Breadfruit trees grow in tropical regions, including Southeast Asia, the Caribbean islands, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands. Learn how to cook breadfruit so you can enjoy this delicious staple crop in a variety of dishes.
If you think breadfruit is interesting, go check out these Hawaii tropical fruits to try on your visit!
A mature breadfruit tree (artocarpus altilis) produces hundreds of pounds of oval fruit each year and is an important staple food in tropical regions. In fact, some organizations are encouraging the planting of more trees in appropriate regions as a way to help end world hunger.
Each tree produces hundreds of pounds of fruit in a year. As people become more aware of a need for food self-sufficiency, there’s been an increased interest in production of this starchy crop in regions where it can grow.
If you’ve had the chance to visit a tropical location where breadfruit grows, you may have seen one of these stunning trees and wondered at the fruit hanging from the branches.
Getting to Know Breadfruit
Breadfruit tends to be a mystery to people who have never tried it. It’s not commonly found in the western diet and there are some tricks to understanding how to cook breadfruit based on its stages of ripeness.
Mature fruit changes from a deep green to a more yellowish green. At this point, the unripe breadfruits will still be quite firm. This is the stage at which you’d prepare it as a potato substitute. Overripe breadfruit is soft and sweet and can be eaten raw or used in a variety of baked goods. In recent years, breadfruit flour has become available. It’s incredibly versatile!
If you don’t live in a region where it is readily available, look for it at Asian markets. It’s unlikely to be available at the corner grocery store. While vacationing in regions where it’s readily available, look for it at farmers markets. You many find that the only way to sample it is to cook it yourself; it’s not commonly found on menus.
One thing you can look for if you’re visiting Hawai’i? ‘Ulu chips. These are not marketed commercially, but a visit to a farmers market might net you some crispy, crunchy snacks!
By a Different Name
Breadfruit is the English name for this starchy fruit, but it’s known by a variety of names in regions around the world. This list is courtesy of the National Tropical Botanical Garden.
- árbol de pan, fruta de pan, pan, panapen, (Spanish)
- arbre à pain, fruit à pain (French)
- beta (Vanuatu)
- bia, bulo, nimbalu (Solomon Islands)
- blèfoutou, yovotévi (Bénin)
- breadfruit (English)
- brotfruchtbaum (German)
- broodvrucht, broodboom (Dutch)
- cow, panbwa, pain bois, frutapan, and fruta de pan (Caribbean)
- fruta pao, pao de massa (Portuguese)
- kapiak (Papua New Guinea)
- kuru (Cook Islands)
- lemai, lemae (Guam, Mariana Islands)
- mazapan (Guatemala, Honduras)
- meduu (Palau)
- mei, mai (Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Marquesas, Tonga, Tuvalu)
- mos (Kosrae)
- panapén or pana (Puerto Rico)
- rata del (Sri Lanka)
- rimas (Philippines)
- shelisheli (Tanzania)
- sukun (Indonesia, Malaysia)
- ‘ulu (Hawai‘i, Samoa, Rotuma, Tuvalu)
- ‘uru (Society Islands)
- uto, buco (Fiji)
There are a number of methods for preparing breadfruit. It can be eaten plain, much like you’d eat a baked or boiled potato. It can be made into assorted breadfruit recipes such as hash, French fries, or cooked breadfruit slices, or stirred into soups and stews as a potato replacement.
If allowed to ripen further, the breadfruit becomes very soft with a distinctive sweet flavor. When cooked at this stage, the fruit can be used as an addition to dessert recipes like sweet breads, custards, and cakes.
Cook the breadfruit with the outer skin on; it’s easy to remove once cooked. To do so, use a potato peeler to remove a thin layer of skin. You can also use a spoon to scrape the soft skin away. (It’s not poisonous, so if you miss some spots, no worries!)
The inner core is edible, though it can be a bit fibrous. Remove it after cooking if you like.
Breadfruit can be boiled whole or in quarters. Remove the stem and place breadfruit wedges or whole fruit into a pot of boiling water. For extra flavor, you can add hot peppers and garlic. Boil until fork tender, about 40 minutes.
Be sure to avoid overcooking the ‘ulu. It can absorb the water from the cooking pot and become somewhat soggy.
To roast breadfruit in the oven, remove the stem and score an X in the opposite end. Place breadfruit directly on the rack in a 375°F oven. Cook for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, until fork tender. Remove roasted breadfruit from the oven and allow to cool.
Raw breadfruit can be fried, but you can also use roasted or boiled breadfruit for this, since it remains firm and sliceable after cooking.
Cooking fresh breadfruit in oil calls for slicing it or cutting it into sticks and cooking it in hot oil until golden brown and cooked through. Don’t bother peeling it!
Sprinkle a little salt and chili powder on drained fried ‘ulu for spicy breadfruit fries. Mmmm.
This modern appliance makes quick work of cooking this starchy fruit. Add 2″ to 3″ of water to the Instant Pot, place the entire breadfruit (or halves) onto a wire rack, and steam for 20 minutes. This is one of my favorite ways to cook it.
Storing Cooked Breadfruit
If you live in a region where breadfruit is plentiful during the late summer months, consider boiling a big batch and freezing some for later. We like to quarter the breadfruit before boiling. Once boiled to fork-tender, cool and place in an airtight freezer container. Freeze for up to 4 months.
To use, thaw the ‘ulu and cut into cubes for home fries or slice and fry.
- 1 whole breadfruit
- Remove the stem and place breadfruit wedges or whole fruit into a pot of water. For extra flavor, you can add hot peppers and garlic.
- Bring water to a boil and cook until just tender, about 40 minutes. Use a fork to test for doneness.
- Remove from water with tongs and allow to cool.
- Remove the stem and score an X in the opposite end.
- Place whole breadfruit directly on the rack in a 375°F oven. Cook for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, until fork tender.
- Remove roasted breadfruit from the oven and allow to cool.
- Cut breadfruit into halves, then slice into 1/4" thick pieces. There's no need to peel or remove the core.
- Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a frying pan and use tongs to place slices of breadfruit into the hot oil. Cook until browned, then turn.
- Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and other spices as desired.
- Put 2" to 3" of water in the Instant Pot.
- Place a wire rack in the bottom of the cooking vessel and set breadfruit (whole or halves) in the container. You can put as many breadfruit as you can fit into the Instant Pot; cooking time remains the same.
- Steam for 20 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally, then release the lid.
When breadfruit is in season, we like to cook many at a time and freeze the wedges for use when they are in short supply. Pre-cooked 'ulu can be added to soups and stews, cooked as "home fries" to serve with eggs, or warmed gently and eaten plain.
Peeling cooked breadfruit: use a potato peeler to remove a thin layer of skin. You can also use a spoon to scrape the soft skin away. (It's not poisonous, so if you miss some spots, no worries!)
Soft, sweet 'ulu can be mashed and used to replace pumpkin or applesauce in recipes for baked goods.
To peel cooked breadfruit, use a potato peeler or paring knife. The back of a spoon can be used to scrape away the skin, too.
Both the skin and core are edible. Removing these is optional and based on personal preference.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 113Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 5gSugar: 12gProtein: 1g