to make an impact on thyroid hormone production.
How to Eat Jackfruit
First, let’s address how you break into this monster tropical fruit to harvest the juicy pulp and seeds.
Warning: cutting into a jackfruit takes even more perseverance and strength than cutting into a coconut!
Here are our best tips:
- Find a clean screwdriver or some sort of strong pointy object.
- Place the screwdriver at the stem end of the jackfruit.
- Drive the screwdriver several inches into the fruit with a mallet.
- The jackfruit should start to crack.
- Use a knife with a sharp point to cut through the cracked part of the exterior.
- Now place the screwdriver on the opposite end of the jackfruit and repeat the process.
- Grasp opposite sides of the jackfruit and pull and twist until it splits in half.
Now that you have learned how to cut a jackfruit, the sticky part of the process begins. Jackfruit has a tacky sap that loves to adhere to your hands and knives. Rub a touch of coconut oil onto your hands and knives before attempting to pull out the jackfruit bulbs.
Once you have successfully harvested the jackfruit bulbs, it’s time to remove the fibrous exterior to reveal the sweet and milky fruit. Before you pop a jackfruit pod into your mouth, peel the exterior until you reach the soft, bulb-like interior. Next, cut out the seed and store the fruit and the seeds separately.
If you purchased a 30-, 40-, or 50-pound fresh jackfruit you are probably wondering if you can freeze jackfruit—and the answer is yes! The best way to freeze fresh jackfruit is to flash-freeze individual pods (seeds removed) on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once the fruit is frozen, scoop into a ziplock bag and store in your freezer for future use.
In case you aren’t ready to spend the time and effort breaking into a jackfruit, you now can purchase prepared jackfruit in many grocery stores, particularly Asian markets. Raw jackfruit and pre-cooked jackfruit pouches are available, as well as canned green jackfruit in brine.
Can you eat canned jackfruit raw? That depends! If you select unripe jackfruit marked as “green” or “young” it must be cooked before eating while ripe jackfruit can be eaten raw. Throw some ripe jackfruit into a smoothie, or mix it in with some ice cream for an extra sweet punch.
Jackfruit is an incredibly versatile food that can be enjoyed raw when ripe or cooked when green. Use these jackfruit recipes below as inspiration for your next Meatless Monday.
Spring rolls are the spice of life, and this delicious jackfruit spring roll recipe from One Green Planet is a game changer. As a warning—this recipe does take some time for prepping and cooking, but the end result is well worth the effort.
Who doesn’t love a tender crab cake? If you have given up shellfish or are vegan, you are going to love this jackfruit “crab” cake from Veganosity! Young jackfruit is used in this recipe, along with traditional crab cake flavors including Old Bay spice, garlic, and lemon juice. These jackfruit cakes can be baked, or fried if you prefer a crispier exterior.
Vegan carnitas! Jackfruit is known for mimicking pulled pork beautifully, and this recipe for carnitas from One Green Planet takes the flavor to the next level. Adjust the seasonings to your liking and toss in a jalapeño or another pepper to give this recipe a kick of heat.
Tuna melts are the epitome of comfort food, and this vegan version using jackfruit is no exception. The brilliance of this recipe from Keepin’ It Kind is the use of kelp granules to evoke the flavor of the sea and great northern white beans for creaminess.
Young jackfruit takes on the flavors of whatever it is partnered with. And it has an underlying sweetness that complements teriyaki beautifully. From the Veg Life comes this inspired teriyaki jackfruit bowl that is rich in flavor and texture. You’ll never miss chicken or beef with this flavor-forward recipe.
When prepared with finesse, gyros punch the palate with gusto, and this recipe from the Lazy Cat Kitchen upholds the traditional Greek flavors perfectly. The recipe notes that for best taste, the jackfruit “pork” should be prepared a day in advance to allow the herbs and spices to meld together in harmony.
The Super Bowl and March Madness are just around the corner, and if you are going to be hosting friends for the games, you must try this loaded sweet potato fries recipe from Keepin’ It Kind. Every bite is an explosion of savory flavor, and the jackfruit really takes on the characteristic of BBQ meat.