Jackfruit as a tasty meat alternative

Or “How to make chicken tacos without the chicken”…

Wait. What!? That’s exactly what I thought about a year ago when I was introduced to a new food that totally blew my meat-loving mind. During an event at my college last year, I heard a girl was making some delicious tacos and was using some kind of 100 pound fruit or something. I just knew that the “something” wasn’t actually meat so not only was I intrigued as to how they could be so delicious, but skeptic…

So this “chicken,” that wasn’t chicken, turned out to be jackfruit. Related to the fig, jackfruit can typically be found growing in the tropical regions of Southeast Asia, Africa, and Brazil.  It grows on trees that can reach up to 50 feet tall, and like I mentioned above, a single piece of fruit itself can weigh over 100 pounds. Although a tree may take around five to seven years to bear fruit, once it does, it can produce over 150 pieces (which can add up to 2-3 tons)! Thankfully, the fruit grows not only at the top of the tree, but also on the trunk. Can you imagine a 150 pound ball falling from 50 feet? Yeah, no thank you.

As you probably have guessed, jackfruit isn’t the most popular thing in America and you just can’t go into your local grocery store and find it sitting with the pineapples or peaches. However, there are some people out there wanting to change that. In 2011, a medical student traveled to India and discovered jackfruit for herself and recognized how underutilized it was among the people there. Since then, she has developed The Jackfruit Company to help promote jackfruit and to support the farmers and producers of the sustainable and eco-friendly jackfruit. When walking through the grocery store you might be able to find some of their products, specializing in ready to eat flavored pouches. The Jackfruit Company, isn’t the only retailer of jackfruit out there though. Just take a look at Sprouts, Whole Foods, and other stores to see what you can find!

So let’s get to the important stuff about this unique fruit: eating it! Jackfruit is highly versatile and unusual because it can be eaten either ripe or unripe and that there are several parts of it that can be prepared in a variety of ways. Ripe jackfruit can be eaten just like any other fruit (if you’re lucky enough to find it in the grocery store). Although, it has a very distinguished smell (like smelly socks) when slicing it open, it surprisingly has a very sweet mango like flavor. We’ll be focusing on unripe jackfruit, which is often found frozen or canned and is the kind that likes to pretend that it is meat (and easier to find in stores).

Unripe jackfruit makes a good meat substitute due to the fact that it hasn’t fully developed its sugars yet so the typical sweet fruit flavor isn’t there. This makes the taste easy to manipulate with a variety of seasonings. It looks and feels a lot like meat because of its fibrous texture. Once the fruit is ripe, however, the texture is changed to more of a mushy banana like feel; so it’s important to get the right kind if you’re planning on using it as a meat replacer. Otherwise you’ll be in for an unpleasant taste and texture!

Here are some pictures from my own experience cooking with jackfruit!  It was an unsuccessful search at Walmart, King Soopers, and Safeway, but Sprouts came through as the winner!

It’s not the most appetizing looking thing. Yet….

You could use pre-made taco seasoning, or make your own!

 

 

 

 

Starting to look a little better

Although it may look and taste like meat, it’s not exactly a meat replacer in the nutritional arena. It’s a fruit, so the protein content is close to nothing (2g). However, it is low in calories (40 cal), contains key vitamins and minerals (iron, potassium, calcium), and has our friend fiber thrown in too! Most Americans aren’t getting the recommended daily amount of fiber in their diet (25g/day for women and 38g/day for men) which can help keep you full and, well, “regular.” So a serving of jackfruit is an easy way to get 7g in.

If you’re new to the plant-based lifestyle, or need a new idea for meatless Mondays, give jackfruit a try like I did! Just make sure to add some beans to your taco to get that punch of protein and an extra serving of fiber!

Jackfruit Tacos

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (20 oz) young green jackfruit in brine
  • 5 Tbsp chili powder
  • 5 tsp ground cumin
Or use 3 Tbsp of your favorite pre-made taco seasoning
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ¾ C water
  • 1 can (15oz) black beans
  • 2 Tbsp salsa
  • Tortillas/shells
  • Favorite toppings (cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, cilantro, etc.)

Directions:

  1. Drain and rinse jackfruit. Press the excess liquid out of the jackfruit with paper towels.
  2. Sautee jackfruit in a splash of olive oil on medium-high heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pull the jackfruit apart with a fork to make an appearance similar to shredded meat.
  4. Combine all dry ingredients in bowl, add water, and mix. Transfer into skillet with jackfruit.
  5. Drain and rinse black beans and add them to the skillet along with the salsa.
  6. Lower the temperature to medium heat and cover, stirring occasionally. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes or until liquid has been absorbed.
  7. Place in a tortilla or shell along with your favorite toppings and enjoy!
Copyright: All content © 2010-2018 Nutrition Strategy Advisors LLC. Photographs © Donna P Feldman, unless otherwise attributed. Reproduction or use without permission is prohibited.