Welcome to The Storied Recipe! When the Trees that Feed Foundation contacted me about featuring Breadfruit on the podcast, it piqued my interest. So, I asked my global community about their experiences with breadfruit. This post is dotted with their personal memories of this staple food found in tropical climates around the world.
I also checked to see what you were asking! - Your number one question was “What’s the difference between breadfruit and jackfruit?”
So the post begins with an in-depth assessment of the similarities and differences between breadfruit and jackfruit.
Then, I'll share the incredible medicinal properties of breadfruit, answer cooking questions, and finally link to breadfruit recipes.
Again, all the information will be accented with with personal stories from Belize, Southern India, Haiti, and the US. If you don't have much time, read those first! 😉
Table of Contents
Breadfruit (on the left) vs. Jackfruit (on the right)
- Both are tropical fruits in the mulberry family. Both have a wide array of uses, functioning in dishes as fruits, vegetables, starches, or even as a meat substitute. Jackfruit and breadfruit are both extremely healthy.
Main difference, briefly and generally:
- Breadfruit, the "tropical potato" doesn't generally function as a fruit. It is very mild in aroma and flavor. Breadfruit is usually harvested when it is mature, but before it is very ripe or overripe. It is rarely eaten raw. Instead, it is cooked and enjoyed in any number of ways.
- Jackfruit is aromatic and sweet, with about twice as much sugar per serving as breadfruit. It is usually allowed to grow past the mature stage and fully ripens into a flavorful fruit. Like other fruits, it is enjoyed raw or in desserts. However, the white fibrous part is sometimes used as a meat substitute.
- External Appearance: Similarities and Differences
- Both breadfruits and jackfruits have bumpy exteriors. They begin green and add brown tinges (or turn completely brown) as they ripen. Of course, this depends on the variety.
- Jackfruit grows much larger than Breadfruit. In fact, it’s the largest fruit in the world!
- Sometimes, Jackfruit takes as long as 3 years to mature and weighs up to 40 pounds. The largest recorded Jackfruit weighed 94 pounds! The fruit portion (arils) only accounts for about 40% of that weight.
Internal Appearance: Differences
- An opened Jackfruit contains large seeds arranged in a circular pattern. Each seed is surrounded by goldish orange arils. The pulp/arils are the sweet edible part. (See images above and below this section.)
- Breadfruit is white on the inside. The seeds are much smaller and are cooked & eaten along with the white flesh.
Texture and Flavor: Totally Different
- Breadfruit has very little flavor, although what it does have is quite pleasant and comforting - like bread. The texture is like a potato - or harder - unless very ripe or overripe. At the mature stage, breadfruit must be cooked at length.
- Jackfruit arils are soft and edible. The flavor is phenomenal - like a tropical sherbet. Some compare it to Juicy Fruit and I'd agree with that.
Jackfruit in Mexico & the US
From Lauren Malloy
The first time I heard of Jackfruit was at a Farmer's Market in Chicago, where a woman in one of the vendor booths was doing a demonstration of Pozole with jackfruit. She was a Mexican immigrant and vegan and had adapted her family's pork-based pozole recipe using jackfruit.
I have made it since, using canned jackfruit from Trader Joe's. Delicious! And I'm not vegan, although I used to be vegetarian and eat a very plant-focused diet in general although I consume animal protein.
Similarities & Differences in Nutritional Content:
- Both offer high nutritional value and incredible health benefits. However, breadfruit does take the prize when it comes to nutritional content.
- Jackfruit is lower in carbs, but higher in Vitamin B and Potassium.
- Breadfruit is higher in protein (it's also complete protein!). It's also higher in Vitamin C, carbs, dietary fiber, and many minerals and micronutrients. Read more below in "Is breadfruit healthy?"
- Both contain edible seeds, which are also healthy. Jackfruit seeds have to be boiled, but breadfruit seeds are very small and cook along with the flesh.
Similarities & Differences in Origin and Natural Homes :
- The consensus seems to be that breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) originated in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. However, it began to spread almost 5000 years ago.
