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Jackfruit: What It Is, How to Cook with It, and 7 Tasty Recipes

The first time I came across jackfruit in the grocery store, I knew instantly I had to try it. It wasn't in its natural form, but rather a pre-made package that was flavored like chili lime carnitas. How could I not be intrigued? Frying it up and stuffing it into a taco, I fell in love.

One look at its odd prickly yellowish-green exterior and you would probably question if it were even edible. But as the idiom goes, don't judge a book by its cover. The fibrous flesh has a texture similar to meat, making it extremely versatile in cooking. Vegetarian and vegan dishes often flavor it to replace meats like pulled pork or chicken. It can also be eaten raw and is often used in desserts and salads.

A tree that is part of the fig, mulberry and breadfruit family, the jackfruit is believed to have originated in India, the drought-resistant crop is cultivated in regions with tropical climates including Thailand, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines and other areas in Southeast Asia. The jackfruit tree is the largest tree fruit in the world; most of the fruits weight 10 to 25 pounds, but they can grow up three feet long and 100 pounds.

Eating jackfruit also has health benefits. It's high in fiber, low in fat, low in calories, rich in vitamin B, vitamin C and vitamin A, and contains potassium, iron and calcium. It's also high in complex carbs but has a low glycemic load, which means you get a lot of energy without a big effect on your blood sugar levels.

Young unripe fruit - or green jackfruit - has a texture similar to pulled pork, making this dense fruit the perfect meat alternative. Even if you're not vegan or vegetarian, the taste and meaty texture of this fruit will entice you to indulge in a Meatless Monday here and there.

How to Prep Jackfruit

When it comes to prep, cutting into this tropical fruit can be just as confusing as a mango. Do you slice down the middle? If so, then what? There are a few routes you can take to prepping.

First, you should know that jackfruit is sticky. Slice into the fruit and your hands will become covered with a natural latex substance, so it's best to oil your hands and knife beforehand. (Though be extra careful with your knife once you have oiled hands and fruit.)

Slice right down the middle of the longest side until you wind up with two halves. Slice each into chunks with the skin on, then boil for about 45 minutes. Once the flesh becomes tender, you can peel the skin right off, discard the jackfruit seeds, and get ready to prepare your recipe.

What About Canned Jackfruit?

Jackfruit was once only found in Asian markets but has since grown in popularity. While not all stores carry fresh jackfruit, you can find it canned at stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. It should be noted, however, that you will find it in two forms, brined and syrup. Brined is ideal for savory dishes like curries and tacos. When it is in syrup, it tends to be too sweet so leave that for the ice cream recipes.

There are also a couple of companies that offer packaged plain or flavored jackfruit in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. Upton's Naturals and The Jackfruit Company offer jackfruit ready to go into any number of easy recipes.

7 Jackfruit Recipes You Need To Try

Now that your jackfruit is ready, what are you going to do with it? Perhaps you're in the mood for a jackfruit curry, maybe a jackfruit pulled pork sandwich, or just want a snack for dipping. There are so many options! Making life a bit easier, we rounded up seven yummy jackfruit recipes so you can make the most of this fruit.

1. Vegan Jackfruit Gyros

Jackfruit can be an excellent meat substitute in Greek gyros if you prep it right like Lazy Cat Kitchen. She cooks the fruit in a heaping of spices, soy sauce, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and tomato paste, then piles it into a warmed pita with red onion slices, cherry tomatoes, crisp cucumber, lettuce, potato fries, and homemade tzatziki. Hungry yet?

Get the recipe here.

2. Boa Buns with Pulled Jackfruit

If you really want to go all out, make a few of these succulent and savory Boa Buns. A soft, fluffy homemade bun is stuffed with Asian flavored faux pork jackfruit, fresh herbs, cabbage, cucumber, daikon, spicy chili sauce, sweet hoisin sauce, and some crunchy peanuts for more texture. Go on, get your pork bun on.

Get the recipe here.

3. BBQ Sandwiches with Avocado Slaw

For those that can't seem to get enough pulled pork barbecue sandwiches, you have got to sink your teeth into this. The texture and taste of the jackfruit are enough to fool you into thinking it really is pork. Slathered in BBQ sauce, loaded with homemade avocado slaw and topped with cashews, this sandwich will convince even the most skeptical that jackfruit is amazing.

Get the recipe here.

4. Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos

Remember those carnitas I mentioned earlier? Here's how to make them homemade. Marinate canned young jackfruit in water with spices, tamari and maple syrup. Cook it up with some onions, garlic, Bouillon, and peppers, then pile it onto a corn tortilla with fresh homemade mango salsa and a homemade lime crema sauce.

Tropical, flavorful, and brimming with goodness, these are the tacos that will turn Taco Tuesday into meatless Tuesday.

Get the recipe here.

5. Veggie Pulled Pork Nachos

This is the recipe that everyone will be raving about. The secret? Barbecue sauce drenched jackfruit.

Ideal for football parties, potlucks, birthday parties and pretty much any gathering you can think off, once your friends get sight of this they'll be flocking like a moth to a flame until every last morsel is gone.

Get the recipe here.

6. Buffalo Jackfruit Spinach Dip

If you're looking for a new appetizer to take a break from all those classic chip and dip pairings, then look no further. A play on buffalo chicken dip, jackfruit transforms this into a vegan treat worth savoring with every dip.

Get the recipe here.

7. Jackfruit Ice Cream

Now, about that ice cream. We talked a whole lot about savory dishes, but jackfruit can be just as good in a dessert. And what better dessert for it than the one no one can say no to, ice cream! With four ingredients and a few simple steps, you will understand why jackfruit is the jack of all trades.

Get the recipe here.

Chef's Notes: This would also taste great paired with the Thai dessert mango sticky rice.

This article was originally published on July 24, 2019.

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