Cooking with Jackfruit

By Nancy Berkoff, RD, CCE

Jackfruit is the "porcupine" of the vegetable world. Can you imagine the first person to brave its frightening exterior? If the exterior didn't scare you off, the aroma of an overripe jackfruit could be a large deterrent. The jackfruit is also one of the more "gi-normous" fruits around. We're talking up to 70 pounds of prickly skin, "ribs," bulbs or pods, and seeds.

Forbidding exterior aside, the interior of jackfruit is golden and creamy looking, with individual pods or bulbs dotted with large black seeds. The pods or bulbs, which are actually coverings for the dark seeds, can be eaten fresh, roasted, or used as a cooking ingredient. Unripe or "green" jackfruit (unripe it is still beige, white, or golden) is often called "vegetable meat" for its chewy texture and mild flavor. Jackfruit seeds can be roasted or boiled, like chestnuts. Some people leave the seeds inside the bulbs and cook the two together. The nuts soften during cooking and can be eaten like a chewy bean.

If fresh jackfruit is not available or is out of season, it can be purchased frozen, dried, or canned either in brine (usually unripe) or in syrup (ripe and sweet, not used as a vegetable meat). Young or unripe jackfruit is what is needed for "vegetable meat." Canned young jackfruit can be found at Asian and South Asian stores and online; frozen young jackfruit is often available as well. Be certain to select young, green, or unripe, canned in water or brine, to use jackfruit as a vegetable meat. Ripe or canned jackfruit in syrup is for dessert use.

Fresh jackfruit can often be too ripe to use as 'meat.' It can be hard to find, or is sold in quantities too large to conveniently use before it ripens. However, fresh ripe jackfruit is a great sweet snack, terrific for eating right from the shell or as an ingredient in fruit salads or sorbets. If you do find a source for fresh unripe jackfruit, you can clean, seed, and cut it and freeze for later use.

When tackling fresh jackfruit, you are going to want to ask for a tutorial on cutting and cleaning it from the store staff, or you can view many different videos online. Be certain to do your homework before working with a fresh jackfruit! Here is an example of one jackfruit tutorial:

Here's another great website offering recipes, history, etc. However, they cannot ship to the USA at this time:

Here are some Web and mail-order sources:

Fresh Jackfruit: Alphonso Mango Company: can ship fresh jackfruit to some states when in season.

Local Harvest: listings of local farms that ship fresh/canned/dried fruit:

Canned/Frozen Jackfruit: Amazon: Yes, believe it or not, Amazon has canned young jackfruit in brine: Phillam Filipino Store: canned and frozen young jackfruit

The Jackfruit Company: four globally inspired flavors created to be the center of your plate!

Young jackfruit has a great 'chew.' The flavor is neutral, so it will adapt to any herbs or spices you choose to add. The pods are usually about 2-3 inches around and are very nice to add to stews. It can be chopped, shredded, or sliced, and formed into cutlets, steaks, burgers, and balls or used as a 'meat crumble.' Jackfruit has an advantage over veggie meat substitutes, as it doesn't contain any sodium, fat, artificial color, preservatives, or gluten, and does have fiber and vitamin C. It is lower in protein than soy, beans, or meat substitutes, with about 3 grams of protein per 8 ounces (1 cup).

We have included interesting and tasty young jackfruit recipes at the end of this article. If you are into low-maintenance preparation, you can simply marinate drained, rinsed (to remove salt) young jackfruit in your favorite combination, such as barbecue sauce, oil and vinegar, or Italian dressing or salsa, for about 30 minutes and then sauté or microwave to tenderize. If you don't care to wait, or you would like your jackfruit very chewy, you can grill or barbecue jackfruit pods that you've tossed with your favorite seasonings. You can then shred or slice the jackfruit and use it as an ingredient tossed with hot pasta; stir-fry or combine pasta, rice, and jackfruit and bake as a casserole; or add the jackfruit into a marinara sauce, chili or soup.

For a recent catering event, Star of Siam Thai Restaurant in Long Beach, California created a braised fusion cuisine jackfruit entrée, rubbing the bulbs with a mixture of chili and curry powder, placing them on the char broiler to partially blacken them, and then simmering them in a green curry sauce "spiked" with jalapeños. If you have leftover young jackfruit, you can simmer it with pasta, such as vermicelli, Israeli couscous, barley, or quinoa and your favorite sauce, herbs, and spices for a savory hot entrée.

All of the following recipes use young jackfruit, also called green or unripe jackfruit. Canned young jackfruit should be drained. Rinse the jackfruit if you would like to remove some of the salt. Frozen young jackfruit should be thawed before using in the recipes.

