Jackfruit is a nature-made plant-based meat. If you crack open the fruit—which is no easy task because it is encased by a thick shell and can weigh up to one hundred pounds—you will discover the meat inside is sinewy and tender (fun fact: jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world). One of the biggest challenges for plant-based meat is recreating this muscular texture, so Jackfruit offers a simple solution.
This giant fruit is native to India and often the centerpiece of curries. But jackfruit is versatile. Ripe, the fruit is sweet and can be used in desserts. Its seeds can be roasted for a snack. Unripe, jackfruit’s chewy mouthfeel and savory undertone make it a brilliant plant-based meat. It readily absorbs other flavors and spices, so it can be adapted to all types of dishes. Pulled pork jackfruit sandwiches or shredded jackfruit tacos, anyone?
As consumers in the United States develop a stronger appetite for plant-based meat, more have turned to jackfruit for its satiety. In 2016, jackfruit was awarded “rising star” status by a Google report on the most searched-for food items of the year. And jackfruit’s meatiness has earned it a spot in the meat aisle of some major grocers. Food producers are seizing this opportunity to create jackfruit meat products. In Kerala, the hub of jackfruit production in India, exports doubled in just two years due to the surge in jackfruit popularity.
Take, for instance, The Jackfruit Company. Founder Annie Ryu first tasted the fruit while traveling in Southern India. She was so impressed that she pivoted from her career in medicine to the food system: Her mission is to build an international supply chain that benefits local farmers and fills consumers’ stomachs with healthy and sustainable jackfruit.
Meanwhile, Upton’s Naturals is also passionate about their ready-to-eat jackfruit, which comes in flavors like bar-b-que, chili lime, and thai curry. Founder and president Daniel Staackmann actually traveled to Thailand, where the fruit is harvested, seasoned, and packaged, to formulate the recipes using ingredients available locally. Nature’s charm recently unveiled a jackfruit collection, including jackfruit confit and bar-b-que jackfruit.
Nicknamed the “miracle food,” jackfruit packs lots of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and more protein than other fruits. While people in the U.S. on average consume double the recommended daily amount of protein, only 5% consume the recommended daily amount of fiber, so jackfruit can help close this fiber gap. The jackfruit tree is resilient in the face of heat waves and drought and does not need to be replanted annually, offering a sustainable and secure supply.
According to Ryu, this miracle food is a powerful story of improving “healthy eating, farmers’ livelihoods, and humanity’s eco-footprint.” Jackfruit is a delicious example of the synergy between taste, health, and sustainability that plant-based meat can offer.