What Is a Jackfruit?
The largest tree fruit in the world, jackfruit -- sometimes called "jak fruit" or "jak" -- can be up to 3 feet long and 20 inches wide. Just one fruit can weigh as much as 110 pounds. But you're not alone if you haven't heard of it.
While jackfruit first appeared in the rain forests of Southeast Asia, farmers now grow it in many parts of the world, including Australia, Africa, and Brazil. Only in recent years has jackfruit started to become well known in the U.S.
Jackfruit is in the same family as figs and mulberries. It's skin is green or yellow and spiky, and each of its pods has a seed that is about an inch long.
What does jackfruit taste like?
It depends on how ripe it is. Unripe jackfruit has a mild flavor. You can use it as a meat substitute, like tofu or tempeh. Its stringy texture means that it’s great for vegetarian barbecue.
Meanwhile, ripe jackfruit is sweet and tropical. It tastes like a mix of banana, mango, and pineapple. The texture is dense and firm like pineapple. You can eat it by itself or add it to smoothies.
Jackfruit vs. durian
Jackfruit is commonly confused for a related tropical fruit called durian. Both fruits are from southeast Asia and covered with greenish-brown spikes. They are also both used in sweet and savory dishes. Jackfruit is larger than durian and has a sweeter flavor. Durian has a more sweet-bitter taste, and it's known for it's strong smell which some people compare to rotten meat and dirty socks.
Where to buy jackfruit
Many grocery stores sell jackfruit, but you’re most likely to find it in Asian grocery stores. The fresh fruit is available in season from spring to fall, but you can find canned or preserved options year round.
If you’re hunting for fresh whole jackfruit, look for fruits that are bright green or yellow. Ripe fruits should smell nice and have a slight give when you squeeze them. You also can buy it already peeled and cut.
If you’re buying canned, prepackaged, or frozen jackfruit, pay attention to the label. “Young” or “packed in brine” means that the jackfruit is a good meat substitute.
Types of Jackfruit
There are many different kinds of jackfruit. They fall into two categories: firm and soft.
Firm varieties tend to be more mild-tasting and have crunchier skins. They include:
Cochin. This type is smaller than others, weighing less than 5 pounds per fruit.
Dang Rasimi. This type, which can also be soft, has a mild, sweet taste.
Honey Gold. This type has a rich, sweet taste and excellent firm texture.
Soft varieties tend to be spongier and sweeter. They include:
Black Gold. This type smells sweet and has easy-to-remove pods.
Cheena. This is a highly rated variety with a beautiful scent. Its flesh is easily removed.
Golden Nugget. This type is known for its excellent flavor.
Jackfruit is a great addition to a healthy diet. It’s rich in fiber, protein, and and other nutrients.
One cup of raw, sliced jackfruit has:
- 157 calories
- 2.8 grams of protein, which is 6% of the reference daily intake (RDI)
- 1.1 grams of fat (1% RDI)
- 38.3 grams of carbohydrate (14% RDI)
- 2.5 grams of fiber (9% RDI)
One cup of canned jackfruit (drained of syrup) has:
- 164 calories
- 0.6 grams of protein (6% RDI)
- 0.3 grams of fat (less than 1% RDI)
- 42.5 grams of carbohydrate (15% RDI)
- 1.6 grams of fiber (6% RDI)
Jackfruit vitamins and minerals
Jackfruit is packed with essential vitamins and minerals you need for good health. It’s a particularly good source of B vitamins, potassium, and vitamin C.
One cup of raw, sliced fruit has:
- 22.6 mg of vitamin C (25% RDI)
- 0.5 mg of vitamin B6 (29% RDI)
- 1.5 mg of niacin (vitamin B3) (9% RDI)
- 0.1 mg of riboflavin (vitamin B2) (8% RDI)
- 39.6 mg of calcium (3% RDI)
- 47.8 mg of magnesium (11% RDI)
- 739 mg of potassium (16% RDI)
- 34.6 mg of phosphorus (3% RDI)
One cup of canned fruit (drained of syrup) has:
- 0.9 mg of vitamin C (1% RDI)
- Less than 0.1 mg of vitamin B6 (less than 6% RDI)
- 1.2 mg of niacin (vitamin B3) (8% RDI)
- Less than 0.1 mg of riboflavin (vitamin B2) (less than 8% RDI)
- 78.3 mg of calcium (6% RDI)
- 17.8 mg of magnesium (4% RDI)
- 171 mg of potassium (4% RDI)
- 10.7 mg of phosphorus (1% RDI)
Antioxidants are substances in foods that protect your cells against damage from harmful molecules called free radicals. They can help reduce your risk of some diseases. Jackfruits are a good source of:
Carotenoids. These plant compounds give jackfruit flesh its bright yellow color. They help fight inflammation, heart disease, cancer, and age-related eye problems.
Flavonoids. These antioxidants fight cancer, boost your heart health, and keep your brain healthy as you age.
Lignans. These antioxidants help lower your risk for heart disease, breast cancer, and osteoporosis. They might also help relieve symptoms of menopause.
The nutrients in jackfruit may help lower your risk for some health issues, including:
Inflammation. Inflammation can be hard to see, but it has big impacts on your health. Too much inflammation raises your risk for chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer. Luckily, the vitamin C and antioxidants in jackfruit can help fight inflammation.
Constipation. Jackfruit is a good source of fiber, so it can keep your bowel movements regular.
Ulcers. The natural compounds in jackfruit may help prevent these sores from forming inside your stomach.
