Puzzled by Jackfruit? What It Is + How to Eat It

This Sri Lankan staple has been getting major attention in the U.S.

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Not long ago, jackfruit was virtually unheard of in the United States. Searching the term on Google Trends (which maps the popularity of terms searched on the internet over time), jackfruit didn’t take off until late 2015.

However, jackfruit is nothing new. This massive tropical fruit (it’s the largest edible fruit in the world, actually) has long been a staple of Sri Lanka, and it’s grown in parts of Asia, Africa, and even South America. 

Beneath its spiky exterior, jackfruit has edible flesh and seeds, and like plantains, jackfruit can be eaten “young” in savory dishes, or ripe as a sweet fruit. To make things a little easier, young jackfruit often comes canned, so you don’t have to be intimidated by its massive size or spiky shell. 

The Health Benefits of Jackfruit

Young green jackfruit has a mere 45 calories per 100 grams. (Ripe jackfruit, which has natural sugars, has about 95 calories per 100 grams.)

Compared to other tropical fruits, jackfruit is higher in protein, calcium, and iron. It’s also rich in vitamin C, and it contains B vitamins, which is very rare for a fruit.

Plus, young green jackfruit is commonly used in place of meat. Animal-based protein is one of the biggest sources of saturated fat in most Americans’ diets, and too much saturated fat in the diet can increase the risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. Jackfruit has no saturated fat, so it’s a heart-healthy meat replacement. 

How to Eat Jackfruit

If you’ve got your hands on ripe jackfruit, you can eat it like any other fruit. Either eat it straight, add it to smoothies, or use it in desserts.

Young jackfruit, however, is meant to be used in savory recipes. Traditionally, young green jackfruit is used in curries. It adds an interesting texture that’s both silky and meaty, so it’s a great meatless option.

Beyond curries, chefs are getting pretty innovative with jackfruit. That’s because this unique fruit can be shredded, which means it can be used in place of a variety of shredded meat.

Shredded jackfruit makes a great swap for pulled pork. For example, try using jackfruit in these dishes:

  • BBQ jackfruit pulled “pork” sandwiches

  • Jackfruit “pork” potstickers

  • Jackfruit “pork” steamed buns

  • Jackfruit “carnitas” tacos

Similarly, shredded jackfruit can take the place of shredded chicken. Try jackfruit in the following dishes:

  • Jackfruit “chicken” noodle soup

  • Jackfruit “chicken” salad sandwich

  • Jackfruit “chicken” pot pie

  • Jackfruit buffalo “chicken” (for pizza or mac and cheese)

And finally, jackfruit’s unique shredded texture also makes a convincing replica of fishy foods. Try jackfruit in these dishes:

  • Jackfruit “crab” cakes

  • Jackfruit “fish” tacos

  • Jackfruit “tuna” salad sandwiches

You can see why jackfruit is exploding in popularity at the same time that many people are reducing their meat intake or adopting plant-based diets. However, you don’t have to be vegetarian or vegan to enjoy jackfruit in your diet, and experimenting with jackfruit can be a fun way to cut down on your intake of saturated fat and cholesterol. 

One thing’s for sure: With its unique texture and versatility, jackfruit really is the jack of all trades.