You Don’t Know Jackfruit

This Thai fruit can be a great flavor substitute for meat and other proteins

Try the meat substitute jackfruit
Hey taco lovers, here's a tasty—and healthy—new filling to try.

Updated Jul 4, 2017 @ 11:57 am

Eating more plant-based meals is a worthy endeavor (for both your body and the planet), but once you commit, you’ve still got to find something to eat for dinner.

If you feel like you’ve OD’ed on beans and tofu, it’s time to meet jackfruit. While jackfruit sounds more like something you would use as a morning oatmeal topper, it actually makes for the perfect filling for a vegetarian take on carnitas tacos.

Here’s the deal: When ripe, jackfruit is very sweet and has a flavor that approaches the taste of Juicy Fruit gum. But, when jackfruit is harvested young it has an incredible fibrous meat-like texture and consistency.

Jackfruits growing
A single jackfruit can weigh well over 60 pounds.

Chicago-based Upton’s Naturals makes two flavors ($5) of jackfruit, a Chili Lime with sea salt, cumin and vinegar and a tangy Bar-B-Que. The heat-and-eat packs are now available nationally, including at Whole Foods.

Don’t let the idea of meat fruit freak you out until you’ve given it a try. We’re piling the sweet and smoky Bar-B-Que variety into a lunchtime pita with a side of crunchy coleslaw made with avocado mayo. The zesty Chili Lime works just as well as a topping for a roasted sweet potato as it does being mixed into a kale salad with beans and avocado. Another selling point for Upton’s jackfruit products is that unlike meat alternatives like tofu, seitan and tempeh, it’s completely gluten-, soy- and oil-free.

“Jackfruit is one of the most underutilized crops in the world,” says Nicole Sopko, the Vice President of Upton’s—in fact the company has forged special relationships with Thai farmers to bring the young fruit to market. Whether you are going vegan or are just incorporating more meatless meals into your weekly schedule, jackfruit is well worth adding to your rotation.