You don't know jackfruit: A guide to the world's biggest fruit
Google "jackfruit" – go on, give it a try – and you will see something that looks like a science experiment gone wrong. This giant, bulbous mass is, believe it or not, a real fruit. It even grows on trees. Don’t ask me how. There’s been a lot of buzz about jackfruit recently so here is your complete guide to this tropical fruit, why it’s so popular, and how you can eat it and cook it at home.
Jackfruit 101: What is it, where is it from, and where can I buy it?
Jackfruit is the biggest fruit in the world. The world’s heaviest jackfruit according to Guinness came from India, clocking in at 42.72 kilograms (94.18 pounds; yes you read that right), was 57.15 centimeters long and had a circumference of 132.08 centimeters. But believe it or not the jackfruit tree is actually from the same family as a fig tree. I’m not making this up, I swear.
Jackfruit is a common fruit in India, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines. It’s also grown in central and eastern Africa, and is popular in Surinam and Brazil. It turns from light green to yellow as it ripens and aside from its giant size is quite distinctive with its nubby blunt spiked texture.
You can buy jackfruit in cans at many specialty grocery stores and supermarkets, or whole at Asian food markets. I’d recommend opting for the canned versions which are easier to handle when preparing recipes. You can find jackfruit canned in water (great for savory recipes) and syrup (for desserts).
Ripe vs unripe jackfruit
Ripe jackfruit is very different from unripe jackfruit. It’s actually the unripe jackfruit that is used in most recipes, and that’s what you’ll find on store shelves. The young, green, unripe jackfruit is chewy and mild, making it perfect for soaking up the flavor of the savory dishes you’re cooking. You can use a riper version for sweet dishes like desserts. In its ripe version, it’s typically too sweet to use in savory dishes.
Why has jackfruit become such a hot topic?
Jackfruit is the fruit of the moment in the vegan community. It’s sort of like the best answer to meat you can get. The texture is substantial, very similar to pulled pork and the flesh of the fruit is very good at soaking up whatever flavors you marinate it with. Many vegans choose it over meat substitutes like tofu or soy- or bean-based products, and things like Portobello burgers. It’s a versatile ingredient that works in many different recipes. It’s just really good in the texture department, and until we figure out how to grow meat (stay tuned – that’s happening) this fruit tops the vegan-friendly list.
Researchers even claim that jackfruit could be an answer to the world’s food security problems. Because it’s packed full of nutrients (potassium, calcium, iron) and calories, grows well in warmer climates, and is robust against pests, disease, and drought, it could serve as an answer to dwindling yields of the crops we rely on most today like wheat and corn.
Irresistible jackfruit recipes
BBQ Jackfruit sandwiches with avocado slaw (by Minimalist Baker)
Jackfruit "crab" cakes with tartar sauce (by Veganosity)
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