- Experts think Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) originated in India.
- Both have been around so long, they've spread to almost all tropical regions of the world.
- Read more below in Lopa's account of Breadfruit & Jackfruit in India.
Breadfruit in India
Breadfruit! It's such an underrated fruit in India. Although, I think it's likely because many don't know it's different from jackfruit which is native to and common in India.
Breadfruit like so many other produce came from outside to India. There are such interesting reads available about how breadfruit spread from the Oceania to rest of the world, and its association with the slave trade.
I was intrigued about it when I had first seen it on a vegetable vendor's pushcart while living in Bangalore, the capital city of the state of Karnataka. The vendor told me those fruits came from Mangalore, another city in Karnataka which is coastal.
Breadfruit actually thrives on the southwest coast of India, covering parts of the Konkan and Malabar coasts. The climate there best favors the fruit.
It's eaten more like a vegetable in India. I asked the vendor how they cook it, and he told me about Jeev Kadge Phodi. It's a Konkani breadfruit fritter made with rice batter. In Konkani language, jeev kadge means breadfruit and phodi means fritters. Now, I love both fritters and rice (haha) and the method described wasn't too intimidating. I made it and enjoyed it so much!! This can be made with chickpea batter as well which yields a slightly different kind of fritter.
I have a good friend who is Mangalorean, and she told me of more recipes from Mangalore around breadfruit. I especially love the one with prawns. She told me people used to have breadfruit trees in their yards in Mangalore which is not very common now.
But I didn't spot the fruit for a long time after that encounter until a trip to Kerala where I remember eating a breadfruit curry with coconut milk in it.
I would love to lay my hands on breadfruit some time again and cook with it.
What does breadfruit taste like?
It depends if you eat it ripe or unripened, cooked or raw.
- Raw breadfruit can only be eaten if it's past the mature stage - ripe, or even overripe. The unripe hard and very starchy and will upset your stomach.
- Once ripe or overripe, raw breadfruit will become very soft and creamy with a milky, slightly bready flavor.
- Cooked breadfruit is starchy, soft, and comforting. Many say that cooked breadfruit smells and tastes like a mild, sweet bread.
- Honestly, when I first tried breadfruit, I couldn't tell if it really did have that bready flavor, or if I imagined I was tasting what others suggested! Either way, I found that both roasted and boiled breadfruit has a warm, soft, pleasing, almost neutral flavor.
Breadfruit in Belize
From Marietta Yoder
We loved breadfruit in southern Belize.
The tree it grew on was a huge tree with big, green, rough breadfruit. People pulled it down carefully with a pole so it would not fall and bruise.
We would peel off the green outside and cut the whitish inside into strips. Then we would fry it in hot oil, salt it well and pretend we had French fries.
How to Pick Breadfruit
- As Marietta mentioned above, breadfruit is harvested carefully.
- A breadfruit tree can grow to 85 feet, so care must be taken to avoid bruising the fruit.
- The fruit is usually turned with the cut side down, so the thick milky latex sap can drain
- Here's a fun and informative video of a couple harvesting their breadfruit tree
Choosing a Breadfruit at the Grocery Store
- Do not buy breadfruits with a bright green color (neon green). It was harvested too early and will not ripen.
- For starchy uses like mashed breadfruit, breadfruit fries, or roasted/baked breadfruit, choose a firm breadfruit with hints of brown.
- To use immediately in a dessert, choose a soft breadfruit with large patches of brown.
- Here's a great visual guide for choosing breadfruit from the National Tropical Botanical Gardens (of Florida and Hawaii).
Where can I buy breadfruit?
- In North America, if you live in a diverse area, you may find it in your local grocery store.
- Here in Maryland, I easily found both jackfruit and breadfruit at my favorite Asian market, H Mart.
- Javion Blake sells dried breadfruit products including Breadfruit Chips, Breadfruit Pancake mix, and Breadfruit Muffins & Cake mix from his online site JusChill. He buys all his breadfruit from farmers in his home country of Jamaica.
