What is jackfruit?
Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) is a tree species belonging to the fig, breadfruit, and mulberry family called Moraceae. Native to southwest India, the jackfruit tree grows well in tropical areas, though it these days becomes increasingly available in other parts of the world, including the United States. The fruit of jackfruit trees is unusually large, sometimes reaching as much as 100 pounds in weight and even more.
Jackfruit has a sweet flavor that resembles a combination of fruits like pineapples, mangoes, apples, and bananas. In spite of its sweetness and sugar content, jackfruit has been found to be fairly safe for diabetic individuals.
This fruit can be consumed as is or cooked. Besides, jackfruit is eaten when both ripe and unripe. In fact, unripe jackfruit closely resembles meat in texture, which is the reason for its popularity as a vegetarian meat substitute.
To give you a bit better idea of what jackfruit is and how it can benefit you, we are now going to go through its nutritional profile and also examine some of its key health benefits. And aside from that, we will try to understand why jackfruit is used as a meat substitute and whether or not it is a good meat substitute in reality.
Nutritionally, jackfruit is a remarkable fruit and differs quite a bit from other fruits. Per 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of fruit, jackfruit contains:
- Calories: 95 kcal
- Sugars: 19.08 g
- Dietary fiber: 1.5 g
- Protein: 1.72 g
- Thiamine (B1): 9% of daily value (%DV)
- Riboflavin (B2): 5%DV
- Niacin (B3): 6%DV
- Pantothenic acid (B5): 5%DV
- Vitamin B6: 25%DV
- Folate (B9): 6%DV
- Vitamin C: 17%DV
- Potassium: 10%DV
Jackfruit contains several other nutrients in no significant content. The rich energetic composition of jackfruit makes it a major source of nutrients for people in developing countries.
Jackfruit is filled with essential nutrients like Vitamin C and potassium, but it is the amount of protein in it that makes it stand out among other fruits: it contains 1.72 grams of protein, whereas other fruits mostly have no more than 1 gram of it. Incorporating jackfruit into your diet – regardless of whether or not you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet – may be very beneficial for your health.
Jackfruit health benefits
Jackfruit has a number of health benefits that have been found by a number of research papers. Those benefits further attest to the uniqueness of jackfruit as a fruit.
Jackfruit may benefit blood sugar control
Jackfruit has several properties that could help you with maintaining your blood sugar levels.
First of all, it has quite a low glycemic index (GI). GI indicates how quickly the blood sugar rises after consuming food. The low GI is attributed to the amount of fiber in the fruit, which slows down digestion and aids the prevention of blood sugar spikes (1, 2). Aside from that, the amounts of protein provided by jackfruit may also prevent the blood sugar from rising quickly after consuming food (3).
One study demonstrated that the consumption of jackfruit extract significantly improved blood sugar levels in both healthy and diabetic adults (4). A study of diabetic rats also demonstrated that the extract of jackfruit leaf aided the reduction of fasting blood sugar, as well as promoted long-term blood sugar level control (5).
However, keep in mind that more studies are necessary to confirm the benefits of jackfruit in maintaining blood sugar levels.
Jackfruit may help you maintain health
The high amount of various antioxidants in jackfruit allows several health benefits. Among them is the reduced risk of a number of diseases.
In general, antioxidants protect the cells from inflammation and oxidative stress caused by molecules called free radicals (8). Antioxidants do this by preventing the production of those harmful radicals.
Some of the antioxidants contained in jackfruit are:
- Flavanones. Flavanones have anti-inflammatory properties that may aid in lowering the blood sugar & cholesterol levels, as well as of blood pressure (7, 9, 10).
- Vitamin C, which may prevent inflammations leading to chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease (11).
- Carotenoids are attributed with the reduction of inflammation and the reduced risk of several chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease (12, 13, 14, 15).
- Vitamin B, which has been discovered to reduce the risk of a stroke, though the evidence isn’t decisive (16).
Jackfruit may prevent skin problems
Jackfruit may boost weight loss and metabolism
Although exotic fruits such as jackfruit appear to be understudied around the world due to their strict regional distribution, they have been shown to possess anti-obese properties (18). The currently available studies imply that jackfruit is also capable of boosting metabolism, making the fruit a seemingly good addition to weight loss diets.
