Jackfruit, the uncanny meat-substitute, is gaining popularity as a plant-based, pulled meat alternative on menus across the country. Here, we take a closer look at why.

You won't find this "fruit" mixed up with your pineapples and bananas in the supermarket. In fact, while Jackfruit is indeed a fruit, you are more likely to see a preprepared and packaged version on sale as it is a tough fruit to tackle and prepare, even for chefs! 

It recently became an internet sensation after it was discovered by Westerners that cooking it with barbecue staples gives it a taste similar to pulled meat. It then quickly became a meat substitute among vegetarians and vegans, who spawned many ways of exploiting its meat-like texture, appearance and flavour.

What exactly is it? 

The tropical native has actually been used for centuries in a myriad of Asian countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India, where it's considered commonplace in breakfast, lunch and dinner.

It’s green, spiky-looking, and big — its weight usually ranges from 6 to 10kg. Naturally mild with a meat-like texture, the exotic fruit absorbs the flavours of the foods and spices it's cooked with, which makes it a great option for tasty vegan and vegetarian dishes.

And as health-conscious consumers crave more plant-based meals and snacks, demand for the prickly fruit is spiking. However, while it is a good source of potassium and also contains vitamins A and C, jackfruit doesn’t contain a lot of protein, unlike tofu, so you’ll want to serve it along protein-rich sides like black beans, lentils or spinach.

A sustainable fruit

The jackfruit tree is both drought and pest-resistant, meaning a single tree can produce up to 200 fruits per year, some as large as 100 pounds, and makes it considered to be a sustainable food.

The fruit – locally known as igifenensi – boasts an impressive amount of fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which are all essential to human health.

It also contains a wealth of antioxidants, supports immunity boosts and fights free radicals that damage the cells.

View this post on Instagram

Pulled Jackfruit Sandwich by @the_clumsy_vegan 襤 Who'd you share the other one with? Recipe: Ingredients: Jackfruit:1 tinned drained and washed Onion: 1 thinly sliced Tomato paste: 1 Tbsp Bayleaf: 1 Cumin powder: 2 tsp Smoked paprika: 3 tsp Mixed dried herbs: 1 Tbsp Olive oil: 1/2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar: 1 Tbsp Xylitol: 1 Tbsp Salt to taste Vegan butter: 1 Tbsp Method: 1) Heat olive oil in a pan and when hot add bayleaf, onions, xylitol and balsamic vinegar. Cook till onions are caramelised 2) Add tomato paste, cumin powder and smoked paprika. Cool for a further 5-6 minutes 3) Add jackfruit and herbs and mix well to combine. 4) stir in vegan butter and salt. Cook on a low flame with lid on for further 20-25 minutes till jackfruit is soft and melt in the mouth 5) eat on its own or in a sandwich _ #veganfoodshare #healthy #plantbased #veganfood #veganrecipe #vegansofig #veganbowls #jackfruit #jackfruitsandwish #vegansandwich #veganlunch #healthylunch #healthyeating #plantbasedfood #veganrecipes #jackfruitrecipes #veganlunchideas

A post shared by Vegan Food Recipes (@vegansfoodrecipes) on

How to prepare 

It's quite a diverse food, too. What you make with jackfruit depends on its ripeness:

  • Unripe jackfruit (with bright green skin) can be enjoyed as a meat substitute in barbecue, Tex-Mex recipes, curries, whole grain bowls, and more.
  • If you have ripe fruit (soft with yellow skin), it will taste sweeter and works better in desserts. It can be used uncooked in smoothies, baked goods or in other ways in which you’d eat a tropical fruit. A ripe fruit should have a sweet smell to it.

If you are new to jackfruit though, you are better off using frozen or precooked and packaged versions to start and available to purchase in stores and we recommend buying from an Asian shop or supermarket as not only will they have more options but if you decide to buy a fresh jackfruit, they might be willing to prepare it for you in-store or at least give you advice on it. You can also find jackfruit in a can, but check the label carefully, you'll want the type that comes in water or brine, as opposed to syrup.

What to cook?

The go-to use of it is making a pulled meat alternative, so think of barbecue dishes that normally include pulled pork or other meats. Simply toss the jackfruit with your favourite barbecue spice rub or sauce if precooked and if not, cook in your oven or for a more authentic flavour, your bbq smoker, for 30 to 45 minutes. 

Mexican-style meals like tacos, burritos and chilli con carne are going to work really well with jackfruit. Italian pasta sauces are also a safe bet and Asian curries. 

So, if you're trying to find a vegan dish that still has meatiness or just looking for a new ingredient to create a variety of plant-based dishes, look no further and enjoy! 

Main image by @yesitsallvegan