- You can find breadfruit chips from Trader Joe's. (You can also buy canned jackfruit in Trader Joe's stories or buy the TJ brand from Amazon).
Breadfruit in Haiti
It's called lam veritab in Haiti 😊 meaning something you can count on.
Slave owners planted them by the dozen on plantations because there are several large crops a year.
They make Tom Tom... Mashed breadfruit made into a ball with a mortar and pestal eaten with crab sauce. A true Haitian from the west side of the country can swallow it without chewing 🤢
I enjoy breadfruit cooked, then pressed and fried, and also I used it as a topping for shepherds pie... You can make it very mashed potato like if you add the milk, butter, etc. It's very fluffy.
How to Roast Breadfruit
- You can cook breadfruit in the oven whole or sliced
- To roast whole, cook it much the same way you would a baked potato. After all, it IS the "tropical potato"! Just as you'd poke holes in a Russet potato to release steam, in this case, you'll cut an X in the end opposite to the stem. Pop it in the oven (on a tray, in case the sap leaks) and bake 60 to 90 minutes until a fork easily pierces the breadfruit.
- Alternatively, you can cut the potato into wedges or in discs, toss with olive oil, season and roast for 45 to 60 minutes.
- Marie at Cultured Table has an excellent post with clear and informative instructions on all the basic ways to cook a breadfruit: Boiled, Roasted, and Fried.
Is Breadfruit Healthy?
- A resounding YES! Breadfruit is one of the healthiest foods available in nature! All parts of the tree and fruit are beneficial for the human body.
- Breadfruit is a complete protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids our bodies are unable to create. However, breadfruit is not particularly high in protein.
- Breadfruit is high in dietary fiber (25% of the RDA in just ½ cup) and has a low glycemic index, so it keeps us full and helps regulate blood sugar. High fiber diets play an important role in combating bad cholesterol and high blood pressure.
- Breadfruit contains almost too many nutrients, micronutrients, and minerals to mention here. Each article I read mentions a new one! Among others, breadfruit contains Potassium, Calcium, Iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate, Vitamin B6, Vitamin E.
- Breadfruit leaves contain flavonoids which are associated with preventing cardiovascular diseases, inflammation, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
- The white male flowers are even used in skincare products.
9 Breadfruit Recipes
Breadfruit Balls Recipe
Spicy Homemade Breadfruit Puffs from Cook Gem
Breadfruit Bread Recipe
Caribbean Breadfruit Quick Bread with Coconut and Raisins from The Breadfruit People
Breadfruit Pie Recipe
Breadfruit Pie from Simply Trini Cooking
Breadfruit Juice Recipe
Breadfruit Smoothie from Jamaicans.com
Jeev Kadge Phodi
Breadfruit Fritters from Kokani Food Recipes
Breadfruit Curry with Coconut Milk
Sri Lankan Breadfruit Curry from Island Smile
Breadfruit French Fries
Spicy Breadfruit Fries from Savory Spin
Tom Tom - Haitian Breadfruit with Crab Sauce
Haitian Breadfruit with Okra Sauce from Dady Chery
Savory 'Ulu Mash from EatBreadfruit.com ('Ulu is the Hawaiian word for Breadfruit)
Breadfruit vs Jackfruit from EatBreadfruit.com
Jackfruit from Brittanica.com
Jackfruit from Wikipedia
A Brief but Amazing History of Breadfruit from Patagonia Provisions
Brief Breadfruit Basics from National Tropical Botanical Gardens
Breadfruit Harvest Time from Gardening Know How
BREADFRUIT from the National Tropical Botanical Garden
How to Cook Breadfruit from Cultured Table
Scientific Paper on the Benefits of Breadfruit Seeds from IOP Science
How to Eat Breadfruit from Fruitstand.com
Breadfruit vs Jackfruit from A-Z Animals
How We Discovered the Healing Benefits of Breadfruit Flower Extract from Atilis
Breadfruit Seeds from Specialty Produce