What the Heck Is a Jackfruit: A Look Inside This Funky Fruit

by Karen Solomon
Share it:
What the Heck Is a Jackfruit: A Look Inside This Funky Fruit

While you may have seen images of jackfruit floating around Pinterest, we bet you don’t know jack about it. These Southeast Asian mega-orbs — which are usually 10–20 pounds, but can weigh up to 80 pounds for a single fruit — hail from India, but grow anywhere tropical and humid, including the East Indies, the Philippines, eastern Africa and Brazil. In vegan, vegetarian and clean-eating circles, jackfruit is quickly becoming a go-to for sandwiches, tacos and stews because the unripened fruit has a meaty texture that appeals to people wanting to eliminate or reduce meat in their diet.

Bland on its own, jackfruit is a culinary canvas ready to absorb strong flavors, such as curry or barbecue. At 150 calories per cup and zero cholesterol, this low-fat, wheat- and soy-free food brings protein and fiber to the table in place of pork, beef, seafood and more.

Most North American cooks aren’t going to tango with whole, fresh jackfruit. Fresh jackfruit, particularly the unripe fruit, can be difficult to source, even if you’re lucky enough to live near a good Asian market. Even if you can find them, the yield is too much for most households. Note that the ripe fruit is sometimes available, but its “perfume,” a stench many equate with rotting onions, is about as popular with Westerners as durian.

FRESH VERSUS CANNED

The jackfruit is one of those rare types of produce that we encourage you to skip fresh in favor of prepared or canned. The shortest route between you and jackfruit is a product like Uptons’ Naturals ready-to-eat jackfruit in flavors like barbecue, chili-lime carnitas and Thai curry. Pair it with a tortilla or a bowl of rice. The Jackfruit Company also sells pre-cooked, pre-seasoned frozen entrees in flavors like teriyaki and Tex-Mex, as well as ready-to-eat ripe and tropical jackfruit for smoothies and snacking. Unlike the fresh stuff, there’s no foul odor, and the flavor is very tropical (think: mango and banana).

Most home cooks prefer to get their jack-attack from canned fruit, because it’s inexpensive, ready to eat and a manageable quantity for a single meal. Edward & Sons sells a canned organic jackfruit ready for your recipe under the Native Forest label, but almost any Indian, Filipino or Thai market will have plenty of canned jackfruit on hand. For savory cooking, look for the unripe jackfruit packed in brine, rather than the sweet, ripe fruit packed in syrup.


READ MORE > 5 CHEFS’ TRICKS TO MAKE VEGETABLES IRRESISTIBLE


HOW TO COOK WITH IT

To cook with unripe jackfruit, drain it, squeeze it out and either shred it by pulling it apart with your fingers or cut it into chunks. Though it can be eaten on its own, its neutral taste is livened when paired with flavorful ingredients. Jackfruit is best sautéed with strong flavors like onions, garlic, chili and ginger. Most recipes for the fruit turn to barbecue sauce, Jamaican jerk seasoning or rich Indian, Thai or Malaysian curry spices. Try Barbecue Jackfruit Sandwiches with Avocado Slaw or Southeast Asian-inspired Jackfruit Curry.

Atop rice, slapped onto a hamburger bun like a sloppy Joe with pickles or wrapped into a tortilla with beans and cheese, you’ll marvel at jackfruit’s toothsome, satisfying texture. Need more inspiration? Jackfruit365 makes jackfruit flour that can be baked into a variety of Indian dishes, including Aloo Paratha, a griddled, potato-stuffed bread, and Dal Vada, a fried, spiced fritter of jackfruit flour and lentils.

Give tofu and seitan the night off by using jackfruit and share your favorite recipe in the comments below!

Related

  • Aurea Gonzalez

    I LOVE jackfruit! Unfortunately I can’t find it anywhere near me to cook with but I’ve had it in restaurants as pulled pork and it was so good! I have to keep trying Whole Foods. Def recommend!

    • Even if you can find them, the yield is too much for most households. Note that the ripe fruit is sometimes available, but its “perfume,” a stench many equate with rotting onions, is about as popular with Westerners as durian.

      • Matthew Kenney

        Don’t think you know Jack about jackfruit… smells like pineapple on steroids
        Super sweet, use it in kombucha and water Kefir.

        • Deon Noel

          It sound like the author is Talking about breadfruit and not Jack fruit. Neither has a stench but I can see how breadfruit can be used as a meat substitute. It can be eaten ripe and unrip.

    • Melissa Chroman Prober

      Trader Joe’s sells canned jackfruit

    • Kameka Stephenson

      Not sure what area you are in. I’m in Los Angeles and it can be found in the Latino supermarkets

    • Renee Vasquez Kee

      Raleys her in the Central Valley of California
      sells it whole and Fresh

  • Yumm!!! Love Jackfruit!! If you’re near the big See Woo Chinese cash & carry you can get your hands on the fresh ones and they also sell the sweet and ripe tinned ones too. 🙂

  • Nancy Henn

    I bought a can at Trader Joe’s but didn’t know what to do with it!

