Boiled Breadfruit in Coconut Milk

A taste of home in faraway Borneo.

Boiled Breadfruit in Coconut

Breadfruit is a fruit in the Artocarpus genus, so it is related to jackfruit and buah tarap but the flesh is very starchy and not at all sweet like its cousins. With origins in Papua New Guinea, it is cultivated and eaten in tropical regions all over the world, from Southeast Asia, to the Indian Ocean, to the Caribbean, to Central America, to the Pacific Islands.

In Malaysia breadfruit is called “buah sukun”; in Hawaii it is called “ulu”. I call it “good eats” 🙂

Fond Memory from Home

I have a taste memory going back to my younger days in Hawaii, when I attended a joint fellowship between my Chinese church congregation and a Samoan church congregation. Among the multitude of dishes served, I fondly recall a dish of breadfruit served in coconut milk. It was new to me, but so delightful, I kept going back for more.

I have seen breadfruit trees growing here in Kuching, and even seen some laden with fruit. But none were within easy reach for me. So I was happy to find some freshly picked breadfruit at our local market over the weekend. It was about the size of a big head of cabbage, and only cost a few ringgit, so I decided to buy it and try to make that dish that I had enjoyed so much.

Freshly Picked Breadfruit

Do you know what this is?

A quick Google search led me to this recipe from a blog about Samoan cooking. The descriptions and pictures were very helpful and I only wish the author had continued to post such recipes. Following her instructions, I prepared this dish of “fa’alifu ulu” the way she remembers her grandpa doing it.

Recipe for Boiled Breadfruit in Coconut Milk

Prep time: 15 min. Cook time: 30 min.

First, you halve, and then quarter the ulu and then you cut out the core. Next you shave off the skin and then finally chop the breadfruit up into chunks. (I only used half the breadfruit.) Place the chunks in a pot and cover with water, then bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the breadfruit is fork-tender.

Cutting, Skinning, and Boiling the Breadfruit

Cutting Skinning and Boiling Breadfruit

In the meantime, roughly cut up one small onion and add some coconut milk. Her recipe calls for 3 cans of coconut milk. We had bought freshly pressed coconut milk from the vendor at the market and I ended up using about 3 cups of coconut milk. Now comes the crucial step: salting and squishing.

It sounded weird, but she said it was to incorporate the flavor of the onions into the milk, at the same time salting it to perfection. I used about a tablespoon of Hawaiian sea salt.

Mixing Onions, Coconut Milk, and Salt

Mixing onions coconut milk and salt

When the breadfruit was fork-tender, I turned the heat off and drained it. Then I added the coconut milk and onion mixture to the pot and brought it to a boil. I turned it down to simmer for about 3 more minutes.

Boiled Breadfruit

I think I let it boil at too high a temperature, because the coconut milk started to break and curdle. But once it was done and cooled off a bit, I had to take a bite.  I had it with some mashed sardines and shallots that we had leftover from another batch of our baked sardine bunsit was delicious!

The breadfruit taste was there, as well as the yummy coconut milk. But the onions also contributed their sweetness while the salt brought this savory-ness to round out the flavor. The boiled breadfruit had the texture of boiled potatoes and I could imagine substituting them for any staple starch like rice or potatoes or even taro.

Boiled Breadfruit in Coconut

I mentioned that I only used half the breadfruit in this preparation. That’s because I wanted to save the other half to do it the way Malaysians like to enjoy this fruit. Which I will cover in another post, coming soon!

Have you eaten breadfruit before? How do you like to eat it? Leave a comment below!

Aloha, Nate

I am entering this post in this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging roundup, organized by Haalo and hosted this week by Simona from Briciole

36 thoughts on “Boiled Breadfruit in Coconut Milk”

  1. On Guam it’s called “lemai” and they eat it the same way here, with coconut milk. But I also heard they would slice it thin and fry it like a potato chip.

