Dan Staackmann, founder of the independently-owned vegan company Upton’s Naturals, joins the Clever Cookstr to talk about an ingredient that’s gaining popularity, although it may not yet be on your shopping list: jackfruit.
Upton’s Naturals is the first company to launch pre-seasoned, ready-to-eat jackfruit in North America, and it has done its part to help make a large, intimidating, and versatile fruit more accessible to home cooks. Dan Staackmann joins the Clever Cookstr to tell us about the unique ingredient.
As a vegan himself for over 25 years, Dan started with seitan, a common meat alternative made of wheat, water, and spices. Exploring flavors and textures that can help make vegan diets delicious, Dan landed on jackfruit. The fruit itself is large (individual fruits can grow to a hundred pounds), and sweet when ripe, but it's the young, starchy jackfruits that Dan uses for savory purposes.
"The fresh fruit that you see in the store—that whole giant monster—is not what you would use to make a savory BBQ jackfruit sandwich," explains Dan. "We actually harvest the young fruit, where none of the sweetness or seeds have developed, so it's got a very neutral flavor. In terms of appeal, it's largely about texture." Its shreddable texture can mimic pulled pork or chicken, making it ideal for vegan sandwiches, tacos, and hearty meal salads. "Essentially anything that you might normally put that shredded poultry or pulled pork into," says Dan.
When marinated and seasoned, jackfruit is a whole food meat alternative—meaning that it isn't highly processed and filled with additives. "We'd love to see more clean ingredient options among meat alternatives," Dan explains. "Jackfruit is simply a whole food. We're not taking that and putting it into anything else, we're just taking the whole fruit, seasoning it, and that's it. Most of the other meat alternatives on the market, including the seitan we produce, there's a little bit more processing involved."
Without any wheat or soy, it's also a vegan alternative for eaters whose gluten or soy intolerance can make tofu, tempeh, or seitan non-options. And jackfruit can brag about being a good source of fiber, potassium, calcium, and iron.
Vegan meal kits and vegan mac and cheese are also among Upton's Naturals' offerings.