It seems like we’re constantly obsessing over a new ‘superfood’—and right now the one everyone’s talking about is the jackfruit, a ginormous, unique fruit that makes for a mean pulled pork substitute and packs plenty of nutrients. Intrigued yet? Here are all the details you didn’t know you needed to know about jackfruit—and a few tips for taking advantage of this trendy food.
What the Heck is a Jackfruit?
Native to Southeast Asia, jackfruit is the largest tree fruit in the world. Seriously, this isn’t a fruit you’ll casually carry home from the supermarket. According to Purdue University, jackfruits can weigh anywhere from 10 to 100 pounds and grow up to three feet long. Beneath its bumpy green exterior are bulbs of yellow flesh, each with a large seed inside.
You’ll find jackfruit in specialty health or ethnic food stores in the U.S., and they’re all over markets in places like India and Bangladesh. You can find them fresh, canned, or dried. (Other parts of the plant have been used for clothing dye, animal feed, building material, and glue in these parts of the world, too.) Jackfruit is stealing the spotlight right now because it’s easier to grow and maintain than some other staple crops (like wheat and corn) and thrives in a more tropical climate—a plus for environmentalists concerned about climate change and food sustainability.
The meat of the fruit has a subtle, sweet taste and contains vitamin C ,as well as B vitamins like niacin, riboflavin, folic acid, and B6. (Good luck finding another fruit that contains as many B vitamins!) On top of that, its seeds contain protein, potassium, calcium, and iron. A serving of jackfruit (about 3.5 ounces or 100 grams) is about 95 calories, with 25 grams of carbs, two grams of protein, 21 grams of sugar, and a gram of fiber.
How Exactly Does One Eat A Jackfruit?
Sure, it’s a fruit, but because of its mild flavor it’s a total chameleon on the plate. Sweet, savory, main dish, or dessert, the versatile jackfruit can do it. It’s a blank canvas, ready to soak up the flavor of other foods and spices paired with it—much like tofu!
The jackfruit use you may have heard about in the U.S. is an unexpected one: vegan pulled pork. The stringy texture of the fruit’s flesh makes a good stand in for meat (just keep in mind that it’s not nutritionally equivalent to an animal protein) or even some other plant-based protein sources. A serving of jackfruit contains just about two grams of protein, while an equal serving of animal protein—like fish or poultry—packs 21 grams. So don’t count on jackfruit to be a main source of protein in your meal! On the flipside, one perk of substituting jackfruit for meat is that it doesn’t contain any cholesterol or saturated fat.
Related: How Much Protein Do You Really Need?
You can enjoy plain jackfruit as a snack, blend the flesh into a smoothie, slice and bake it into chips, freeze and puree it into ‘nice cream,’ or even bake with flour made from its seeds. You can also add chunks of the fruit to your next stir fry or curry dish, just as you would add tofu or a veggie! It’s a great way to add volume to your food and really help you feel full, while gaining nutrients without a lot of extra calories.
Try the trend on for size with this BBQ jackfruit recipe from The Minimalist Baker. All you need are two cans of young green jackfruit, barbecue sauce, and a few extra seasonings like paprika, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and chili powder. To bump up the protein, I’d pair this with a serving of your favorite beans (black beans provide six grams of protein per half cup) or sautéed tofu (about seven grams in three ounces).
Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Women’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award.