What Is Jackfruit and How Do You Eat It?

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While jackfruit is a common sight throughout Asia, here in the West, jackfruit is still largely unknown. It is, however, available in many Asian markets and specialty stores. Read on to find out more about this mysterious fruit, including how to cook with it.

Jackfruit Characteristics

Enormous and prickly on the outside, jackfruit looks somewhat like durian (although jackfruit is usually even larger).

Once a jackfruit is cracked open, what you will find inside are pods or "bulbs." Often referred to as the seeds, these bulbs are actually a kind of fleshy covering for the true seeds or pits, which are round and dark like chestnuts.

The fleshy part (the "bulb") can be eaten as is or cut up and cooked. When unripe (green), it is remarkably similar in texture to chicken, making jackfruit an excellent vegetarian substitute for meat. In fact, canned jackfruit (in brine) is sometimes referred to as "vegetable meat."

Where to Purchase Jackfruit

Jackfruit can be purchased fresh in specialty markets, frozen, dried, or canned either in brine (usually unripe) or in syrup (ripe and sweet). If using fresh jackfruit, it's a good idea to oil your knife and hands first before cutting, as the fruit is very sticky.

How to Clean and Cook Jackfruit

These jackfruit tips will describe in detail how to cut a jackfruit open to get at the flesh. Jackfruit seeds (nuts) can be roasted like chestnuts, or boiled. If left to cook inside the flesh (for example, in curries or other cooked dishes), the nut softens and can easily be eaten.

Health Benefits of Jackfruit 

Jackfruit contains many vitamins and minerals and offers numerous health benefits. The fruit's isoflavones, antioxidants, and phytonutrients mean that jackfruit has cancer-fighting properties. It is also known to help cure ulcers and indigestion.

Jackfruit Recipes

If you're ready to try preparing jackfruit, try this vegetarian Thai jackfruit curry recipe.

In fact, replace any protein in a recipe, especially those calling for chicken, with jackfruit as in these: Thai vegetarian green curry (add jackfruit in place of tofu), vegetarian Thai yellow curry (add jackfruit instead of chickpeas). 

Or add it to Thai salads or Western-type salads, wherever chicken would be used. Here is a great recipe for vegetarian pulled pork sandwiches using jackfruit in place of pork.