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What is jackfruit? The vegan meat alternative you need to try

The giant, spiky fruit is often used as a meat substitute 

Sarah Jones
Thursday 03 January 2019 20:30 GMT

With 3.5 million people now identifying as vegan or vegetarian in the UK, supermarkets are offering an increasing range of traditional meat substitutes from tofu to Quorn and wheat gluten-based seitan.

Now though, a new healthy meat replacement looks set to rival those that came before it and dominate the vegan food scene; the jackfruit.

You’ve probably heard the name before, or even seen the large, green and spiky fruit in the grocery store, but what exactly is it and why do vegans love it so much?

Here’s everything you need to know.

What is jackfruit?

Otherwise known as a “pauper’s fruit”, jackfruit is a relative of the fig, mulberry and breadfruit family.

The plant originated in southwest India, where it grows abundantly, and can also be found in the East Indies, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

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The largest tree-borne fruit in the world, the jackfruit can weigh up to 100 pounds and grow up to three feet long.

It has a green, spiky exterior while the interior is made up of many pale-yellow bulbs, which are edible. The seeds can also be cooked, eaten on their own, or ground into flour.

What does it taste like?

The bulbous fruit can be used for both sweet and savoury dishes, depending on its ripeness.

When eaten raw, jackfruit is sweet and has a similar taste to pineapple, mango and banana.

However, when it’s unripe, it has a fairly neutral taste, so it can easily take on the flavour of whatever sauce or seasoning you pair it with.

How should you eat it?

Jackfruit has a stringy consistency which is why many people use it to create plant-based versions of shredded chicken, pulled pork, or other meat-based meals.

If you want to use it as a meat alternative, you can find young, unripe jackfruit canned and in pouches in the refrigerated section of most supermarkets. This is the type that is typically used to create everything from tacos and burritos, to curries and stir-fries. See our recipe for pulled barbecue jackfruit and avocado salsa here.

You can also eat ripe jackfruit as it is, or as part of a dessert.

Where can you buy it?

Due to its growing popularity, jackfruit is available in most supermarkets.

In fact, Waitrose recently launched a £3.19 vegetarian jackfruit biryani and £4.79 vegan hoisin jackfruit parcels, as well as selling canned pieces of the fruit in brine.

Similarly, Sainsbury’s has its own-brand sweet and smoky pulled jackfruit which you can buy for £3.

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If you want to give it a try but don’t fancy cooking it yourself, the good news is that more and more restaurants are offering jackfruit on their menus now too.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen now offers a ‘Jack in a Bun’ jackfruit burger, while Pizza Express also uses the fruit on its vegan Puttanesca pizza.

How nutritious is jackfruit?

As well as being a tasty and meatless way to enjoy your meals, jackfruit is also packed with beneficial nutrients.

It contains vitamins and minerals including Vitamin A and C, protein, fibre, riboflavin, magnesium and potassium.

The seeds are also high in protein, calcium and iron.

How does it differ to durian?

Due to their similar appearance, many people confuse durian and jackfruit but they’re actually very different.

It is true that both fruits are green and spiky, and also share an unpleasant smell. The durian, hailed as the world’s smelliest fruit, is described as having an intense aroma, often compared to sewage and has even been banned from some airports, hotels - and even the Singapore rail network.

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Meanwhile, the jackfruit, although strong, has a far sweeter and more fruity aroma.

The taste of both fruits also varies according to how ripe they are. While jackfruit can be compared to mango or pineapple when ripe and more like pulled pork when it is unripe, durian has a creamy, almost custard-like texture.

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