If you haven’t heard of ackee fruits before, don’t worry because you’re not alone. Although this fruit is not available worldwide, it’s commonly eaten in Jamaica. In this guide for the curious foodie, you’ll learn about the history of this interesting fruit. Plus, get to know the answer to “what does ackee taste like?”
Ackees are fruit from evergreen trees, also called ackee trees. They are primarily grown in Jamaica and are also known as achee, akee, or ackee apple. Ackees are their national fruit. It’s also the main ingredient in their national dish–ackees and saltfish. Since they aren’t seasonal, you can buy them throughout the year.
Just like tomatoes, ackees are typically tropical fruits but used as vegetables. When unripe, ackee fruits have green pods and are harvested when ripe. According to Jamaican culture, one way to tell when an ackee is ripe is if it “smiles” or “yawns.” This happens when the pod naturally breaks open to reveal the tasty flesh.
The ackee tree bears bright red to orange fruits. Each fruit has three to four sections of the creamy flesh called arils. They also have black seeds. But, they are discarded. When you harvest ackees, you’ll only need the meat or arils.
Ackees have a long and rich history in Jamaica. This tropical fruit originated from West Africa and was imported to Jamaica through slave ships. The fruit’s original name was “ankye.” This comes from the Ghanaian Twi language, where the fruit came from. Its scientific name, “Blighia Sapida,” came from Captain Bligh. He brought the fruit to London in 1806.
Fortunately, ackees thrived under the Jamaican climate. Due to its large and cheap quantities, ackees quickly became a staple. They were a primary food source for the enslaved citizens. Locals paired the fruit with salted codfish. This highly nutritious yet inexpensive meal became the national dish of Jamaica.
The ackee fruit tastes delicious when cooked, so it’s no wonder it’s a popular dish. Ackee fused with the country’s roots, so it’s synonymous with Jamaican culture. It’s also reported as one of Usain Bolt’s favorite breakfast foods.
Ackees are available all year round in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries. Unfortunately, you can’t find it anywhere in the United States. This is due to strict importation laws and risks of illness. To learn more about whether ackee is safe to eat, head to our next section.
There are at least 48 variations of ackee. However, you can group these variations into two types: butter ackee and cheese ackee. In Jamaican cuisine, locals use both types, typically sold together.
To identify the type of ackee, you’ll need to break open the fruit and check the arils. You also need to prepare each type differently. There are many culinary uses for ackee. To learn more, check out the “butter ackee vs. cheese ackee” section below.
No, you can’t eat raw ackee. Unripe and raw ackee is dangerous to eat. This is because they are toxic at this stage of the production process. If you eat tainted ackee fruit, you’ll be at risk for Jamaican vomiting sickness.
This illness is due to the fruit’s high hypoglycin content. Even when you boil ackees, it’s required to throw the boiled water away. This is also one of the reasons why the fruit isn’t imported internationally.
Hypoglycin doesn’t break down during the canning process. This makes it unsafe for importation. It’s doubtful that you’ll find fresh or canned ackees in the United States.
Ackees are safe to eat when they’re bright red and open. These signs mean that the ackee has become an edible fruit. It also means that it’s ripe. There are no risks of illness when eating ripe ackees. When cooking ackees, wash them properly and throw the seeds away.
Yes, ackee is highly nutritious. It’s known for its rich fiber content and protein. Like other fruits, ackees are also full of vitamin C. It also has many essential vitamins and minerals. This includes calcium, potassium, and zinc.
At first glance, cooked ackee looks like scrambled eggs. The creamy flesh turns bright yellow under heat. This is how you determine whether the ackee is fully cooked. The texture is fluffy, soft, creamy, and delicate.
But what does ackee fruit taste like? Cooked ackees have a mild flavor, so they usually absorb the taste of the dish. However, it doesn’t mean that ackee doesn’t have its own flavors. Many report ackees to have slightly sweet and nutty flavors. You may describe it as something similar to cooked peas.
To best describe what ackee tastes like, you must eat ackee fruit the traditional way. The only way to do this is to replicate the Jamaican national dish, ackee, and saltfish. Fortunately, this dish is easy to come by if you’re in the Caribbean. It’s served on breakfast menus and in most Jamaican restaurants.
The cooking process for ackee and saltfish is simple. First, you must prepare the fruits. Remove the seeds from the ackees and wash the arils thoroughly. The next step is to boil the arils for at least 30 minutes. After boiling, discard the water and heat the oil in a pan.