Chinese Five-Spice Jackfruit

(Serves 6-8)

This is a simmer-all-day recipe that can be made ahead of time and then reheated as needed.

  • One 20-ounce can young green jackfruit in brine (drained and rinsed) or 3 cups frozen, thawed young jackfruit, or 3 cups seeded, rinsed fresh jackfruit
  • ½ cup chopped white onion
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice or tangerine juice
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese Five-Spice mixture
  • 1 teaspoon organic brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Water as needed

Put the jackfruit in a slow cooker or crock pot. Add remaining ingredients, mix, and add just enough cold water to cover the mixture by about one inch. Depending on your equipment, cooking should take about 3 hours, stirring occasionally. The mixture is done when the jackfruit is "fork tender" (pulls apart easily with a fork).

You may want to serve this hot over rice or rice noodles; create an Asian pizza by spreading on a pizza crust and baking at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes; or use as a filling for steamed buns.

Total calories per serving: 42 Fat: <1 gram
Carbohydrates: 9 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 225 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams

Jackfruit Salad

(Serves 5)

This is a 'fire and ice' type of salad, with both mild and spicy ingredients. It does contain one very rich ingredient — coconut cream — but it is worth the calories for a special occasion. This recipe gains flavor over time, so you may want to prepare and refrigerate it 1-2 days prior to serving.

  • 1 ½ cups chopped young green jackfruit (canned, drained; frozen, thawed; or fresh, seeded*)
  • 1 ½ cups coconut cream (not coconut milk)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh or canned, drained tomatoes
  • ½ cup sliced red or sweet onion (your choice)
  • 2 teaspoons peeled, minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon seeded, chopped fresh chili (the heat is your choice)
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

Place the jackfruit in a large bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Mix all remaining ingredients except cilantro in a bowl. Combine jackfruit and coconut mixture, mix well, garnish with cilantro, and serve cold. You can also serve this salad as a warm-weather entrée, with chilled noodles, flatbread, or as the topping for a simple green salad.

Total calories per serving: 204 Fat: 16 grams
Carbohydrates: 14 grams Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 67 milligrams Fiber: 7 grams

*Jackfruit calculated as rinsed

Savory Jackfruit Cutlets

(Makes 2-3 cutlets)

This recipe can be used to create a main entrée jackfruit "steak" or a jackfruit "burger," as well as jackfruit "neat" balls or the "meat" filling in a casserole. A basic recipe is provided here. You will want to personalize it with dried or fresh herbs and spices of your choosing.

  • 1 cup canned young jackfruit in brine (drained*)
  • 1 cup peeled, boiled white, purple or gold potatoes
  • Vegetable oil spray
  • ½ cup minced onion
  • 1 Tablespoon seeded minced bell or chili pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

The jackfruit needs to be mashed, so if the canned jackfruit is not tender enough to be mashed, place it in a microwave bowl and microwave for about 30 seconds or steam on top of the stove until tender. Combine jackfruit and potato in a bowl and mash until the mixture is fairly consistent.

Spray skillet with oil. Cook onions, chili, and garlic until soft, about 2 minutes. Add jackfruit mixture; cook and stir over low heat for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (or overnight, if desired).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Shape cooled mixture into "cutlets," "burgers," or "balls." Place on non-stick baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, turning once. The prepared "cutlets" or "burgers" can then be (carefully) grilled or finished in a skillet (with a small amount of vegetable oil spray). The "balls" can be briefly steamed and served with pasta or with crusty bread.

Total calories per serving: 127 Fat: <1 gram
Carbohydrates: 28 grams Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 41 milligrams Fiber: 9 grams

*Jackfruit calculated as rinsed

Jackfruit Chili

(Serves 8-10)

This recipe will hold up very well for several days in the refrigerator (after it is cooked) and can be served hot as an entrée or cold as a sandwich filling or dip.

  • One 20-ounce can young green jackfruit in brine (rinsed and drained) or 3 cups frozen, thawed young jackfruit or 3 cups seeded, rinsed fresh jackfruit
  • Vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons seeded chopped fresh chili (your choice of heat)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • One 15-ounce can white or pinto beans or 2 cups cooked beans, drained
  • 3 cups canned no-salt-added chopped tomatoes, with liquid
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce (or to taste)
  • 1 cup cut corn (frozen, thawed or fresh, cut off the cob)
  • 4 cups water

Place jackfruit in a bowl and shred with a fork as much as possible. Set aside. Spray the bottom of a large pot with vegetable oil. (You will be cooking the chili in this pot.) Add onions, garlic, fresh chili, cumin, red pepper flakes, and chili powder. Mix and cook over low heat, stirring, until onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and bring quickly to a fast boil. Immediately reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 15-30 minutes or until jackfruit is cooked to desired tenderness.

