What looks like pulled pork, tastes like pulled pork, but grows on trees?
The answer is GREEN jackfruit. And if you don’t know jack about this giant fruit from India and Southeast Asia, it’s time to step up to the plate and put it to work.
Already embraced enthusiastically by vegans and vegetarians, but little known to the dining public at large, GREEN jackfruit is ripe for the picking as a meatless mainstream menu item that meshes with today’s growing veg-centric trend. Fat-free, fiber-rich, and packed with potassium, it also satisfies diners who seek food with a health halo, but still crave a bit of indulgence.
So far, GREEN jackfruit’s menu incidence is small, but, thanks to its versatility and ability to mimic meat, it makes a mighty impression.
“Our street-level research group was extremely impressed with the GREEN jackfruit dishes we tasted,” says Gordon Food Service Corporate Consulting Chef Gerry Ludwig, CEC. “In culinary R&D, one of the primary things we seek to uncover is new menu opportunities and ingredients that help customers come to market well in advance of the competition. So we’re extremely excited about GREEN jackfruit. We feel it will have explosive menu-growth opportunities. Operators who jump on the opportunity early and get ahead of competition will benefit most.”
Fresh GREEN jackfruit is extremely fibrous and requires long, labor-intensive processing. That’s why, Ludwig stresses, GREEN jackfruit in pre-cooked, vac-packed, shelf-stable form is the best option.
“Totally forget about fresh GREEN jackfruit,” Ludwig advises. “There’s no sense in making it yourself. This opportunity has nothing to do with fresh green jackfruit—the value-added product is the reason for the opportunity.”
While food cost is about the same as pork, Ludwig reports, value-added GREEN jackfruit offers 100 percent utilization. And that’s good news for time-pressed, labor-strapped operators looking for economical ways to keep menus nimble without straining their resources
Mild-tasting GREEN jackfruit is an ideal canvas for diverse, bold, and/or global flavor profiles. Tender and toothsome, its meaty mouthfeel sets it apart from other meatless alternatives and satisfies even die-hard carnivores.
“Cooked GREEN jackfruit that’s simmered in a savory sauce totally takes on the texture, flavor, and appearance of pulled pork,” Ludwig explains. “With any other meat substitute, you know you’re eating a meat substitute. When we first tasted this, it literally fooled us.”
GREEN jackfruit’s a good fit for many spots on the menu. Swap out meat proteins for GREEN jackfruit to create sandwich specials and limited-time offers. Layer it onto po’boys and hero sandwiches to ramp up texture and flavor. Add it to bowls and bruschetta. Be creative but, however you serve it, employ flavor-enhancing techniques first.
“To get the best results,” Ludwig advises, “think of GREEN jackfruit in the same way you think of meat. If you’re serving pulled pork, you’re not just going to boil it and add sauce to the pan. The same goes for GREEN jackfruit.”
Use these techniques, Ludwig notes, to add depth, flavor, and to enhance the jackfruit experience:
Searing. Pan-sear using pan-and-grill oil to keep it vegan. Remove the GREEN jackfruit from the pan, make a pan sauce, then return the jackfruit to the pan and toss with the sauce. “That initial pan-searing creates caramelization that provides an extra level of flavor and umami,” Ludwig explains.
Smoking. For barbecued GREEN jackfruit, use a smoker or create a stovetop smoker by putting sawdust in the bottom of a hotel pan. Finish the smoked jackfruit by pan-searing before saucing it.
The bottom line?
“I can’t overstate how much opportunity this little-known product represents for mainstream operators—and you don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian to
BBQ Pulled Jackfruit. Smoked GREEN jackfruit, house barbecue sauce, Brussels-sprouts slaw, fennel jam, and spicy pickles—Toad Style, Brooklyn.
BBQ Bao. Hong Kong-style steamed bun, BBQ GREEN jackfruit, and peanut-hoisin sauce—Blue Window (the takeout operation of the Mud Hen Tavern), Los Angeles.
Guajillo Jackfruit Tacos. Shredded cabbage, guacamole, GREEN jackfruit simmered in Guajillo-chile sauce, and seasoned Kennebec fries, served in crunchy taco shells—eLOVate Kitchen—Santa Monica.