I hadn’t, until my favorite adventurous vegan cooked up some gluten-free jackfruit barbeque back in the spring. I know I know, it’s practically fall, but hopefully you’ll forgive me the delay: this stuff is worth looking into, regardless of the season.
There aren’t too many gluten-free, vegan meat alternatives. Tofu, of course, but I know that many of us try to avoid eating too much soy (and many more of us avoid it altogether).
Enter the jackfruit. You can find it canned, frozen and/or dried in any Asian grocery (and some ‘regular’ groceries as well, and occasionally fresh). It’s a good source of fiber and has a smattering of other helpful components: vitamins A, C, and B6; magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, etc.
But what to do with it?
There are plenty of interesting things to do with the jackfruit’s seeds and leaves, and differences between the ripe and unripe fruit. Purdue has a great page on the history of the jackfruit, including its food uses, which you can peruse at your leisure – but for now let’s just focus on the unripe flesh, which is what’s most commonly sold.
First, know which kind you’re buying. Canned, jackfruit’s generally either in brine, plain water, or syrup – be careful not to get a can of the syrup-packed if you aren’t planning something sweet. Since the fruit itself is rather large, it’ll be cut into chunks by the time it gets to you.
The fruit grows most commonly in India and the East Indies, and as you can imagine it lends itself quite nicely to coconut milk-based curries. This jackfruit curry recipe from about.com is a good all-around recipe to start from. If you’re lazy like me, though, you won’t want to buy all those separate spices and herbs – there are a number of tasty curry pastes on the market that you can mix with coconut milk and jazz up with fresh basil etc. at home, and also a number of totally-ready sauces (your gluten-free grocery guide is a good place to start).
However, there’s also the aforementioned gluten-free BBQ; which the recipe above was inspired by. If you don’t like things very saucy, you can also stir-fry jackfruit, with Indian seasonings or with whatever flavors you have on hand. I see no reason why it wouldn’t work in a marinara sauce or a chili; the fruit’s faint flavor should lend itself to your favorites with minimal adaptation.
If jackfruit is already in your repertoire, what do you like to do with it? And if not, can you find it locally?