Diabetes. Your body digests and absorbs jackfruit more slowly than some other foods. That means your blood sugar won't rise as quickly as it might when you eat other fruits. One study found that jackfruit extract made it easier for people with diabetes to control their blood sugar.
Heart disease. The potassium in this tropical fruit could help lower your blood pressure, which can help protect against heart disease and stroke. And, the fiber can help lower your cholesterol.
Skin problems. The high amounts of vitamin C in jackfruit may help protect your skin from sun damage. It fights aging and keeps your skin firm and strong.
Cancer. Phytonutrients, like those found in jackfruit, are natural compounds that might have cancer-fighting benefits, such as preventing cancer cells from forming in your body.
Osteoporosis. The magnesium in jackfruit helps your body to absorb calcium. This strengthens the bones and helps prevent conditions like osteoporosis.
Infections. Jackfruits are used in traditional medicine. They contain natural compounds with antibacterial and antifungal properties. However, more research needs to be done to figure out how this works.
Jackfruit Side Effects
Although jackfruit has many benefits, it also carries some risks. These include:
Allergies. Some people are allergic to jackfruit. Although this is rare, it’s more likely to affect people who have a latex or birch pollen allergy. A birch pollen allergy means that you have an itchy mouth or swollen lips when you eat other foods in this group such as apples, almonds, carrots, celery, cherries, and hazelnuts.
Too much potassium. If you have chronic (long-lasting) kidney disease or kidney failure, you should avoid jackfruit. This is because it has a lot of the mineral potassium. For most people, this isn’t a problem. But if your kidneys aren’t working well, they might not be able to fully filter the potassium from your blood. This could lead to a dangerous condition called hyperkalemia, which is when you have too much potassium in your body. It can cause paralysis or a heart attack.
Stomach issues. Some people have noticed stomach aches after eating jackfruit. Eating too much can cause diarrhea. Meanwhile, jackfruit seeds contain a chemical that interferes with digestion. Always cook jackfruit seeds before you eat them.
How to Eat Jackfruit
You may prefer to eat jackfruit before it's fully ripe. If you cut it into chunks and boil them in salted water until they're tender, you can easily slice the meaty flesh from the rind. You can roast or boil the seeds.
If you don't want to prepare your own jackfruit, look for canned or ready-to-eat jackfruit at the store. You can find it seasoned with a savory BBQ or teriyaki sauce. Some people use these as a meat substitute. You can also get it preserved in a sweet, heavy syrup like other canned fruits.
Other ways to enjoy jackfruit include:
Jams, jellies, and marmalades. These are made from pureed jackfruit. In India, people cook ripe jackfruit with ghee (fat), jaggery, ginger, and cardamom to make a preserve called chakka varatti.
Smoothies and desserts. In the Philippines, people use jackfruit to flavor shaved ice (halo halo). At home, you can add it to smoothies or yogurts. You can also make ice cream with it.
Sticky rice. Add a spoon of pureed jackfruit to this classic sweet rice dish.
Curries. Many curries combine jackfruit with masala spice. Kathal ki sabji is a popular Indian recipe that’s served with warm bread.
Stews. Many Indonesian and Malaysian recipes combine jackfruit with coconut milk, tamarind, lemongrass, ginger, and other spices. A popular Filipino version is ginataang langka.
Chips. These salty snacks from Indonesia called keripik nangka let you enjoy jackfruit on the go.
Unripe jackfruit has a stringy texture that makes it a great pulled pork substitute. To make it, use two forks to pull apart the raw pods. Then simply season with your favorite spices and sauté it. You can make it into sandwiches, tacos, or tamales.
Jackfruit seeds are a great source of fiber and protein. However, they also have a chemical that interferes with digestion. Cooking destroys this chemical. Never eat the raw seeds; instead, enjoy them roasted or boiled.
How to Cut Jackfruit
Jackfruit’s sticky sap and thick skin make it hard to peel or cut. To cut it safely:
- Protect yourself and your tools. First, put on gloves. Then put some oil on your knife. This prevents the sap from gumming it up. For easy cleanup, lay a sheet of plastic wrap over your cutting board.
- Start cutting. Slice it into 2-inch rounds. Then cut those rounds in half.
- Gently cut out the core. Use the tip of the knife to remove the core from the center of each round. This lets you separate the pods.
- Remove the pods. Use your hands to pull them out. Get rid of the white fibers and tip.
- Split the pods. Cut them lengthwise and remove the seeds.
How to Store Jackfruit
Leave jackfruit on the counter to ripen. You’ll know it’s ready when it smells fragrant and has a slight give when you squeeze it.
Once a jackfruit's ripe, it will turn brown and go bad quickly. To keep yours fresh, store it in the refrigerator. If you cut it, cover it in plastic wrap or put it in an airtight container. Cut jackfruit lasts 7 days in the refrigerator. You can freeze it for a longer lifespan.
Jackfruit is a tropical fruit that can be enjoyed in sweet and savory dishes. It’s also very healthy, loaded with nutrients that can help fight cancer, heart disease, and more. Don’t eat it if you’re allergic to birch or latex, as this raises your risk for a jackfruit allergy. Talk to your doctor about eating jackfruit if you have a problem with your kidneys.
What does jackfruit taste like?
It depends on how ripe it is. Unripe jackfruit is stringy and mild, which makes it a great meat substitute. Ripe jackfruit tastes like a mix of pineapple, mango, and banana.
Is jackfruit high in sugar?
Jackfruit is high in carbohydrates, including natural sugars. But it has a low glycemic index, which means your body digests it slowly. This helps keep your blood sugar under control.
What part of jackfruit is edible?
You can eat the fleshy pods found inside the jackfruit. You also can eat the cooked seeds.