Jackfruit meat substitute recently gained quite a lot of attention particularly in the Southeast Asian markets as Singapore start-up food brand KARANA announced its plan to soon roll out a jackfruit-based ready to eat meat substitute.
The growing interest in jackfruit processing is a welcome development for food innovators. It is also good news for local farmers as post-harvest processing of green jackfruit means adding more value to their produce.
But, is jackfruit pork alternative a viable option for vegans and vegetarians? For some food experts, this huge tropical fruit offers a lot of potential as meat substitute but it requires some attention before it can become a mainstream staple among the vegan/vegetarian crowd.
The Green Jackfruit
Jackfruit is a large tropical fruit that is abundant in many parts of India, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and South America. The unripe fruit is the one suitable for cooking while ripe jackfruit can be preserved as sweet treats for desserts.
Unripe green jackfruit has a neutral taste and odor which makes it ideal for processing as meat substitute or extender. Most importantly, the texture of the fruit closely approximates meat. It is much firmer, chewy, and can be pulled the same way as pork with its unique strand-like composition.
Jackfruit is versatile enough that some chefs have used it as crab-meat substitute, veggie-patty, or as chopped filling for tacos. Its neutral flavor makes it a choice ingredient as it gives much leeway for chefs to prep their dishes with different herbs and spices.
This tropical fruit also packs a wallop in terms of nutritional value. It is rich in potassium, magnesium and other essential nutrients. It has high fiber content and low-glycemic load which encourages the body to burn more fat.
Lastly, jackfruit is fairly abundant and thrives even under harsh tropical climate. As such, the fruit is cheaper compared to the base ingredients of other meat substitutes.
Unfortunately, almost 60% of the world’s unripe jackfruit crop goes to waste because the market cannot really absorb the production volume. Hence, processing the fruit into meat substitute could drastically reduce wastage and substantially increase the income of subsistence farmers.
Some Downside That Needs Attention
Of course there are some downsides to using jackfruit as meat alternative. For starters, the fruit is known to be low in protein. This is a major turn-off for some vegans who are looking for suitable alternatives that can approximate the protein load of meat.
According to dietetics and nutrition expert Amy Gorin, “jackfruit doesn’t provide enough protein to make it a protein substitute.” For those who will be using it for their daily fare, Gorin suggests that “they should try to get their protein needs from other sources.”
Another potential problem of mainstreaming jackfruit is its inherent large size. A single fruit ranges from around 15 pounds to an astonishing 70 pounds. It’s also bulky which could be a challenge during transport.
Post-harvest pre-processing can be done at the farm level but this may substantially increase the farm-gate price. In order to upscale the production of ready to eat jackfruit meat alternative, food innovators need to find a viable solution to overcome these challenges.
Food Innovation Solutions
There is no doubt that mainstreaming jackfruit as a meat substitute requires further research from food innovators. One viable solution is to limit or totally eliminate heavy processing using harsh chemicals.
Green jackfruit is shelf-stable and it really does not require heavy intervention post-harvest. It can be processed using mechanical and natural techniques that will simply enhance its already meaty texture. As for ready to eat jackfruit meat, it can be seasoned and infused with herbs and spices to prolong its shelf-life and to make the meat tastier and more delicious.
Today, a lot of vegans and vegetarians are getting accustomed to using jackfruit meat especially in richer markets such as Europe and North America. Clearly, this fruit offers lots of benefits both for end consumers and for businesses like restaurants and food manufacturers. It’s probably just a matter of time before we can see the wider adoption of jackfruit meat in the market.