If you’ve dipped your toes into plant-based eating, you’re probably familiar with meat substitutes such as lentils, beans, tofu, tempeh, and seitan. They each tend to shine in different recipes — beans and lentils lend themselves well to veggie burgers, for instance, and tofu shines in stir-fries. But when you’re trying to replicate the texture of pulled pork or another shredded meat, jackfruit reigns supreme.
What Is Jackfruit?
Jackfruit is a tropical tree fruit usually grown in Asia, Africa, or South America, per the Cleveland Clinic.
As an ingredient, jackfruit can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, but people typically use it as a meat substitute. Jackfruit tends to take on the flavors of the spices and sauces you cook it with. “Its texture, similar to that of shredded meat, makes it a good meat substitute for the vegetarian and vegan population,” says Kristin Gillespie, RDN, a Virginia Beach–based nutrition support dietitian for Option Care Health and an advisor for Exercise With Style.
You can find different versions of jackfruit at the grocery store. “The ‘meat’ of the fruit is available in fresh, canned, or dried versions,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, the New York City–based author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You From Label to Table.
Some Notes on Cooking With Jackfruit
Replacing meat with plants offers several health benefits. When compared to conventional diets, plant-based diets have a positive effect on weight, metabolism, and inflammation, according to a September 2019 systematic review published in the journal Translational Psychiatry. People who follow a healthy plant-based diet tend to eat higher amounts of nutrient-rich foods, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes, according to an August 2019 research article published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. These foods are rich in potassium, magnesium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate, and they’re lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than the foods typically found in a meat eater’s diet. Per the 2019 research article, plant-based diets have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular disease mortality, and mortality in general. They may also lower body mass index, blood pressure, HbA1C levels, and cholesterol levels, according to other past research.
Just keep in mind that jackfruit doesn’t have as much protein as meat. “Three and a half ounces of jackfruit supplies 1.7 grams (g) of protein, whereas animal protein like fish or poultry gives about 21 g for a similar portion size,” Taub-Dix says. “Unlike animal protein, however, jackfruit has no cholesterol or saturated fat.”
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Jackfruit is also mainly carbohydrate-based, so keep that in mind if you’re trying to lose weight. “Since jackfruit contains nearly 40 g of carbs per cup, you’ll want to watch your portion size and the foods you pair with the fruit,” says Kelsey Lorencz, RDN, with Graciously Nourished in Saginaw, Michigan.
You might be intimidated by the look of this giant, prickly fruit, but it’s a worthy addition to your plant-based diet. These 10 recipes will make you want to give jackfruit a try.