Taste of Home
When it comes to the latest food trends, we at Taste of Home don’t shy away (we’ve tried everything from Shark Tank-famous Sap! to Taco Bell’s smash hit nacho fries). So you can bet that when we heard about Upton’s Naturals Jackfruit, a meat alternative, we had to give it a go. The only catch: No one in the Taste of Home offices knew anything about jackfruit and certainly hadn’t tried it. But we gave it a whirl, and, well, you can see what we thought in this quick video.
What is jackfruit?
Now that we all know that jackfruit is a pretty tasty meat alternative, it’s time to dive into what exactly this mysterious fruit is. Jackfruit is relatively new on the scene in North America. This fruit is native to south and southeast Asia—think Bangladesh, Thailand and India—where it is served regularly.
However, jackfruit doesn’t come from the ground ready to eat (or covered in tasty sauces like the versions we tried). In fact, jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit on the planet. Individual jackfruits can grow to be up to 100 pounds. On the outside, the fruit is a little scary looking with a tough, bumpy exterior. Inside, the fruit is full of tender pods. When ripe, these pods have a sweet banana-like quality. However, when used in savory applications, the fruit is typically underripe and a bit more firm, giving it a meatier texture.
So, what is it really like?
Prepared directly from the package, the jackfruit options from Upton’s Naturals were pretty darn good! Looking at the product it looks very much like pulled pork. I personally had to do a double take to make sure this veggie-based taste test wasn’t infiltrated by a barbecued pork test. Texture-wise, jackfruit is a lot like an artichoke heart—firm but not crunchy. It’s that just-right texture and shredded appearance that make jackfruit a really convincing alternative to meat.
When it comes to flavor, underripe jackfruit is very mild. The pods inside are just begging for a flavorful sauce or marinade, in much the same way tofu does (try these super flavorful tofu dishes while you’re at it!). Once they’re chopped or shredded, the starchy fruit is ready for tasty sauces. We tried Upton’s Naturals sriracha, chili lime carnitas and bar-b-que flavors and they all were pretty tasty. All sauced up and with that shredded preparation, the jackfruit had the consistency of a pork shoulder or chuck roast that sat all day in the slow cooker. We tried the jackfruit as a taco filling, but we thought it would be tasty as a vegetarian pulled pork option or mix-in for a Buddha bowl.
After tasting this new fruit, we were on board with the taste (even the meat-eaters!) however, we recognize it’s not the perfect meat substitute. Jackfruit is packed with fiber and vitamin C but it’s not a significant source of protein, so don’t expect it to fill you up the same way other meat alternatives might.
How would you serve it and when?
Now, it’s easy to say that we tried this crazy fruit and liked it, but it can be harder to know when to actually use it and how to prepare it. First and foremost, let me caution you against buying jackfruit fresh, even if you can find it (it’s most commonly found at Asian markets and some specialty stores). Jackfruit is heavy (remember they can grow to be up to 100 pounds!) and preparing it can be a serious chore. So stick to packaged jackfruit like we did or try it jarred or canned—just add your favorite sauce (these recipes are a great place to start).
As for serving this new-to-us delicacy, I think including it at your next party or backyard barbecue as a novel vegetarian option is a great place to start. As someone with veggie friends (but isn’t vegetarian herself), I like to make sure my pals are happy and fed—but I don’t always like relying on basics like veggie burgers. This prepared jackfruit from Upton’s Naturals is the perfect solution: It’s new, super flavorful and super simple to prep—just heat it up in a skillet. I like this because it takes the guesswork (and the hard work) out of making a new dish all while delivering a result that tastes like you worked all day.
If you decide to serve up jackfruit at your next party, or just make it at home for yourself, I recommend dishing it up with some corn tortillas, a tasty slaw and a few wedges of lime. You might just find yourself craving this healthy, easy-prep meal more often than you think!