If you’re vegan or vegetarian, your mouth may water at every BBQ you go to this summer when you smell ribs, burgers, or hotdogs cooking. Although you’ve made the conscious and intentional choice to not eat meat, it is nearly impossible to deny the savory smell and not experience a mouth-watering desire to sink your teeth into a backyard burger.
Fear not, meat-free crusaders! There is an alternative to meat that has the fibrous texture, dense structure, and savory taste of meat: jackfruit.
If you haven’t heard of jackfruit (have you been living under a rock?!) this is going to be a game changer for you this summer—and beyond!
What is Jackfruit?
This tropical fruit, native to Southeast Asia, is produced by a tree in the fig, mulberry, and breadfruit family and is the largest tree-born fruit in the world. It is massive, weighing up to 80 lbs (35 kg), however the jackfruit that you can find in grocery stores will likely be much smaller. Jackfruit is a staple in the countries where it grows naturally (Thailand, India, Bangladesh, etc), but for us in the west, jackfruit is a luxury.
Jackfruit in the wild
Jackfruit is an excellent source of protein, potassium, calcium, and iron. It's also incredibly versatile, and many compare it’s savory flavor and string-like texture to pulled pork—making a wonderful substitute for vegans and vegetarians who still crave meat.
How to Cook with Jackfruit
Jackfruit can be found at specialty grocery stores, Asian markets, and sometimes at farmers markets. You’ll notice it right away by it’s huge, green, spikey exterior. But on the inside, it looks like something from an alien planet.
Each of those little pods is like a regular-sized fruit in itself. There can be hundreds of pods in each full-sized fruit, providing a ton of food with a lot nutritional value. Getting into the jackfruit is a task that must be done very carefully with a very big knife, steady hand, and sturdy table.
The best thing about jackfruit is that it takes on whatever flavor you decide to use for your dish, and cooking it is quick and simple.
Remove the individual pods from the interior of the jackfruit and place in a pan with vegetable broth and simmer for 10-15 minutes
Use a spatula to mash and separate the jackfruit so that it takes on the consistency of pulled pork—stringy and manageable
You can also cook jackfruit and maintain the structure of the pod to slice the fruit rather than turn it into the stringy texture. The seeds are also edible once cooked and are a great source of protein, antioxidants, and Vitamins A & C.
And because jackfruit is so versatile, this bountiful fruit can be used in a multitude of ways to replace meat! You may even convince your carnivore friends and family that it IS meat! Here are a few different ways you can use jackfruit at your next BBQ:
Vegan Jackfruit Tacos
Using jackfruit in tacos is just like using pulled pork. You can add a sweet and spicy sauce, ginger, spices, lime, and even cilantro. Just place the cooked “meat” inside a taco like you normally would and garnish it to your liking.
Vegan Jackfruit “Pulled Pork” Sandwich
Just as you would pile some BBQ pulled pork on top of a tasty bun, you can do the same with jackfruit! Just season, flavor, and spice it up to your liking and then add the cooked and marinated “meat” and enjoy the sandwich—guilt free.
Vegan Jackfruit Lettuce Wraps
Wrap up some lemongrass ginger infused jackfruit in a leaf of lettuce with a dash of soy sauce and sink your teeth into the delicious and savory flavor.
There are so many things you can do with jackfruit—just let your creative juices flow and see what comes of it! You may even inspire some of your meat-eating friends to expand their minds and bellies to meat-free alternatives.