      1. Breadfruit chips are fantastic. I boil the breadfruit in quarters until tender, then slice and deep fry. I add garlic powder, black pepper or Hawaiian salt to taste immediately after frying. My grandmother use to make it when I was a kid.

  2. Oooh. I don’t think I’ve tried this before!!! I’ve certainly seen it in Singapore (I think! maybe I mistook it for a retarded jackfruit?) but somehow I never got to try it! What a wonderful way to eat it!

  3. This is definitely new to me – boiled breadfruit in coconut milk. Sounds original and interesting. I’m more familiar with the sukun chips and sukun fritters (prepared like banana fritters). Looking forward to your next post…. 😀

  4. That salting and squishing thing sounds interesting. I’ll have to try it when the right situation arises. You made my mouth water with this recipe: I’d love to have a taste! Thank you so much for contributing it to WHB.

  5. Hi! Been a while since I last visited, I must say this is a new way of cooking breadfruit to me, I have tried the fried version, similar to fried yam or sweet potato… going to try to get a fruit from the tree in front of my house when they are ripe enough:D

  6. These are beautiful pictures in this post Nate! The breadfruit looks delectable. I hope to try it someday, and I’ll be on the lookout for breadfruit at the organic market this spring and summer.

  7. Hi! i like my buah sukun deep fried in flour to make cucur sukun. awesome exotic fruit! I bet you miss home right now.

    Btw, nice site you got here. love the recipes (yeay for food!)) Congrats on being April Swak Blogger of the Month! be following you from now on. =)

    @Coffee Girl

  8. Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting on my portuguese sausage post! We used to be neighbors – I see you were in San Jose for a while. And my husband has family in Honolulu! I guess it might be hard to find Portuguese sausage in Malaysia – but look at all the other amazing and interesting foods you have! I had fun with some of the tropical fruits they were serving North Shore – so nice to expand our horizons from what we’re used to.

    This breadfruit looks really interesting, especially with the sweet and savory combo with coconut milk and onions. Thanks for sharing!

  9. This is how I cook breadfruit as well…..well I add the coconut cream for special occassions…..every day recipe is just boiling the cubed breadfruit. I love it with a opened can of wahoo. That is my most craved home food when traveling. We have two breadfruit trees behind our house. I was surprised to hear in Malaysia that they did not boil breadfruit but fried it so I will be interested to see how you do it. The breadfruit I saw there seemed to have lots more seeds than here.

  10. “..Origins in Papua New Guinea…”
    “…In Malaysia breadfruit is called “ buah sukun ”…”
    Please note!… “Buah Sukun” originally come from Irian Jaya (Papua), INDONESIA.
    That’s why in INDONESIA it called “Sukun” a.k.a “Buah Sukun” (Sukun Fruit)…

  11. Hi Annie! I was so thrilled to see sukun trees growing near where I live. I had never seen a sukun tree before and would not have recognised it had I not seen the fruits hanging abundantly from the branches!

    This morning, my maid and I found 2 fresh sukun that had fallen to the ground on the road near where we live. We took them home and fried them in batter…great! I will try your recipe soon…

    1. Hi KL Girl,

      how wonderful to have found some breadfruit free for the taking. I’m glad they didn’t go to waste.

      I’ll have to try the deep-fried version – it sounds delicious.

  12. I live in Captain Cook, Hi and have a breadfruit tree in my yard. I tried the recipe, above, and was amazed at how goodthe dish was. It was my first time to eat breadfriut. Thank you for sharing the goodness.

  13. We eat in the Philippines, very nice I think same recipe you have here, I hope so . I go to market and hopefully cook tomorrow. Thankyou

  14. Hello from New Jersey! I’ve never heard of this fruit before and on impulse I brought it home (I love trying new foods!) I came home and Googled your recipe. The photos are beautiful and preparing with coconut milk sounds so good! I will make it soon! Thank you!

      1. Thank you Nate! This was delicious! My daughter even loves it and she just had her tonsils out a week ago and she is saying that everything she eats tastes “funny”. so few ingredients and so easy! True a little strange to massage the milk, salt and onions but I really do think it made it even better! The only problem is I probably won’t be able to find this in my store again living in Northeast, USA! Thank you again!

