I first encountered jackfruit while perusing produce in the Whalley Avenue Stop and Shop in New Haven two or three years ago. It was an unwieldly, prickly thing reminiscent of a porcupine, and appropriately underscored by a little ‘What Is This?’ tag explaining that it was in fact a fruit grown in South America and Southeast Asia. I was curious, and mentally catalogued it as an oddity worth exploration if time and circumstance ever allowed.
Fast forward to 2018; jackfruit has trended across Instagram pages, Pinterests, blogs, and vlogs as the next best meat substitute to hit the vegan and vegetarian food scene. Three Sheets rotates a much loved vegan jackfruit sloppy joe into its mix of specials. Trader Joe’s is stocked with ‘Green Jackfruit in Brine.’ I, ever the sucker for both TJ’s and testing food trends, am at home transforming this under ripe Indian export into faux BBQ pulled pork.
I’ll give jackfruit this – it is incredibly easy to prepare. Most recipes I researched online about cooking with jackfruit recommended sautéing it in a skillet pan and then simmering in BBQ sauce, but I wanted to mimic the real way I make pulled pork as closely as possible, so I deferred to my slow cooker. Two 20 oz. cans of green jackfruit, some water, ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, salt, two forks, five hours, and a little bit of shredding later, I had a very visually convincing vegan faux pulled pork in front of me.
While I found the particular recipe I used for BBQ pulled jackfruit to be a bit sweet for my taste (next time cue the Worcestershire sauce!!), texturally, it is spot on. Like tofu, unripe green jackfruit takes on the flavor of whatever it is cooked in, but has more of a hearty, mushroom-y physical feeling, allowing it to mimic slow cooked meats nicely.
I piled my BBQ pulled jackfruit atop a toasted baguette slathered in Greek yogurt mixed with harissa and lemon juice, and then heaped on pickled jalapenos and onions, fresh arugula, and deliciously fatty avocado. The result? An incredibly delicious sandwich, by unanimous decision both by myself and six of my friends, but maybe not the vegetarian world’s best meat replacement.
Jackfruit contains minimal protein – one cup contains a measly 2.8 grams. When I think ‘meat substitute,’ I translate to ‘plant-based protein,’ and jackfruit is clearly not that. I attempted to compensate for this lack with my Greek yogurt spread, which contains 22 grams per one cup by comparison. For added protein, I served a chickpea, pickled onion, and smashed cucumber salad on the side with olive oil and lots of fresh lemon juice. Yummy, but shouldn’t a meat replacement have enough protein to support a meal as a standalone?
Although I did find jackfruit’s absence of protein to be concerning, it is very filling and fiber dense. Additionally, it contains significant amounts of vitamin-C and B-complex group vitamins, as well as potassium, magnesium, manganese, and iron, leading me to conclude that it is a worthwhile food for consumption, if not one to be weary of in considering as a ‘meat substitute.’
What do you think of jackfruit? Have you tried it? Do you like it? Is it a ‘meat substitute,’ or something else? Let me know what you think in the comments!