Jackfruit may benefit vision
Jackfruit may accelerate the healing of wounds
Jackfruit leaf extract has been found to have a wound healing activity comparable with that of Betadine (21), an antiseptic used for skin disinfection before and after surgeries.
Jackfruit may help maintain bone health
Flavonoids extracted from the roots of jackfruit were discovered to reduce the synthesis of the cathepsin K enzyme that is involved in the resorption of bones (22).
Apart from that, the natural pectin extracted from jackfruit peel demonstrated good biocompatibility with tissue stem cells, which may make the fruit beneficial for bone grafting (23).
Jackfruit may improve digestion
The rich fiber content in jackfruit pulp could prevent constipation and improve bowel movements. The seed of jackfruit was also found to contain prebiotic fibers that may promote the growth and activity of the beneficial bacteria in the digestive system (24).
Jackfruit may be beneficial against cancer
Flavonoids, phenols, and lectins found in jackfruit are the compounds that appear to make the fruit effective against cancer cells. Those beneficial compounds are contained in the jackfruit pulp, seeds, and wood (25, 26, 27).
Phenol from the wood of jackfruit demonstrates an ability to increase the programmed cell death (apoptosis) of lung, breast, and liver cancer cells (28). The jackfruit pulp was found to be protective against gene mutations, which promotes the reduction of the growth of cancer cells (25).
In particular, a number of compounds contained in jackfruit were found to be effective against specific types of cancer cells:
- Colon cancer. Jacalin extracted from jackfruit seeds was found to reduce the precancerous lesions in mice in the early stages of colon cancer (26). Flavonoids from seeds were also toxic to human colon cancer cells (29).
- Leukemia. Lectins from jackfruit seeds both reduced the growth of cancer cells and promoted apoptosis in leukemia cell lines (30, 31).
- Breast cancer. Extracts from jackfruit wood were found to be selectively toxic to human breast cancer cells (27).
- Prostate cancer. Flavonoids from jackfruit twigs reduced the growth of human prostate cancer cells (32).
- Liver cancer. Lectins from jackfruit seeds blocked the cell cycle and promoted apoptosis in liver cancer cells in mice (33).
- Throat cancer. Extracts from jackfruit demonstrated toxicity against throat cancer cells by increasing apoptosis and altering the cell structure (34).
Jackfruit may improve oral health
Flavonoids contained in jackfruit leaves were found to reduce the growth of bacteria that promote the formation and advancement of tooth decay (35).
Jackfruit could improve energy levels
Jackfruit contains a good amount of carbohydrates in a form that could give you a quick boost of energy. The sucrose and fructose in it can be easily digested by the body. And thanks to the already mentioned blood sugar leveling properties of jackfruit, even diabetic individuals could enjoy its benefits.
Risks of consuming jackfruit
Some people may be allergic to jackfruit, especially those individuals who are allergic to birch pollen or latex due to the presence of allergens similar to natural latex and pollen in jackfruit (36, 37, 38).
Lectins contained in jackfruit seeds have been found to stimulate the immune system, which could negatively impact patients with tissue transplants or those on immunosuppression therapy (39).
Jackfruit may also negatively impact blood coagulation, so people with blood disorders should use jackfruit with caution (40). This effect is not well studied in humans, however.
Jackfruit was found to inhibit sexual competence of rats (41). Again, these effects aren’t well studied in humans.
Lastly, because jackfruit may lower blood sugar levels, diabetic individuals might need to change their medication dosages.
Jackfruit as a meat substitute
As we already mentioned, unripe jackfruit has a meaty mouthfeel, which is the reason why vegetarians and vegans resort to it as a meat substitute. Unripe jackfruit has a meat-like chewy texture and a mild flavor. One of its benefits is that it can be pulled in the same way as pork. As it is, peeled unripe jackfruit probably won’t be a good 100% meat substitute though, which we will elaborate in a moment.
