Jackfruit is having its moment in the spotlight - and for good reason. With the right amount of moisture and seasoning, young jackfruit can make for a delicious, fiber-rich, plant-based swap for shredded beef, pork, or chicken. But there's much, much more to the story of jackfruit.
This enormous, oblong, and versatile fruit has been consumed in tropical regions around the world for millennia before making its way to the US just recently as a trendy household item. It is native to southwest India and has spread throughout the region to grow abundantly in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and beyond. Eaten ripe and raw, it has a mild sweet taste like pineapple; cooked and unripe, it has a starchier, potato-like consistency and a neutral taste that easily absorbs surrounding flavors and seasonings.
Beyond its uniquely adaptable flavor profile, jackfruit is also becoming known as one of the most sustainable tree-borne fruits in the world, particularly in the context of the looming climate crisis. One jackfruit tree can produce up to three tons of fruit, and as one of the largest tree-borne fruits out there, this equates to a lot of fruit! (Seriously, an adult jackfruit can grow to be one hundred pounds and up to three feet long.) It grows easily and abundantly in tropical climates and is known for its resilience in the face of extreme heat, drought, and common pests, potentially due to its thick, fleshy exterior. But because jackfruit grows so plentifully in tropical climates and has such a thick, bumpy exterior (and a mildly unpleasant smell during processing), one study reports that nearly three-quarters of the annual yield of jackfruit in India goes to waste every year, leaving a massive window of opportunity to jackfruit processors to reduce food waste while providing an affordable food option to the masses.
The nutrient profile of jackfruit makes it even more enticing. In Bali, jackfruit is considered a healing and almost medicinal fruit, particularly to ease digestive upset. A nutrient analysis of one cup alone of cleaned, sliced jackfruit shows us just how nutrient-packed this sustainable fruit can be:
- Calories: 155
- Carbs: 40 grams
- Protein: 3 grams
- Fiber: 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
A climate-resilient, nutritious fruit that shreds like pulled meat and grows abundantly in spite of drought and pests? It's no wonder that jackfruit has been hailed as a miracle fruit.
You can find fresh jackfruit in some speciality stores (raw, ripe is my favorite way to eat it!), but if you're looking to swap shredded meat for jackfruit at your next taco night, go for the 20-ounce canned young jackfruit instead. Rinse, drain, shred and properly season at least one can to see how you like it.
Here's a recipe you can try for your very first jackfruit experience - one of my personal favorites.
Yield: 10 servings (1 cup each)
- 1.5 cups dried chickpeas, canned or soaked overnight (>8h)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- ½ orange bell pepper, chopped
- 1 cup butternut squash, cubed
- 1 cup sweet potato, shredded
- 2 jalapenos or hatch chilis, seeded, diced
- 4 tbsp Trader Joe’s “Everything but the Elote” Seasoning (or combine 1 tbsp ground cumin, 2 tbsp chili powder, ¼ tbsp coriander, ¾ tsp salt, fresh ground black pepper)
- ¼ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 cans young jackfruit (strained, rinsed, shredded)
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 2 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth for added protein)
- Garnish: cilantro, avocado, tortilla chips, nutritional yeast, lime juice
Equipment: Instant Pot preferred (or pressure cooker, or stovetop), blender
- If using dry chickpeas, cover dry chickpeas with 4 cups of water and soak overnight in the fridge (or for 8-10 hours).
- On the day of cooking, heat olive oil in a large pot (or Instant Pot on “Saute” setting). Add onions, jalapenos, and bell peppers until fragrant and onions are translucent. Add all spices and mix well. Add squash, sweet potato, corn, and half of chickpeas. Mix well and let the mixture cook for 5-10 minutes, or until mixture begins to cook down. Add strained and shredded jackfruit and vegetable broth. Mix well, add more seasoning as needed, and cover. If using a stovetop, simmer the chili mixture over medium heat for 3 hours. If using an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, cook on high pressure for 1 hour.
- After cook time is complete, add remaining uncooked chickpeas to a blender with 3 cups of cooked liquid broth and any remaining squash chunks taken directly from the cooked mixture. Blend well and slowly stir back into chili mixture for a smooth and creamy final product. You may opt to blend the corn into broth as well for a smoother texture throughout.
- Top with cilantro, avocado slices, fresh jalapenos, nutritional yeast, lime, tortilla chips, and your favorite hot sauce - mine is a Rwandan chili oil called akabanga (please try one day).
Let us know what you think of your first jackfruit experience and feel free to share any additional tips, tricks, and recipes for prep in the comments!