What is jackfruit?
A jackfruit is an extremely large compound fruit made of numerous yellow ‘bulbs’ of flesh within a hard, knobbly exterior, with each bulb containing a seed. The trees are thought to have originated in India and now grow throughout the tropics.
They can vary in weight from 4-40kg, and although you can buy whole jackfruit, they are often sold ready prepared, particularly in the markets in Asia. A fully ripe, whole fruit can emit a strong aroma, with the flesh inside being generally sweet, like a combination of pineapple and banana. Different varieties have varying degrees of sweetness. The flesh has a texture unlike any other fruit, being soft but springy. Some varieties are softer and mushier, while others can be crisp and crunchy.
How to prepare jackfruit
If you are buying raw jackfruit that is ripe, it may have a strong smell. Unripe jackfruit has a lesser aroma, but will coat your hands and everything else in a sticky latex. Cover your hands and knife blade with oil and your work surface with newspaper before you start, then cut the fruit into chunks without peeling it. Put the chunks in a large pot, cover with water and simmer for about 45 mins, by which time the flesh will look stringy. Remove the peel, pith and seeds, then drain the flesh well. Your pot may need a good clean as the latex sticks to everything. You can freeze the jackfruit flesh at this point.
How to cook jackfruit
Most recipes that require prepared jackfruit call for the canned fruit. This just needs to chopped and any stray seeds removed before being simmered in the spices of your choice for 10-30 mins.
Jackfruit seeds are also edible and are often dried and ground into a flour. The seeds can be boiled and eaten, but you need to peel off the white membrane first – this is time-consuming but not difficult, especially once the seeds have started to dry off. The inside of the seed is a bit like a waxy potato.
How to buy jackfruit
For eating raw, jackfruit should be ripe, but for cooking purposes, unripe, crisp ‘green’ jackfruit is best, especially if you are aiming for a pulled pork-style texture. Unripe jackfruit is also less sweet than ripe, making it ideal for use in savoury vegan dishes. If you’re cooking jackfruit in the UK, look for ready-prepared fruit in packs or cans (unsweetened, in brine or water). It’s also available frozen and dried in strips.
Is jackfruit a good meat substitute?
Jackfruit is a great meat alternative from a texture perspective, as it has a chewy, stringy quality when cooked, making it great for vegan ‘pulled pork’ tacos and sandwiches. It also benefits from a solid nutrient profile, offering plenty of fibre, magnesium, potassium and antioxidants. With that said, jackfruit is low in protein (2g per 100g serving), so it shouldn’t be used as an alternative protein source in vegan and vegetarian diets.