However, its versatility and the fact that it easily takes on the flavors of spices it is cooked with can allow vegetarians and vegans to get a great meaty flavor out of it. Jackfruit can be cooked in a variety of ways as well.
Food manufacturers these days offer pre-seasoned unripe jackfruit packages. These packages, on one hand, could save you time on seasoning and preparing jackfruit and on the other should allow you to store jackfruit for much longer time.
However, you could also get dry unripe jackfruit and then prepare it in any way you wish. You could either let your own culinary experience and imagination make the perfect jackfruit meat dish, or you could just follow the variety of recipes found online. By the way, we are going to share a couple of recipes today so you can proceed on to the cooking without additional search.
When people talk about jackfruit as a meat substitute, they most often imply its flavor properties. However, when it comes to substituting meat in terms of nutritional value, jackfruit may not be such a great choice since it contains considerably fewer proteins than meat, albeit jackfruit still has all the essential amino acids in it.
This issue isn’t only evident with jackfruit though. Vegetarians and vegans have to think of ways to compensate for the lack of nutrients in plant foods anyway. The point is that “jackfruit meat” could be a good substitute for meat in terms of flavor and mouthfeel, but it most likely won’t be a suitable substitute for meat in regard to nutritional value.
Where to buy jackfruit?
Being specific to tropical regions, jackfruit isn’t particularly easy to find in other areas, including the United States. If you happen to be in Asian countries, you shouldn’t face any difficulties while looking for a place to buy the fruit. But if you are in the US, a question arises: where to buy jackfruit?
First of all, let’s go through the 3 options of unripe jackfruit we found on Amazon. Each of those packs is suitable for making meatless yet very meat-like vegan dishes. And after comparing those jackfruit packs, we will try to give you an idea where and how you should be looking for jackfruit.
Edward & Sons young jackfruit should be a suitable choice for you if you want to season the fruit to your taste yourself. It doesn’t include any seasoning or sauce, just plain pre-cut jackfruit.
This pack includes 4.4 pounds of the young fruit, which should be enough for a good number of smaller dishes or one-two larger dishes. Possibly the best thing about this pack is that you don’t need to drain any liquids from it, meaning that those 4.4 pounds constitute the net weight of dry jackfruit.
Edward & Sons say that this pack is certified organic in accordance with the USDA department, so if you are particularly concerned with using organic jackfruit, then this pack would most likely be the right pick for you.
Trader Joe’s Green Jackfruit in Brine pack differs quite a bit from Edward & Sons pack. This one is canned in brine, so it will have differing flavor features. Keep that in mind.
This pack includes two 20-ounce cans of brined jackfruit, which should be quite enough for small dishes. When drained, you are left with just about 9.9 ounces of dry fruit per can, which is the biggest difference of this pack from the Edward & Sons pack.
Nonetheless, thanks to its comparatively low price, this pack would probably be the right choice if you are buying unripe jackfruit for the very first time.
We can’t really tell whether or not this jackfruit is organic since the manufacturer doesn’t indicate organic certifications in their product descriptions. However, it could be organic, and it could be that it’s just the manufacturer that doesn’t boast it.
Aroy-D brined jackfruit pack is pretty similar to the Trader Joe’s product. However, this pack includes six 20-ounce cans with brined jackfruit. After draining the liquid from the fruit, you are left with about 10 ounces of jackfruit per can, which overall makes for 60 ounces or 3.75 pounds of jackfruit.
Aroy-D Young Green brined jackfruit seems like a good deal, given its price. It isn’t that much more expensive than Trader Joe’s pack, but it is cheaper than Edward & Sons product. That actually makes good sense when you stop and look at the net weight of the included jackfruit.
Apart from brine, this pack contains citric acid for acidity regulation, which will most likely impact the flavor of the jackfruit. If you aren’t really bothered by the citric acid and the brine, this pack could make a good choice for meatless meals.
Lastly, we again can’t really say whether this pack is organic or not.
Places to buy jackfruit at
Local Asian food stores
The first place to look for jackfruit in probably would be a local Asian food store or a supermarket. You are almost always guaranteed to find jackfruit at specialty stores. If there is one in your area, call them or pay them a visit to see whether or not they have jackfruit.
