You Don’t Know Jackfruit … But You Should

Chefs looking to have meatless options for guests are turning to the largest tree-borne fruit in the world, Jackfruit. Recently, Sterling-Rice Group named the Southeast Asia native one of the top nine natural and organic food trends calling the “shape-shifting” Jackfruit the meat alternative du jour, while noting its fiber content and meaty texture.

Sebouh Yegparian, Owner of Toro Ironworks in Brooklyn, uses Jackfruit predominantly in two versions of tacos: Korean-style and Mojo.

“We braise it in a Korean BBO sauce and finish it with home-made pickled mango, kimchi, and lettuce topped with a spicy mayonnaise,” he told Modern Restaurant Management magazine. “As a Mojo, the Cuban marinade is finished very simply with salsa roja and some raw onion. We also duplicate these recipes for quesadillas, salads, burritos, and enchiladas, upon request.”

Johan Everstijn, Executive Chef at The Cider Press Café in St. Petersburg, FL, came upon Upton’s Naturals Jackfruit in a local health food store and enjoyed them so much he wanted to bring the product to his vegan restaurant. He praises the Jackfruit for its versatility.

“We use Jackfruit to make a variety of dishes, from BBQ Jackfruit sandwiches, Banh Mi, Ropa Vieja in Cuban dishes, Carnitas for tacos, and even curry dishes.”

Sal Calderone, Corporate Executive Chef at the California-based Erewhon Markets, was using another brand, but found it was way too much work in prepping the jackfruit.

“It needed to have the seeds removed and to be dehydrated before we could use it,” he said. “We were selling the Upton’s Naturals brand in retail and then noticed it at the food show. Once it was available for foodservice it was a win for us saving time in prep. We currently use it in a vegan coconut curry as well as tacos. In the tacos we do a dry rub and a tamari marinade overnight. Both are then cooked off on a hot flat top to get a little char and help bring out the sugars.”

  The Bar-B-Que Plate at Upton’s Breakroom features Upton’s Naturals’ Bar-B-Que Jackfruit with coleslaw on a bun with a side of Fried Bacon Mac and housemade pickles.
The Bar-B-Que Plate at Upton’s Breakroom features Upton’s Naturals’ Bar-B-Que Jackfruit with coleslaw on a bun with a side of Fried Bacon Mac and housemade pickles.

Yegparian said he was searching for more vegan/vegetarian options and Jackfruit provides unique marketing and educational opportunities.

“Jackfruit hit the spot,” he said. “It also creates a point of interest and helps with marketing. The response has been great with those in the know and vegans/vegetarians. It also creates an intro for greater discussion of our menu.”

Everstijn added that he appreciated the options. 

“Jackfruit from Upton’s Naturals is very easy to prepare, has many uses, has a long shelf life, and our guests love it. The response to Jackfruit dishes has been incredible.  When I first started using it, we had a hard time keeping it in stock.”

Having a  large vegetarian and vegan customer base, made Jackfruit  a natural fit and they’ve had a positive response, according to Calderone.

“It is a new experience for most. We would be using double the amount if the supply chain was in place. But once Upton has it all set to go, it will be up there with the top vegetarian options.”

Upton’s Naturals, an independently-owned, ethical vegan company offering meat alternatives sells pre-seasoned, heat-and-serve, natural Jackfruit for foodservice customers. The lineup includes Bar-B-Que, Chili Lime Carnitas, Thai Curry and an Original variety for experimental chefs. A good source of fiber, the products are completely free of cholesterol, gluten, soy, oil, GMO’s and artificial flavors, and 100 percent vegan. Available in 5 x2.2lb packs/case, the product has a shelf life of 18 months ambient and comes packaged in a retort pouch to maintain freshness.