I have been a huge fan of jackfruit ever since I saw one growing on the side of a tree in Vietnam. It’s bulbous shape and unique appearance intrigued me, as it didn’t resemble any fruit I had seen before. I was astounded by how this peculiar-looking fruit could be transformed into a remarkable plant-based pulled ‘pork’ alternative.
The chunks that are nestled inside the fruit are torn out whilst the fruit is still young to create many a delicious dish, either as a vegan meat substitute or as an alternative to potato or other root vegetables.
While this fruit has been enjoyed in tropical countries for ages, it has only recently caught the attention of the vegan community. Subsequently, jackfruit’s vegan glow-up has led to many amazing recipe inventions that showcase its versatility and unique flavour.
If you want to learn how to cook with jackfruit or you are simply looking for some fresh inspiration, this guide is here to show you the most exciting ways to cook with it.
Please note: jackfruit comes in two forms, young and ripe. The riper the jackfruit becomes, the sweeter and more yellow it is. Which is when it is eaten primarily as a fruit. Young jackfruit maintains a really neutral off-white colour and is not at all sweet, making it the perfect ingredient for savoury vegan cooking. Throughout this guide, I will be talking about young jackfruit.
Why cook with jackfruit?
Jackfruit is an incredibly versatile and neutral-tasting ingredient that can be used to create many different and exciting dishes. Not only can it be used as a meat substitute when veganising dishes like pulled pork or beef brisket, but it also works as an ingredient in itself in stews and curries.
I am trying to avoid eating too many overprocessed fake meats, so natural ingredients like jackfruit are really handy to have in the pantry. Although, it doesn’t contain anywhere near the same levels of protein as most meat substitutes, so you will want to cook it alongside a protein-packed plant-based ingredient.
What jackfruit should you buy?
For savoury plant-based recipes, you should opt for the young jackfruit variety which is sold in tins and jars. It can come in brine or water, either is fine. The flavour is neutral and the jackfruit is soft and flaky. You should avoid any jackfruit that comes inside syrup since this will be too sweet to cook with.
Here is my favourite brand of tinned young jackfruit that I use to make all of my vegan jackfruit recipes:
How to prepare jackfruit
Preparing jackfruit for cooking is really quick and simple. Make sure to follow these instructions to get the most out of this versatile ingredient:
- Peel jackfruit from rind: For those in tropical countries you may well have got your hands on a whole young jackfruit, although from experience, I know these are really hard to get hold of! Still, if this is the case, you’ll need to start by peeling out the chunks of jackfruit away from the rind.
- Or, remove from tin or jar: It is much more likely that you have either bought a tin or a jar of young jackfruit. If so, you’ll first need to drain and rinse the jackfruit under cold water, especially if it was housed inside brine.
- Discard of seeds (optional): You will likely find seeds nestled inside your young jackfruit chunks. They are oval-shaped pods that can easily be squeezed out and cooked separately. They can be quite tough, but when the jackfruit is still young I find the seeds soft enough to cook and eat alongside the rest of the fruit. It is just down to personal preference. Plus, the jackfruit seeds are quite nutritious so I do recommend eating them!
- Dry the jackfruit chunks: In most recipes, unless you are boiling it first, it is important to dry your jackfruit before cooking. Any liquid that is surrounding the jackfruit may hinder the cooking process. I like to spread the jackfruit chunks out onto one half of a linen towel and fold the other half on top to dab them dry.
- Prep the jackfruit chunks: Now your jackfruit is reading for prepping. The way in which you do this is pretty much dependent on the recipe you are using. For instance, some recipes may require you to cook the jackfruit in whole chunks, whereas others may ask you to pull it apart into small chunks before cooking.
My favourite ways to cook with jackfruit
Now you know a bit about jackfruit, which one you should be buying and how to prep it, let me take you through my favourite ways to cook and eat jackfruit. Spoiler alert: there is more you can do than turn it into pulled ‘pork’!
1. Pull it apart to make pulled ‘pork’
Pulled ‘pork’ jackfruit is without a doubt one of the most popular ways to eat this fruit. And for a good reason. It is a soft and flaky fruit that is quite neutral in taste and once it is rubbed in spices and fried off, it goes really crispy and succulent. Making it the perfect substitute for pork.
You can serve it alongside some mashed potatoes or a roasted sweet potato, or for a treat you can pile it up into a burger bun and serve it with coleslaw.
2. Blitz it into a chicken-style burger patty
Thanks to its flaky texture, you can blitz jackfruit into small chunks and form it into a patty that closely resembles chicken. I first learnt this nifty trick from Biff’s when I tried their delicious vegan jackfruit wings at a vegan food market. It is undoubtedly a much better flaky chicken substitute than soya or seitan.
You can flavour the patty mix however you like and coat it in breadcrumbs to create a KFC-style burger to eat with lashings of mayonnaise.
3. Mix with seaweed to make vegan ‘crab’ cakes
I used to be a huge fan of crab cakes before I went vegan and now thanks to the winning combination of jackfruit and seaweed I can still enjoy this dish! Once again, the flaky texture of jackfruit helps to create a crab-like texture within the cakes and when it is mixed in with seaweed it takes on the flavour of seafood.
Serve it up with a pot of vegan mayonnaise or remoulade with a few lemon wedges and you’ll have absolute summer-time vibes on your plate.
4. Roast it to make crispy Chinese ‘duck’ pancakes
Who doesn’t love an excuse to eat takeaway? Thankfully, this vegan version is much healthier! By roasting chunks of jackfruit, until they go nice and crispy, you can imitate the crispy duck you get served in Chinese restaurants.
Serve it up with some pancakes and hoisin sauce and you’ll soon decide to quit on your local Chinese takeaway.
5. Mix into mayonnaise to make ‘tuna’ mayo
If you are looking for a really easy sandwich filler or salad to eat on the go, then you’ll really enjoy using jackfruit as a ‘tuna’ mayo substitute. By blitzing the jackfruit into small junks it resembles the flaky texture of tuna chunks. Mix it in with a large dollop of vegan mayonnaise and vegetables and you’ve got yourself a substantial sandwich filler.
The best bit, it doesn’t smell anywhere near as bad as what tuna mayo does!
6. Cook it into a stew
If you are a fan of succulent warming stews then you should think about cooking jackfruit into your next batch! It maintains its texture well whilst still flaking apart in the stew, which makes it not too dissimilar to beef.
Cook it with a mix of potatoes and beans to create a really nutritious winter dish that will be sure to keep you warm.
7. Add it to your favourite curry
Thanks to its neutral taste, you can add jackfruit to your favourite curry and spice it in whatever way you fancy. It cooks really nicely within the liquid and remains succulent and flaky, making it a great replacement for chicken.
You can keep things tropical with this recipe that calls for coconut milk and plenty of spices.
8. Use it as a pizza topping
If you are a fan of meat feast pizzas then you’ll really enjoy eating jackfruit on pizza. By frying it off beforehand you can break down the jackfruit slightly so that it is nice and flaky whilst also being a little bit crispy on the outside. Then place it on top of your pizza before cooking.
It creates a really substantial pizza topping and when it is cooked using a socca pizza base (made using gram flour) it can become a protein-rich dinner.