Several years ago, I had a pulled pork sandwich that was gooey, delicious – and vegan.
Masquerading as pork was jackfruit, a darling of the plant-based set because of its ability to mimic meat or poultry. With its pristine profile and versatility, jackfruit could also aid in sustainably feeding people.
One of the largest tree fruits, jackfruit is native to India and South East Asia. A single fruit can grow as large as 80 pounds. It is full of seeds, which are good roasted, and “petals,” layers of the fruit surrounding the seeds. It provides dietary fibre (particularly in the seeds), B vitamins, no fat and low carbs and calories. It is low in protein, so adding some nuts to a dish will improve that.
Most jackfruit is sold for canning or as bulk fruit. Green (less ripe) ones, packed in brine or water, canned or vacuumed-packed are best for savoury dishes. These should be drained and rinsed before using. The fully ripe, sweeter kind, usually packed in syrup, is ideal for desserts.
Jackfruit is available in both natural and flavoured varieties from Upton Naturals at supermarkets, such as Whole Foods and Sobeys, natural food stores and on Amazon. In Asian grocery stores, you can find it in cans, sometimes frozen and, very occasionally, fresh.
Jackfruit has a neutral taste, so it easily takes on other flavours and is at its best when cooked in a sauce such as barbecue or Thai curry. The fruit is a little stringy, but once immersed in a sauce, it soaks in that flavour. Shred it with a fork for easy use.
Jackfruit makes a great tuna substitute when chopped up with mayo (vegan or otherwise), lots of green onions, a touch of mustard and lemon juice. It is excellent in pad thai as a substitute for chicken. It can also be whirled in the food processor and used as a base for a dip or tossed in stir-fry dishes in place of a protein.
Recipe | Vegan Pulled Pork Sliders
In this dish, the barbecue sauce, which hails from the Carolinas, is spicy, sweet and sharp – perfect for the jackfruit. It will keep for one month, refrigerated. If you prefer, substitute with your favourite store-bought sauce.
Combine ½ cup apple cider vinegar, ½ cup ketchup, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon dried mustard powder, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon chili flakes in a small pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to incorporate and cook until thickened slightly.
While the sauce is cooling, take the jackfruit out of the container and remove any seeds. (In the vacuum pack, the seeds are so soft that they need not be removed.) Take about 1 cup jackfruit pulp and shred into strips. Reserve.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet. Add shredded jackfruit and sauté. Add ½ cup barbecue sauce and stir together. (Refrigerate remainder of barbecue sauce.) Simmer for 15 minutes, until the sauce is absorbed. Season with salt and pepper.
Pile the jackfruit mixture on two buns and top with coleslaw, extra sauce and hot peppers, if desired. Sautéed onions and/or grated vegan cheese are also tasty additions.
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