You might know jackfruit as the big, bumpy green fruit that vegans claim for their own because of its pig-free pulled pork texture when cooked. Before that, people were piling the rain forest fruit onto tacos, stirring it into South Asian curries, and mixing it with vegetables and meat in Southeast Asian stir fries.
But in the future, jackfruit could be added to chocolate. Although not to create dairy-free Galaxy bars—sorry vegans, you can't have it all.
In an effort to solve the looming cocoa bean shortage, which is partly to blame for those shrinking Toblerones at Christmas, scientists at the American Chemical Society have been researching potential bean substitutes. They say that jackfruit seeds, which are cheap and in abundance, could be the answer.
In a study published a fortnight ago in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, the American Chemical Society researchers performed a chemical examination of jackfruit seeds, and discovered that some of the fruit's compounds were associated with those also found in cocoa beans (3-methylbutanal, 2,3-diethyl-5-methylprazine, and 2-phenylethyl acetate, in case you were wondering).
In the second phase of the experiment, the researchers made 27 different jackfruit seed flours by acidifying or fermenting the seeds, then drying and roasting them. When a group of participants were asked to describe the aromas of the different flours, they described them with words including "hazelnut," "caramel," and "fruity"—all attributes associated with cocoa beans.
The American Chemical Society researchers say that jackfruit seeds have the potential to be used as a cocoa substitute in chocolate manufacturing. But could we really one day see the fruit on the ingredients list of our Cadbury's Dairy Milk bar?
MUNCHIES reached out to Dr. Katie Field from the Centre for Plant Sciences at the University of Leeds about the new research. She told us: "Using jackfruit seeds as an effective substitute for cocoa beans would be great given the uncertain future of cocoa, thanks to changes in climate and its susceptibility to disease. The results of this study suggest such a substitution could well be possible with jackfruit seeds' similarities to cocoa in aroma after processing."
Fields continued: "However, to be truly effective in replacing our reliance on cocoa beans, we need to know much more about the taste and texture, and whether processed jackfruit seeds can satisfy a chocolate craving in the same way as cocoa!"
Jackfruit has become a popular meat-free main but serving its seeds for dessert may take a bit more work.