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5 Jackfruit Recipes that Will Make You Love this Meat Substitute

Jackfruit is packed with vitamin C and fiber—and it works great as a meat substitute. Learn what jackfruit is and how to use it with these delicious jackfruit recipes.

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Fresh Jackfruit in white dish, half of jackfruit and jackfruit leafSuriyawut Suriya/Getty Images

What is jackfruit?

If you’re interested in cooking up more plant-based meals, you’ve probably scrolled through lots of recipes based on beans, potatoes, or even soy. But have you considered fruit?

Fruit isn’t usually an entree, but jackfruit is no ordinary fruit. This close relative of figs and mulberries is popular in vegan communities because of its tender, meat-like texture.

Jackfruit grows in tropical regions. Though it’s often considered an Asian fruit, it also grows in Eastern Africa, the Caribbean, and parts of South America.

Though spiky and green on the outside, jackfruit is yellow and tender on the inside. The inner flesh looks a bit like pineapple. “Jackfruit has a lightly sweet flavor, making it versatile in both sweet and savory recipes. And it’s prepared in a variety of ways all over the world, including in curries, jams, jellies, and ice cream,” says North Carolina-based RDN Sheri Vettel at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

Mary Gollan, RDN and board member of the Connecticut Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, called it “a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to cooking.” She says jackfruit is easy to use as a substitute for everything from pulled pork to the pineapple in upside-down cake recipes.

Close-Up Of Jackfruit At StorePhilip Curtis / EyeEm/Getty Images

What to look for when buying jackfruit

Buying jackfruit for the first time can be intimidating. It’s a startlingly large fruit covered in dozens of knobby spikes.

If you’d like to try jackfruit raw, opt for fresh, ripe fruit from the produce section. Gollan advises, “A ripe jackfruit will be slightly yellowish in the outer color. When you pick it, give it a little squeeze, but not too hard. The spikes that give a jackfruit its rough texture should be soft to the touch, and the fruit should give a little to a squeeze.”

If you don’t want to try to figure out when jackfruit is ripe, you might prefer to buy your produce frozen or canned.

According to a 2015 article in Vegetarian Journal, anyone hoping to use jackfruit as a meat substitute should look for unripened jackfruit—labeled as “new” or “green” in canned varieties. Juicy, ripe jackfruit will taste sweet and will not shred.

Pulled pork jackfruit burgerWestend61/Getty Images

Using jackfruit as a meat substitute

Jackfruit has likely been eaten around the world for thousands of years. Only recently has this tropical fruit become popular as a plant-based alternative to meat. A 2018 report by Transparency Market Research suggests jackfruit is projected to gain interest as the demand for healthy foods continues to rise.

According to nutritionists, plant-based eating is a growing healthy food trend. With both healthy foods and plant-based nutrition becoming more popular, it’s no wonder jackfruit is trending. “Jackfruit is a great meat substitute because of its fibrous texture which is similar to pulled chicken or pork,” Gollan says. She points out that jackfruit is also healthier than meat because it has fewer calories and less saturated fat.

fresh jackfruit pieces in a bowlbhofack2/Getty Images

The health benefits of jackfruit

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a cup of raw, sliced jackfruit contains only 157 calories. This makes it an excellent low-calorie snack if you’re hoping to lose weight or avoid weight gain.

“Jackfruit is low in fat and has 3 grams of protein per cup. Besides jackfruit having great vitamins and minerals, jackfruit has tons of fiber, which is great for digestion,” says Gollan. If you’re often constipated or bloated, for instance, it could be a sign of a low fiber diet.

Vettel adds that jackfruit is packed with antioxidants (like vitamins A and C), which are critical to fighting off cancer, heart disease, and other health problems. She says, “Jackfruit has also been linked to antifungal, antibacterial, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-inflammatory properties.”

Sauteed Jackfruit with barbecue spices in saute pan.Panagiotis Kyriakos/Getty Images

A couple of notes on jackfruit

Swapping jackfruit for meat is an easy way to cut calories and fat, but you’ll need to make up the protein meat provides, elsewhere. (If you’re vegan or vegetarian, watch for signs of low protein intake, such as slow wound healing or lack of focus.) Of course, you can also add protein to your jackfruit, such as the beans in the Jackfruit Black Bean Mango Wrap recipe later in this article. (Here’s how to eat more healthy protein without even trying.)

One final caveat: In 2015, Asian Pacific Journal of Allergy and Immunology reported one case of a severe allergic reaction to jackfruit in a person with a known latex allergy. Researchers noted that more studies are needed to determine whether jackfruit can be linked to latex-fruit syndrome, in which people allergic to latex are hypersensitive to certain fresh fruits.

