Even if you haven’t been cooking plant-based dishes for long, you probably know that it’s easy to substitute vegetables for meat. But did you know you could also use fruit as a meat replacement? That’s right! Jackfruit is a tropical fruit that is one of the best meat substitutes you’ll ever eat. It’s been used in Asia as a meat substitute for ages. If cooking with jackfruit is new to you or even if you’ve never heard of it before, read on. You’ll learn all about the best vegan food you may not be eating yet but you will be once you see how delicious and versatile jackfruit can be.
1. Jackfruit 101
Jackfruit is a tropical fruit that is related to figs, mulberry, and breadfruit. It grows on the largest trees in the world. Jackfruit looks like a durian but much, much larger. It’s so big and impressive, once you see one, you’ll never forget what it looks like. When it’s cracked open, there are pods that are also called seeds. It’s the fleshy coating about the actual seeds that we want to eat. When jackfruit is ripe, it has a sweet taste and can be used in desserts but when it’s unripe, the taste is savory.
Now you can go and buy a whole gigantic jackfruit and do all the work of breaking it down yourself or you can take the easier route and buy it prepared. Jackfruit can be purchased frozen, dried, or canned, either in brine for savory dishes or in syrup for sweet dishes. The texture is similar to chicken and pork and is often called “vegetarian meat.”
2. Health Benefits
Another great thing about jackfruit is that it’s very healthy. It’s low in calories and high in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The fruit’s isoflavones, antioxidants, and phytonutrients mean that jackfruit has cancer-fighting properties. It is also known to help blood pressure, eye and bone health, ulcers, and indigestion.
When you get jackfruit in a can, make sure you get the one in brine if you’re using it for savory recipes. If you are feeding four hungry people, you many need to use two cans of jackfruit. You’ll need to rinse the jackfruit to get rid of the salty brine and then dry the pieces with a clean towel. Use a paring knife to cut the triangular core out of each piece of jackfruit. Some people throw away the cores but that will mean throwing away half the contents of the can. I prefer to just slice the cores up finely and then they mix right in with the rest of the jackfruit.
Once the jackfruit is cut up, you can use any marinade or spice rub you like to flavor it. My trick is to coat the jackfruit with the spices and then put them in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast them for just a few minutes. This locks the spices. Then go on with the rest of the recipe. Even if you prepare the jackfruit in a skillet, just roasting it in the oven for ten or fifteen minutes afterwards will give it a chewier and meatier texture. That’s the technique I use when I make my Jackfruit Philly Cheesesteaks.
4. BBQ Dishes
When word of jackfruit started spreading around, barbecue recipes were popping up all over the internet. Since the flavor of jackfruit is pretty much neutral with just the slightest sweet taste, it picks up the flavors of whatever you cook it in. Barbecue sauce is perfect to give the jackfruit flavor and complement that sweet taste. See How to Make Amazing BBQ Sauces with 7 Ingredients or Less for ideas and recipes.
This BBQ Jackfruit is a simple and delicious recipe. Just cook the jackfruit in your favorite BBQ sauce and it softens, you can pull it apart like meat. This Barbecue Pulled Jackfruit Bowl has meaty jackfruit served on a bed of rice, with tender, cooked broccoli and a crunchy peanut cabbage slaw. This is a simple, but flavorful dish that’s perfect for busy days. These BBQ Jackfruit Buns are just as meaty, juicy, and tender as any pork buns and are pure dim sum heaven. Finally, these Carolina BBQ Jackfruit Sliders are slathered in mustard-style BBQ sauce, topped with tangy-sweet apple slaw and avocado, and then neatly piled into soft buns for a meal that’s a little spicy, a little sweet, and whole lot of delicious.
5. Pass Up the Pork
The texture of jackfruit is very similar to pork – chewy and tender – making it the perfect alternative! All you have to do is use the spices, herbs, and flavors you would use in pork dishes to get that same flavor but without the animals. Read my 5 Tips to Make Meatless Food Taste Meaty to learn how to do it. Sure, you could use seitan but jackfruit gives you a healthier, gluten-free option.
Forget the fast food places and make these Jackfruit Carnitas with Pickled Red Onions. Sauteed in garlic and simmered in a spicy sauce, nobody will believe that these carnitas are actually made from a tropical fruit. This barbecue Fooled Pork Sandwich is an experience that needs to be had. Tender jackfruit is broiled in sticky barbecue sauce, allowing it to absorb the flavor. This sandwich is topped with a creamy, crunchy coleslaw and it all comes with a side of crispy oven-baked fries that you might want to pile up on the sandwich too. Don’t forget the bacon…Jackfruit Bacon, that is. Who would’ve thought that you could take a fruit and make it taste like bacon? Well, with jackfruit, it’s possible! Use this bacon on top of salads and baked potatoes or as a breakfast side dish.
6. Don’t Be Chicken
It’s easy to make any vegetable have chicken-y flavor – use vegan “chicken” broth in marinades and use herbs and spices like sage and poultry seasoning (which is vegan). Chicken cutlets were my favorite dish so you can imagine how thrilled I am to have the recipe for these Breaded Jackfruit Cutlets. They’re crispy on the outside and tender and meaty on the inside.
The stringy texture of young jackfruit lends itself perfectly for emulating fried chicken. In this Jackfruit Fried Chicken, jackfruit is marinated in a creamy soy milk marinade, battered in zesty breadcrumbs, and fried to perfection. If you were a fan of chicken pot pies and you’re craving a creamy, warm jackfruit and veggie filling encased in a delicate puff pastry crust, you must make this Jackfruit Pot Pie. Your stomach will be so incredibly happy.
7. Global Dishes
Barbecue is scrumptious but it’s also fun to cook dishes from all over the world. That neutral flavor of jackfruit lets you use all types of ethnic flavor profiles to make delicious recipes from all over the globe. Don’t even think about calling out for Chinese food when you can make your own at home. Start with these Chinese Five-Spice Pulled Jackfruit Spring Rolls and then make my Moo Shu Jackfruit.
If it’s Taco Tuesday but you want the spicy flavors of Korean cuisine, you’ll have to make these Spicy Korean BBQ Jackfruit Tacos with Sesame Carrot Coleslaw and these Jackfruit Banh Mi Tacos. This Kathal Dum Pulao is a very rich and aromatic Indian rice recipe made with the combination of raw jackfruit, spices, and coconut milk. It’s warm and spicy, but not hot, and it makes a filling meal that’s perfect served with flatbread. Have your Indian curry raw or cooked with this Raw Jackfruit Curry, Baby Jackfruit Curry, and Pulled Jackfruit Curry. For me, I love Jamaican (Ital) Curried Jackfruit.
When it’s time for grilling, indoors or out, make these Jackfruit Satay Skewers with Peanut Sauce. It’s so delicious. One of my favorite Spanish dishes is Ropa Vieja which I make with jackfruit. You should also try is Super Simple Fiesta Jackfruit with Polenta and head to the south for this Slow Cooker Pulled Jackfruit Jambalaya.
There’s pretty much nothing you can’t do with jackfruit. Try it instead of tofu, tempeh, seitan, or mushrooms in your favorite recipes and you’ll be hooked on this tropical fruit that can pass for meat.
Lead image source: Fooled Pork Sandwich