Thursday, March 28, 2013

BBQ Pulled Pork-Style Jackfruit Sandwich

Vegetarian BBQ Pulled Pork-Style Jackfruit Sandwich + Vegan and Gluten Free Variations

BBQ Pulled Pork-Style Jackfruit Sandwich with Baked Sweet Potato Chips and Cucumber-Asparagus Side Salad

What is Jackfruit?:

Until very recently I had never heard of Jackfruit.  It was only when I saw a tantalizingly tasty looking recipe for a vegetarian BBQ pulled pork using Jackfruit in place of meat that I learned about this magnificent plant.  As a good old-fashioned Wikipedia search will confirm, Jackfruit is the product of a tree native to South and Southeast Asia.  

Jackfruit Photo
There are several varieties of Jackfruit and you can eat it in several different stages of ripeness.  Young, green Jackfruit is firmer and starchier and is used in vegan and vegetarian cooking to replace and mimic the texture of meat. Ripe Jackfruit, on the other hand, is softer and sweeter in flavor--it is eaten as a fruit or in desserts in this state rather than used as a meat replacement.

Jackfruit in its whole, fresh state is a specialty item in the United States.  One of my friends reported that a whole, ripe Jackfruit is rarely found except in specialty markets and can cost $15 a pound or more.  In addition, a fresh, whole Jackfruit is a challenging food item to prepare.  As you cut into it, the fruit oozes a sticky substance that can adhere stubbornly to your arms and hands, to your knife, and even to cutting surfaces and floors.  My friend reported having to douse her hands and knife in oil before beginning to prepare fresh Jackfruit.

Cans of Young, Green Jackfruit in Brine

Luckily, young, green Jackfruit used for vegan and vegetarian cooking comes already nicely prepared and packaged in brine or water in 20oz cans at your local Asian market.  Buying Jackfruit in the can allows you to get the young, green variety needed for cooking as a meat replacement while eliminating the high costs of whole, fresh Jackfruit and the difficulty of preparing it!

Well, Was it Good?:

YES!  The Jackfruit once slow-cooked in onion, garlic, peppers, liquid smoke, hot sauce, and BBQ sauce was amazing and really took on the flavors of BBQ while providing a great meat-like texture.  
Closeup of BBQ Pulled Pork-Style Jackfruit

The texture of slow-cooked Jackfruit more closely mimicked the texture of real meat than any other meat replacement I've ever had.  In fact, it had a consistency that reminded me of good slow-cooked ribs (a favorite of my meat-eating days).  You can see what I'm saying about the authenticity of the texture if you look at the pictures I've posted closely.  

You might feel skeptical when you open up your cans of Jackfruit that the texture will turn out as well as it does--I had this misgiving myself--but the hard, firm-pineapple-like chunks of the Jackfruit change a lot in consistency during cooking.  I promise!

Jackfruit and other Ingredients in the Crockpot

Recipe:  BBQ Pulled Pork-Style Jackfruit Sandwich

(Serves 4)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups BBQ sauce
  • 1 head garlic, smashed
  • 2/3 yellow onion, halved and sliced
  • 2 Serrano or jalapeno peppers, sliced (optional)
  • 2 20-ounce cans young green jackfruit in brine or water (not syrup!)
  • Liquid smoke, a couple of dashes
  • Dave’s Insanity Gourmet Hot Sauce, a couple of dashes (optional)*
  • Smoked Salt (or sea salt)
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup, optional (I added to offset spicyness.  Do not add if your BBQ sauce is already sweet.)
  • Hamburger buns, for serving (use gluten free bread or buns for Gluten Free variation)
  • Cheese, for serving (omit for Vegan variation)
* Use 2-3 drops for mildly spicy BBQ, 5-7 for spicy BBQ

Gluten Free:  Select Gluten Free bread or bun for sandwich; make sure to check BBQ sauce and all other pre-prepared ingredients for Gluten Free label before using

Vegan: Omit cheese when serving; make sure to check BBQ sauce and all other pre-prepared ingredients for Vegan label before using

  1. Drain and wash the jackfruit thoroughly in water using a colander. After washing let sit and prepare onion, peppers, and garlic and transfer them to crock pot.
  2. Return to jackfruit.  Place in several layers of paper towels and squeeze.  Do this over a colander in the sink to catch fruit if your towels rip.  Squeeze out as much water as possible by pressing it firmly with your hands (much like you press water out of tofu!).
  3. Place jackfruit in slow cooker with onion, garlic, and peppers.  Add the liquid smoke, 1 ½ cups of BBQ sauce, and optional Dave’s Insanity Gourmet Hot Sauce (or preferred variety).  Mix well.
  4. Cook in the slow cooker for 1 hour on high.  Stir once (opening the slow cooker often causes it to loose heat).
  5. After 1 hour, add another ½ cup of BBQ sauce and taste.  Add salt and optional maple syrup.  Add any additional hot sauce desired.  Turn the slow cooker to low and cook for an additional 3-5 hours or until jackfruit is tender and can easily be pulled apart with a fork.  
  6. When done cooking, store jackfruit BBQ in refrigerator for 24-hours for deepest infusion of flavors.
  7. Serve on toasted hamburger buns topped with melted cheddar cheese (pictured) or swiss cheese (omit for vegan), caramelized onions, pickled red onions (pictured), coleslaw, or pickles.

Recommended Sides:  
Small side-salad of asparagus, tomato, cucumber and red onion (pictured); small side of healthy baked sweet potato chips (pictured).

Adapted from: