Jackfruit has a lot going for it, including a low calorie count and lots of nutrients, but for plant-based cooks its biggest selling points are texture and mild flavor — when it’s unripe. That means it can play a fun stand-in for pulled pork or chicken, especially with the right spices and other flavorings. It’s even become a popular ingredient for pitmasters looking for a vegetarian option.
One of the easiest ways to show it off is to cook it in some sauce and pile it on buns with slaw, barbecue-style.
The hardest part of this recipe, depending on where you live, might be finding the jackfruit in the first place. If you’re lucky enough to live where they sell the fresh fruit, feel free to check it out. But don’t get too excited, because the fresh stuff isn’t what you want for these kinds of savory preparations anyhow. Instead, seek out the unripe fruit — also sometimes labeled “green” or “young” — that’s canned and packed in water or brine (not sugar syrup). If you have access to a store with lots of vegan products, you might be able to find young jackfruit by the Jackfruit Co. or by Upton’s Naturals that’s not packed in liquid at all, making it even easier to use.
Jackfruit has a little protein, but nowhere near as much meat, so I like to find a way to add protein to any dish I make with it. In these sandwiches, I add peanuts to the slaw, which also ups the crunch factor. Trust me, that’s never a bad thing.
BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches
Unripe jackfruit has a texture akin to pulled pork, which has made it a darling among vegan cooks and eaters. Here, it gets combined with store-bought barbecue sauce and piled onto buns with an easy cabbage slaw that gets extra crunch (and protein) from roasted peanuts. Look for unripe (sometimes labeled young or green) jackfruit in water or brine, not sugar syrup, at Asian markets and supermarkets with large selections of vegan products.
Adapted from a recipe by Amber St. Peter in “The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook” (Page Street Publishing Co., 2018).
- Two 14-ounce cans green jackfruit in brine (not syrup), such as Native Forest brand
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton; optional)
- 1 cup vegan barbecue sauce
- 3 cups thinly shredded green cabbage
- 1/2 cup chopped roasted unsalted peanuts
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Pinch freshly ground black pepper
- 4 hamburger buns, lightly toasted
Drain and rinse the jackfruit. Pick out and discard any seeds. Using a fork or your fingers, shred the jackfruit.
Pour the oil into a large skillet over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the jackfruit and cook until its moisture evaporates and the jackfruit starts to lightly brown, 5 minutes. Stir in the smoked paprika, if using, and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Stir in the barbecue sauce and cook until the sauce thickens and reduces, 4 minutes.
To make the slaw, in a mixing bowl combine the shredded cabbage, peanuts, garlic, mayo, vinegar, salt and pepper and toss to evenly coat the cabbage.
Divide the sauced jackfruit among the buns and top with the slaw. Serve while hot.