Food Lifestyle

How to Eat Jackfruit: 7 Delicious Plant-Based Recipes to Try

9 min read

Jackfruit is the world’s biggest fruit, from the world’s biggest fruit trees. In addition to being a sweet fresh fruit when ripe, it can also serve as a fantastic meat substitute when canned before ripening. Discover how to use this weird and wonderful tropical fruit to create traditional meaty dishes with a whole, plant-based alternative.

Some things are so big they boggle the imagination. People get disoriented when they enter huge structures like the Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul or the Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona. I get the same feeling when I see a jackfruit tree.

Jackfruits are just gigantic — the biggest ones can weigh up to 114 pounds, although they average between 10 and 50 pounds. Standing under a jackfruit tree, I try not to imagine what it would be like to have one of them land on my noggin as a final parting gift. Instead, my mouth waters with the temptation of their sweet flavor and meat-like consistency.

Although jackfruit is still relatively uncommon outside of Asia, it’s recently become a popular vegan meat substitute thanks to its stringy, meaty texture, which I’m told is similar to pulled pork. (That’s hearsay, your honor, because I’ve never tried pulled pork.)

Because it’s a whole plant food, jackfruit is a far healthier meat substitute than most processed plant-based meat analogues. And it’s far more versatile, too, transforming into a variety of delicious dishes, from savory to sweet.

So in this article, we’ll explore the culinary potential of jackfruit. We’ll look at where to find it, how to prepare it, and how to use it in recipes.

When Is Jackfruit in Season?

Close up Thai jackfruit on the tree in the garden

As a tropical fruit, jackfruit is most abundant in hot weather. In its original home, Southeast Asia, you can generally find it year-round — which is a good thing because it’s a staple food in many countries, including India, Thailand, and Malaysia.

US-grown jackfruit comes from Florida and Hawaii, with peak harvest between May and November. And Australian jackfruit production hits its stride from January through September.

Where to Find Jackfruit

Look up! (Just kidding, unless you happen to be standing in the canopy of a jackfruit tree, in which case, put down your phone and watch out for falling fruit!)

If you’re shopping for jackfruit, you may be able to find it as a whole fruit, sliced into sections, packed into cans, dried, frozen, or incorporated into other products.

While your average chain grocery store (outside of the tropics) may not yet sell fresh jackfruit, demand is rising, and many stores are starting to stock it.

Specialty markets and natural food stores, such as Whole Foods and Sprouts, will be more likely to have whole fruit, or they may be able to order it for you. You’re also likely to hit the jackfruit jackpot at your local Asian, Indian, or Caribbean food market if you’re fortunate enough to have one nearby.

For fun, you can order fresh jackfruit online. One retailer offers an entire box of jackfruit — containing exactly one jackfruit — for $99. (That doesn’t include chiropractic care for your mail carrier.)

Canned Jackfruit

close up jackfruit ready to eat for food background used

Most commonly, the fruit comes in a can (at least in the US) and is labeled “young” and “green.” The younger the jackfruit, the greener and less sweet it will be. Young and green also means raw or unripe, which is the way you want it if you’re using it as a meat substitute.

Canned jackfruit is usually packed with brine, syrup, or water. The brine-packed can will be high in sodium, while the syrupy can will be high in sugar. You can rinse the fruits to remove some of the flavoring, or just look for jackfruit packed in water.

So which is better, whole or canned?

Team Whole points out that fresh whole jackfruits are generally on the sweeter side and have much more flavor than canned, which are typically pretty bland.

Team Canned retorts that canned jackfruit is a lot more convenient and easier to manage; and because it’s less flavorful, it’s more versatile and can take on the flavor of whatever you cook it in.

An additional point in favor of canned: The skin of the whole jackfruit is tough to cut through and releases a strong latex when pierced. Don’t use your best chef’s knife to slice one open — a machete is probably a smarter choice.

Other Jackfruit Products

Jackfruit is also becoming more available through packaged products. A company called Upton’s Naturals distributes its packaged foods widely (including online from Thrive Market). They make packaged jackfruit in a variety of flavors, such as BBQ and chili lime.

Other options come from The Jackfruit Company,  whose mission is to transform world health, farmer’s livelihoods, and humanity’s eco-footprint for the better. They make an array of jackfruit products with flavors like Tex-Mex, lightly seasoned, and BBQ, plus a “naked jackfruit” product that’s designed for food service.

