Jackfruit – What it is and how to eat the fruit

Jackfruit is a tropical fruit, originating from southern India and the Malaysian rainforests. It is the largest of all tree fruits, as it can weigh over 100 pounds (over 50 kg) each.

The name comes from the Indian name for it, chakka pazham, which was rendered as jaca by the Portuguese explorers. It is actually part of the fig, mulberry, and breadfruit family.

There are many different varieties of jackfruit, with names as colorful as Black Gold, Cheena, Golden Nugget, Red Bartlett, Cochin, and Golden Pillow. Cultivation has been found to date back to 1000-4000 BC.

What does Jackfruit look like?

The nubby green exterior gives way to a yellowish cream-colored interior with a crunchy, stringy flesh. Its flesh looks similar to kernels of corn because the jackfruit is a multiple fruit, made up of thousands of fleshy flower petals.

The jackfruit is similar to the durian, and both are often prohibited in public places in Southeast Asia, due to the strong smell they can let off. A durian, however, has a spikier skin, while the jackfruit’s skin is pebbly.

Jackfruit appearance
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How do you eat jackfruit?

There are many ways to eat jackfruit. To break it down and eat the fruit fresh, you will need to coat your hands and knife in oil. It is quite the endeavor, but it’s worth it as the fresh fruit is quite different than the canned.

Cut the fruit in half and then in fourths. Trim the white core off and pull out the segmented pieces of flesh, and remove the seed from inside. If working with the sweet variety, you can eat it the fleshy pods fresh, although it is very common to boil both varieties for 30-45 minutes and eat the cooked jackfruit. Breaking down the fruit can be quite difficult, as it releases a lot of sticky sap.

Unripe jackfruit has a mild flavor and meat-like texture and is used in curry dishes with spices in many cuisines. It goes by the name green, young, or tender on labels. Moreover, you can also find it canned, frozen, made into noodles, chips, or packed in sugary syrup.

The seeds are edible as well, but it is recommended to cook or roast them before eating for better taste.

How to eat Jackfruit
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What does jackfruit taste like?

Fresh, ripe jackfruit tastes like a cross between apple and mango, or pineapple and banana. Hard jackfruit is crunchy and not overly sweet, while the soft variety has a darker, golden flesh and is very moist and sweet. Some describe it as tasting just like Juicy Fruit gum.

Jackfruit is eaten both unripe and ripe. When eaten unripe, the fruit is not particularly sweet and has a texture that lends it to use as a meat substitute. However, Ripe jackfruit is sweeter, moister, and often used in desserts. The under-ripe jackfruit takes on spices when you cook with it, and the texture becomes very similar to pulled pork.

Jackfruit is known for its versatility. It is frequently used for cooking, especially the hard variety. It is commonly used in many dishes from Asian and Indian cuisine. For example, Jackfruit curry is a common dish in various countries, including Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India.

In Vietnam, it is a popular filling for pastries and the main ingredient of a sweet dessert soup. Jackfruit’s meat-like consistency when cooked makes it an ideal meat substitute for vegetarians and vegans.

Jackfruit curry
Photo: sarun_J/Shutterstock

When is jackfruit in season?

Depending on where the trees are growing, jackfruit season ranges from March to September. Some off-season trees are also cultivated from September to December.

Benefits of jackfruit

It packs a complete lineup of vitamins and minerals.

The fruit has a broad nutritional profile, containing vitamins A and C, riboflavin, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese, as well as loads of antioxidants.

It may be beneficial for blood sugar levels

Jackfruit’s low glycemic index makes it a great fruit choice. It prevents blood sugar spikes, thanks to the fiber and protein it has.

It may protect against disease

The antioxidants found in jackfruit help to protect your cells from inflammation and free radicals, meaning that you stay healthier and may be less likely to get sick.

Jackfruit can serve as a healthy meat substitute

The unique texture makes it ideal, once cooked, as a meat substitute. That means you can get the same eating experience but without the negative health effects that red meat and other meats can have.

Jackfruit pods
Photo: Sandiwild/Shutterstock

5 x Jackfruit facts

  1. The jackfruit is the national fruit of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
  2. Jackfruit tree wood has many uses. In India, during Hindu ceremonies, a wooden plank made from the tree is used as the priest’s chair. In Vietnam, it is used to make Buddhist statues for temples. The wood is also used to make a dye, used to color the Buddhist monk’s robes.
  3. One tree can produce up to three tons of Jackfruit per year.
  4. The fruit belongs to a category of food called a ‘future food’, because of how easy it is to grow and how versatile and nutritious it is. Many think it could potentially solve the problem of world hunger.
  5. It is a natural source of latex, so those with an allergy should beware when handling it or dining in Asia.

Jackfruit Nutrition Value

This is the nutrition value per one cup of Jackfruit. It is packed with nutrients and essential vitamins and minerals. 

  • Calories: 155
  • Carbs: 40 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Protein: 3 grams
  • Vitamin A: 10% of the RDI
  • Vitamin C: 18% of the RDI
  • Riboflavin: 11% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 15% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 14% of the RDI
  • Copper: 15% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 16% of the RDI

Frequently asked questions

Does jackfruit smell bad?

When it’s very ripe, it does let off an odor that some find offensive and nauseous. The flesh is notorious along with the durian for the sickly sweet smell when ripe, which is why the fruit is banned in some places. 

Are the seeds of jackfruit edible?

The seeds are often discarded, but they contain lots of nutrients and are edible. They typically taste better if they are roasted. 

Are jackfruit and breadfruit the same?

Breadfruit originally comes from the breadnut and belongs to the same family as Jackfruit. However, the breadfruit is native to New Guinea, Maluku Islands, and the Philippines.

They have a similar appearance on the inside as well as the outside as the two fruits are closely related. Breadfruit typically weighs between 0.25 to 6 kilos, so it’s smaller in size and weight. 

Is Jackfruit bad for humans?

Generally speaking, it’s a very nutritious fruit that is typically safe to consume for the average human. However, some people might be allergic to Jackfruit, especially those who are allergic to birch pollen.

Additionally, consuming the fruit might lower blood sugar levels, so those who have diabetes may need to take precautions. 

How big do jackfruit trees grow?

The trees can grow as tall as 70 feet (21 meters) and they are characterized by their large and oval leaves with straight and regal trunks. There is also the possibility of growing the trees indoor, although they might not bear any fruit and likely grow at a slower pace. 

Will jackfruit continue to ripen after it is cut?

The fruit will continue to ripen if you leave it on the counter. When ripe, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 7 days or 2 months in a freezer in an airtight container. Additionally, keeping the fruit in the fridge will make it ripe at a slower pace. 

Why is jackfruit used as a meat substitute?

It is primarily used as a substitute for meat due to its texture rather than it’s actual protein content. The fruit mimics the texture of meat when cooked, which makes it a great meat substitute as it grows in abundance in tropical regions. 

Can you get jackfruit in the US?

It is typically available in larger supermarkets across the country. Previously it was a canned product only, but in recent years, fresh fruits have been imported from tropical regions. 

Have you tried Jackfruit? Share your experience in the comment section below!

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