Jackfruit Guide: Canned Brand Review and Four Recipes
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Jackfruit Guide: Which Brands to Buy, How to Prep them, and Four Recipes

16 Apr Jackfruit Guide: Which Brands to Buy, How to Prep them, and Four Recipes

I first fell in love with Jackfruit in Los Angeles, when I had a plate of shredded jackfruit atop a piping hot plate of nachos at Sage Bistro. After that moment, I sought out every dish I could find containing the mysterious exotic fruit, from tacos at Plant Food for People to curry at Samosa House, and everything in-between. I cleaned out the local Indian market every time they re-stocked, cried when my Whole Foods stopped carrying the cans and switched over to the pre-marinated brands in the refrigerator aisle, and was disappointed 9 times out of 10 when I ate it out at restaurants. I mastered my own Jackfruit BBQ pulled pork recipe and made it on camera for Follow Your Heart, cooked it for countless clients and friends, and made many a convert to the fruit along the way. But when I truly fell in love, was when I spent time in SE Asia, and had fresh young green Jackfruit for the first time! I devoured it any chance I got, at Tresna Bali Cooking School in Ubud where we folded it into coconut husk smoked banana leaf wrapped boats and dropped it into kabocha squash and pumpkin leaf Balinese curry delicacies within minutes of it dropping from the tree and learned that there are actually 4 different varieties from savory to sweet, in Singapore where I lugged home a few from the Indian farmers market and learned just how horribly sticky it can be and never again touched a fresh one without gloves, and at my favorite restaurant in Canggu, Ulekan, where I went back weekly for their life-changingly delicious jackfruit yellow curry.

It wasn’t until I was trying a variety of Jackfruit recipes for a class here in North Carolina, and I was recipe testing for days on end with different parts of the jackfruit wedge required for each recipe with every can of jackfruit I could get my hands on, and I somehow wound up with 4 different brands, that I started to pay attention to what was actually inside the can. I always thought: hey, a jackfruit is a jackfruit is a jackfruit. Well, hell, wasn’t I wrong.

The difference in the contents of my cans was staggering, and while for some recipes it really didn’t make a difference, for some it was an absolute game changer for which can I selected! Because the kind of fresh jackfruit you need for savory recipes, young green jackfruit, is rare to find in the states (not the large sweet “fruit” varieties more widely available), I am omitting it from this comparison. I’m also omitting the pre-marinated or pre-cooked products you can find, because I like a blank canvas to create with.

For those of you that have the luxury of choice, I thought I’d share my findings with you to help you along the way in your Jackfruit culinary adventures. 

I’d love to hear from you what your experience has been with any of the brands listed here, and any not listed!

 

THE WINNER

 

 

TRADER JOE’S PRIVATE LABEL

The batch they were selling up until two months ago was wildly sticky, really close to what happens when you open a real young jackfruit, and was darker in color and oxidized really quickly, both of which made me believe it was the least processed and packed with preservatives of the bunch, and the closest to the real thing. The flavor was pretty neutral, not too briney or watery, but not too strong in Jackfruit flavor – which is perfect for my savory recipes. The problem I often found was that the cores were REALLY tough and hard to use, rendering it only useful for recipes that were getting food processed, like my Jackfruit OG Chicken Nuggets. Also, like with fresh jackfruit, the stickiness was really hard to work with. With all that, they became last on my list of preferred cans.

But, a few months ago, the cans suddenly were out of stock and stayed out of stock for a month, and when they returned a couple weeks ago, the stickiness was gone and the cores were much more tender. I’m assuming they switched suppliers, or there was a different crop, or their processing methods changed. The oxidization thing was still there, but when being covered with sauce the color didn’t really matter. This is now my overall winner.

COST: $1.99/can

LOCATION: Trader Joe’s

PROS: Good neutral flavor, good core to shred ratio, easy to find, good texture

CONS: Sometimes tough cores, sometimes sticky, dark color

 

THE RUNNERS UP

 

 

NATIVE FOREST ORGANIC

This is by far the best tasting jackfruit, like most organic products, you’re getting the unadulterated closest to the old school real flavor you can get. It tastes like jackfruit not brine, and has a beautiful almost dark meat chicken color, which is cool for some recipes and not for others where you need white meat look. The pieces are small, since it’s organic we’re not mutating the plant into giant American sizes to get more meat but less flavor. It has a lot of shreds and small cores, which is great for most of my recipes, and the shreds are more defined and less mushy. But because of the small size, the shreds are kind of wimpy and don’t look as meat-like. It is more expensive than the rest, and much harder to find-  I’ve only found it at high end health markets like Whole Foods, and not all of them at that (I found it in North Carolina but not California). 

COST: $2.99/can

LOCATIONS: Some Whole Foods and natural markets

PROS: Great flavor, lots of shreds and small cores, organic, great texture

CONS: Hard to find, more expensive, short shreds

 

ASIAN BEST

This is my least favorite jackfruit because of the texture and flavor. It is very watery and mushy so it’s hard to get an amazing texture in your dishes. The flip side of this is that the cores are very tender, so you can use them in more dishes. It’s hard to detect any jackfruit flavor, it’s mostly briney/watery. It has large pieces- a lot of shreds, seeds, and cores and is a good multi-purpose cross-recipe product if you take extra care to rinse and squeeze it very dry to bring back a little tooth. The benefit of the large pieces is that your shreds look long and more meat-like. It has a really nice bright white color which is great for recipes like the chicken nuggets.

COST: $1.49/can

LOCATIONS: Asian Markets

PROS: Inexpensive, large pieces and long shreds, nice white color

CONS: Mushy, flavorless

 

TAS BRAND

This is extremely similar to the Asian Best in size, color, and flavor, but the texture is a bit better. It’s not as mushy and has a slightly better flavor, has tender cores and long shreds, and a pretty white color that is slightly more pink than the Asian Best. It’s the same cost and found in the same places, so I would always choose this over Asian Best.

COST: $2.99/can

LOCATIONS: Some Whole Foods and natural markets

PROS: Inexpensive, large pieces and long shreds, nice white color

CONS: Slightly mushy, flavorless

 

JACKFRUIT PREP TIPS

 

Always rinse the jackfruit very well to remove the brine flavor

Always squeeze the jackfruit dry in a kitchen towel for the best texture

Remove the seeds and most of the cores for any shredded preparation- meat doesn’t have seeds

You can use all the leftover cores and seeds in my Jackfruit OG Chicken Nugget recipe

Treat it as you would meat, use rubs, sauces, and similar cooking methods. The more you flavor it and the longer you cook it, the better it will taste. 

 

MY JACKFRUIT RECIPES

 

BBQ Jackfruit Pulled Pork

Jackfruit Carnitas Tostadas

Jackfruit Tuna Melts

Jackfruit OG Chicken Nuggets

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