If you’ve ever seen—or for that matter, smelled—a jackfruit, you likely weren’t all that eager to eat it. We don’t blame you. On the outside, it’s a huge (really huge—it’s actually the biggest tree fruit in the world) green blob covered in prickly skin. It has a musky onion-like smell, and if that’s not enough to gross you out, when it’s cut open, it excretes a latex substance that has a glue effect on your knife and cutting board.
But, as they say, it’s what’s in the inside that counts—and that rings true with this nutritional powerhouse as well.
Jackfruit is the national fruit of Bangladesh and is related to mulberries and figs. It’s starchy, ringing in at 150 calories per cup, making it an alternative to potatoes or rice. Now the good stuff: It’s chock full of calcium (for bone health), iron (for blood health), potassium (for heart health), fiber (for GI health), and vitamins a, b, and c. In other words, it does the whole body good.
It’s also a secret weapon for vegans (or anyone looking for a healthier meat substitute). Chefs around the country have experimented with jackfruit, which when cooked has a similar chewy consistency to pulled pork. Click here for a recipe for BBQ "pulled pork" jackfruit. If you live in New York City, you can find a delicious version at Chickpea and Olive, a vegan food truck based in Brooklyn.
Where to buy?
You can buy it in Asian markets canned—the sweet variety is preserved in syrup, and the young (savory) variety is in brine. (Tip: When using it as a meat substitute, you want the young fruit. The ripened fruit in syrup can be used to make jams, juices, and other sweet dishes.)
If you find it fresh—some specialty markets may have it—make sure to oil your knife and cutting board (sparingly, so you’re not slipping while cutting). Doing so will help protect your tools from the aforementioned goo.
Bonus: The fresh fruit will still have the seeds, which can be roasted (similar to how you’d cook chestnuts) and noshed on for a low-fat protein-packed snack.
Have you tried jackfruit? What did you think? Share in the comments below.