16 Sep 9 Jackfruit Recipes for Summer’s End + 1 Hot Take
The tropical jackfruit is sweet when it’s ripe. When it’s not, it can be used in savory cooking and is popular in vegetarian dishes. (Photo by Rakeem Burrell on Unsplash)
By Olivia Lozano
If you glance through the produce section in an Asian market, you’ll almost always spot jackfruit with its distinct shape and size. It’s big, lumpy, green and spiky. Up close, it has a recognizable smell that can be described as both musky and sweet.
I always revel in awe at how the older shoppers of 99 Ranch Market can manage to pick a large spiky jackfruit and gently place it into their carts. They’re so unfazed. Don’t the spikes hurt? Surely not, I remind myself. They’ve been doing this for years and their hands are used to it. They’re experts. I’m the novice here.
Recently, I’ve been yearning to adopt more traditional Filipino recipes into my cooking repertoire. This summer alone, I’ve been using jackfruit as a way to begin my learning. I’ve had a strong affinity to the fruit since I was young and there are many fond memories I have of eating it. During this process, I was introduced to many South Asian dishes that I’ve grown to love cooking as well.
>>>Read: My Journey to Becoming Vegan
Jackfruit has been prepared for generations and was first discovered in South Asia over 3,000-6,000 years ago. Since then, it has been an abundant food source for millions. Nutrient-dense, it contains calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, and potassium. It is a fantastic source of fiber and can aid in digestion.
Jackfruit is grown in tropical environments including parts of Asia, Africa and South America. It flourishes in deep, rich soil and can grow to an enormous size like the white oak tree, which can grow to be almost 70 feet tall. The flesh of the ripe jackfruit is notorious for its potent, stinky odor. However, once revealed, the actual fruit is a pleasant contrast, offering a sweet, pungent taste and a fruity odor. The fruit can be described as having a flavor similar to a mango or pineapple.
Ripe, sweet jackfruit is often used in desserts, while the unripe fruit is used as the savory star of dishes. Unripe jackfruit is described as having a “meaty” texture, similar to that of pulled pork or chicken. Many people like to describe jackfruit as a meat alternative, and yes, it definitely can be used for those purposes, if that’s your thing.
Writer Madhushree Ghosh told Food52, “No Indian looks for meat substitutes if they’re vegetarian. That’s a western concept.” I couldn’t agree more. You can eat and enjoy jackfruit for what it is.
Below are some recipes that you can create at home. If you are a jackfruit novice, like me, it’s OK to use the canned versions for these recipes. Again, for savory dishes, use jackfruit in brine or pre-packaged versions you can get at many grocery stores. For dessert recipes, you’ll want to use canned jackfruit in syrup.
Go on. Try something new.
First on the list is jackfruit sabzi by Hina Gujral. This deliciously savory dish is a Punjabi comfort food that features warming spices like garam masala, coriander and turmeric. This wonderful blend of spices provides plenty of antioxidants and can help with inflammation. You can pair this lovely dish with rice or roti.
Nothing is as savory or as hearty as this recipe for jackfruit carnitas by Jocelyn Ramirez. Carnitas is a traditional Mexican pork dish that is slow cooked for hours to bring out the flavor of the spices and the richness of the fat. This particular recipe uses oil to help add that fatty flavor to the jackfruit. If you enjoy carnitas, you’ll enjoy the “meaty” texture of this vegan-friendly alternative.
Jackfruit curry, or Sri Lankan Kiri Kos, blends sharp spices together and neutralizes them with the addition of coconut milk. It is a thick and creamy stew that pairs excellently with coconut roti. Try this recipe by Island Smile.
BBQ jackfruit sandwiches are sweet, savory, and tangy. Pair this BBQ jackfruit sandwich with an avocado slaw or a fresh salad of your choice. Minimalist Baker shows you how to prepare the perfect sliders.
Gojuchang is a spicy fermented Korean staple sauce made by mixing malt, glutinous rice flour, Korean red pepper flakes and ground-up dried fermented soybeans. It’s widely popular today in the United States, with chains like Shake Shack creating a menu item inspired by the delicious sauce.
This particular recipe is a great introduction to Korean gojuchang if you’re willing to be adventurous. You can serve this bulgogi jackfruit recipe over a bed of rice alongside veggies and kimchi for a full, balanced meal.
My favorite dessert growing up was this Filipino jackfruit dessert called turon. A fond memory of mine was walking over to RSM Oriental Food Mart and Restaurant in Hercules after tennis practice during the summer to pick some up with my dad. Similar to lumpia, turon is rolled in rice paper, then deep fried and covered in brown sugar or caramel. Sweet jackfruit and saba bananas are a fantastic pairing. Try this recipe from Panlasang Pinoy.
Of all the dishes listed here, jackfruit sago has the most interesting texture, in my opinion. Sago are small, chewy pearls similar to tapioca balls and made from the starch of palm stems. They are white or clear in appearance and are a delightfully fun snack to have when it’s hot. This dish is commonly served in a bowl with ice and includes the flavors of coconut milk, sago and jackfruit.
Here’s a simple recipe for a mango and jackfruit smoothie by the Little Epicurean. Indulgent and surprisingly healthy, this smoothie can be enjoyed at any time of the day. For the party goers and relaxation experts, add a little rum to the mix for a piña colada. This recipe makes about 1.5 cups, but you can always double the recipe for two. If you don’t want to share, that’s cool too.
Pineapple on pizza? Nay – jackfruit on pizza.
OK, I know, I know. It’s the cardinal sin of food combinations. Or is it? Honestly speaking, if you’re above the age of 25, you need to stop pretending that pineapple on pizza, or now jackfruit, for that matter, isn’t the most amazing combination ever created. It’s like when Remy from “Ratatouille” tried the cheese and strawberry together and all the dazzling colors sprang out of his head. Yes, even a French cartoon rat understands the complexities of flavor — of sweet and umami coming together.
By now, your brain has reached the end of its developmental phase and can process adult concepts methodically. As a child, not liking pineapple (or other tropical fruits) on pizza would have been acceptable, but now as a grown adult, it’s a bit immature. Not to worry though, we all need a little convincing sometimes. Here’s some fair life advice: Stop being an Emile, and start being more like a Remy. So friends, I dare you to try something new.
Here’s a recipe for jackfruit on pizza. I tried it out. It’s amazing. I bet you’ll like it too. This one’s savory since it uses brined jackfruit. I still encourage you to be adventurous and try the sweet jackfruit. Who knows, maybe you’ll come around?