Nov 29, 2019

Veganism has rapidly risen as a food trend this past year and with it comes the incessant search for plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy. One produce that Western-based brands like Pizza Express, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, and Waitrose are now utilizing is jackfruit. Known in Los Angeles and London in its more popular pulled “pork” form, jackfruit is now becoming a staple for those who want to begin their plant-based diet without letting go of the taste of their meat-based favorites. 

Southeast and South Asian countries have been using jackfruit throughout history. Many countries refer to it as a superfruit, due to its large size, numerous uses in different industries, and the many nutrients and health benefits it can offer. In India, jackfruit’s country of origin, the fruit can grow to as heavy as 55 kilograms and 50 centimeters in diameter. Its size is incredibly advantageous in India as every inch of the jackfruit is utilized to make chips, jams, curry pastes, cakes, samosas, and even ice cream. The bark of the jackfruit tree has also been used to create houses and furniture, while its spiky shell is used to thicken cattle feed. 

The jackfruit is native to India and is known for many of its uses. Photo by Vinod Kumar on Unsplash

Thailand also has its own spin on the jackfruit. Seeds from the fruit are roasted and made into simple snacks. Jackfruit syrup is also made into honey or into its popular drink variant: jackfruit honey tea. Bangladesh hails the jackfruit as its national fruit and is enjoyed by many natives with rice and milk. In the Philippines, jackfruit is commonly referred to as langka, a popular addition to turon and halo-halo. On its own, it can be made into a viand: ginataang langka, where young jackfruit is cooked in coconut milk and chili peppers.

Western countries know it primarily as a meat substitute because of the fruit’s ability to mimic the taste of whatever broth or sauce it is marinated in. Pulled pork recipes are the jackfruit’s claim to fame in the West. From there, companies and chefs have begun exploring jackfruit to replace meat for common dishes. Unripe jackfruit is usually used for tacos, barbeques, pot pies, and rice bowls. 

Ripe jackfruits are also made into desserts like moist cakes, fruit tarts, and even smoothies. Companies like The Jackfruit Company and Uptons Naturals also offer pre-packed, pre-seasoned, or pre-cooked options. Filipino diners can also enjoy packed jackfruit through meal prep and meal delivery brands like Jackfruit Nuggets from The Real Happy Cow. 

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Still, there is so much more to explore about jackfruit, especially for foodies, home cooks, and restaurateurs in the West, who bring new perspectives on preparing, cooking, and eating the fruit. 

Its high nutritional content also helps a lot in its marketing as the future of vegan meat-alternatives. It’s very low in glucose, making it a good option for diabetics, as well as in calories. 

Despite the recent boom, jackfruit still has a long way to go before becoming a meat replacement staple like tofu or tempeh. Still, Annie Ryu, CEO of The Jackfruit Company, a company that seeks to replace the world’s meat consumption with jackfruit while simultaneously helping Indian farmers earn a living, is hopeful that jackfruit will better satisfy the plant-based diet market, as well as the people who are interested in reducing their carbon footprint and meat consumption.


Header photo courtesy of Nadine Primeau on Unsplash

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TAGS: jackfruit meat-free plant-based Vegan