Jackfruit – The New Meat Alternative

Danica Garvin, Dietetic Intern

Although food trends come and go, the notion of incorporating more plants onto our plates is here to stay. Many health-conscious individuals are already familiar with meat-like alternatives including tofu, tempeh, and beans, but have you heard of jackfruit?

Jackfruit is a close relative to the fig, mulberry, and breadfruit family. It grows abundantly on trees in tropical regions throughout Bangladesh, Southeast Asia, and Southwest India. In fact, it is considered the largest tree-borne fruit, potentially reaching up to 120 lb. in weight and 3 feet in length! The fruit possess a bumpy external shell with a fleshy interior containing plump, yellow bulbs joined at the core. When ripe, the fruit is quite sweet, possessing a flavor similar to that of a pineapple or mango. However, when unripe, the jackfruit is neutral in taste. This unique flavor, coupled to its pulled-pork-like texture, makes it ideal for serving as a meat imposter in savory dishes.

Jackfruit also boasts a fairly impressive nutrient profile. One cup of sliced jackfruit provides 155 calories, 40 grams of carbohydrate (3 of which are fiber), 2 grams of protein, and no fat. Therefore, although its texture is meat-like, its nutritional status is akin to other fruits. As such, it is replete in a variety of vitamins and minerals, providing 18% of your daily vitamin C needs, 16% manganese, and 14% potassium. It also serves as a good source of vitamin A, riboflavin, and copper. As a result, jackfruit certainly packs a nutritional punch.

Phytochemicals are naturally-occurring compounds produced by plants that exert health benefits in humans. Jackfruit contains a particular phytochemical called “artocarpin” that has been shown to act as a colon cancer chemoprotective agent. Specifically, artocarpin extracted from jackfruit exhibited cytotoxicity against human colon cancer cells, suppressed cancer cell growth, and induced a G1 phase cell cycle arrest that resulted in cancer cell death. Furthermore, when mice with colitis were fed jackfruit for 16 weeks, they experienced improved survival rates and a reduced number of colonic neoplasms. Therefore, jackfruit offers many benefits beyond its vitamin and mineral content.

Are you interested in cooking with jackfruit? Here’s a wonderful way to transform this nutritious fruit into a meat-like dish that is sure to please your taste buds!

BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Sandwiches

  • 2 20-ounce cans green jackfruit in water
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce of choice
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 6 whole-wheat hamburger buns (or gluten-free, if necessary)
  • Optional toppings: lettuce, grilled pineapple, cabbage slaw, avocado
  1. Drain and rinse jackfruit.
  2. In a skillet over medium heat, heat a little water. Add onion; cook for 5-7 minutes, until tender. Add garlic; cook for another minute.
  3. Add the jackfruit, BBQ sauce, and 1/2 cup water. Stir and cover; turn heat down to medium-low. Cook for 15 minutes, then stir again, adding more water if needed. Cover and cook for another 15 minutes.
  4. Using a fork, shred the jackfruit until it resembles pulled pork. Add smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper; stir to combine. Add more BBQ sauce, if desired.
  5. Dress hamburger buns however you like with optional toppings and BBQ jackfruit.


  1. Sun G, Zheng Z, Lee MH, et al. Chemoprevention of Colorectal Cancer by Artocarpin, a Dietary Phytochemical from Artocarpus heterophyllus. J Agric Food Chem. 2017;65(17):3474-3480.
  2. Swami, S. B., Thakor, N. J., Haldankar, P. M. and Kalse, S. B. (2012), Jackfruit and Its Many Functional Components as Related to Human Health: A Review. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 11: 565-576. doi:10.1111/j.1541-4337.2012.00210.x
  3. Emilie Hebert. Easy Vegan BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches. Emilie Eats. https://www.emilieeats.com/easy-vegan-bbq-jackfruit-sandwiches. June 1, 2017.