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The Incredible Meat Substitute Sitting in Your Produce Aisle: Jackfruit

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July 18, 2023 | 

7802 Views | 

Joanna Newman | 

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Have you ever stumbled upon a strange, giant fruit in your supermarket produce aisle, its green, spiky shell looking out of place amidst the usual apples and oranges? This enormous, tropical fruit is known as jackfruit, and it might just revolutionize your meal plan by replacing meat in many of your favorite recipes.

What is Jackfruit?


Jackfruit, or Artocarpus heterophyllus, is a species of tree in the fig, mulberry, and breadfruit family. Originating from the regions of India and Malaysia, it’s now grown in tropical areas worldwide. The fruit itself is truly remarkable, often weighing up to 40 pounds, making it the largest fruit produced on trees.

But why is this enormous fruit finding its way into recipes typically dominated by meat? It’s all about the texture. Once cooked, jackfruit develops a consistency remarkably similar to that of pulled pork or shredded chicken. It’s this uncanny meat-like texture, combined with jackfruit’s ability to absorb flavors, that makes it an excellent plant-based substitute for meat.

Nutritional Benefits of Jackfruit


Before we delve into the culinary uses of jackfruit, it's crucial to understand the nutritional benefits it offers. A cup of raw jackfruit provides about 155 calories, with small amounts of protein and a moderate amount of fiber. It's low in fat and rich in vitamins A, C, and several B vitamins. It's also packed with essential minerals like potassium, magnesium, and manganese.

Though jackfruit doesn't offer as much protein as meat, its dietary fiber content is significantly higher, making it beneficial for digestive health. Plus, it's a low-calorie option for those trying to maintain a healthy weight.

Jackfruit as a Meat Substitute


The use of jackfruit as a meat substitute has grown in popularity over the last decade, particularly among vegetarians, vegans, and those who seek to reduce their meat consumption. The fruit's fibrous texture, once cooked, makes it a convincing stand-in for meats like pork, chicken, and beef in a variety of dishes.

One of the most popular applications is in a vegan version of pulled pork sandwiches, where the jackfruit is slow-cooked with barbeque sauce, then shredded and served on a bun. Similarly, jackfruit can replace chicken in enchiladas, beef in a hearty stew, or lamb in a spicy curry. The fruit's ability to soak up flavors from spices and sauces is what truly enables it to mimic meat so convincingly.

Preparing and Cooking Jackfruit


Preparing jackfruit can seem daunting due to its size and spiky exterior, but it's simpler than it looks. First, oil your hands and the knife to prevent the fruit's sticky sap from adhering. Slice the fruit in half, and then into quarters. Remove the fruit pods - the edible parts - which are nestled among a fibrous interior.

Ripe jackfruit has a sweet flavor and is generally used in desserts. For meat substitute purposes, you'll want to use young, or 'green', jackfruit. It's less sweet and better at absorbing other flavors.

Green jackfruit is often found canned in brine (not syrup) in the international food aisle. Drain and rinse it before use. Once prepared, it can be cooked by simmering in a sauce, sautéing with vegetables, or baking in the oven, among other methods.

The Environmental Impact


Besides the culinary and health benefits, there's an environmental aspect to consider. Adopting a more plant-based diet by substituting meat with jackfruit can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. Livestock farming is one of the leading causes of methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas. Additionally, it often involves deforestation and excessive water use. Thus, eating more jackfruit and less meat can be a small step towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

Conclusion: The Jack(fruit) of All Trades


Jackfruit is far more than just a novelty item in your supermarket's produce aisle. Its unique texture and ability to absorb flavors make it an effective and nutritious meat substitute in a variety of dishes. Whether you're a vegan seeking more variety, a meat lover looking to reduce your consumption, or simply a food enthusiast eager to try something new, jackfruit could be a game-changing addition to your culinary repertoire.

So, next time you're shopping, consider picking up a jackfruit. It might just surprise you how this large, spiky fruit can transform your meals and maybe even help the planet along the way. The culinary world loves a good surprise, and it seems jackfruit is one that's here to stay.

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