The green spines on a jackfruit may make it appear inedible, but don’t be fooled. The flesh that lies beneath those bizarre-looking bumps is a tropical treat that can be used in a surprising range of dishes. Read on about the jackfruit’s origins, outsized growing habits, health benefits and the many ways you can use it in the kitchen.

A Gentle Giant

Jackfruit, which is native to India, is the world’s largest and most prolific tree fruit. A single tree can produce between 100 and 200 jackfruits annually. Each can weigh up to 80 pounds and measure nearly 20 inches long.

Jackfruit has the unusual distinction of being edible whether ripe or unripe. “Ripe jackfruit has a juicy fruit taste,” says Annie Ryu, owner of The Jackfruit Company, which makes main dishes featuring jackfruit. “It’s like a combination of mango, pineapple and banana.”

Young jackfruit can be used as a meat alternative. It has a texture that’s similar to pulled pork, and a neutral flavor that allows it to absorb the taste of whatever it’s cooked with (much like tofu).

Like most other fruits, jackfruit has many health benefits. “The primary thing about young jackfruit is the incredible fiber content,” says Ryu. A 1-cup serving has about 10 percent of the recommended dietary allowance of fiber. It’s also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, manganese and other nutrients.

Ripe Jackfruit for Baking and More

“Wherever you’d use pineapple or mangos or even blueberries, you can put in ripe jackfruit and have a totally different experience,” Ryu says. Here are some sweet ideas:

  • Use it fresh in pies, upside-down cake or sorbet.
  • Freeze it, and pop it in smoothies, muffins or pancakes.
  • Puree it, and use it as a topping for yogurt, rice pudding or panna cotta.
  • Savor the tropical flavor by eating cubes out of a bowl.

Jackfruit Sliders, Anyone?

Fresh, young jackfruit can be difficult to find. Canned jackfruit is a good alternative. If you’re going to use it in savory dishes, make sure you buy it packed in brine, not syrup.

To prepare jackfruit, cut the flesh into chunks, removing the seeds as you go along. Cook it the same way you would meat: in the oven, on the stovetop or in a slow cooker. Toward the end of the cooking time, add barbecue sauce, teriyaki, curry or any other sumptuous sauce. Stuff cooked jackfruit into wraps, sandwich bread or slider buns, taco shells, or lettuce wraps.

TIP

Visit The Jackfruit Company website for an array of recipe ideas.