It’s Gigantic, Fibrous, Spiky—and a Substitute for Meat?

Meet the jackfruit, the South Asian staple that chefs and food companies are embracing as a sustainable stand-in for meat.

Spiky, gigantic, and fibrous, jackfruit may not seem particularly inviting. But the tropical fruit in its unripened state is gaining popularity in the United States as a sustainable substitute for meat.

Twenty-five percent of U.S. consumers decreased their meat intake from 2014 to 2015, according to the Nutrition Business Journal. And sales of meat alternatives have nearly doubled—from $69 million in 2011 to $109 million in 2015.

That may explain why some chefs and food companies have begun promoting jackfruit. It has a texture (though not a protein content) like meat’s. It’s starchy and neutral tasting, so “you can do anything with it,” says chef Kajsa Alger, who cooks with it at her L.A. restaurant.

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