Breadfruit is a large, starchy fruit that is an ideal substitute for potatoes, rice, and other staples.
Here is a quick guide on breadfruit including some of my own recipes.
What is breadfruit
Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) is a large starchy fruit that is closely related to breadnut (chataigne), jackfruit and other members of the mulberry family. The fruit is typically the size of a large cantaloupe with thin, green, bumpy skin and pale, white to light yellow flesh.
Here’s a look at a large breadfruit I got from the farmer’s market.
Breadfruit and jackfruit are not the same fruit. Jackfruit is much larger with olive green skin and yellow, stringy, sweet flesh.
Breadfruit and soursop are also different fruits. Soursop is a sweet exotic fruit belonging to the Annona family. Soursop has dark green leathery skin, small spikes, and white, sweet flesh with black seeds.
Here’s a look at the two fruits. Note, these photos are not to scale – soursop is often much smaller than breadfruit.
How to tell if a breadfruit is ripe
When a breadfruit is ripe, its skin becomes light green with several brown spots. Traces of the white latex present in the breadfruit tree is often visible on the skin of the ripe fruits, especially at the top, closer to the stem. The flesh is often softer in texture and sweeter in taste.
Unripe breadfruits have bright green skin with no spots. The skin is often rougher and the small segments are closer together. The fruit itself tends to be firmer. The flesh is also firmer with no detectable sweetness.
An overripe breadfruit is very soft to the touch. I don’t usually use the overripe fruit in my recipes.
Here’s a look at unripe breadfruits in the tree (left) and a ripe breadfruit (right).
What does breadfruit taste like
Breadfruit has a very mild, starchy taste reminiscent of a mild potato. Ripe breadfruit will have slight hints of sweetness. To clarify, breadfruit does not taste like bread in any way, it is a much milder, starchy food.
How to cook breadfruit
Breadfruit is a versatile staple and can be enjoyed at any stage in its maturity. Most often, the fruit is boiled, roasted whole, baked, steamed, fried, and grilled. Breadfruit is a comparable starchy substitute for other staples like potato, rice, bread, pasta, and more.
Can you eat breadfruit raw
Very ripe to overripe breadfruit can be eaten raw. At this stage, the fruit is very soft to the touch and can be torn apart with your bare hands. The flesh is often pale yellow, very soft, and relatively sweet.
In the Caribbean, breadfruit is not eaten raw – it is cooked in a number of ways.
Ways to cook breadfruit
Breadfruit contains a white, sticky latex-like substance that oxidizes quickly and turns brown. This liquid will stick to your hands, knife, and chopping board and can be hard to clean.
To prevent this, cut into the top of the breadfruit around the stem and remove. Turn the fruit upside down and place a plate underneath and leave for an hour or so. I leave the breadfruit in the sink.
The white latex-like substance drains out of the breadfruit through the hole. This makes preparing the breadfruit easier to do and the fruit doesn’t oxidize as quickly.
Here, it started to turn brown already:
Once the breadfruit has drained, you can roast it whole, bake whole or peel for steaming, boiling or frying. If you do plan on peeling the breadfruit, I recommend peeling it while it is upside down and before cutting into the fruit since the latex is more abundant at the center.
Alternatively, instead of removing the stem and allow the fruit to drain, you can apply oil to your hands and knife before peeling the fruit.
1. Roasting Breadfruit
Roasting in an open flame is a common way to cook breadfruit that has been prepared and drained. Large slits are also cut into the fruit before roasting. When placed in the flames, the outer skin of the breadfruit becomes charred and the heat steams the insides. The smoke also infuses into the flesh through the center, where the stem was broken off.
The fruit must be rotated often while roasting to ensure even heating and cooking. It can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to fully cook.
Once cooked, the charred fruit is removed from the heat and left to cool. The ashes are dusted off and the skin is peeled with a sharp knife. The fruit is cut and the center is removed before serving.
This video shows a traditional roasting set up in Tahiti.
Chris from CaribbeanPot also explains how he roasted breadfruit in his backyard:
Roasting of breadfruit can also be done on the stovetop. Michelle from Healthier Steps explains the process in her post.
2. Baking Breadfruit
Baking breadfruit in the oven is a fairly straightforward process. The skin is rubbed with oil and the fruit is wrapped with aluminum foil. It is baked in a preheated oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for at least an hour. It is done when the breadfruit insides are soft.