  15. I am from Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines. A friend of mine had this Breadfruit Tree (which is a rare delicacy), planted in their backyard. Her mother used to deep fry it. Since it is starchy in nature, she sprinkles a little sugar on top to add more sweetness to it. I like it because it is crisp on the outside. Plus, it is rich in Vitamin C, as well as zinc and potassium. I think it’s a healthy snack.

  16. Hello

    I am from the Seychelles Islands. We prepare breadfruit a lot of ways. We prepare something calked ladob. It can be sweet or salty. Sweet is prepared with coconut milk, ripe plantain, casava, etc. We’ll also add vanilla pod, sugar; and nutmeg. Let boil till tender. Salty is made same way..omit the spices and sugar…add salted fish!
    The over ripe breadfruit are thrown in ash pit to grill then eate

  17. Ran out of space!☺ then eaten with fish fried in coconut oil…yummy. we also make sweet or salted chips depending on ripeness of the fruit. my mom used to make beignets and and pone (types of cakes). Will have yo adk her the recipe.

  18. I am Puertorican. Grew up eating breadfruit. My mom cooked it all the time. I especially like it as rellenos de pana. Pana is what we call it in Puerto Rico.

  19. you can boil breadfruit with a little salt eliminating the squish with onion and add a dash of garlic powder.

  20. In Haiti, we called it “Lam veritab” or just “lam.” We boil it, we fry it and make something called “tontonm” with it. Tontonm is similar to the African “Fufu”. Good stuff.

    I need to try your recipe, though.

  21. This was my first time cooking or eating breadfruit. Thank you for this recipe! I followed it rather loosely, having just one can of coconut milk and having boiled an entire breadfruit. It reminded me a bit of scalloped potatoes. I added a bit of butter, too. Very delicious!

  22. I like steamed breadfruit with some salt as seasoning or instead of salt some maragrine lightly spreaded on the boiled breadfruit is just simply amazing 🙂

  23. The first time I ate something with breadfruit was a pastry at a coffee shop in Hawaii. They said the parry was vegan and gluten-free, which made me not want it, lol. My husband encouraged me to give it a try and after one bite I said oh, they made a mistake, this is delicious, there’s no way it’s vegan and definitely no way it’s gluten-free! Well, I was wrong. It had been made with breadfruit flour, an amazing gluten-free flour that makes moist pastry with no dry, gritty texture or weird earthy flavors. I started researching breadfruit after that and be ask so excited about learning more after my move to Hawaii. Well, we just bought 4 breadfruit from a local farm and we quartered, steamed, peeled and froze what we did not immediately cook with. The first dish we made was a mash with steamed breadfruit and cauliflower. The cauliflower added moisture to the mash which was nice as it can be very starchy. The next dishes we made used the mash as a base. We made croquettes breaded with toasted focaccia crumbs and stuffed with melted vegan provolone cheese and then we made mash patties, with a seasoned cornstarch batter for crispiness. Then I found a lot of info about the Granadan national dish, Oil Down. I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand so I used what I had; steamed breadfruit, chopped kale, moringa, green onion. garlic, and onion. Onion and garlic went into the pot with veg oil til translucent, then everything else got added. I didn’t have coconut milk so I poured almond milk over top and out the lid on to let it all simmer together. My goodness, it was delicious. A few days later when I wanted something different from the leftovers, I splashed the cold Oil Down with red wine vinegar for a mildly sweet/tart cold salad reminiscent of potato salad but with more flavor, body and that hint of sweetness. And finally, we made Japanese curry with sliced baby red potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, kale, moringa, almond milk and curry paste. It has been scrumptious! Oh, I almost forgot the dessert we made with some sweeter, more-ripe breadfruit. We rolled chunks in chopped walnuts and cinnamon sugar before putting them in the air fryer to make crispy, sweet little breadfruit dough balls. We love ulu! ❤️

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