In the past decade, we have seen a number of advisories released, both from health experts and organizations to environmental and animal welfare activists, all urging the same message: people need to cut down their consumption of meat. In response, companies have been churning out a number of plant-based proteins aimed to satisfy the most conscientious of eaters. Tofu, seitan, tempeh, and soy-based textured vegetable protein have all hit the market as options for both vegans and non-vegans alike. But is there an even better option out there? We think so, and we believe this option is actually a fruit!
Jackfruit, a tree-born fruit that can reach a weight of up to 100 pounds, has been attracting the attention of chefs and exciting the palettes of plant-based eaters for a few years now. While the Southeast Asian fruit can most certainly lend its juicy and fruity flavor to desserts, it is amazingly versatile and can also act as a meat substitute! Jackfruit has a remarkably similar texture to pulled pork or beef, so if marinated in the correct seasoning, it can easily replace meat in savory or barbecue-inspired dishes – something countries like India have known for decades.
Using jackfruit as a meat alternative has also, to a degree, permeated into the U.S market. In addition to the large number of food bloggers and home chefs that have embraced jackfruit’s versatility, food producers Upton Naturals and The Jackfruit Company, have created products that make it a breeze for curious eaters to try. More importantly, they have embraced the fact that jackfruit doesn’t need a bunch of extra ingredients and preservatives when packaged for heat-and-eat consumption. No soy-protein or pea-protein isolate needed for this amazing foodstuff! Additionally, restaurants in California like Mesa Verde and Plant Food For People have been crafting up creative jackfruit dishes that have definitely been enticing guests.
This meat alternative is not only impressive for its meat-like texture or flavor absorption capabilities either. The fact that jackfruit is an unprocessed, whole food, is powerful because it will finally tackle the problem some of the other mock meat options face: allergies. After all, how many people have you encountered that avoid tofu because it’s made of soy, or stay away from seitan because it is a gluten nightmare? While these protein options definitely provide nutrition and have been used widely in the plant-based food world, the rise of the jackfruit would mean the emergence of another clean alternative meat.
Although, admittedly, jackfruit does not provide protein at the same level as some other mock meat products (it only contains four grams of protein per cup), jackfruit enthusiasts don’t see this as a major problem. As Upton Naturals founder, Dan Staackman, told New Hope Network in an interview, “Protein demand is a bit overstated in the U.S. If people want more with their Jackfruit they can easily add…quinoa, beans or other plant foods to their plate that are high in protein.” Not to mention, jackfruit is high in fiber and is considered a low-calorie food.
As Nil Zacharias, Co-Founder of One Green Planet has said, “As Americans learn more about how food is directly tied to our health and well-being, as well as the health of the planet, they are seeking better options, namely less meat, and more plant-based foods. Consumers want leaner, healthier, greener protein sources in convenient packages.”
With the demand for cleaner plant-based protein constantly on the rise, we think we’ll be seeing jackfruit on shelves and restaurant menus very soon.
Image Source: BBQ Jackfruit