One reason why jackfruit is so popular is because many people consider it an excellent vegan or vegetarian meat substitute based on its texture, which is similar to that of pulled meat. A popular choice is using jackfruit as a filling inside a pulled “pork” sandwich, says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD.
“Some people swear that it tastes like pulled pork, so they substitute it for the meat in tacos and pulled pork sandwiches,” she says. It can also go in soups, grain bowls, salads, yogurt, or even be used as a pizza topping.
An additional benefit to jackfruit is that it doesn’t have a naturally strong taste when it’s just off the tree, so it can take on a wide range of flavors. Many people add spices like cumin, cardamom, chili powder, or paprika to bring out more flavors.
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But is jackfruit actually the nutritional powerhouse that people say it is? While jackfruit has some great mineral benefits and some fiber content, it doesn’t really make for an excellent meat substitute on its own, says Rizzo.
“Jackfruit may have the same texture as meat, but it’s much lower in protein. A cup only has about 3 grams of protein, but it does also contain iron and calcium, which is often lacking in a vegan diet,” she says.
If you are using jackfruit as a meat substitute, add in extra protein by pairing it with quinoa, lentils, or chickpeas. (And if you are starting a vegan diet, here’s what to know in terms of how much protein you’ll need.)
Still, if you see it at your local Whole Foods or health food store, there’s no reason not to try jackfruit out. “Jackfruit is good for anyone who likes to experiment with new cooking techniques. It’s also good for vegans who like the taste and texture of meat,” says Rizzo.
In addition to using it in a sandwich, you can also throw soft jackfruit into a taco for a #TacoTuesday, or lather it with BBQ sauce to make a juicy hamburger, says Rizzo. If you are cooking it and using it in a sandwich, Rizzo suggests cutting it into cubes and boiling it for about 45 minutes until it becomes stringy.