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.
Brine or Syrup: Which One Do You Buy?
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.
How to Make Shredded Jackfruit
First things first, you’re going to need some barbecue sauce. For this dish I whipped up a sweet and spicy fig-garlic BBQ sauce. Do you know how to make your own barbecue sauce? Yes? Excellent! You’ll need to make a batch. No? Let me teach you.
Once you have your sauce made it’s time to tackle the fruit. Open and drain the contents of the can. Next, rinse the pieces under running water and then place it in a pot. Add the barbecue sauce. If the sauce does not cover the jackfruit completely, add a bit of water until it does.
Don’t use too much water- you don’t want to water down your lovely barbecue sauce- only use the amount you need. You can always add more liquid later if you need to, but you won’t be able to remove liquid later if you add too much.
How Long Do You Cook Jackfruit?
I guess a better question is, how much do you like to chew? The longer you cook it, the more like “pulled” meat it becomes. I have found that cooking for at least an hour or two is best. If you are pressed for time, you can speed the process along by using a fork to shred it yourself while it’s cooking. You won’t have quite as much soaked-in flavor, but you will be able to get dinner to the table in about an hour.
This is what it looks like after an hour:
See how it’s starting to break down into shreds? That’s what you’re looking for. The longer it cooks, the more the fruit breaks down and the more flavor you get.
Pulled Sweet & Spicy BBQ Jackfruit & Fried Polenta
The first time I tried jackfruit it was served with kale and polenta. I love that combination and make it frequently so it was almost a no-brainer to try and mimic my friends dish.
Just as an aside, this isn’t the only way you can make jackfruit. You could also use it on sliders and serve them up with coleslaw. I haven’t worked with it enough to have a variety of recipes, but I plan to try all sorts of flavor combos with it. The next thing I want to try is this jackfruit curry dish- it sounds amazing.
As for me, well, this is what I came up with:
I loved it. I love the chewiness, the spiciness of the sauce, and how well it all pairs with a bit of fried polenta. I also appreciate that this chewy meat-like dish is made from a fruit, rather than some isolated soy protein or some such thing. Those things are fine in moderation, but it’s nice to have a whole-food option without the ingredient list.
Almost forgot, did you buy the wrong type of jackfruit and are now wondering what to do with it? I sliced mine up and baked it with some apples. I’ve also just eaten it plain. I bet it’d be good with coconut yogurt too. There’s possibilities, that’s what I’m saying :)
Have you ever worked with jackfruit? I’d love to hear about your favorite ways to serve it up!
Disclosure: This guide contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. See my Affiliate Policy for more details.
Sooo I just tried something with fresh jackfruit. We removed the seeds and diced it. Cooked it in a homemade bbq sauce and had it over rice like a vegan Chinese meal. It had this, odd after taste. It tasted good the first number of bites, then just tasted musky… we couldn’t even finish the rice. I’m not turning away from trying jackfruit again. But has anyone had this happen with fresh ripe jackfruit???
I like to make Chile Verde tacos. Just cover a can of rinsed and drained Trader Joe’s Green Jack fruit with s full jar of Trader Joe’s salsa verde and simmer with the lid off to reduce and concentrate the sauce. Then serve with blistered corn tortillas and pico de Gallo or whatever you like on tacos.
That sounds absolutely amazing!
I love cranberry anything. My diet doesn’t allow for gluten, animal dairy, or much sugar. I try very hard to stay away from all refined sugar but this girls got a sweet tooth. Sucking on a piece of high cacao frozen chocolate usually soothes the worst cravings. I love almond flour/almond meal. Do you ever use those in place of flour?
Also, just got the newer Instant Pot that makes cakes so I’m very eager to try those.
[…] jackfruit it’s amazing, and there are heaps of resources online about how to cook it and where to buy it […]
I have never had jackfruit in a dish, but I have literally eaten it straight out of the husk or skin, super fresh standing by the tree in the Cambodian countryside from which it was plucked. There is nothing like it, and it’s really impossible to describe. I am going to try your recipe next!
I’m super stoked to try making a jackfruit banh mi now!
Thank you so much!
I was @ Trader Joe’s in Albuquerque & purchased their brand of green jackfruit in brine.
They just got it in!!
I’ll use your cooking ideas & have my own style of NM BBQ sauce & will cook it up this weekend!
(Check it out @ Trader Joe’s if you live near one.)
