What Is Jackfruit? How To Use It In Your Cooking?


By: The Foodie’s Avenue

Jackfruit, the world’s largest fruit, is a fascinating tropical wonder that has piqued the interest of food lovers. Often referred to as the “vegetable meat,” this colossal fruit is more than just a culinary marvel; it represents a versatile and sustainable food source that can transform the way we approach plant-based diets. This article aims to demystify jackfruit by exploring its origins, distinctive qualities, and, most importantly, its delightful taste

The foodie's avenue - Jackfruit
Photo: The Foodie’s Avenue

Also known as: Kathal, Nangka, Langka, Chakka, Phansa

What is jackfruit?

Jackfruit is a tropical fruit native to South and Southeast Asia. It is renowned for its enormous size, making it the largest tree fruit in the world. Jackfruit trees produce large, green, spiky fruits that can grow to be as heavy as 36 kilograms (80 pounds) or more. The fruit is known for its unique and versatile culinary uses.

The foodie's avenue - Jackfruit

There are two primary types of jackfruit: sweet and savoury. The sweet variety is typically consumed fresh when ripe, while the savoury variety, also known as “green” or “young” jackfruit, is used in a wide range of culinary applications, especially in vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Unripe vs Ripe | Texture & Flavour

Jackfruit is a remarkable fruit known for its unique texture and flavour profile, which varies depending on its ripeness. Here’s a breakdown of the texture and flavour characteristics of jackfruit:

Unripe (Young) Jackfruit: When jackfruit is unripe or young, it has a dense and fibrous texture, somewhat similar to that of meat. This characteristic has earned it the nickname “vegetable meat” or “meat substitute.” It can be shredded or pulled apart into strands, making it an excellent choice for vegetarian and vegan dishes that require a meat-like texture. Young jackfruit has a relatively neutral flavour, which makes it an ideal canvas for absorbing the flavours of the seasonings and sauces used in cooking.

Ripe Jackfruit: As jackfruit ripens, its texture transforms. The flesh becomes soft, tender, and juicy. It’s often eaten fresh as a sweet and satisfying snack or used in desserts, smoothies, and fruit salads. Ripe jackfruit is known for its sweet and fruity flavour. The taste is often described as a combination of pineapple, mango, banana, and a hint of pear. The aroma is equally enticing, with tropical and floral notes.

The foodie's avenue - Jackfruit
Photo: Towfiqu barbhuiya

How long does fresh jackfruit last? Storage tips!

The shelf life of fresh jackfruit varies with its ripeness. Unripe jackfruit can last 2-4 weeks at room temperature, best for savoury dishes. Once ripe, jackfruit should be consumed within 3-5 days when stored in the refrigerator. If you’ve cut it into segments or chunks, they’ll remain fresh for 2-3 days in the fridge. For longer storage, freezing jackfruit in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag can extend its lifespan for several months. The key is to match the storage method with the fruit’s ripeness to maximise its freshness and usability.

Photo: Martha Dominguez de Gouveia

Common dishes showcasing jackfruit around the world

Jackfruit’s versatility shines in a range of dishes, particularly within the realm of vegetarian and vegan cuisine. Here are some of the most common and popular dishes that highlight jackfruit:

Jackfruit pulled “Pork” sandwiches

Photo: Nadine Primeau

Unripe or young jackfruit’s meaty texture and capacity to absorb flavours make it a superb meat alternative. It is frequently used to craft “pulled pork” sandwiches. Cooked jackfruit is shredded and simmered in barbecue sauce or a flavourful marinade, yielding a delicious and satisfying sandwich filling. Serve it in a burger bun with coleslaw and pickles for a classic pulled pork-style sandwich.

Jackfruit curry

Photo: Azmaan Baluch

Green or unripe jackfruit plays a central role in numerous Asian cuisines, especially in curry dishes. Jackfruit chunks or pieces are introduced into a curry sauce infused with an array of spices, coconut milk, and other seasonings. The jackfruit soaks up the rich flavours of the curry, creating a hearty and comforting meal that pairs wonderfully with rice or flatbreads.

Jackfruit desserts

Photo: Prchi Palwe

Ripe jackfruit’s sweet and tropical flavour renders it an exquisite addition to desserts. Ripe jackfruit can be utilised in a variety of sweet indulgences, including ice creams, sorbets, smoothies, and fruit salads. Its inherent sweetness and fragrance enhance the overall taste of these desserts, offering a refreshing and tropical twist.

These are merely a few examples of the numerous ways jackfruit can be incorporated into dishes. Its adaptability, ability to mimic meat textures when unripe, and its sweet, fruity flavour when ripe make it a versatile and captivating ingredient in vegetarian and vegan cuisine.

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