Asian specialty stores typically sell green brined jackfruit suitable for making meat-like dishes, as well as ripe jackfruit in syrup.
Local grocery stores
While grocery stores don’t always sell jackfruit, they would be the next place to go to if the nearby Asian food stores happen not to have jackfruit. Jackfruit is becoming increasingly popular, so you are pretty likely to find it in the grocery stores in your area.
The quickest and most convenient way to go about buying jackfruit is probably just getting it online. Online retailers in the US usually have a variety of jackfruit offers, so you shouldn’t have any problems with finding it online.
Online retailers commonly have canned jackfruit preserved in brine or liquid, as well as dried jackfruit. You may want to check out several websites to see who offers the best quality jackfruit for a good price, though we have already done the research for you with our 3 options.
Packaged vs fresh jackfruit
When buying jackfruit, you would also need to choose between packaged and fresh jackfruit. Packaged jackfruit can be found both in grocery stores and online, while fresh jackfruit typically is only available in stores. However, packaged jackfruit is usually much easier to find than fresh jackfruit.
Packaged jackfruit could be purchased both ripe and unripe. Ripe jackfruit is commonly sold as sweet syrups, while unripe jackfruit comes in water, brine, or dry. Be mindful that canned jackfruit can contain added sugar, which would result in a considerably altered flavor that could be unsuitable for your needs.
Packaged jackfruit, in general, is an appropriate choice for a variety of recipes, while unripe jackfruit in particular can be used in such dishes as jackfruit barbecue or pulled pork.
Fresh jackfruit in its turn can come either pre-cut or as a whole fruit. Pre-cut fresh jackfruit would a better choice for easier and quicker snacks. A whole jackfruit is a good pick if you don’t mind dealing with a fruit that weighs up to 100 pounds. Aside from that, a whole fruit needs you to dedicate some time to the cutting.
Fresh jackfruit comes both ripe and unripe. If you will be looking for jackfruit in a local store, consider the following:
- Ripe and fresh jackfruit has a strong pleasant scent, which is, in fact, the easiest way of telling whether or not the jackfruit is ripe. On the other hand, unripe jackfruit doesn’t have a pronounced smell.
- Unlike unripe jackfruit which has green skin, ripe jackfruit has a bright yellow exterior. Jackfruit with a few brown spots is fully ripe and ready for consumption. However, if the jackfruit is mostly brown, then it is probably overripe and is starting to spoil.
- The skin of ripe jackfruit is soft, whereas unripe jackfruit is hard. An easy way to check whether the jackfruit is ripe or not is feeling its skin with your hand: if it yields under pressure and if its spikes are soft, then the jackfruit is ripe.
- Gently knock on the jackfruit. If you hear a hollow and dull sound, then it’s probably ripe.
You would want to use the above methods in combination because it is sometimes hard to tell if the jackfruit is ripe by just doing a single separate test.
If you will be eating the jackfruit immediately, go for a ripe fruit. Otherwise, if you will be using the fruit in recipes – especially vegan – buy unripe jackfruit.
If you aren’t sure where to get started with your first jackfruit dish, then a couple of jackfruit recipes would probably be very useful for you. Jackfruit could be incorporated in a variety of dishes both as a main or secondary ingredient.
Now, we are going to provide you with two recipes: one recipe of jackfruit BBQ and one recipe of jackfruit pulled pork. If you aren’t really experienced with jackfruit or cooking in general, you would just need to follow those recipes as is. But if you are a seasoned cooker, you may make some adjustments to the recipes to make a jackfruit dish that will be to your taste!
Barbecue is a thing that vegetarians and vegans cannot really enjoy. But sometimes, you just want to have a piece of barbecue even if you are the most dedicated vegan. Fortunately, you could use jackfruit to make barbecue that is pretty close to regular barbecue in feel and taste, though your skills would also play a key role in the making of a jackfruit BBQ.
This jackfruit barbecue recipe is relatively simple, and it would take about 2 hours for you to get that aromatic and meaty dish.
- 2 ½ cups of young jackfruit.
- ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar.
- 2 cups of tomato puree.