You may also be able to find dried jackfruit, jackfruit chips, jackfruit “chicken” substitutes, and other products. These products are often more than just minimally processed foods, so make sure to read the ingredients.

How to Cut and Prepare Jackfruit

A green and raw jackfruit and a piece of this healthy fruit

If you’re selecting a fresh jackfruit, remember that it’s green when unripe and turns light brown to yellow as it ripens. Another way to pick a ripe one is to tap it with your knuckle and listen for a dull, hollow sound. Also, the spikes on the surface soften with ripening, so if your knuckles aren’t bleeding after tapping it, that’s a good sign.

A further clue to picking a good jackfruit: The fruit gives off a strong fragrance when ripe. Some people don’t find it very appetizing and describe it as “banana bubble gum mixed with rotten onions.” I personally love the smell, so maybe it’s a combination of exposure and genetics.

The idea of cutting into such a massive, thick-skinned orb can be intimidating. So, here’s a quick step-by-step video to help you cut and prepare jackfruit.

Editor’s Note: All parts of the jackfruit contain a sticky, white latex “sap,” which actually can be used as an adhesive. You may want to use gloves and/or coat your hands, knives, and work surfaces with vegetable oil prior to preparation. Protect your countertops with newspaper. And a warning: There have been documented cases of anaphylaxis in people allergic to latex, so you may want to avoid this food if you have a latex allergy or are sensitive to latex.

How to Cook and Eat Jackfruit

You can eat ripe jackfruit raw like a fruit. Its flesh is soft and sweet, and some describe the taste as a mild combination of banana and apple. In a fresh jackfruit, the edible parts encapsulate a hard, shiny seed about the size of an almond. According to research, jackfruit seeds are edible, although they have to be boiled or roasted first. Here’s a fun video tutorial on preparing them that also doubles, during its introduction, as a marital drama.

You can scoop or pry them out of the whole fruit and enjoy them on their own as a snack. With their vivid yellow hue, they also make a colorful and fun addition to fruit salads.

You can prepare raw or unripe jackfruit as a vegetable or meat alternative. Like tofu,  unripe jackfruit isn’t exactly brimming with its own flavor but absorbs the flavors it’s cooked in.

You can also dehydrate fresh jackfruit to make jackfruit chips or jackfruit pickle (a condiment used in Indian cooking).

Dishes that use canned jackfruit include curries, stir-fries, and chili, as well as soups, salads, and bowls. If you’re going to cook plain, canned jackfruit, its preparation will vary depending on the recipe.

Generally, start by draining the fruit and then cooking it until it’s easy to shred, creating a meat-like consistency. Then you can boil, pan-fry, slow cook, or bake it.

If you want to use jackfruit as a meat alternative, an important thing to consider is that it’s much lower in protein than other meat alternatives — delivering about three grams of protein per cup. (To be fair, that’s pretty good compared to most other fruits.)

For that reason, you may want to pair it with other protein-rich foods, such as lentils or beans.

You can also transform jackfruit into desserts like jackfruit ice cream, fried jackfruit balls, or the evocatively named red rubies, a Thai dessert.

Jackfruit Recipes

Jackfruit is a culinary chameleon, effortlessly adapting to a wide range of dishes. Whether it’s tossed into a vibrant salad, featured on a hearty pizza, or enjoyed as a refreshing frozen treat, jackfruit’s unique texture and versatility make it a standout ingredient. Explore the many delightful ways to enjoy this craveable fruit with these tasty recipes.

1. Lemongrass Ginger Jackfruit Salad

Lemongrass Ginger Jackfruit Salad

Lemongrass Ginger Jackfruit Salad showcases jackfruit as a standout plant-based meat alternative. Not only is jackfruit versatile and nutrient-rich, but it also brings a wonderful texture that pairs beautifully with the tangy Lemongrass Ginger Dressing in this salad. Brimming with nutrition, this salad features sweet baby kale, crunchy carrots, bell pepper, and crisp cucumber, all of which contribute a healthy dose of fiber, B vitamins, and carotenoids. Fresh herbs like mint, basil, and cilantro add vibrant bursts of flavor, while roasted peanuts provide a satisfying crunch. This is the perfect dish for anyone looking for a light yet hearty jackfruit-forward meal.

