Jackfruit, derived from the jack tree, is a multipurpose ingredient used in dishes both sweet and savory. Jackfruit are large, spiky, and can grow up to three feet in length and weigh up to one-hundred and twenty pounds; jack trees produce the largest fruit of any tree on earth. Jackfruit is commonly used in South and Southeast Asain cuisines; jack trees are believed to have originated between southern India and Malaysia.
Jackfruit are mildly sweet in aroma with a tropical smell akin to banana or pineapple. The flesh and seeds of the jackfruit are edible, making them a multipurpose ingredient. The ripe flesh of the jackfruit has a sweet, apple-like flavor and is used in custards and cakes. Unripe jackfruit is less sweet and is often used in savory dishes for its meat-like texture. This unique texture makes jackfruit a desirable ingredient in vegetarian dishes such as curries, stews, and salads. The seeds are roasted or boiled and are similar in flavor to chestnuts.
Whole jackfruits require a fair amount of time and energy to process and the fibrous outer layer is sticky, requiring a well-oiled knife to slice through. Luckily, in the United States jackfruit is typically sold canned or frozen and can be found in Southeast Asian grocery stores, some speciality markets, and online. Looking to try jackfruit at home? In our jackfruit taco recipe we slowly simmer jackfruit in a piquant mixture of tomato and chipotle peppers, stuff them into warm tortillas, and top them off with creamy avocado, queso fresco, and fresh lime juice.