Shelley Gawith jackfruit recipeCourtesy Shelley Gawith, Certified Nutritionist

Spicy Jackfruit Recipe

Makes 2 servings

Functional nutrition specialist Shelley Gawith, a certified nutritional therapy practitioner, shared this easy recipe for spicy jackfruit chunks. She enjoys eating it alone or wrapped in nori, an edible seaweed wrapped into thin sheets.

Ingredients:

1 can jackfruit

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns

3 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 lemon

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon avocado oil (used for cooking)

Instructions:

Break up the jackfruit into small, bite-size chunks and set aside. Mix all other ingredients (except avocado oil) in a bowl. Add the jackfruit. Marinate for 8 hours.

When you’re ready to eat, heat 1 tablespoon of avocado oil on medium heat on your stovetop. Add the above and cook for about 4-5 minutes.

Wraps with marinated jackfruit, maize, red cabbage, coriander, lime and chiliWestend61/Getty Images

Jackfruit Caribbean Black Bean Mango Wraps Recipe

Makes 3 servings

If you’re a fan of combining sweet and savory flavors, choose this juicy wrap recipe from chef and nutritionist Serena Poon. You’ll get a hefty helping of fiber and vitamins A and C.

Ingredients:

For Jamaican jerk jackfruit:

20 ounces jackfruit

2 teaspoons avocado oil, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon parsley

1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan or sea salt

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon cayenne (a pinch more to taste if preferred)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon allspice

2 cups filtered water (alkaline if possible)

1/8 teaspoon monk fruit sweetener (or ½ tsp raw coconut sugar)

For the Caribbean black beans:

1 teaspoon avocado oil

1/2 cup chopped sweet onion

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (preferred soaked from dry and cooked stovetop)

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan or sea salt or to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh orange juice (or lime juice for more tartness)

1/4 cup filtered water (alkaline if possible)

Other ingredients:

Fresh mango (diced)

Tortilla wraps (Poon recommends wraps made with cassava flour)

Pickled veggies, fresh cilantro, cucumber, chopped leafy greens, citrus wedges for squeezing on top (all to taste)

Instructions:

Jackfruit: If using packaged jackfruit, drain, and wash well. Shred or thinly slice jackfruit. Place large pan or skillet with 1 teaspoon of avocado oil over medium heat. Heat the oil, then add shredded jackfruit and all dry spices. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until spices become aromatic. Add lime juice, water, and monk fruit or coconut sugar. Partially cover the skillet and cook until mixture has dried (about 28 minutes), stirring occasionally. Once the mixture is dry, reduce heat to medium and add salt and pepper to taste. Add remaining avocado oil and cook until the jackfruit edges are golden brown.

Caribbean black beans: Add avocado oil, onions, and garlic to a medium pan over medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes or until onions are translucent and garlic is aromatic. Add black beans, spices, water, and orange (or lime juice). Simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Assembly:

Warm a tortilla or wrap on a pan, then layer the wraps in this order: black beans, cilantro, chopped greens, jerk jackfruit, cucumber, mango, pickled veggies, lemon or lime juice, salt, and pepper. Fold the wrap into a burrito and serve.

jackfruit sliders by chuck underwoodCourtesy Chuck Underwood

Jackfruit Sliders Recipe

Makes 4 servings

This mouthwatering jackfruit sliders recipe from vegan recipe developer and blogger Chuck Underwood is a plant-based twist on comfort food. According to Underwood, he whipped up these sliders because jackfruit’s “delicate flesh bears an uncanny resemblance to the texture of pulled pork.” Though he warns that the smell of canned jackfruit can be unpleasant at first, he says the “Jurassic Park-looking” fruit tastes delicious.

Ingredients:

For coleslaw:

1 package (16 ounces) coleslaw mix

1 can (15 ounces) Cannelloni beans

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons dill pickle juice

1 teaspoon celery seed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the “meat’ and barbecue sauce:

2 cans (20 ounces) young, green jackfruit in brine

1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce with no added salat

1 cup ketchup

1/4 cup molasses

2 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 tablespoon liquid smoke

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Additional toppings (optional):

Mustard

Pickles

Pickled jalapenos

Instructions:

For the coleslaw: Drain the can of white beans and then blend all coleslaw dressing ingredients until smooth. Add a 16-ounce package of coleslaw mix to a large bowl and pour in the dressing. Mix well and refrigerate.

For the barbecue sauce: Whisk all BBQ sauce ingredients together in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a slow simmer and heat until bubbly and slightly thickened.