2. Jackfruit Carnitas Pizza

Jackfruit Carnitas Pizza

Jackfruit Carnitas Pizza is a great plant-based recipe if you are curious about giving jackfruit a try. It’s piled high with shredded Mexican-spiced jackfruit, sweet pineapple, red onion, and (optional) jalapeño for just a bit of heat. This pizza tastes just like you’re biting into a smoky meat lover’s pizza — except it’s all plants! Not only is jackfruit a versatile ingredient that is perfect for a “meaty” pizza, it is also better for your health and the health of the planet!

3. BBQ Jackfruit Tacos

Tender jackfruit shines once more, this time in a tangy and naturally sweet plant-based taco that’s irresistibly delicious! Seasoned with a blend of savory spices and generously slathered in tangy homemade Vegan BBQ Sauce, the jackfruit offers a deep, smoky flavor. Wrapped in a whole grain tortilla, each taco is topped with vibrant Crunchy Kale Slaw and zesty Pickled Red Onions. Bursting with bold flavors, these BBQ Jackfruit Tacos are the perfect go-to when you’re craving something uniquely satisfying!

4. Jackfruit Taco Chili

Jackfruit Taco Chili

Whether you’re new to plant-based eating or have been embracing this lifestyle for a while, sometimes you might find yourself missing the texture and taste of meat. We’re excited to introduce our “meaty” Jackfruit Taco Chili, a fantastic dish that might just satisfy those cravings! This recipe features jackfruit in a hearty bean-based chili, mimicking the texture of pulled meat without any meat at all! This dish is a must-try for your plant-based recipe collection as it’s sure to be a hit with the whole family. And if you’re cooking for one, you’re in luck — leftovers taste even better the next day!

5. Jack Cakes

Jackfruit is a culinary powerhouse that can replace not just chicken, pork, or beef but seafood as well! Our JackCakes offer an eco-friendly alternative to traditional crab cakes. Crafted with savory jackfruit, Easy Vegan Mayo, fresh veggies, hearts of palm, and just the right seasoning, these plant-based JackCakes are a healthy and incredibly tasty option that you and your family will adore!

6. Jackfruit Pad Prik King

Jackfruit Pad Prik King

Dive into the bold and authentic flavors of Jackfruit Pad Prik King, a celebrated Thai dish from central Thailand. This version stands out from typical Thai curries as it skips the coconut milk, letting the spicy and aromatic red curry paste truly shine. At the heart of our dish is young green jackfruit simmered in this flavorful paste, allowing it to absorb and amplify the intense flavors. Complemented by fragrant makrut lime leaves and crisp green beans, the jackfruit adds a unique texture and taste that makes this Pad Prik King exceptionally enjoyable. It’s a fantastic way to experience the genuine flavors of Thailand with a creative jackfruit twist.

7. Tropical Jackfruit Popsicles

Tropical Jackfruit Popsicles

Discover the sweeter side of jackfruit with our Tropical Jackfruit Popsicles. When jackfruit ripens, it transforms from green to yellow and develops a fruity, melon-like sweetness, making it ideal for a refreshing treat. These popsicles combine ripe jackfruit with succulent mango and a splash of zesty lime juice, all blended smoothly with light coconut milk. This tropical popsicle mix offers a delightful escape in each bite, perfect as a light snack or a delectable dessert to cool down on a warm day. Enjoy the natural sweetness and vibrant flavors of our Tropical Jackfruit Popsicles — your taste buds will thank you!

Give Jackfruit a Try!

From its use as a meat substitute in savory dishes to its delightful presence in sweet desserts, jackfruit can cater to a wide array of dietary preferences and needs. Whether you opt for fresh, canned, or packaged jackfruit products, incorporating this unique fruit into your diet can add an exciting new dimension to plant-based eating. By embracing jackfruit, you are not only choosing a health-conscious option, but a more sustainable one that replaces meat with a whole, plant-based alternative.

Editor’s Note: For an entire article devoted to jackfruit nutrition, health benefits, and potential downsides, check out our companion article, What Is Jackfruit? The Tropical Food That’s Turning Heads.

Tell us in the comments:

  • Have you ever tried jackfruit? What did you think of the taste and aroma?

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