What Is Breadfruit And What Does It Taste Like?

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If you've never heard of breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis), you're probably not alone. This large green fruit isn't something you see every day, that is, unless you live in the South Pacific region, where it grows natively, according to Britannica. Breadfruit can grow up to eight inches in diameter. While it originally grew in Malaysia, Indonesia, and New Guinea, explorers who crossed the Pacific Ocean brought baby breadfruit trees with them and planted them as they traveled, per Patagonia Provisions.

Every part of the breadfruit plant was useful to settlers at this time. They used the woody trunks to build structures, and used the bark to make cloth. The leaves had medicinal purposes and the fruits could be cooked and eaten. NPR reported that one breadfruit tree produces roughly 250 fruits every year and can feed a family for more than 10 years. But what, exactly, is a breadfruit? What does it taste like and how can you include it in your diet? 

What is a breadfruit?

Tropical breadfruit has a starchy center that can be cooked differently depending on its stage of ripeness, according to NPR. When it's unripe and green, it has a savory, artichoke-like flavor. As it matures, it morphs into something resembling a potato. Past that, it becomes sweeter and turns into a dessert.

The round green fruits grow on trees and have a sinewy pulp in the center. The jackfruit, which is taking over the vegan world, is in the same family as breadfruit, per Food Print. Some varieties of the fruit contain seeds, while others do not. In addition to the edible breadfruit, these trees also produce a white substance called latex that has many different purposes.

The tree that bears breadfruit can only grow in tropical climates, Britannica reports. Attempts to plant them in southern Florida have been unsuccessful. Efforts have been made to plant breadfruit in some poor Pacific areas to provide a steady food source because each tree can produce up to 250 fruits per season, per NPR.

Breadfruit vs. Jackfruit

If you're not familiar with breadfruit, there's a chance you've heard of its relative, jackfruit, which is commonly used as a meat substitute. Both of these fruits, in addition to pineapple, are classified as "multiple fruit" plants because they're made up of multiple individual flowers. They also both produce a substance called latex, which is a white sticky liquid that seeps out of the tree, according to Eat Breadfruit. But that's about all the two have in common.

Jackfruit grows directly off the trunk of the tree. However, breadfruit grows at the end of tree branches, and it's much smaller than jackfruit, which can grow quite large. The largest ever jackfruit was 94 pounds, while breadfruit won't grow over 7 pounds.

These two fruits taste quite different at the peak of ripeness as well, per Foods Guy. Jackfruit has a rubbery, meat-like texture, while breadfruit is known for its creamier interior.

Often, jackfruit is confused for the durian fruit. The real difference between jackfruit and durian is that they're from separate families.

What does breadfruit taste like?

Breadfruit grows in tropical climates and can be eaten at all stages of development. The vibrant, bright green fruit will taste differently depending on when you harvest and eat it, according to Food Print. Breadfruit becomes fully ripe after it's turned a yellow-brown color, softens, and smells slightly sweet. It's called breadfruit because some people say it tastes like fresh bread when it's eaten raw, Foods Guy reported. At its ripest point, the flesh should peel away from the pulp easily. 

Before turning ripe, the fruit will feel firm. You'll also see a green color with some additional yellow tinting and brown cracks in the surface. At its youngest stage, you must cook breadfruit before eating it. The fruit has a very starchy quality at this point, like a potato or a plantain, which makes it a versatile ingredient because of the diverse ways that it can be prepared.

How to cook with Breadfruit?

If you're on a culinary adventure involving breadfruit and don't quite know where to start, you're in luck. Breadfruit has an array of culinary potential and can be prepared in several ways. If you get your hands on an unripe breadfruit, it might help you to think of it as a potato. In its unripe form, you can steam, bake, fry, roast, or boil the flesh, according to Food Print.

Before you get started, it's important to soak the fruit in cold water to remove any of the tree's sap from the surface. After that, it's up to you. Try breadfruit french fries, or stir chunks into a soup, Cultured Table recommends. You can even make a dish that's similar to a traditional mashed potatoes recipe using breadfruit, per Hawaii Ulu Cooperative.

Ripe breadfruit can turn into a variety of sweeter dishes, like pancakes, or you can eat it raw. Allrecipes reported that it has a mushy texture that turns off some people who try it.

Where to buy breadfruit

Unfortunately, it's unlikely you'll ever stumble upon breadfruit at your local grocery store, according to Cultured Table. This ingredient is somewhat hard to come by unless you know where to look for it. If you're living in an area where breadfruit doesn't grow natively, check out your nearest Asian market. If you're vacationing or visiting a region where it's common, you can likely find it at a farmers' market.

If you do decide to go shopping for fresh breadfruit, it's important to know what you're looking for. A ripe breadfruit is soft and yellowish, per Food Print. If you want a fruit to eat raw, this is what you'll need. But, if you want to cook the breadfruit, look for the unripened, hard, green version. Some grocery stores sell canned breadfruit, most of which is grown in Jamaica. For example Tropical Sun breadfruit in a can has been boiled and cut into wedges.

Nutritional Value of Breadfruit

Breadfruit may not be getting the culinary attention that its cousin the jackfruit has received in recent years, but it's as versatile and nutritious as its meaty relative, according to Foods Guy. Although it's quite starchy and high in carbohydrates, breadfruit contains high quantities of fiber. One cup of breadfruit can supply around 40% of your daily suggested fiber.

Breadfruit has other nutritional value as well. The fruit has vitamins C and A, potassium, magnesium, and iron, per Food Print. It's also known for having a lower glycemic level than similar ingredients like potatoes and rice.

Runners' World encourages athletes to eat breadfruit the day before big events at which they'll expend lots of energy. This fruit has also proven to be a solid source of protein because it contains essential amino acids and is easier for your system to digest than wheat protein.