Once baked and cooled, the breadfruit is peeled, cut and the center is removed before serving.
3. Boiling Breadfruit
Boiling breadfruit is a fast way to cook the fruit. After the stem is removed and left to drain, the skin is removed. It is then cut into quarters and placed immediately in salted water to prevent any oxidation and to reduce the stickiness of the latex. The center of the breadfruit is removed and the rest is cut into smaller pieces.
The pieces are washed and added to salted boiling water. It may take 15 to 30 minutes for the breadfruit to soften completely. Once soft, the pieces are strained, rinsed and served.
Boiled breadfruit can be mashed and used much in the same way as boiled potatoes. Breadfruit pie is one of my favorite ways to make the fruit. Check out my breadfruit pie recipe:
Another favorite is oil down. Oil down is a delicious side dish made with young dasheen (taro) leaves, vegetables, coconut milk, seasonings, and a meat option (usually pig tails).
Nozzle has a great video on making oil down, Grenada’s national dish.
4. Frying Breadfruit
To fry breadfruit, it is quartered and added to salted water. As you saw before, the water reduces any oxidation and stickiness. The center is removed and the usable part is rinsed. The breadfruit is then dried and cut into very thin slices. The slices are fried much in the same way as potato fries or plantain chips. They take about 10 minutes to get nice and crisp (the frying time depends on the thickness of the slices).
The fries are salted and seasoned before serving. Check out my breadfruit chips recipe here.
5. Turning breadfruit into flour
To make breadfruit flour, the fruit is cut, peeled, sliced or grated and dehydrated using a dehydrator or natural sunlight. Once fully dried, the pieces are ground finely using a blender or coffee grinder.
This is an all natural, gluten free wheat flour alternative.
Follow Laura as she explains how to make the breadfruit flour in her video:
What to eat breadfruit with
Roasted, baked, boiled and fried breadfruit can be served much in the same way as potato. So, eat roasted breadfruit with salted fish and tomatoes or sauteed vegetables. Boiled breadfruit is an all natural gluten free staple that can be served with beans and steamed vegetables. Breadfruit pie is an alternative to potato pie or macaroni pie. Serve it alongside fried rice, Trini callaloo, and your favorite stew meat.
What to eat breadfruit with has an endless list of side dishes but they all land in deliciousness.
Is breadfruit healthy
Breadfruit is a healthy source of complex carbohydrates, essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The fruit is considered a low glycemic index food, meaning the carbs in breadfruit take longer for the body to break down and so prevent sudden blood sugar spikes.
According to the USDA database, 100 grams of breadfruit provide 103 Calories, 35% the daily recommended level for Vitamin C and 10% the recommended value for potassium. These were stats from the 1980’s. Since then, there has been a lot of research into breadfruit.
It is a low GI food
This 2009 study listed boiled breadfruit, boiled legumes and rice flour roti as low glycemic index foods. And a more recent study from 2020 found breadfruit flour is gluten free, nutrient dense and falls into the low glycemic index category.
It contains essential amino acids
An interesting 2015 study found a wide variety of essential amino acids in several breadfruit varieties. These amino acids include ketogenic amino acids like phenylalanine, leucine and isoleucine (which are not converted to glucose in the body). The study found breadfruit had higher quality proteins when compared to other staples like corn, wheat, rice, potatoes, and peas.
By the way, phenylalanine is needed to produce melanin, dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline. Leucine is used by the muscles. Isoleucine helps the immune system, wound healing, and more.
Cooking does not affect its benefits
A recent study in 2020 found cooking caused very little changes to the bioactive compounds in breadfruit. So, the fruit essentially retains its important compounds and benefits after being heated.
It can help fight world hunger
Breadfruit trees grow tall (about 50 feet and more) and take between four to five years to start bearing fruit. The tree needs very little care and can produce a hundred fruits per year. Older trees can yield closer to 250 fruits within the year.
This much output with little intervention means breadfruit production can be sustainable, organic and environmentally conscious with little need for pesticides and fertilizers. Compare that to the production of wheat, corn and rice that require many acres, labor and substantial pest control.
Therefore, the mass production of breadfruit can assist in meeting the world’s food demand and reduce world hunger. Read more on this on NPR.
Breadfruit has also been used to feed livestock for centuries, if not longer. So, not only can breadfruit be used to meet the human global demand for food, it can also help with the demand for animal feed.