This part is the fun part. You’ll need to sauté the boiled arils in onions, tomatoes, and two types of peppers. Sweet peppers and Scotch bonnet peppers are often used. Season the dish with allspice, salt, and pepper. The ackees should be soft, crumbly, and delicate in texture.
Remove the ackees from the heat and transfer them to a plate. We highly recommend pairing it with saltfish. Saltfish comes from salted codfish. This is usually fried dried codfish that has been salt-cured. You can also serve it with fried plantains, bread, rice, or bananas.
Ackees and saltfish have an incredible savory combination of flavors. The cooked arils will have slightly sweet yet nutty flavors. This compliments the sweetness of the onions and peppers. The extreme saltiness of the fish is an excellent contrast to the sweetness. Overall, the allspice ties in the dish with its savory taste.
Although ackees are usually served as breakfast, feel free to eat this dish at any time of the day. Ackees are also an excellent substitute for meat in most vegan recipes. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try out different ingredients for your ackee dish.
As we mentioned earlier, there are many ackee varieties. You can label these varieties under two types: butter ackee and cheese ackee. Here are the differences between these types of ackees and how you can use them in the kitchen:
The main difference between butter and cheese ackees lies in their arils. The color and texture have slight variations. This depends on the type of ackee you’re buying. For butter ackee, the arils are soft, creamy, and bright yellow in color. It’s very similar to butter, hence the name.
There are many ways to cook butter ackee. If you’re looking for something sweet, delicate, and easy to mash, you should use butter ackee. You can break down this fruit into paste or puree. Butter ackee is often used for custards, smoothies, or baked desserts.
True to its name, cheese ackee’s color and texture is more like cheese than butter. The colors are pale or creamy, while the texture is firm and crumbly. Cheese ackee holds its shape well even when cooked. This is the most popular type of ackee sold in markets.
Cheese ackee is often used for ackee and saltfish. This is because it doesn’t break as easily compared to butter ackee. This gives the dish more structure and texture. It also holds the other ingredients better. When cooked, cheese ackee looks like scrambled eggs. You can also use this ackee as a vegan substitute for meat like tofu.
Ackees have many health benefits. For instance, fiber helps in maintaining the digestive system. Adding ackees to your diet may aid in weight loss and appetite control.
Ackee is also packed with natural vitamin C, like many fruits. Its rich may boost your immunity and prevent chronic diseases. Potassium may also help in regulating your blood pressure.
It’s also worth mentioning that ackees have unnaturally high protein. This may help in building healthy cells and muscles. It’s also an excellent alternative for vegan diets to replace the protein from eggs or meat.
Before eating an ackee fruit, you must first determine whether it’s ripe or not. Ripe ackee fruit has a natural broken skin with exposed seeds and flesh. Wash the flesh or arils and cook with other ingredients.
You can cook ackee by boiling the arils for at least 30 minutes. After it boils, discard the water right away. And then, you can fry the arils with onions, tomatoes, and peppers.
You should cook ackee until it’s bright yellow, soft, and crumbly. This is how you know that the fruit is fully cooked.
Ackee isn’t necessarily deadly, but it’s highly toxic. It can cause vomiting when eaten unripe or raw. In severe cases of poisoning, the results may be fatal.
In general, pre-prepared ackee is safe to eat. Make sure to drain the water first before cooking the fruit thoroughly. But what does ackee taste like if it’s canned? It tastes just the same as fresh ackee, so it won’t affect the overall dish.
Ackee is expensive because it’s hard to come by. It’s not imported internationally and is only available in limited areas.
Ackees are fruits from evergreen trees. They are widely eaten and grown in Jamaica and Caribbean countries. These fruits originated from West Africa through the slave trade. Ackees flourished under the country’s climate and quickly became a local staple.
There are two types of ackees, butter ackee and cheese ackee. Butter ackee has a bright yellow flesh and creamy texture. They break apart easily and are great for purees. Meanwhile, cheese ackee is pale in color and has a crumbly texture. They are best used for sautéing.
Ackees are only eaten when ripe. This is because the fruits contain a toxic amino acid that can cause vomiting. Due to this, it’s highly prohibited to eat the fruit raw. It’s also strictly imported to other countries.
However, ackees are safe to eat when ripe. You can determine the fruit’s ripeness when it breaks open naturally. Ackees have soft and creamy flesh. It’s the starring ingredient in Jamaica’s national dish. Cooked ackees have a mild yet sweet and nutty flavor. They are often paired with saltfish.