  • Patrick

    Disgusting blog post!!!!
    I grow jack fruit, ots certainly not bland, its so sweet people eat it as candy, its full of suger, sugar sugar, aviod at all costs! This blog writer shold be ashamed of them selves for publishing this on a fitness app!

    • Matthew Kenney

      I wouldn’t say “avoid at all costs”, it’s absolutely incredible as a second ferment in Kombucha and Water Kefir. The scoby eats up most of the sugar and gives you an exotic jolly rancher taste along with billions of probiotics

    • Doug Skinner

      Good for you for calling this out. 6 teas sugar in 1 cup! Fake news or just imcompetent?

      • artgrrrl

        Look up the nutrition info for ripe AND upripe jackfruit. Huge different in the sugar content. The unripened stuff used as a meaty alternative is low to no sugar.

        • Doug Skinner

          Okay, but as the article said the whole fruit, probably unripe, is huge. I would assume, not sure, that the partial,canned pieces are ripened.
          If not, then I would be interested, but I think that should have been in the article. Big difference

          • artgrrrl

            I’m guessing canned fruit is usually the ripe kind and in syrup but apparently some places also carry the unripe pieces canned in brine. Part of me wants to try the unsweey kind but I’m still trying to wrap my head around fruit “meat” you know?

    • Mike2011

      Patrick – Why do you grow it if you think it’s so bad that you want everyone to avoid it?

  • Bella

    You must be “bland” or know nothing about Jackfruit to regard it as “bland.” Next time ask a native to describe the unfamiliar before you preach. Thank you.

  • Susannah Robertson

    If you have a birch-pollen allergy, PLEASE be careful with jackfruit. In very rare cases (like mine), consuming it can lead to anaphylaxis. I had a bite-and-a–half and ended up in the ER. It’s a rare reaction but it does happen.

    • Holly Johnson

      good to know! I have this birch allergy too!

  • Kris

    Why call it protein packed if you’re not going to say how much protein is in it. In case you’re curious though, jackfruit has less than 3g of protein per cup. It has 31 grams of sugar for those 3g of protein too. That is not a protein packed food and it absolutely isn’t a protein substitute for meat, tofu, or seitan. Lastly, I wanted to pull my hair out when she referred to it as a soy free and wheat free food. Does anyone need to be told that fruit is wheat and soy free? I’m not sure this author knows anything about jackfruit.

    • Andrew Neff

      That is too much sugar for me.

  • Michelle Anderson

    Ripe Jackfruit smells good and tastes like bubblegum. It’s my second favorite fruit. I haven’t seen it available stateside which is surprising, (I think) it travels well and is delicious. It grows well in dry conditions so maybe they will start to grow it in California? Possibly the author has never had fresh jackfruit?

    • Kameka Stephenson

      It can be found in supermarkets like Numero Uno, Buy Low and Superior

  • Matthew Kenney

    It’s almost as if you just read some bad wiki information and wrote an entire article on it.

    Jackfruit smells like jolly rancher candy, it’s also most excellent in foods, I love it as a second ferment in my kombucha.

    Do yourself a favor and find a better source of information before writing another article

    • Debbie

      Thank you. I almost that she was talking about another fruit.

  • Debbie

    Not sure you know jackfruit. I am Jamaican and I grew up on that stuff. It doesn’t have a “stench”. The ripened fruit smells more like pineapple. It’s sweet and juicy but can be very sticky or what we call “stainy”, because it causes your fingers to stick together. I never had it unripen so I might give it a try. I will definitely ask the elders in my family about it been eaten “green” or unripened.

  • Elena Zaygolysheva

    I compared nutritions with banana and in fact banana had less calories and more dietary fiber that jackfruit. 1,7 g of protein in 100 g I don’t think it is a lot . It is easy to buy where I live . So I bought it after your advice. And then when I doubled my daily sugar intake just by eating a cup of jackfruit I actually look closer to its nutrition.

  • Kim Pennebaker

    The seeds of the jackfruit are delicious when boiled or roasted. I prefer boiled as they remind me of boiled peanuts.

  • CEN

    Loaded with sugar 31 grams in one cup!

  • Thomas Szymanski

    Soooo the fresh jackfruit I’ve had in Uganda didn’t smell bad, and it tasted like Starbursts! A whole group of us agreed. Delicious! 🙂

  • spababy

    Clearly the author of this article doesn’t know what a jackfruit is. It does NOT smell like rotting onions. That is durian. Jackfruit has a very sweet smell. I don’t care for it, but this article is so off. They’re all over the Caribbean.

  • Sunil

    Its seed is also edible. Quite delicious.

    • Mindi Chaudhry

      How are the seeds prepared? Can they be salted and roasted in an oven?

      • Lee

        I’ve had them cooked but I see no reason why they couldn’t be done in the oven as well.

  • Colleen Darling

    So bizarre. I just bought some today from Giant in Maryland.

