With the rise of plant-based alternatives comes a wealth of inspiration- And misinformation. Jackfruit has been embraced as the meat of the jungle, fulfilling that role with varying degrees of success. For every incredible pulled “pork” sandwich, there’s another platter of stringy, unidentifiable BBQ going untouched at the neighborhood cookout. If you don’t know jack about jackfruit, you’re not alone.
How To Buy Jackfruit
For the sake of savory recipes, you want to by young green (unripe) jackfruit, canned and packed in brine, not in syrup and not fresh. Fresh jackfruit is indeed sweet, as the name would imply, often enjoyed in smoothies, ice cream, pudding, and other desserts. The texture is also smooth and almost bouncy, somewhat like lychees. While delicious, this isn’t the best way to replicate a meaty experience, to say nothing of the difficulty prepping a whole jackfruit, which can weigh up to 100 pounds.
Immature jackfruit is now sometimes packaged in pouches too, sometimes sold refrigerated or alongside shelf stable meat substitutes. Aside from having less liquid, the differences are immaterial.
How To Cook With Jackfruit
Most cooks go wrong right in the beginning. Some brands have jackfruit that’s already broken down to a texture that’s “usable” right out of the package, but that doesn’t mean you should. More often than not, it’s still very tough, tinged with the residual taste of the metal can.
- For the best experience with jackfruit, take it to the stove first. After thoroughly draining the brine, add fresh water to cover and bring it to a boil. If it’s already fairly tender, you can then immediately drain and get to work. For tougher chunks of jackfruit (as seen above), give it up to 20 minutes, until it falls apart readily when prodded.
- Flavor your water to infuse the jackfruit with a meatier taste right off the bat. Add a cube of vegan bouillon flavored like chicken, beef, or pork, depending on your desired output. For general umami, mushroom stock and/or shiitake powder is always a solid choice.
- Use a potato masher for the best shredded texture. No one wants a big chunk of miscellaneous gristle in their meat; consider the same rule for plant-based products. If it’s not soft enough to mash, it’s not cooked enough to use.
Jackfruit Is Only As Flavorful As Its Sauce
Like tofu, young jackfruit is downright bland until you season it. That’s why you need to go heavy on your spices and sauces, but don’t rely on packaged solutions alone. The biggest problem I find with most pulled pork facsimiles is the cooks use prepared BBQ sauce right out of the bottle and call it a day. Add smoke, add fresh garlic, add a bit of fat, please! Put it back over the fire to give it more nuanced texture, crisping the edges for a chewier bite. You can saute it, air fry it, bake it, roast it, grill it; anything! Don’t just pretend like it’s a complete gourmet meal without putting in some work.
Jackfruit Nutrition Notes
Here’s the rub: jackfruit is not a great source of protein. Don’t call it an “alternative protein” because it’s simply not an accurate assessment. You’d get more protein eating raw broccoli. Jackfruit does have plenty of nutritional benefits to offer, though!
- Good source of potassium and Vitamin C. Feed your skin and bones with these key “beauty” vitamins.
- Cholesterol-free. An automatic advantage of swapping animal products for plants is instantly cutting cholesterol out of the picture. For anyone worried about heart health, this is one easy step that can make a big difference.
- Good source of fiber. Stay regular! Don’t forget that a healthy digestive system (AKA your microbiome) also contributes to a healthy immune system too.
Jackfruit does have an impressive amount of protein compared to many other fruits, like apples and mangoes, but it shouldn’t be considered the place to get your gains. Add other protein sources to your meal, such as tofu, beans, nuts, and seeds for a healthy balance.
What Should You Make With Jackfruit Next?
There’s no shortage of inspiration for jackfruit recipes spanning all cultures and cuisines. Today, I’d like to present a very simple introduction to the meatless beast, treating it like chicken salad, but taking away the sometimes divisive mayonnaise component.
Tossing the savory shreds instead with a light dressing of olive oil and fresh herbs, it’s a bright and simple lunchtime staple. The crisp crunch of celery adds textural contrast that holds up well over time, even when prepped ahead and stashed in a lunchbox to eat on the go. Best of all, without the overbearing creaminess of conventional chicken salad, you’re free to top it with gooey dairy-free cheese and make an excellent chicken salad melt. Crisp toasted bread holds the whole assembly together in an unfussy, unpretentious package that everyone can get behind.
Jackfruit isn’t so scary when you break down the basics. Here’s an easy way to master the art of jackfruit cookery without fail.
Jackfruit Chicken Salad:
- 1 (20 Ounce) Can Young Green Jackfruit in Brine, Drained
- 1/2 Cup Water
- 1 Cube Vegan Chicken Bouillon
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
- 1 Tablespoon Finely Diced Pickles or Relish
- 2 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard
- 1/2 Cup Finely Diced Celery
- 2 Scallions, Thinly Sliced
- 2 Tablespoons Fresh Dill, Minced
- 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
- 6 Slices White Sandwich Bread
- 6 Slices Vegan Cheese
- Place the drained jackfruit in a small saucepan along with the water and vegan bouillon. Set over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed and/or evaporated.
- Take a potato masher and roughly mash the jackfruit to reach the consistency of coarse shreds. Transfer to a medium bowl and let cool.
- Once cooled, add the olive oil, lemon juice, pickles, mustard, celery, scallions, dill, pepper, and salt. Stir thoroughly to incorporate.
- You could stop here and eat a lovely jackfruit salad, or continue on to make the sandwich melts.
- For each melt, lay out one slice of bread and top with 1/3rd of the jackfruit chicken salad. Place two slices of vegan cheese on top, and cover with a second slice of bread. Grill in a lightly greased skillet for 3 - 5 minutes on each side, until the bread is toasted and cheese is gooey. Serve hot.
To make this recipe gluten-free, use your favorite gluten-free bread.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 454Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1198mgCarbohydrates: 61gFiber: 3gSugar: 29gProtein: 14g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.