- 2 tablespoons of molasses.
- 1 teaspoon of onion powder.
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt.
- ¼ cup of pure maple syrup.
- ½ teaspoon of garlic powder.
- ½ teaspoon of chili powder.
- 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne.
- ¼ teaspoon of cumin.
- ¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper.
- 1 teaspoon of paprika.
- 2 minced garlic cloves.
- 2 teaspoons of olive oil.
- Dash of liquid smoke.
- To make the BBQ sauce, add 2 teaspoons of olive oil to a saucepan and heat on a medium-low fire. Add garlic and sauté the mixture for two minutes while stirring it frequently.
- Add the apple cider vinegar, tomato puree, molasses, onion powder, sea salt, maple syrup, garlic powder, chili powder, cayenne, cumin, black pepper, and paprika. Stir the mixture.
- Raise the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium or low and simmer the mixture for 30 minutes.
- If you are using canned jackfruit, drain and rinse it before use. Cut out the core of the jackfruit and shred the fruit into a bowl with either your hands or two forks.
- Add the BBQ sauce to the bowl with jackfruit and stir until the fruit is completely coated in the sauce.
- Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge to marinate for about 1 hour.
- Heat up a large skillet over a medium-high fire. Add 1 tablespoon of safflower seed, add the jackfruit, and cook for 30 minutes while stirring frequently.
- Remove the jackfruit barbecue from the fire. Add toppings if you wish and enjoy the dish!
Things to keep in mind
Most recipes will recommend you to remove the core from the jackfruit. Some people don’t do it, considering it a waste of the fruit. The core doesn’t tend to get as soft and easy to shred as the rest of the fruit, but it still usually has a good meaty flavor.
Make sure not to use syrup jackfruit for this recipe since those are usually made from ripe jackfruit and are sweetened. Make sure that you are using unripe jackfruit.
You could use jackfruit in brine, but keep in mind that it will have harder flavor. You could dry rub or marinate the jackfruit in the barbecue sauce or your favorite seasonings before the cooking, which could improve the taste if you are using brined jackfruit. Many people love to use brined jackfruit in their dishes, so you could give it a try as well.
Instead of following the barbecue sauce recipe, you could use your own barbecue sauce while making the jackfruit BBQ.
All of the 3 jackfruit packs we examined earlier could be used to make jackfruit barbecue with this recipe, but keep in mind their flavor specifics.
Jackfruit pulled pork
Pulled pork is another thing that you may want to eat as a vegetarian or vegan. As it was with barbecue, jackfruit can be quite easily made into pulled pork. This recipe is fairly simple as well, though it will take you much more time to make a vegan pulled pork from jackfruit.
- 3 pounds of unripe green drained jackfruit packed in water.
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- ¼ cup of chopped Vidalia onion.
- 3 cloves of minced garlic.
- 2 cups of barbecue sauce.
- If the jackfruit is frozen, defrost it before cooking.
- Rinse the jackfruit to remove all the seeds and pods.
- Squeeze the jackfruit as much as possible to drain it from water.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium fire.
- Cook and stir the onion and garlic for about 3 minutes until they are slightly softened.
- Add the jackfruit and cook it, stirring for about 10 minutes until it is slightly browned and more or less free of moisture.
- Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker and cover with barbecue sauce.
- Cook on low heat for about 6 hours, stirring the mixture occasionally until the jackfruit can be easily shredded with a fork.
- You may eat the jackfruit vegan pork immediately by making a sandwich or whatnot, or you could alternatively let it sit in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat before eating. This would be even more important if you chose to cook in a skillet instead of a slow cooker.
Things to keep in mind
Again, don’t use ripe jackfruit that comes as a syrup.
If you don’t have the equipment to cook on low heat, you could cook the jackfruit in a skillet – preferably cast iron so it retains the flavor – until it can be easily shredded. It should take about 2 hours of cooking in a skillet.
If you will be choosing jackfruit from the 3 options we proposed, you could either go for the Edward & Sons or Aroy-D jackfruit pack since they have enough fruit in them for this recipe. However, remember that the latter comes in brine and with citric acid, which may not be to your taste.