THE BLOG
09/26/2016 06:01 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

All About Jackfruit: Your New Meat Substitute

By Kelly Fitzpatrick for Life by Daily Burn

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Photo: Pond5

Jackfruit has been a mainstay in South Asian cuisine for centuries. Now this funny-looking, pungent fruit is gaining popularity amongst vegan and vegetarian communities in the U.S, too. Despite its somewhat funky smell, the fruit's flesh absorbs the flavor of almost anything you cook with it. It also has a meaty texture, making it a great substitute for animal protein. (Did we mention it's naturally soy- and grain-free as well?) Even if you're a committed carnivore, here's why jackfruit is worth tracking down. Plus, get recipes to enjoy it in its traditional curry preparation -- or in creative and yummy barbecue or even dessert.

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Jackfruit: A Delicious and Nutritious Meat Alternative

The list of jackfruit's nutritional benefits could go on and on. "It has a lot of phytonutrients," says Susannah Baldock, MPH, RD, founder of The Roving Dietitian. "And a lot of anti-aging, anti-hypertensive, anti-cancer and anti-ulcer properties." More specifically, it's high in the antioxidants, vitamins A and C, which neutralize free-radicals in the body, and may help prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Jackfruit is also a good source of potassium (helpful in maintaining healthy blood pressure), zinc (needed for immune function) and has a small amount of iron, which is essential for blood production. Plus, the seeds contain probiotics, Baldock explains, which keep your gut healthy.

Even better: Jackfruit's fiber content is significantly higher than that of meat. In fact, it contains three grams per cup, whereas most beef products contain zero fiber. It also satisfies most health gurus' checklist of good-for-you foods, as it's low in calories, almost completely fat-free, and low in sodium. The only downfall: protein. (It only packs about two grams per cup.) To make up the difference in your dishes, Baldock suggests simply adding legumes, beans or quinoa.

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Jacked Up Dishes You'll Love

Jackfruit comes in lots of preparations, but its most distinct form is the whole fruit -- both ripe and unripe. (If you've ever seen one in person, they're pretty huge.) Baldock warns that while they're usually found as the ripe type here in the U.S. (which means they're super sweet), it's the unripe version that works for savory recipes.

For those heartier dishes, look for young, unripe green or white jackfruit, which you can usually find canned in water or brine. Just keep an eye on sodium when it's packed with brine or make sure to thoroughly rinse before you use -- doing so can reduce the salt by about 41 percent, Baldock says.

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When you're looking to bake with the sweet or ripe fruit, find it fresh, frozen or canned. (Try to avoid it canned in syrup, though, as the fruit just soaks up the added sugar). Sweet jackfruit tastes great in smoothies or as a base for ice cream and fritters.

Dried or baked sweet and savory jackfruit varieties also make for great homemade chips or dried fruit. And you can even use the seeds in chutneys or curry-based dishes, or roast 'em and add to spreads like hummus. (Just don't forget to peel and cook the seeds, otherwise they're toxic. Here's a how-to on cutting a whole fruit and cooking the seeds.)

No Asian grocery in your area? Buy canned jackfruit online (it's on Amazon). Then whip up a delicious dish by following these recipes.

4 Jackfruit Recipes to Try

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1. BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches with Avocado Slaw
The classic sloppy Joe gets a makeover, and even meat-eaters might be fooled by jackfruit's shredded texture. This super-simple 10-ingredient recipe relies on prepared BBQ sauce for a quick and easy shortcut, making it the perfect weeknight, family-friendly dinner. Photo and recipe: Dana Shultz / Minimalist Baker

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2. Easy Jackfruit Curry
Mix up this easy-to-make curry to enjoy jackfruit in its most traditional South Asian preparation. This simple dish requires just 15 minutes of active prep time and 45 minutes of simmering, which will make your kitchen smell amazing -- and the food taste even better. Photo and recipe: Richa Hingle / Vegan Richa

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3. Spicy Chipotle Garlic Jackfruit Tacos<
Shredded jackfruit made Mexican style will add a little spice to your life. These yummy tacos pack so much flavor (thanks to seasonings like cumin, coriander, chipotle peppers and more), we promise you won't even miss the meat. Photo and recipe: Richa Hingle / Vegan Richa

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4. Jackfruit-Coconut Macaroons
Looking to harness the naturally sweet flavor of ripe jackfruit? Look no further. This tropical take on a traditional cookie is so satisfying you only need one. Photo and recipe: Rianne / Art of Dessert

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