I was at a friends’ house the first time I tried jackfruit. My friends are the type of people who not only know good vegan food, they know how to cook good vegan food. So when they asked me to taste my dinner prior to hearing what the dish was made from, I happily agreed. I knew I didn’t have to ask if it was vegan- my hosts are vegan themselves. My only concern was the sly glances and secret smiles they kept passing between them as I ate and asked repeatedly: “What is this?”
It was chewy, like pulled meat, but didn’t have the taste of soy protein, textured vegetable protein, or any other plant protein I had ever had. It was jackfruit. “Pulled” BBQ jackfruit to be specific, and it was delicious.
I knew I wanted to try my hand at making “Pulled” BBQ jackfruit. After all, my love of all things BBQ is well documented. I asked my friends where I could get some jackfruit since I had never seen it before. I was told that I’d find some at an Asian market. No problem, I’ve got two of those near me.
Off I went, armed with the only knowledge I had about jackfruit at that time: the name. Turns out I needed a little bit more information.
There are two types of jackfruit commonly sold at Asian markets: Green young jackfruit in brine and ripe jackfruit in syrup. One you can use to make a delicious BBQ out of, the other you can’t. Can you guess which one I bought the first time?
Left: Ripe in syrup – Right: Green Young in brine
Ripe jackfruit has the taste of pineapple and grapes- it reminds me of those little containers of fruit salad in syrup with the cherries in it from the 1980s, remember those? While tasty, that’s not the fruit you need to make shredded goodness. For that you’ll need young green kind like the one shown on the right of the above photo.
No Asian or specialty markets near you? You can buy jackfruit here.
Update 2017: Since this article published, jackfruit has enjoyed a soar in popularity which has prompted companies in creating fully prepared versions. Sometimes they’re flavored and sometimes not- either way, they’re a convenient way to introduce yourself to jackfruit.
Look for brands like Upton’s Naturals or The Jackfruit Company.