There is no shortage of plant-based meat substitutes available nowadays, but most are industrialized foods with a big list of ingredients. Since the rise of soy in the 1980s, no single whole food has taken the vegan world by storm like jackfruit.
When ripe, jackfruit is a sweet, chewy fruit with a taste that resembles Juicyfruit gum. When unripe, however, it is mild in taste and can be used for savory applications. Once cooked, the shreddable pieces mimic pulled pork, chicken, or beef in texture. It's this textural ability to imitate meat that makes it so popular.
For this quick recipe, we use canned unripe jackfruit, which is readily available at big box grocers, health food stores, and Asian markets. It's important to note that unlike meat analog products or soy, jackfruit has scarcely any protein at all—at 3 grams per cup, it is not a preferred protein substitute. To compensate, we add pre-cooked beans to the tacos, which brings even more depth of flavor.
- For the Avocado Crema:
- 1 medium avocado, peeled and seeded
- 1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Water as needed to blend
- For the Jackfruit:
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as grapeseed or avocado
- 1/2 cup onion, sliced 1/8 inch thin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons taco seasoning
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 cups canned young green jackfruit, drained and shredded
- 3/4 cup vegetable broth (or no-chicken broth)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- For the Tacos:
- 8 small corn tortillas
- 1 cup cooked pinto or black beans
- 3 cups prepared jackfruit "meat"
- 1 cup avocado crema
- 1/2 cup pico de gallo, optional
- 2 tablespoons scallions (sliced thin), optional
Gather the ingredients.
Combine all of the avocado crema by blending avocado, lime juice, and seasonings in a blender or food processor. If too thick to blend smoothly, add water one tablespoon at a time. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
Stir in the chili powder, cumin, chipotle, and oregano to the skillet. Sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
Add the jackfruit, stirring to combine with the seasoned onions.
Add vegetable broth and salt, stirring to combine. Continue to cook over medium-high heat for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently, until the broth is mostly evaporated and the jackfruit is slightly thickened in the sauce.
Assemble the tacos by spooning on the cooked beans, jackfruit, avocado crema, pico de gallo, and a pinch of scallions.
How to Store
Jackfruit keeps well in the fridge. You can refrigerate the taco "meat" for up to 1 week and reheat any leftovers on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Working With Jackfruit
Choosing the Right Jackfruit
- Be sure to choose unripe, canned jackfruit. Fresh, ripe jackfruit is very sweet and won't taste meaty in a recipe. And uncooked, fresh jackfruit, even if it is unripe, will not break down like canned jackfruit will.
- If you have any question about whether you're purchasing the correct product, just check the can's label. It should clearly state either "young," "young green," or "unripe" on the can as well as "in brine" not "in syrup," as only the ripe fruit is sold in a sugar syrup.
Prepping the Jackfruit
- If using a food processor, place the fruit inside and pulse briefly.
- To break down by hand, use your fingers to squeeze the individual pieces, mashing them a bit between them. As the pieces soften, pull them apart with your fingers.
- For the larger square pieces, you can either break them down with your fingers or cut them into smaller pieces with a knife.
- Because jackfruit is so mild in flavor, seasoning aggressively will give you the best tasting dish.
- It initially grew in popularity as pulled "pork" cooked in barbeque sauce for this reason.
- Similar to tofu, jackfruit will taste like whatever you season it with.