Jackfruit: Meet the Funky Fruit that’s Cropping up Everywhere (including in your tacos)

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Among the excellent abundance of meat alternatives available to us these days, there is… JACKFRUIT!

Granted, unlike tofu and other soy derivatives often used to replace meat, jackfruit doesn’t provide much protein, however that’s made up for by way of its significant amounts of potassium and vitamin B as well as some E, magnesium, iron, calcium, and fiber. Plus… if you ask me, it’s just a downright treat to eat fruit as the most substantial part of a meal – especially at dinnertime!

So… what about the taste? At the end of the day, taste is what really matters, right?

There are two easy answers:

At full ripeness, when its pulp is best for eating raw or making into desserts, jackfruit is sweet and – interestingly enough – very similar in flavor to a stick of Juicy Fruit chewing gum. (In fact, I’ve read that Juicy Fruit was made to mimic the “essence” of ripe jackfruit.)

Alternately, if you sample the pulp when it’s unripe or “young,” you’ll detect very little taste whatsoever, which is what makes jackfruit at this stage so very versatile and perfect for savory dishes like curries, soups, and pulled “pork” sandwiches or tacos (check out my Pulled Jackfruit recipe below). Like soy- and gluten-based vegan “meats,” young jackfruit absorbs the flavor of whatever sauce or broth you steep it in.

Next question: Where do you find Jackfruit?

Unfortunately – unless you live in Southeast Asia from where the jackfruit hails… or you live in the Caribbean where jackfruit has long been a favorite staple… or you’re lucky enough to have access to an authentic Asian or Caribbean market… or if, over the summer when they’re in season, you happen to stumble upon the one or two jackfruits your local big-box supermarket stocked for giggles – you probably haven’t ever met this ginormous, lumpy-looking fruit in its fresh plucked-straight-from-the-tree full glory.

Don’t worry, though, since jackfruit entrées have started cropping up on nearly every vegan-friendly menu, it’s becoming easier to find the pulp canned (I buy mine at Trader Joe’s) or otherwise pre-packaged (check out Upton’s Naturals products or The Jackfruit Company).

My jackfruit has been marinating in its barbecue sauce since yesterday afternoon… and tonight we’ll be feasting on A MESS OF IT (probably in tacos this time)! Here’s that recipe I promised:

PULLED JACKFRUIT TACOS/SANDWICHES

Ingredients:

2 cans young (aka, green) jackfruit (PACKED IN BRINE, NOT SYRUP), drained and rinsed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
2 cups tomato purée
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tbsp molasses
1 dash liquid smoke
1 tbsp dry parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cayenne (optional, for a little bit of heat)

Instructions:

  • In a large bowl, combine tomato purée, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, molasses, liquid smoke, and all dry spices.
  • In a large pan or pot, heat ONE tablespoon olive oil over medium-low, then add garlic and sauté for approx. 2 minutes (do not allow garlic to burn).
  • Add tomato mixture to garlic and heat until boiling.
  • In the meantime, place jackfruit pulp on a cutting board and cut out the bits of core (these are the hard parts of your jackfruit pieces that won’t “pull” apart).
  • Using your fingers, shred the jackfruit then transfer into your bowl.
  • Once boiling, pour tomato mixture (now your BBQ sauce) into bowl with jackfruit. Stir to coat jackfruit, then cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  • Once jackfruit has marinated, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan/skillet over medium. Add in BBQ jackfruit (making sure you scrape the sides of your bowl to get all the sauce), and cook for 30 minutes until tender.
  • Serve on a bun or in soft taco shells with desired toppings: red onion, avocado, coleslaw, etc.

Serves 6

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