Latin name: Artocarpus heterophyllus
Other names: Jack tree
Uses: fruit, vegetable, pickled, fried, chips, flour, dessert
What is jackfruit?
The largest tree fruit in the world, jackfruit belongs to the Moraceae family, which includes fig, mulberry, and breadfruit. Weighing anywhere between 10 and a whopping 50 pounds or more, these enormous fruits have thick, bumpy greenish-brown skin that looks almost lizard-like. Inside you’ll find a mass of plump, stringy yellow pods. Relished both green and ripe, jackfruit is increasingly available in fresh, frozen and canned form.
Why is jackfruit healthy?
Who would have guessed that a low-carb fruit packed full of antioxidants, magnesium, fiber, and vitamin B6 could also be a superior meat replacement? In 2016, plant-based eaters made it a Google “rising star” based on search volume, praising jackfruit for its versatility and unique, meat-like texture. Studies show it also may reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and osteoporosis.
What does jackfruit taste like?
When ripe, jackfruit is sweet like a banana, with a slightly tangy acidity reminiscent of pineapple. The bulbs have a bouncy texture like gummy candy. Unripe jackfruit is not sweet and is consumed in cooked form only, almost always in savory dishes. When roasted, compounds found in jackfruit seeds can produce aromas similar to processed cocoa beans. As a result, efforts are underway to see if the seed powder could work as a cacao alternative.
How do I use jackfruit?
Ripe jackfruit is eaten raw out of hand as well as featured in tropical desserts and sweets around the world, including the crushed ice and condensed milk dessert halo-halo in Philippines, Vietnamese chè, and the South Indian mini pancakes chakka nei appam. Since ripe jackfruit is naturally sweet, it is also processed into candies, syrups, juice concentrates, and preserves. Toasted and salted, the seeds make a popular snack.
You can cook unripe jackfruit in a variety of ways. The bulbs can be boiled for salads, fried like cutlets, or simply grilled or sautéed like a vegetable. In many Asian countries, jackfruit is stewed with meat and often served with steamed rice. In the southern states of India, sliced jackfruit bulbs are deep fried and eaten as chips. Through tropical South and Southeast Asia, people consume it in curries or straight off the tree. Cooks in the West have more recently taken a fancy to jackfruit, using it to make taco fillings, salads, burgers, and a vegetarian version of pulled pork. The dried fruit and seeds can be ground into flour.
What does jackfruit pair well with?
Jackfruit likes other tropical flavors — think coconut, and South or Southeast Asian spices.
Where does jackfruit grow?
Jackfruit is native to South and Southeast Asian countries, and is believed to have originated in the region between the Western Ghats of India and the rainforests of Malaysia. Tropical lowlands are ideal for its cultivation; today it’s grown widely throughout the tropical regions of the world. The English name “jackfruit” is derived from the Portuguese “jaca” which comes from the Malayalam term “chakka.”
How to buy jackfruit:
Unripe, it should be firm and sturdy. When ripe, it will become softer and more aromatic. Avoid too-soft or browning specimens.
Fun jackfruit fact:
The wood of the jackfruit tree is resistant to fungus and termites, which makes it an ideal building material for houses and furniture.