Jackfruit – the best Meat Substitute

I’m hesitant to say “Meat Substitute” because typically, I prefer to let ingredients shine as they are, and make a delicious meal using fresh natural ingredients that work together.  However, as a Gluten Free Vegetarian I often find myself in search of extra “substance” that isn’t also loading on fat and calories…or just too repetitive…

I bike 16 miles round trip to and from work, I hit the rock climbing gym on a regular basis – so my calorie/fat intake isn’t really a huge concern for me.  However, I still like cooking lean meals that I can eat hearty portions of. Brown Rice, Quinoa and sometimes nuts are my typical fillers.  They add substance, they’re easy to add flavor to, they can blend well with almost any style of dish I create. However, rice is just loading on the Carbs and Quinoa is piling on the fat.  While I love these ingredients – and totally support eating them.  They should still be eaten in moderation.  My boyfriend and I are BIG eaters – we’d rather eat a giant bowl of a light meal, then a small bowl of a densely caloric/fat meal. That’s just our preference.

You really shouldn’t be eating giant bowls of quinoa.  “But it’s a healthy fat!” … yes so are nuts.  And i’m sure by now you’ve heard you shouldn’t be indulging in THOSE often either.

And personally I’m a firm believer in variety – you shouldn’t be eating the same thing everyday.  I don’t like to eat quinoa everyday, or nuts everyday.  I like to keep a large variety of food items in constant rotation.

Tofu = no.  I’m not a fan of tofu for a myriad of reasons.  1) It just doesn’t taste that good – it can be OK at best to me. 2) It’s highly processed – those nicely packed blocks of tofu you get packaged in the store have been processed heavily before they reach you. 3) They’re likely GMO (unless other wise noted) 4) I buy into the studies that claim Soy products really aren’t great for you, especially on a regular basis.

This brings me to the beloved Jackfruit – now I hope someone out there isn’t going to tell me that Jackfruit contains some sort of awful chemical and I’m going to get cancer and die – well apparently beans & nuts do that – and so does meat, and tofu, and gmo’s… shit we’re all going to die.

Anyways, back to Jackfruit, it comes in a can.  You can find them whole in Asian markets – but these are not the kind you want – they will be ripe and taste sweet.  You need Young Jackfruit packed in Brine which is unripe Jackfruit in a salty water for preserving.  You can get it at your local asian market near the coconut milk.

It looks like this

When you open it – it looks as it does on the can, kind of like albino pineapple slices.

When you prepare to cook with it, you should rinse it well to clean the salty brine off of it. To do this – just squeeze it between your hands under water, over a colander. Dont’ be afraid to squeeze it and pull it apart.  When you’re done it should look like this:

Looks a bit like Tuna or Chicken. It tastes like pretty much nothing, but is nice and dense.

My favorite part about it? It’s like a little flavor sponge. Whatever you cook it with, it just sucks up all the flavor.  I’ll have recipes to follow – but basically it is EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for.  It adds substance to a meal without adding a ton of fat/calories.  Provides substance and texture.