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Last updated: June 21, 2023
What is breadfruit, and how should we cut and eat it? This guide explains everything you need to know about consuming this large fruit.
While not quite as large as durian fruit or jackfruit, breadfruit still tips the scales. Its size, hard rind, and dense flesh make this fruit difficult to work with. But it’s worth it for the unique flavor experience waiting inside.
Luckily, if you know the right way to cut breadfruit, it’s not nearly as hard to work with as you might think.
In this article, I’ll show you how to cut and eat breadfruit in three different ways so you can enjoy all this giant delicacy has to offer.
What Is Breadfruit
Before we discuss how to cut, prepare, and eat breadfruit, let’s first look at what this fruit is, where it originates from, and what it looks and tastes like.
Breadfruit is a tree species belonging to the Moraceae family of flowering plants, to which the fig, jackfruit, and mulberry also belong.
It is native to New Guinea and the Philippines but was widely distributed throughout Polynesia thousands of years ago.
Today, these fruit trees are common in tropical regions across the world and are considered a staple food in many areas, including the South Pacific, Jamaica, and Central America.
The fruit of the Breadfruit tree (Artocarpus altilis) is about the size of a cantaloupe. They start out light green with bumpy skin that grows smoother as the fruit matures.
Nearly ripe breadfruit has textured skin like jackfruit and is yellowish-green to tan in color. Fully ripe fruits are brown and squishy when squeezed.
Flesh, Skin and Seeds
The flesh inside the breadfruit is creamy white and very dense. In the center is a hard rind that, in some varieties, contains seeds. These seeds are edible only after being roasted.
Unripe and nearly ripe breadfruit cannot be eaten raw due to its firm texture. But, once roasted, baked, or boiled, the flesh softens and gains a potatoey flavor that has been likened to freshly baked bread.
Very ripe breadfruit can be eaten raw. In this state, the flesh takes on a squishy, almost custardy texture and gains an impressive sweetness.
Because of the variation between flavors, breadfruit can be enjoyed in a number of ways and in both sweet and savory dishes.
Remarkably, fruit from a breadfruit tree has nearly twice as much protein and fiber as a potato. It is also high in complex carbohydrates and low in fat.
These strange fruits are also good sources of certain vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and several B vitamins (source).
Cutting and Eating Breadfruit
Before you can use breadfruit in any dish, you need to know how to access the flesh inside.
Very ripe breadfruit is so soft that you can tear the fruit open with your hands. The creamy flesh inside can be pulled out with your fingers or scooped with a spoon. But less ripe breadfruit must be prepared before you can enjoy it.
There are three ways to go about this, depending on how much work you want to put in. The most labor-intensive way to prepare breadfruit is to cut it before cooking. This method is difficult because the fruit is so hard. But it allows you to get the right-sized pieces for your particular recipe without wasting time precooking the entire fruit.
I am going to explain three methods of preparing breadfruit:
- Cutting raw breadfruit
- Baking and cutting breadfruit
- Boiling and cutting breadfruit
1. How to cut raw breadfruit
Steps to cut and eat raw breadfruit:
- Using a large, sharp knife, cut the top and bottom of the fruit off to create a flat surface on each end.
- Set one of these surfaces on your cutting board and slice off the rind by cutting down along the outside. Repeat until all the rind is gone.
- With the fruit still standing on end, slice it in half using a sawing motion.
- Set one half flat-side-down on the cutting board and cut it in half again. Repeat with the other half.
- Take each quarter and cut the hard center, or heart, off and discard (similar to how you would prepare a quartered pineapple).
- You can now cut the flesh into chucks, cubes, or slices as needed.
This method is best for recipes that call for raw, unripe breadfruit.
One way to make the cutting process easier is to cook the breadfruit before peeling and slicing it. This can be done in two ways, by baking it and by boiling it.
2. How to bake and cut breadfruit
Steps to bake and cut breadfruit:
- Using a sharp, thin knife, cut out the stem. The easiest way to do this is to stab the knife deep into the flesh next to the stem and bore it out, leaving a deep hole in its place.
- Next, cook the whole, destemmed breadfruit in the oven at 400 degrees for about 2 hours.
- Once the breadfruit has baked and cooled enough to handle, peel it using a large, sharp knife. The easiest way to do this is to spiral peel it in a similar way to how you would peel an orange with a knife.
- Cut the peeled fruit in half.
- Cut each half in half again to make quarters.
- Cut out the heart on the pointy end of each slice.
- You can now slice, dice, or cube your breadfruit as needed.
Baked breadfruit can be eaten as is. It is especially good when served warm. It can also be fried, sauteed, or mashed.
If you plan to further cook your breadfruit or add it to a recipe, boiling it to soften it first is a good option. This takes less time than baking but produces a similarly soft and usable product.
3. How to boil and cut breadfruit
Steps to bake and cut breadfruit:
- Fill a large pot halfway with water.
- Put the whole breadfruit in. It will float, so there is no need to fill the pot all the way to the top.
- Bring the water to a boil, put the lid on, and cook for about 45 minutes.
- The roiling water should spin the fruit to ensure even cooking, but if the water level gets too low, you’ll need to manually turn the fruit every ten minutes or so.
- Once the breadfruit is soft to the touch, it is ready to come out of the pot.
- Allow the fruit to cool, then cut each end off.
- Cut in half lengthwise, then cut each piece in half again.
- Cut off and discard the hard center heart.
- You can now slice, dice, or cube as needed.
Baking is definitely my favorite preparation method, as I love the taste of baked breadfruit. I regularly prepare breadfruit now and have it included in my lists of green-colored fruits and exotic fruits.
Now that you know some tricks to prepare breadfruit, here are a few more tips for working with and using this exotic fruit.
When is Breadfruit Ripe
When breadfruit is fully ripe, the rind will turn brown, and the flesh will get very squishy. In fact, ripe breadfruit is so soft, you can easily tear into it with your fingers.
More often, breadfruit is eaten when it is nearly ripe or unripe. In this state, the fruit will be green to yellow or tan and still very hard. Unripe breadfruit must be cooked before you can eat it because it’s so firm.
How to Store Breadfruit
Unripe breadfruit can be stored on the counter. If left too long, it will ripen and become squishy. To delay ripening, store your fruit in the fridge. The skin will brown at cool temperatures, but the flesh will stay firm.
Cut raw breadfruit will brown if exposed to air for too long. Any unused, uncooked slices should be submerged in water and placed in the fridge.
Breadfruit is most commonly used when unripe. In this dense state, it must be cooked before eating.
1. Unripe breadfruit
Baking breadfruit produces a pleasing, soft product with a flavor somewhat like a baked potato or baked bread. It can be eaten straight out of the oven as a side dish or snack.
Baked or boiled breadfruit can be used in recipes such as curry, soups, or any other savory dish that might normally include potatoes. Breadfruit can also be sliced and fried for an exotic take on french fries or chips. Or it can be boiled and mashed to replace mashed potatoes.
This strange fruit can also be ground and dried into a powder and used in place of flour. In this form, it is used in both savory dishes and sweets.
2. Ripe breadfruit
Ripe breadfruit is much sweeter and creamier than unripe fruit. This type can be used in desserts such as pies or used to flavor ice cream. It also makes an amazing treat all by itself.
In some countries, especially Jamaica, breadfruit is mixed with milk and used to create a special kind of punch. This creamy smoothie-like drink is flavored with nutmeg and sugar. The adult version is a creamy cocktail that uses rum alongside blended breadfruit, condensed milk, and spices.
This fruit is so versatile, that it could easily be used in every dish in a five-course meal, including the beverages.