Trying new food is fun. Or at least it should be and it is one of the most fun parts of travelling – getting to try local goodies that are only available far away from home. Ackee fruit is awesome and I would love to lift it up into the realm of one of my favourite foods, but it grows a little too far away for that.
Ripe, boiled and then pan-fried ackee is like the perfect mix of scrambled eggs meets firm avocado for texture. Forget tofu scramble – ackee fruit sauteed with some onions is the best scrambled egg replacement ever.
What Is Ackee Fruit?
This is ackee:
It grows on trees and as it ripens turns from green to red, and then splits open revealing its ripeness inside. The Ackee, also called Vegetable Brain, Achee, or Akee Apple, is a member of the Sapindaceae (soapberry family). Why do you care about the genus of this fruit? Well, it is the same family as lychee, maple and also the fruit that bears the laundry detergent the Soap Nuts! The fruit is native to tropical West Africa in Cameroon, Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
You must cook ackee!
The fruit of the ackee is not edible in its entirety. You have to wait for the pods to ripen and bust open. Then you can easily extract the fleshy yellow bits.
The edible yellow bits are called the arils – and must be boiled for 30 minutes and then we dump out that water. I am all over the raw food love but this one has to be cooked. Raw ackees and the inner red tissue of the ripe ackee arils contain potent phytochemicals that, if consumed raw, can produce all sorts of barfyness and fatal blood sugar drops- a condition known as Jamaican vomiting sickness.
Though it may be poisonous when improperly prepared, cook it and you’ll get the goodness. Ackee fruit has high nutritional value and is rich in essential fatty acids, vitamin A, zinc and protein.
Now as with all whole foods, there are some really fantastic medicinal uses of ackee. Traditional Jamaican treatments using ackee fruit include:
- Seed extracts are used in the treatment of parasites.
- The ripe Jamaican ackee fruit is consumed to lower fever and to control dysentery.
- A poultice of crushed ackee leaves is applied to the forehead to alleviate headaches.
- The skin of the fruit can be used to heal ulcers.
ackee and salt fish
Ackee and salt fish is a Jamaican staple for breakfast or brunch. Neither ackee nor salt fish are native ingredients in Jamaica; they were brought over in 1700 as part of the slave trade. Ackee fruit trees flourished there, due to its tropical climate. Ackee and salt fish has a long history – and is now considered one of Jamaica’s national dishes.
Incidentally, I did see that ackee can be available in cans over on this side far away from the Caribbean Sea. I am not a fan of canned food, and can’t guarantee how it might taste out of a can, but if you are really curious, I’ll let it slide.
Bye, bye scrambled eggs, hello ackee and salt fish. If ever in Jamaica or other places where you see ackee in the market – give this a try.Print
Ackee and Salt Fish
- Total Time: 45 mins
- Yield: Serves 4
A savoury and delicious breakfast recipe.
- 1/2 lb. Saltfish (usually preserved/salted cod)
- 1 dozen ackees
- 2–3 Tbsp coconut or olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- pinch of thyme
- 1 small red sweet pepper, chopped
- Soak saltfish in water for a few hours to remove some of the salt, Rinse thoroughly.
- Clean the ackee. Remove the seeds and all traces of interior red pit from the ackees. Wash ackee fruits thoroughly (rinsing several times).
- Place ackee in pot of water and boil for 30 minutes. Drain, cover, and put aside.
- Remove any bones from the fish.
- In a small pot or frying pan, sauté chopped onions, garlic, thyme and sweet peppers in the oil.
- Remove half of the fried onions and peppers.
- Add saltfish and the ackees.
- Sauté together for 6-8 minutes.
- Serve as a side dish, on toast, in a wrap, or over salad.
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 30 mins
- Category: Side Dish
Keywords: salt fish, ackee fruit, ackee and saltfish, ackee fruit and saltfish
17 responses to “Ackee Fruit and Salt Fish Recipe”
I’ve seen ackee at the grocery store and always wondered about it.
