I don’t eat a ton of “fake meat” products. I mean, I love a good veggie burger, and I’ve certainly chowed down on my share of vegan hot dogs at tailgates and baseball games, but in general, I try to find meat alternatives that are real foods. Like taco filling made out of chopped veggies, or a black bean burger made of black beans and identifiable bits of actual veggies mixed in.
So, in the land of meat alternatives, a product that’s simply a fruit? That’s a bit of a unicorn for someone like me. (Except that I wouldn’t eat a unicorn because of the whole not eating meat thing. And also, who’s going to eat a unicorn? I’m no Voldemort.)
Okay, seriously flawed analogy aside, when the folks at Upton’s Naturals contacted me about sampling some Jackfruit, I was quick to say yes. Not because I was so familiar with Jackfruit — I’d actually never heard of it — but it turns out that it’s native to Southeast Asia, and when young and green, it’s often used in that part of the world in all kinds of savory cuisine because it has not become sweet yet and has a similar texture to shredded meat. And while it doesn’t offer the kind of protein you’d get from meat, the nutritional info is A-okay: Per serving, you’ve got 45 calories, 1 gram of protein, 4 grams of sugar, no fat and 250 mmilligrams of sodium.
Until the package is opened, Jackfruit doesn’t need to be refrigerated, which surprised me. And prep was very simple — the package recommended mixing the product up (and breaking the bits up if I desired finer shreds), then pan-frying over medium heat with a little oil for 5 to 7 minutes. Because I was trying Bar-B-Que Jackfruit, it was already flavored and saucy, so I didn’t add anything more to it.
It’s been so long since I last had a pulled pork sandwich that I’m not even going to pretend to know how it compares, but what I can say with authority is that I enjoyed both the texture and the flavor quite a bit. It was a little sweet, slightly spicy, and just a bit smoky. There was enough sauce to really get into the bread, but not so much that it was dripping all over. And that single sandwich seriously filled me up! I’m not sure what more I could ask for in my meat alternatives.
Because it’s shelf-stable, you can order it online if you can’t find it in a store near you. And they have a few flavors available, so even if barbecue isn’t your jam, it’s worth checking out. No need to go into the Forbidden Forest or anything!
Do you have any real food meat substitutes you love? —Kristen