By Lauren Incarnato, Student Nutritionist
You may have become a vegetarian years ago, but that doesn't mean you're free from the occasional meat cravings. Almost every vegetarian has one dish that they had such a hard time giving up. I've also heard several people say "I could be a vegetarian if it weren't for (insert meat dish here)." A few years ago, I stopped eating meat but ultimately broke at the sight of buffalo chicken dip and from there I was back into my old ways of putting bacon on my salads and looking forward to boneless wing nights at Buffalo Wild Wings.
But what if there was a non-meat alternative that could satisfy these cravings without the guilty feeling of eating actual meat? Would you believe me? Probably not. Would you believe me more if I told you it was a fruit? Definitely not. Well believe it or not, this fruit has become a staple among the vegan and vegetarian community as an alternative in several meat dishes.
It's called Jackfruit.
What is it? Jackfruit is actually one of the largest fruit in the world. Its outer skin is green and prickly, but the inside is actually a pale yellow color. It grows on trees typically in the Southeast region of Asia and is actually a quite common food staple in other areas of the world. Fun Fact: you're not supposed to sit under these trees because jackfruit can weigh up to 100 lbs and that would be a major concussion...
What does it taste like? When I tried jackfruit for the first time, I thought it tasted like salsa. Apparently, I have a very inaccurate palette because ripe jackfruit has a sweet flavor and aroma. The reason people use it as a meat substitute is because it can be treated as a starch because it will take on any flavor that you want. It also has a string-like texture with the ability to be pulled apart and it'll mimic the texture of pulled pork or shredded chicken.
Where can I get it? The internet says jackfruit is typically available at Asian Markets. It will either be canned, fresh, or packaged with water or syrup. Other than that, I've found it at organic markets and my most recent and most shocking find was at the South Campus Common Shop. That's right, you can find jackfruit right here on campus. Now what's your excuse for not trying it?
What the heck do I do with it? In Asia where jackfruit is very common, it's eaten raw. In the United States, we like to get as creative as possible and use jackfruit as the main component to mimic popular meat dishes. It can be used to make pulled pork sliders, buffalo chicken dip (my personal favorite), and even fried chicken.
Not only is jackfruit a hack for vegetarians to still enjoy their favorite meat dishes, it is also high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and several nutrients including magnesium, copper, and potassium.
Vegetarian or not, jackfruit is pretty cool. It's nutritious, it's versatile, and it's just overall exciting. Even if you aren't looking for meat substitutes in your diet, jackfruit could be a fun way to experiment with new recipes or flavors. Don't knock it 'til you try it!
Terps With Taste is run by the Student Nutritionist Team with University of Maryland Dining Services. We write content for students, by students. Enjoy!