What is breadfruit? Is it fruit, bread, or even a bread-like fruit? When you first come across breadfruit, it has the appearance of an exotic, dinosaur-looking, green round egg with a bumpy skin.
True to its name, breadfruit is a nutrition-packed fruit that tastes and smells like bread in its early stages. As it ripens, it transforms to impart a tropical smell and becomes soft and creamy.
Find out all about what breadfruit is and its origins, benefits, recipes with breadfruit flour, and where to buy breadfruit around the world.
By the end of this article, you’ll be amazed by the superpowers packed into this little green soccer-ball shaped fruit.
Below we’ll cover:
- What is breadfruit
- Breadfruit in multiple languages
- Benefits of breadfruit
- Breadfruit taste & nutrition
- Breadfruit recipes
- Breadfruit dishes
What Is Breadfruit?
Breadfruit is a fruit grown in tropical regions. It typically has a light green exterior and bumpy surface, with a starchy white interior before it’s mature. When ripe, the flesh of breadfruit becomes soft and creamy, akin to durian. Though not nearly as aromatic (or some might say – stinky!).
The scientific or botanical name for breadfruit is Artocarpus altilis. Its name has Greek origins, where ‘artos’ means bread, ‘karpos’ means fruit, and ‘altilis’ means fat. Breadfruit belongs to the Mulberry (also called Moraceae) family of plants, which includes other fruit like jackfruit and figs, and has tropical and subtropical origins. A common thread in all plants in this family is that they have a milky latex interior. As of today, there are hundreds of varieties of breadfruit in the world.
Being in the same family as jackfruit, the exterior of breadfruit looks like a smaller, rounder and non-spikey jackfruit. It weighs on average from 2 pounds to as much as 12 pounds.
The seeds of breadfruit are edible and typically can be found along the long middle core of a breadfruit, which can be cut out before preparing the breadfruit.
Breadfruit tends to ripen and spoil quickly after it’s picked in a mature stage, so it has to be used rather quickly.
These days, it can be either cooked traditionally like a potato, or ground into flour and used in various gluten-free dishes. The latter is a newer way of introducing breadfruit for baking and other dishes that prolongs its shelf life significantly.
Breadfruit in multiple languages
Breadfruit goes by a number of different names, depending on the country and language. For example:
- Ulu in Hawaii
- Rimas in the Philippines
- Pana in Puerto Rico
- Ukwa in Nigeria
- Panapen in Spanish
- Broodboom in Dutch
Benefits of breadfruit
As they say: “You are what you eat”. So what’s your body absorbing when eating breadfruit?
Breadfruit is a superfood with many antioxidant and nutritional properties. Some of the biggest benefits of breadfruit include:
- High in complex carbohydrates (moderate glycemic index)
- High in fiber
- Low in fat
- Gluten-free, cholesterol-free
- Rich in antioxidants
- Good source of potassium, magnesium, thiamine (B1), niacin (B3) , calcium, iron, phosphorus, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C
- Some carotenoids (B-carotene and lutein)
Apart from its nutritional value, many parts of breadfruit trees, from its bark to its sticky sap are very versatile and even have medicinal uses.
Breadfruit bark can be used to make canoes and even as timber in homes, as it’s lightweight and strong, yet resistant to termites. It’s also been used to construct furniture around the home in Haiti. Some surfboards in Hawaii have been built from breadfruit.
Breadfruit sap is a milky white latex that has also been used as glue, as waterproof caulking boats and canoes, and even as chewing gum in the Caribbean. Fallen fruits and the sap are also used to feed birds, while bees collect the pollen and latex.
Breadfruit flowers are an effective mosquito repellent, and can be safer than commercial repellents.
Breadfruit leaves have been brewed into tea to reduce high blood pressure and control both asthma and diabetes in the West Indies. In Taiwan, they’ve been used to treat fevers and liver diseases. The large and long rigid green leaves have also been used to wrap foods cooked in earth ovens or as fans. Breadfruit leaves have also been used to feed livestock.
Breadfruit bark fibers have also been used for clothing, as mosquito nets, as nets to catch sharks, and even as harnesses for water buffalo in the Philippines.
Medicinally, back in the day, people ingested the latex from the breadfruit sap, to treat:
- Stomachaches and diarrhea
- Ear infections or eye infections in the Pacific Islands
- Skin ailments, broken bones, and injuries when massaged onto the skin
Breadfruit taste & nutrition
When mature breadfruit is cooked, it has properties similar to a potato in texture, with a slight tropical taste.
When very ripe breadfruit is used, it becomes very soft and sweet and is great for baked goods, such as cookies, breads, muffins, and cakes.
Breadfruit is an open book when it comes to how it’s cooked – it can be roasted, baked, boiled, fried, pickled, and fermented.
Breadfruit has become more commonly dried and ground into flour for use in gluten-free baked goods. It’s gluten-free and very absorbent, and imparts a subtle tropical taste and flavor, similar to a mix of banana and mango. Along with its tropical taste, it has a bread-like texture.
For every 100 grams of breadfruit (½ cup), you’ll find about about 25% of the recommended daily intake of fiber and 5-10% of the recommended daily intake for protein.
The following nutritional chart averages the nutrition for Hawaiian ulu varieties.
Serving Size 100 grams
Servings Per Container 1
Amount Per Serving
Calories 103 Calories from Fat 1.8
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0.2g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 19.4mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 31.9g 11%
Dietary Fiber 5.4g 22%
Protein 4.0g 8%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Other nutrients per 100 grams include:
- Phosphorus (mg): 43.1
- Potassium (mg): 376.7
- Calcium (mg): 16.8
- Magnesium (mg): 34.3
- Iron (mg): 0.5
- Zinc (mg): 0.1
- Vitamin C (mg): 2.4
- niacin (mg): 0.9
- Viatmin A (mg): 1.4
- Lutein (mg): 96.3
- B-carotene (mg): 15.1
When using breadfruit flour, you can use it in gluten-free and healthy recipes from appetizers, to soups, to main dishes, to desserts:
Here are some popular ways breadfruit is prepared around the globe.
- Hawaii (“ulu”): breadfruit hummus, breadfruit cheesecake, breadfruit chips, stews with breadfruit used as potatoes, breadfruit cookies and cakes.
- Jamaica: roasted or fried breadfruit slices, breadfruit stew, breadfruit salad, ackee and salt fish with breadfruit (roasted or fried), breadfruit chips.
- Nigeria (“ukwa”): breadfruit porridge, breadfruit pottage with smoked fish or meat.
- Puerto Rico (“panapén”): fried breadfruit (tostones de panapén), boiled with bacalao (salted cod fish), breadfruit flan,
- Thailand: breadfruit in syrup, breadfruit curry, breadfruit in coconut milk.
Breadfruit: Feeding The Future
There are over 821M people in the world living with hunger and food scarcity. And breadfruit, a little dinosaur-looking superfood, has immense potential to decrease world hunger.
A few of its many superpowers are: it’s very nutritious, grows in tropical climates where 80% of the world’s hungriest people are based, and has trees that are easy to care for and able to feed an entire family for decades.
Anthony Bourdain once said, “Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.”
Here’s to making breadfruit a household staple around the globe, and in turn spurring the planting of more breadfruit trees en masse to provide a steady source of nutritious food where the world needs it most.