How to Cook Jackfruit

What on earth is jackfruit? This fruit — which you may or may not have heard of before — is growing in popularity, and more people are experimenting with easy jackfruit recipes. Why? Because jackfruit makes a great vegetarian meat substitute, plus it's rich in many nutrients.

Jackfruit makes a great vegetarian meat substitute, plus it’s rich in many nutrients.
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Read more: Why Jackfruit Is Suddenly Everywhere and How to Start Enjoying It

All About Jackfruit

The first time you see jackfruit, it might take you by surprise. These exotic Asian fruits are big. As the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction explains, some of them can grow up to 100 pounds. However, in addition to being available fresh, canned varieties are available in many grocery stores. With a flavor similar to peach or pear, ripe jackfruit can be enjoyed fresh, creamed or even roasted. It's even a popular substitute for meat in recipes like barbecued pulled pork.

According to the USDA, 1 cup of raw jackfruit has only about 157 calories. But it has a surprising amount of protein for fruit — 3 grams of protein in that 1-cup serving. It also has 1 gram of fat and 38 grams of carbohydrates.

As a January 2019 review published in the International Journal of Food Science highlights, jackfruit has more protein, calcium, iron and thiamine than many other tropical fruits. It also has a high content of B vitamins, which most fruits do not have.

With its nutritional profile full of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, it can help fight diabetes, inflammation and oxidation; it also has the potential to lower blood pressure, fight heart disease, reduce risk of stroke and prevent bone loss. It's also good for muscle and nerve function.

Read more: Fruits and Vegetables Richest in Protein

Jackfruit Preparation: What to Know

It's not just the nutritive value that makes jackfruit stand out — once you know a little bit about jackfruit preparation, you'll be amazed at its culinary versatility. The best part is that you don't have to worry about searching for a ripe jackfruit from the produce section and carving it up at home. Most easy jackfruit recipes call for canned jackfruit.

The most popular means of jackfruit preparation is using it to make imitation barbecue. Students with the Boston University Sargent Choice Nutrition Center hail the texture of jackfruit as being deceptively close to that of pulled chicken. To make pulled jackfruit sloppy joes, the Sargent Choice students used two 20-ounce cans of young green jackfruit in water, 1/4 cup of barbecue seasoning, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 3/4 cup of barbecue sauce.

After chopping the jackfruit, they tossed it with the seasoning and oiled up the skillet over medium heat. Once the skillet was warmed, they tossed the jackfruit for two or three minutes. That's all it takes to turn jackfruit into a substitute sloppy joe.

Similarly, the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies offers another easy jackfruit recipe in the style of barbecue meat, this one using a slow cooker. After combining jackfruit with onions, peppers and barbecue seasoning in the slow cooker, let it roast on medium heat for about four or five hours; then you use a fork to pull the fruit apart, lower the heat and continue cooking for another couple of hours.

As the recipe notes, ripe jackfruit will fall apart like tender pork when it's heated, and it takes on flavor nicely, so cooking it for a long time will result in a succulent, irresistible plant-based barbecue.

And it's not just the fruit itself that works well in recipes. As an article published in August 2018 by the Public Library of Science describes, jackfruit seeds — when roasted and ground — make a nice substitute for cocoa powder, particularly in cappuccino. Who would have thought that this odd-looking plant could provide an alternative to both meat and chocolate?!

So next time you see a jackfruit in the grocery store, don't be daunted. Go ahead and buy it and try out some easy jackfruit recipes — you just might even trick your friends or family into thinking it's really pork or chicken.

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