Serve over cooked rice or corn bread, or use as the base of a chili-vegetable soup or as ingredient in a baked chili casserole.

Total calories per serving: 133 Fat: <1 gram
Carbohydrates: 27 grams Protein: 6 grams
Sodium: 62 milligrams Fiber: 8 grams

Peppery Jackfruit

(For tacos, sandwiches, etc; Serves 5-6)

This is a versatile recipe depending on how you decide to cut the jackfruit – dice, slice, julienne, etc. It can be used as a sandwich filling (pulled barbecue or sloppy Joe); taco, enchilada or burrito filling; or pizza topping. You could also toss it with pasta, or serve it over steamed rice or grains.

  • Vegetable oil spray
  • ½ cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (approximately 1 Tablespoon)
  • One 20-ounce rinsed and drained young green jackfruit in brine, or 3 cups fresh or frozen, seeded young jackfruit
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon dry yellow mustard (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons no-salt tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon orange juice concentrate
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup

Spray a medium non-stick skillet with vegetable oil spray. Over medium-low heat, add onion and garlic. Heat and stir until very soft, about 4 minutes. Set pan and mixture aside.

Drain and rinse the jackfruit well if using canned jackfruit, rinse if using fresh, thaw if using frozen; be certain all seeds and coverings are removed, using only the "meat" or central portions of the jackfruit. Place jackfruit in a medium bowl and toss with chili flakes, paprika, mustard (if using), and black pepper. Place the skillet back on the stove over low heat. Add seasoned jackfruit. Stir and heat until jackfruit is coated and warm, about 2 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix together tomato paste, vinegar, oil, orange juice concentrate, water, and maple syrup. Add to jackfruit, stir, and heat for about 5-10 minutes, until you reach the texture you would like. The less cooking, the more chewy the dish; the more cooking, the more tender the dish will be.

You may leave the jackfruit whole, or dice, shred or julienne, depending on your preference. Serve warm over the bread or grain of your choice.

Note: If you would like a very chewy texture, you can preheat the oven to 400 degrees, spread the cooked mixture on a non-stick baking sheet, and bake for about 10 minutes, until slightly dry. Baking makes it easier to shred the jackfruit.

Total calories per serving: 66 Fat: 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 13 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 40 milligrams Fiber: 6 grams

Jackfruit "Not Crab" Croquettes

(Serves 8-10)

Jackfruit is often called vegetable meat. For this recipe, jackfruit is used as "vegetable fish!" If you can find arame, a type of seaweed frequently used in Japanese cuisine, it adds a mild seafood flavor to this recipe; if arame is not available, crumbled nori (dried seaweed) can be used.

  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 20-ounce can young green jackfruit in brine (rinsed and drained) or 3 cups frozen, thawed fresh young jackfruit or 3 cups seeded, rinsed jackfruit
  • 2 cups drained, firm tofu or one 15-ounce can white beans, drained
  • 2 Tablespoons dried, crushed arame or nori
  • 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 2 Tablespoons finely minced fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard (your choice of variety)
  • ½ cup dry rolled oats
  • Vegetable oil spray

Place onions and jackfruit in a food processor and process until the jackfruit is broken into pieces about ½-inch in size. Do not over-process — we don't want a paste! Add the tofu or white beans into the processor along with all remaining ingredients except oats and oil spray. Pulse only to combine; this should be a very chunky mixture. Place the mixture into a bowl, add oats, and stir well to combine. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. The mixture can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a non-stick baking sheet with oil. To make approximately 2-inch croquettes, measure 1/3 cup (about 4 Tablespoons) of the mixture and shape it into a patty. Carefully place on the baking sheet and repeat until all the mixture is used. Bake for 10 minutes. Carefully turn each croquette and bake for another 10 minutes. Serve hot as an entrée, as the filling for a submarine sandwich, or as a "seafood burger."

Note: If you would like to bread the croquette, you can use approximately ½ cup of seasoned dried bread crumbs, matzo meal, panko (rice), or cornmeal. Spread breading on a plate and carefully coat each croquette on both sides prior to placing on baking sheet.

Total calories per serving: 102 Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 12 grams Protein: 8 grams
Sodium: 39 milligrams Fiber: 6 grams

Nancy Berkoff is the Foodservice advisor for The Vegetarian Resource Group and author of Vegan Meals for 1 or 2.