Have you tried canned ackee at all? Do you think you could prepare it in the same way?
I haven’t tried canned but have seen some vids online of it prepared that way.
Oh wow, I’ve never heard of ackee before. The braininess of it is totally weird! What is the flavor like?
It doesn’t really taste like anything…
The taste is quite unique, and very delish. From a friend of mine who had it for the first time “It looks like scrambled eggs, but the taste is far from it”
Ok, I know this isn’t a new discovery, per se, but how ’bout Pasiflora? It’s translated as Passion Fruit, which we always hear about…in lip balms, hand creams, etc. but the real fruit is hard to get here. It’s small and has these little black seeds throughout the flesh that you can totally eat!
When I last went to Israel my aunt was massively obsessed with getting me to eat Pasiflora in everything. First, it’s so aromatic that just leaving the unpeeled fruit in a bowl leaves a gorgeous sweet floral aroma around the whole room. I had it fresh and in slushies…yum. Plus who wouldn’t be ravenous for something called passionfruit? :-)
Yes! Ate some passion fruit there too. We opened the fruits, dumped the contents in a blender, blended just a little and strained to get the pesky black seeds out. Pure sweet nectar. Passion Flower is for sure one of my top five fave herbs for relaxation
I have never heard of ackee before but I am definitely going to look out for it next time im @ the store!
Hi, great article but you can eat it RAW.
Hi Meghan, the canned variety is not as good as the fresh fruit itself, but it is passable, depending on the variety. Some brands are firmer than others. I haven’t had the fresh fruit since I was 5 years old living in Jamaica, so ever since coming to Canada, I’ve had to get by with the canned. When using the canned variety, you’re going to want to skip the boiling part entirely, or you’ll end up with pure mush. Simply heat it up, making sure it is the last of your ingredient that you add to the skillet. Put a little yellow yam with it, …maybe a little bammi, …and you’ll swear you were in the islands. Ya mon !! ;)
Thanks for the tips!
I am just now working with a new recipe for Akee, as I am a vegetarian chef and work with many foods, including raw foods . Just made a raw aker salad. When tested i will share with you. Thanks
Interesting post Meghan, but a few things that need comment:
– many who approach ackee with scrambled eggs on their mind end up disliking the dish, so maybe not the best comparison; ackee does have a rather mild flavour
– making a dish with ackees that did not open on their own is what can make you seriously ill, NOT eating them raw (there are ways to prepare raw ackee), which is why it’s best to show images of open ackee when sharing information to a new crowd
– canned ackees are okay BUT I *must* agree with the previous person who said do not boil the ackee, even when it comes off the tree we do not boil it, and it should be folded into the dish towards the end – ackee is VERY soft & will turn to mush easily. I have never met an ackee that could tolerate 5 minutes of boiling, never mind 30 (There is a similar looking plant but it grows on a bush rather than in a tree like ackee).
Within the following documentary is a simple & delicious traditional ackee & salt fish recipe:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69Eqoqk8xAw (see ~12min 40 sec)
Meghan, I have been following you on & off since your days in the loft – I am so THRILLED with your culinary sense of adventure; do keep it up!
Thank you for your tips!
P.S. I forgot to mention that while it’s true that we soak the salt fish, we do BOIL the salt out of the fish (dried & salted cod) as much as possible, that’s likely where the 30 minutes of boiling comes in for you. Just *don’t boil the ackee* itself, that would be total mush; fold it in a few minutes towards the end of cooking.
If you replace the word “ackee” with “fish,” then your recipe would be perfect!
Grew up in Australia and Papua/New Guinea and consumed passion fruit almost daily. We usually just cut it in half and sucked out the pulp, seeds and all. Great fruit.
The cost of ackees is about $10 for a 20 oz. can. I haven’t seen ackees being eaten with anything but saltfish. Tasty dish.