For the jackfruit: Drain the jackfruit and rinse thoroughly. Remove the triangular core, seeds, and tougher seed pods (discard). Shred the soft, fleshy outsides of the fruit into a medium bowl. Add the shredded jackfruit to a medium saucepan and add 1 1/2 cups of BBQ sauce. Simmer over med-low heat for 20 minutes.

Sandwich assembly: Add 1-2 tablespoons of coleslaw to a soft dinner roll, followed by 1-2 tablespoons of BBQ jackfruit. Top with mustard, pickles, or pickled jalapenos.

Chef Robert Carr jackfruit tacosCourtesy Chef Robert Carr

Jackfruit Tacos ‘Al Pastor’ Recipe

Makes 4 servings

This jackfruit taco recipe from executive chef Robert Carr, who heads up the kitchens at La Cantera Resort & Spa in San Antonio, Texas, has it all: the tender jackfruit “meat,” cashew-avocado crema, charred pineapple, and pickled habanero onions.

“I find braising to be the best way to infuse the flavors,” says Chef Carr, adding that the recipe yields a “great vegan dish that you will think is traditional pork al pastor.”

Ingredients:

For marinade:

1/4 onion

4 cloves garlic

2 cups orange juice

1 jalapeño pepper

1/2 cup cilantro

1 cup achiote paste (commonly found in Asian, Spanish, or Mexican supermarkets)

1 tsp cumin

1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder

1/2 tablespoon Kosher salt

For cashew avocado crema:

Avocado pulp

Lime juice

Cashew milk

Kosher salt

For jackfruit taco “meat”:

32 ounces jackfruit (fresh or canned in water)

2 cups marinade (see above)

2 tablespoon coconut oil

For pickled onions:

2 cups apple cider vinegar

1/2 tablespoon salt

1/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano

1 habanero pepper, sliced

1 medium red onion, sliced

For charred pineapple:

1 pineapple, peeled

Olive oil, to taste

Kosher salt, to taste

Additional ingredients:

Blue corn tortillas (can sub white corn tortillas or flour tortillas)

Micro cilantro (a type of microgreen, which is a trending superfood veggie)

Instructions:

Marinade: Combine all ingredients in blender and process into a smooth paste.

For cashew avocado crema: Blend all ingredients into a smooth paste. Cover with plastic and refrigerate.

For taco “meat”: Heat coconut oil in a pan. Add jackfruit and marinade. Stir to mix well. Cover the pan and let simmer at low heat for 25 minutes until jackfruit has cooked down. Cool and shred jackfruit with a fork. It should look like pulled pork.

For pickled onions: Thinly slice red onion and habanero. Place in a glass pickling jar. Add salt and oregano, then cover with apple cider vinegar. Mix well, then cover and refrigerate for at least four hours.

For charred pineapple: Slice pineapple into 1/2-inch slices. Season with olive oil and salt. Place on hot charcoal (or grill) and char on both sides. Cook pineapple until almost soft. Let cool, then dice.

Final assembly: Heat blue corn tortilla on a flat top grill (alternatively, a griddle) until heated through. Top with cooked jackfruit, charred pineapple, cream, pickled onions, and micro cilantro.

Miami Beach Convention Center jackfruit empanadasCourtesy Miami Beach Convention Center

Jackfruit Empanadas Recipe

Makes 20 empanadas

Executive chef Ismael Lasalle, who leads the kitchen staff at the Miami Beach Convention Center, says jackfruit empanadas are the perfect savory option for vegans or those in search of a plant-based appetizer or snack. “For an extra kick, the empanadas can be complemented with your favorite hot sauce or zesty salsa,” he says.

Ingredients:

2 fresh jackfruits

2 puff pastry sheets

1/2 small onion, diced

1/2 small bell pepper, diced

1 garlic clove

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

4 ounces tomato sauce

8 manzanilla olives, sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

Egg wash for pastries (typically an egg whisked with milk or cream)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325 F (162.78 C). Peel the jackfruit, place in a covered pan, and roast for 30-45 minutes. When the jackfruit is done, pull it apart into shreds. Heat a saucepan. Add the oil, peppers, garlic, and onion. Stir for a minute or two. Add the jackfruit and tomato sauce. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the olives and chopped cilantro. Cool, then stuff puff pastries. Brush egg wash onto the pastries and bake at 375 F (190.56 C) for 18 -20 minutes.

Sources

Leandra Beabout
Leandra is an Indiana-based freelance journalist and content writer with a background in education. She has written for a variety of publications, including CNN, Lonely Planet, Greatist, and Fodor's Travel.