OMG….I am going to have to see if my TJ’S has this.
I tried this recipe using jackfruit in brine ( I rinsed the jackfruit). It looked like the picture. We didn’t like the texture. I decided to dry it out a bit in my oven and that improved it. It enhanced the flavor of the marinade and made the fruit a bit more meat like in texture.
Dried it out how? Time? Temperature?
Hey all, glad to read that jackfruit is gaining popularity! We just introduced our cook-friendly line of organic jackfruit, I know how hard it is to find in US stores – check us out! http://bit.ly/bonroijackfruitmain
host* cooking classes (sorry that is what I get for proof reading as I hit submit)
Yum! I am looking forward to trying this!!! :) KD already answered what would have been my thoughts about where to get it in Cincinnati. So the comments section already helped me find a local Asian Market and International shop so I will go to those soon! :) KD, Do you ever how cooking classes? I am new to reading your site.
[…] I discovered jackfruit about two months ago and can’t live without it ever since. I used it as my secret “chicken” in the Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala, as well as a quick and easy taco filling. If you are new to jackfruit, here is a brief intro. The type of jackfruit that works for savory main dishes is called young green jackfruit and for most of us it will come in a can, usually packed in brine or water. There is also jackfruit in syrup, which is ripe and sweet – I did not taste that one yet, but it seems like it tastes like pineapple or grapes. […]
Has anyone tried doing this in a crockpot? Is it possible to over cook it?
I haven’t tried to cook it in a crockpot yet but I think it would work just fine. The longer it cooks the more shredded it gets so long cook times are fine. I’m sure it’s possible to over cook it, but I’ve never had that happen before. Let me know how your crockpot experiment goes :)
Have you tried it in a crock pot yet? You posted it in March, it’s now June, just wondering how it came out??
I have the same question, Have you tried it since you [posted this?
Hi Melissa, yes I have! I cooked it at a low temperature for about 4 – 6 hours and it turned out great! I’ve also used a pressure cooker and cooked it for about 8 – 10 minutes with decent results. In both instances, I added a bit of extra sauce to ensure that the jackfruit wouldn’t dry out, particularly using a crockpot. Let me know how it goes if you decide to test either of these methods for yourself :)
I soak my jackfruit because I don’t like the flavor of the brine. LAST night I drained rinsed and put it in a bowl covered with tap water. They started to turn purple in a couple of minutes. Never had this happen before. ANY ideas?
I can’t find jackfruit not in syrup anywhere in Cincinnati! Is there any way to make it work anyway?
Have you checked your local Asian markets? I googled it and there are three that pop up- Happy Asian Mart on W. McMillan, Saigon Market on W. Elder, and CAM International Market on Reading- they might carry it. If not, Amazon carries it and I put a link up in the article to help you find the right jackfruit. You can’t use jackfruit in syrup because it’s too ripe- it won’t break down and shred like the young jackfruit so you definitely need to find the right version. Let me know how your search goes :)
You guys can check some bengali ( Indian) recipes of Jackfruit. It is called enchor. There are some freaking awesome dishes with jackfruit there. It is very popular in West Bengal and Bangladesh.
[…] one type. So, if you need a crash course in all things jackfruit just head over here and check out Jackfruit 101. Now, onto this lovely spicy […]
[…] Jackfruit 101: yes, its a fruit with a meaty consistency. […]
The side-by-side picture was so helpful; thank you. I wanted to try making jackfruit as a savory dish as well but I think we might have ended up with the ripe ones rather than unripe.
I’m so glad it was helpful! The first time I bought jackfruit I bought the wrong kind and was really disappointed. Since I’ve found the right version I’ve used it in black bean soup (which was really awesome) and to make “pulled” jackfruit tacos. I loved them both. I also love that one can makes such a large quantity of jackfruit. I have seen a fresh jackfruit in the stores but haven’t quite gotten up the courage to try and use one. Maybe that will be a future post! :)
I’m intrigued by this “new” food. I know someone who is studying it as a way for rural farmers in India to jump-start their local economy, since it grows in many places there. Exciting!
I love it Amy! It’s surprisingly chewy (when it comes from a can) and toothy. I even tried using it in black bean soup (as a meaty-type component) and it worked out smashingly! Try it!
Now I have to try your recipe for BBQ sauce…with or without the jack fruit (although looks very good, so I will no doubt try it)!