Jackfruit is a vegan superstar, and for crazy good reason! When properly prepared, its texture is nearly identical to pulled meat. It has the delicious ability to absorb any of your favorite flavors and sauces and is a VERY affordable and convenient alternative to meat for those of us leaning into a plant-based diet.
If you’ve been wondering what all the fuss is about with this mysterious Amazonian treasure, consider this your crash course intro to discovering the best meat substitute on the planet.
What Is Jackfruit?
Jackfruit is an exotic fruit native to South India. It’s a large watermelon-shaped fruit (in the fig and mulberry family) with bumps on its outer green and yellow skin.
Similar to young and ripe coconuts, jackfruit offers two different applications depending on which you buy. The young jackfruit is what you want for meat substitutes. The ripe jackfruit is sweet and is used in desserts, or canned in syrup, and can be found in most Asian markets. Its flavor is similar to Juicy Fruit gum.
Young jackfruit is typically brined and canned. A simple drain and rinse will wash away the extra sodium, making these little triangular pieces perfect little sponges for all your vegan meat adventures.
How to Cook It
Jackfruit readily absorbs the flavor of whatever you marinate it in. Carnitas, barbecue, buffalo style, or styled up for a Reuben sandwich, this vegan superstar-ingredient is capable of incredible things – including convincing the most skeptical of carnivores that they can enjoy a vegan meal.
I like to marinate my jackfruit for a little bit before cooking it, but this step is optional. Once it has been drained and rinsed, you can add whatever seasoning mix, sauce, or dressing you like to the jackfruit and marinate about 10-15 minutes in the fridge.
Once it’s ready, add everything to a pan and turn the heat to medium-low, placing a lid on top. This helps to trap the steam to make the shredding, or “pulling,” easier.
It also seals in all that magical flavor.
After about ten minutes of quick braising, two forks is all you need to shred the jackfruit pieces, which should come apart effortlessly. The marinade should be mostly absorbed or cooked off at this point as well.
The jackfruit will still be quite soft at this point, so I like to transfer it to a sheet pan to crisp it in the oven for about 10 minutes at 350°F.
What to Do With It
Now that you’ve got your delicious meat substitute, the possibilities are endless! Jackfruit is a great filling for sandwiches, tacos, burritos, topping for pizza or nachos, and so much more. Challenge yourself to try something new this week and add jackfruit to the menu!