In this new occasional series, we’ll review international food products on the market that our readers may be interested in. Disclosure: Upton’s Naturals sent us samples of this product free of charge. All opinions are honest and our own (also: unpaid).
If you’ve seen jackfruit before, you’re unlikely to forget it: It’s going to be the largest fruit in any spread. I see it all the time here in Queens, where we have a sizable Asian population, a hulking greenish-yellow fruit with spiky reptilian skin. But despite vague memories of tasting—and loving—sweet, ripe jackfruit in Vietnam once upon a time, and even stronger memories of an excellent cardamom-scented jackfruit appetizer at an Indian restaurant in Vancouver, I’ve never bought nor cooked with, nor even really thought about eating, jackfruit in years. This, I’m learning, is a huge mistake.
Jackfruit, it turns out, is something of a vegan trend nowadays, landing in circles well beyond its traditional South and Southeast Asian roots. Everyone from Eater to Business Insider is talking about it, and for good reason: Every part of the jackfruit tree can be used. It grows easily, produces a lot of fruit, and is resistant to drought. It’s quite nutritious, the fruit high in vitamin C and the seeds chock-full of protein, potassium, calcium, and iron. Not only is it being touted as a solution to world hunger, but its fleshy consistency is often likened to pulled pork—so it’s also a tasty way to get us to lay off the environment-killing meat. In short, jackfruit just may save the Earth. It’s pretty big-time.
So when Upton’s Naturals offered to send us a few samples of its (100% vegan, cholesterol/gluten/ soy/oil/ GMO-free) pre-seasoned, heat-and-serve jackfruit, we were all in. Upton’s, which sources from a network of family farms in Thailand, was the first of a few companies now in the U.S. to sell young jackfruit as a meat substitute in what’s turning out to be a rapidly growing market. Who doesn’t like to have a few ready-in-a-minute healthy meals on hand?
The two products we tried were Bar-B-Que Jackfruit and Chili Lime Carnitas Jackfruit (there are a bunch of other flavors). Instructions are to pan-fry (preferred) or boil; we found the first method both quicker and easier.
Carnitas jackfruit with avocado in a tortilla...now we're talking.
So what did we think?
The Good: As promised, this heats up quickly and makes for a super easy meal. We love that it’s nutritious, and it tasted good—but not great (more on that later). The texture of the jackfruit is interesting—less pulled pork and more artichoke-like to us (perhaps you’d have to fork-shred the hunks of jackfruit to make them porkier?). But we were in this for convenience too, so didn’t bother with that, and moreover, the consistency was still agreeable. Also: We’re totally on board with the environmental and health benefits of subbing this for a meat meal.
The Not So Good: Flavor-wise, we liked the spiciness, but the Bar-B-Que flavor was a bit too vinegary, the Chili Lime Carnitas a bit too limey. The package suggests making sandwiches, salads, wraps, or rice dishes with the jackfruit, but it wasn’t quite saucy enough to work well over rice. (We much preferred the carnitas jackfruit wrapped in a whole-wheat flour tortilla; the BBQ flavor would have been ideal in a soft bun.) Additionally, despite 4 grams of fiber per serving—and eating way more than one serving each (which is ¼ of the package) in one sitting—we didn’t find it particularly filling. (We do, it should be noted, have monster appetites.)
Tasting these products has, of course, only ignited our interest in trying to cook jackfruit for ourselves. But in the meantime, the nice thing about requiring just five minutes to make a meal at home is you can take another minute to doctor it to taste, and spreading on some creamy avocado helped mellow the acidity here. All in all, these make a great addition to the pantry for time-crunched meals—that, you know, also help save the world.
Upton’s Naturals’ jackfruit can be found in the refrigerated section at natural and specialty stores nationwide.