Does Breadfruit Actually Taste Like Bread? Exploring the Flavors of 'Ulu

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Jan. 31 2024, Published 2:42 p.m. ET

A breadfruit tree at Limahuli Botanical Garden on Kauai Island in Hawaii.
Source: Getty Images

Breadfruit on a tree looks fairly similar to jackfruit and durian, as well as a "melon-sized dinosaur egg," according to Eater. But does breadfruit actually taste like bread?

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Keep reading as we dive into the impressive tropical fruit, which is most commonly found in Hawaii and other tropical regions.

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What does breadfruit taste like?

The name breadfruit, it turns out, isn't a misnomer; per Mashed, as the fruit ripens, it gives off a sweet odor and, depending on the various stage when it is consumed, may be described as bread-like.

Breadfruit is often described in firsthand accounts as starchy, hence why it is said to taste potato-like if eaten in its earlier stages of development before it becomes sweeter, according to CBS Sunday Morning. It has also been described as similar to an artichoke in flavor, per HowStuffWorks.

While some mistakenly believe that breadfruit is inedible raw, that description is incomplete at best. Diane Ragone of the Breadfruit Institute told NPR: "You can eat breadfruit at any stage. When it's small and green, it tastes like an artichoke. When it's starchy and mature, it's the equivalent of a potato. When it's soft and ripe, it's dessert."

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Jared Rydelek, known on YouTube as Weird Explorer, described the taste and texture of a raw breadfruit as similar to mashed potatoes. On a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of sweetness, he described it as a 3, noting that it tasted less sweet than an apple.

In a Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted episode, the fruit was sniffed and assessed for its ripeness to include in a dessert, and was later mashed and paired with butter as part of a Hawaiian Shepherd's pie.

And to top it all off, breadfruit is fairly nutrient dense, as noted by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

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Breadfruit has a rich history across tropical regions of the world.

It's important to approach this topic from a place of appreciation and respect for the cultures that consume breadfruit.

Breafruit's origins are in New Guinea and the Indomalayan region of the world, according to the National Tropical Botanical Garden.

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Breafruit is also known as one of the original Canoe Plants brought to Hawaii centuries ago by Polynesians, per Onolicious Hawaii.

While breadfruit may not be as recognizable in the U.S. outside of Hawaii, per NPR, breadfruit farming is alive and well across various tropical regions and countries including Haiti, Nigeria, and Samoa.

Furthermore, the crop offers a high annual yield of about 250 fruits for one single tree, according to NPR.

Per the University of Hawaiʻi newspaper Ke Kalahea, breadfruit, or 'ulu in Hawaiian, "is connected to the Hawaiian deities Kū and Haumea and acts as a kinolau (physical embodiment of a god) for both of them."

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Breadfruit can be prepared and cooked in a variety of ways.

Breadfruit is a versatile fruit that has reached so many tropical regions of the world, and subsequently, it can be prepared in a multitude of ways that honor the history and culture of many different peoples.

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For instance, Hawaiian 'ulu ambassador, Chef Sam Choy, explained in a video (produced by the Hawai'i Homegrown Food Network and the Breadfruit Institute of the National Tropical Botanical Garden) that breadfruit can be steamed, boiled, baked, or fried to achieve masterful dishes with varying degrees of sweetness and starchiness that honor Hawaiian culture. Check out the video below to learn about these traditional ways to prepare breadfruit.

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