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Is Jackfruit the Next Big Meat Alternative?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Move over, mango, there's a new exotic fruit in town. Okay, so it's not exactly new—the jackfruit has been around for centuries—but it is seeing a recent surge of popularity. With its prickly exterior and generous dimensions (it carries the distinction of being the largest tree fruit), this relative of the fig might not win a beauty pageant any time soon.However, its sweet, starchy flesh is growing in demand as an unlikely meat alternative. Should you make room in your meal plan for jackfruit, or does the hype outweigh the benefits?

In its native South and Southeast Asian countries, jackfruit is a daily delicacy, consumed both on its own and in recipes. The ripened fruit is used in everything from cakes and custards to dried chips; in its unripe state, it's often cooked in curries.  In the United States, jackfruit can be found in both canned and fresh formats, and some companies are capitalizing on the trend by offering prepared jackfruit in various flavors.

"People are on the hunt for new, trendy, exotic produce options, especially as many move toward a more plant-based diet," says SparkPeople dietitian Becky Hand. She also attributes the fruit's growing demand to its versatility—the unripe version brings a savory flavor to entrée dishes, while the sweet, ripe version can be enjoyed on its own or in fruit salads, smoothies and desserts.

How Healthy Is Jackfruit?

According to Hand, the jackfruit’s nutritional profile is similar to that of other fruits. Soy-free and gluten-free, it's a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and fiber. A one-cup portion contains about 157 calories.

So how does it measure up to meat? Unripe jackfruit has a dense, hearty texture, which some compare to pulled pork or chicken. As Hand points out, it does a good job of taking on the flavors of spices and marinades, and works well with seasonings like barbeque, teriyaki, jerk and curry.

Although jackfruit may work well as a meat substitute in terms of taste and texture, Hand warns that its comes up short in protein content. "Jackfruit contains only 2.8 grams of protein in a one-cup portion, and you should get at least 20 grams in a complete meal," she says. "Make sure you get a protein boost from other foods, like beans, tofu, nuts, seeds, quinoa, dairy products and eggs."

How to Buy, Prepare & Enjoy Jackfruit

You can purchase jackfruit whole, pre-sliced or packaged. If you can't find it at your regular grocer, check a local farmer's market or organic foods store. In addition to the flesh, its seeds can also be roasted or boiled as a vitamin-rich snack.

"If you’re trying to follow a savory recipe that calls for jackfruit, make sure to use the young, unripe fruit and not the mature fruit, which is often sold in cans with syrup or the fresh produce section," recommends Dan Staackmann, founder of Upton's Naturals.

Ready to see what all the fuss is about, but not sure where to start? Check out these tasty jackfruit recipe ideas, from crab cakes to pulled pork tacos to BBQ pizza.

Have you tried jackfruit, or would you like to? Share your favorite ways to enjoy this trendy meat alternative.

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I'm sorry, but to me, this stuff smells like old gym socks! Went to a local market where the proprietor cut one open and offered it to the crowd...I can't bring myself to try it!! Report
YAY for jackfruit! First and only time I've enjoyed it was when I was in the jungles of Hawai'i. The massive fruit was perfectly ripened with a surprisingly bubblegum pink and tasted like Juicy Fruit (we were told it's where Wrigley gets its flavor for their gum). The texture was soft and slippery in its raw state was absolutly delicious. Aloha! Report
I have only seen Jackfruit during my travels to Uganda and these fruit grow on trees and are the size (if not larger) than watermelons! They are HUGE! And the "seeds" are like white stones ! LOL I didn't care for the texture of the fruit as it was a bit too waxy for me...but I am sure I could have come to enjoy it in time...I don't think I will try them cooked or as a meat substitute but maybe someone will like it! Report
I don't understand the ire over this article. There are people who are unfamiliar with this particular fruit...and since the author seemed to be pointing out the "trend," it seems warranted to advise people new to this idea of using jackfruit as a meat substitute to be aware of the fact that it doesn't have the levels of protein of meat. This may not be news to people who eat a plant-based diet, but it's probably news to those who don't.

I'd love to try it in its ripened state, but not so much as a meat substitute. Report
Welcome to a hundred years ago, Sparkpeople blog. Seriously, jackfruit has been a thing for mock pulled pork for ages. This isn't new news to anyone who eats a plant based diet. Also I can not BELIEVE that someone who even knows how to use jackfruit in this context would worry about getting "enough" protein, when a much larger problem with the SAD is getting way, way too much protein. Sure, a cup of jackfruit only has 3 grams. But so does the bread you put it on. You have vegetable toppings on that? Probably another gram or two there. Is it in a tomato based sauce? Oh look, a couple MORE grams of protein. Do you have a side of any kind with your jackfruit pulled pork sandwich? There's probably a few more. Protein adds up easily and quickly, and in no way do you require tofu, meat, eggs, or dairy to get there. DRA's for protein are massively inflated for the body's needs. I know if you bring it up at all, as a dietician, you have to stick with the DRA's and recommend the DRA's, because that's how you stay certified. But if you eat a plant based diet, you should know better, so why bring the protein up at all? Report
Some suggestions on how to tell if a jackfruit is ripe would be a helpful addition to this article. Never had it before, but I'm certainly intrigued. I just hope it's something that handles being shipped well in comparison to some other fruits like papaya (papaya is just terrible if it's been shipped a long distance - just does not ripen right.) Report
I hope it becomes available where I live, it is somewhat of a hit and miss place when it comes to vegetarian/vegan alternatives. The most reliable source in my area is beans. Report
I have made pulled "pork" with unripe jackfruit, it's perfect. Report
Tried it, family was not amused, and certainly would not consider it a meat replacement of any kind at all. Report
I made a jackfruit pulled "pork" sandwhich, it was delicious. I was wondering about the protein content, thanks for pointing that out. You can actually cook the seeds up like beans or roast them like nuts and eat those too, that is where the protein is going to be! I like the seeds cooked as beans. Report
If only we could obtain Jackfruit in Australia's southern states... To think that all the years I'd lived up in Darwin, N.T., with Jackfruit ripening on trees and dropping, unwanted on the ground, only to feed the birds, really makes me want those wonderful years back again. Jackfruit would definitely be a regular on my menu! Report
If only we could obtain Jackfruit in Australia's southern states... To think that all the years I'd lived up in Darwin, N.T., with Jackfruit ripening on trees and dropping, unwanted on the ground, only to feed the birds, really makes me want those wonderful years back again. Jackfruit would definitely be a regular on my menu! Report
Love Jackfruit, and I am lucky enough to have year round access to fresh ones. Report
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