  • Jeannette

    I am from the Caribbean Islands and I do not recall this having a smell either. Actually was a staple in our diets. I agree that the author is not familiar with this product.

  • Kameka Stephenson

    I got excited to read the article when I saw Jackfruit. I am a Jamaican with a Jackfruit tree still in my back yard to this day. It does not have the smell that you are describing. What it does have is stain, which a little cooking oil can cure. Getting can Jackfruit is not a good recommendation. It is very salt and as a bland taste. In California you can also get it at a Latino Market. My recommendation to the writer is to get the real thing when it’s in season and try it.

  • Paul

    Canned jackfruit is also sold all over the country at Trader Joe’s. Combine it with a vegan BBQ sauce and you have something very close to pulled pork – only vegan.

  • Angela Smith Frame

    It’s SO weird that I just text my friend a pick of my Uptons BBQ this morning then I get this email from My Fitness Pal!

  • Hugo Roger

    I dont think she has ever eaten the fruit lol… I’m from Brazil and we eat this all the time.. its a delicious fruit, sweet and with an amazing aroma. I would never replace PORK with this haha.. this is the weirdest thing evert… she also forgot to mention the importance of the nuts and how they can be cooked and treated as a delicious salty snack.

  • jorge_cima

    Am convinced that, with all due respect, the author does not know jack about this fruit. First, it is fairly common in Florida, Puerto Rico and the V. Islands. Almost certain it can also grow in Southern Cal. When ripe, it is a delicious fruit, some varieties of course are better than others. The fruit is tricky as far as its “ready for harvesting” ripeness and you must time it accurately. Too soon and it will not get ripe, too late and it is likely to become a rotten mess. The smell of the fruit is “fruity” (first indication of the fruit being ready to be cut open is the fruity smell), unlike that of the Durian which it does smell like rotten onions mixed with dirty socks. There are many varieties (cultivars) of jackfruit available in South Florida, my favorite is the orange colored variety.

  • Patti Lee

    How high in fructose is jackfruit? A concern for me

  • Bernice Baird-Browning

    OMG !!! my girlfriends and i purchased a Jackfruit on our last trip to Kaui. .in 2014
    No one knew what to do with it and we finally cut into the fruit and it was so sticky that the knife would not come out of the fruit Wish someone could have helped us with this exotic fruit.
    Elves from PV and San Pedro/

  • Rowe

    Research research research before writing an article with the intent to educate. You wrote about a fruit you have never seen, obviously don’t know what it taste like, making reference to two different fruits, equates the smell to rotten onions. Just simply poor work. This is the true definition of “fake news “….try and use your platform more wisely cause you’re looking so silly with this long crazy article you wrote stack with “rotten egg “.

  • Dani Rod

    I agree with everyone from the islands in regard to jackfruit’s smell. What jackfruit have you been eating? It smells great and the taste isn’t bland. I take offense when people start jumping on a ban wagon about something that isn’t even new and give their incorrect advice on it. The only thing I agree with this article is the different ways to eat it.

  • bob

    Jackfruit is wheat free and soy free? really? duh!

  • bob

    Jackfruit is wheat free AND soy free? Really? duh.

  • Yvette So Hallman

    There are lots of jackfruit in the Philippines! Unripe jackfruit can be cooked with coconut milk and hot peppers poured over white rice. It is so yummy! Ripe jackfruit can be eaten as is – the meat is sweet. The seeds can be cooked as well and eaten. It could also be made into desserts or added to a smoothie we call “halo-halo”. I love jackfruit. Here in the States, I can only find them canned.

  • Mary

    I agree there is no stench, jeffry is being used as a substitute I had it several times and it does make it interesting substitute for barbecued pulled pork. Sprouts carries it as well as Trader Joe’s already prepared and spiced.

  • Mary

    I agree there is no stench, but the article is correct that jackfruit is being used as a meat substitute. I have had it several times and it does make it interesting substitute for barbecued pulled pork. Sprouts carries it, as well as Trader Joe’s already prepared and spiced.

  • bo58

    When we were in Uganda, we were introduced to jackfruit. The locals loved it and sat down immediately with a very large knife and offered us some. They loved it and so did everyone who ate it. No smell. And we were sitting on the ground, chopping it up and eating it right there. Maybe there is more than one type?

  • Stephanie Dacres

    I think the author should get facts right before attempting to write an article about something they clearly know nothing about. Heck wiki has better info! I grew up in Jamaica. Eat the green fruit at your own peril! It has to be ripened and it certainly does not smell like onions! The fruit has to be pegged and washed and soaked in mild salt water before eating.

  • J

    Ripe and good jackfruit has a sweet smell to it. Also real ripe jackfruit (harder to find than the ones picked too green) tastes like a cross between a ripe mango, banana and pineapple.

    It is actually very delicious. You just need to know how to pick them. The riper it is the stronger the smell, but I would never say rotten onion. The pictures show ones that are not ripe.

  • J

    That’s what I thought too.

  • Cheryl Johnson

    Thanks everyone for the real deal on Jack Fruit…it really helps