10 Inventive, Meat-Free Jackfruit Recipes

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If you’ve dipped your toes into the plant-based diet, you are likely familiar with meat substitutes like lentils, beans, tofu, tempeh, and seitan. They each shine in different recipes – beans and lentils are good for veggie burgers, for example, and tofu shines in stir-fries. But if you’re trying to recreate the texture of pulled pork or any other shredded meat, jackfruit prevails.

What is jackfruit?

Jackfruit is a tropical tree fruit usually grown in Asia, Africa, or South America, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

As an ingredient, jackfruit can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, but people usually use it as a meat substitute. Jackfruit tends to take on the flavors of the spices and sauces you use to cook it. “Its texture, which is similar to that of shredded meat, makes it a good meat substitute for the vegetarian and vegan populations,” said Kristin Gillespie, RDN, a Virginia Beach-based nutritionist for Option Care Health and a consultant for Exercise With Style.

You can find different varieties of jackfruit in the supermarket. “The ‘meat’ of the fruit is available fresh, canned, or dried,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, the New York City-based author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You From Label to Table.

Some advice on cooking with jackfruit

Replacing meat with plants offers several health benefits. Compared to traditional diets, plant-based diets have a positive effect on weight, metabolism and inflammation, according to a systematic review from September 2019 published in the journal Translational Psychiatry. People who follow a healthy plant-based diet tend to consume higher amounts of nutrient-dense foods, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes, according to a research article published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in August 2019. These foods are high in potassium, magnesium, iron, vitamins A, vitamin C, and folic acid, and are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than the foods normally found in a meat eater’s diet. According to the 2019 research article, a plant-based diet has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, mortality from cardiovascular disease, and mortality in general. They can also lower body mass index, blood pressure, HbA1C levels, and cholesterol levels, according to other previous research.

Remember, jackfruit doesn’t contain as much protein as meat. “Three and a half ounces of jackfruit provides 1.7 grams (g) of protein, while animal protein like fish or poultry makes about 21 g for a similar serving size,” says Taub-Dix. “In contrast to animal protein, however, jackfruit contains neither cholesterol nor saturated fat.”

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Jackfruit is also mostly carbohydrate based, so keep that in mind when trying to lose weight. “Since jackfruit contains nearly 40 grams of carbohydrates per cup, you should be careful about your serving size and the foods you are combining with the fruit,” says Kelsey Lorencz, RDN, of Graciously Nourished in Saginaw, Michigan.

The appearance of this huge, prickly fruit may seem intimidating, but it’s a worthy addition to your plant-based diet. These 10 recipes will get you to try jackfruit.