The jackfruit has an otherworldly look. You may have sampled it at some point in your life or you’ve likely walked past it in the supermarket. What is this strange fruit and how can you get more of it into your vegan diet?
What is jackfruit?
Jackfruit is a tropical fruit, but you won’t easily confuse it with the likes of pineapple, kiwi or mango. Instead, it has a look, flavor and texture unique to its own. Although commonly grown in regions of Asia, Africa and South America, jackfruit is readily available in most major markets. If you can’t track any down, look for canned or dried variations to get you started. Note: some jackfruits are packed in water, while others are combined with a sweet syrup. When using canned jackfruit as a meat substitute, go with those packed in brine or water. This is a huge fruit, so when in season, you may find a whole one fresh or sold in sections like a watermelon.
What’s the appeal of jackfruit in vegan cooking?
Jackfruit has a unique texture that somewhat resembles pulled pork. Like cooking with tofu, jackfruit tends to pick up the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with, especially when coupled with sauces and spices. Although jackfruit makes a flavorful meat substitute, it offers significantly less protein. Try pairing it with other higher protein, plant-based foods such as nuts, beans or chickpeas.
When stepping in to replace chicken or pork, you’ll want to use unripe jackfruit. However, jackfruit is still a fruit, so it is quite sweet once ripe and can be used in many recipes.
Street tacos are all the rage and converting them into vegan form is easy with jackfruit on the ingredient list. Try this recipe from Simply Vegan Blog to get you started. Here’s another option that relies on red wine to deglaze the pan and uses hard shells instead of soft for the taco. You can make whatever substitutions fit your dietary needs and preferences. Although these are shaped into taco form, don’t let that hold you back from using the same process for tostadas, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, carnitas or bowls. Here’s a recipe for quick and easy jackfruit fajitas for a different spin. You can also try making your own tortillas too!
Perhaps the most ubiquitous pairing for jackfruit is BBQ sauce. The stringy segments pick up the flavor of the sauce and the texture is very similar to pulled pork. The Minimalist Baker has this BBQ jackfruit sandwiches with avocado slaw recipe to show you the technique. Unlike pulled pork that can take several hours to cook, jackfruit can be ready in 30 minutes for a quick weeknight option.
For a different set of flavors, jackfruit also makes a vegan substitute for steak in this vegan Philly cheesesteak with jackfruit recipe. To get your fill from Philly, build on the jackfruit with creamy cashew cheese and sautéed onions and peppers. Pick a quality hoagie to pair with your culinary artistry.
Similar, but not quite the same, you can ditch the peppers in favor of an au jus dip in this vegan French dip sandwich with au jus.
While we’re talking meat-replacement sandwiches, we should add the classic Rueben to the mix. Include your favorite vegan cheese alongside the trademark sauerkraut, thousand island dressing and marbled rye in this vegan Rueben jackfruit sandwich.
I mean, why not? If you can put it on a bun or in a taco, it can go on a pizza. Try this BBQ jackfruit pizza from The Healthy Kitchen. She even includes an Instant Pot option for preparing your jackfruit. Of course, recipes are merely a suggestion, so with your base of vegan cheese and prepared Jackfruit, line up your favorite toppings. Consider green or black olives, pineapple, red onion, peppers, garlic and herbs. Some toasted pine nuts might add an interesting dynamic too.
Jackfruit crab dip
If you’re looking for a creamy dip for your next holiday or event, jackfruit works as a substitute to crab in this jacked up vegan crab dip. The base comes from cashews and seasonings bring out the seafood flavor. Pair with your favorite vegan breads, crackers or veggies as an appetizer or potluck contribution.
In Korean cooking, bulgogi typically relies on sliced, marinated and cooked meat. But you can replicate the dish using jackfruit in this vegan bulgogi bowl from Feasting at Home. Combine with your favorite rice or other grain and combination of vegetables to bring the taste of Korea into your home.
Crunchy jackfruit rags
In addition to the pulpy portions typically used for recipes, the rags are another component in the structure of this massive fruit. Think of it a little like the skin between the sections in an orange. The rags are edible and can be combined in any of the recipes above. However, they’re not typically included in canned jackfruit. When cutting up fresh jackfruit for smoothies, yogurt bowls, dressings, salsas and slaws, save the rags and cook them up as baked jackfruit rags fries.
Images via Pixabay