Savory, crispy, Mexican inspired Jackfruit Carnitas will change your taco, burrito, bowl making game forever! This quick and easy recipe will blow your mind with its amazing depth in flavor and "meat" like texture.
When I first heard about jackfruit I couldn't believe it. It was from a friend of mine who told me about a little vegan restaurant in Los Angeles called Pure Luck that was taking jackfruit and turning it into vegan carnitas. I just couldn't wrap my mind around it. A meat alternative made from a bland fruit from Asia prepared in a way good enough to charm people into thinking it's just like eating carnitas? Ah, no way! At least that is what I thought until I tested it out for myself and quickly became a huge fan.
This was years ago and the restaurant has since closed. Yet, the basis of that recipe still lives on. To be honest, I don't even know who came up with the idea of using jackfruit to create vegan carnitas. I googled it and found nothing, but I do know that Pure Luck did an amazing job developing a fantastic recipe.
Over the years, I have made changes to the recipe to further develop the flavors and increase the umami meat like aspect, which is what makes actual carnitas so cravable. There is really no nice way to say that in plant based cooking speak. But that is the key to this recipe and jackfruit carnitas. By taking traditional Mexican cooking techniques it gives the jackfruit carnitas a developed taste and a pulled pork like texture that is undeniably so close to the real thing.
In fact, so close to the real thing that one time when I was catering a party a guest came up to me to tell me how much he loved the pork torta. His jaw nearly dropped to the ground when I told him that everything he'd been devouring was vegan. It was one of those moments you don't forget.
So the moral of the story here is that jackfruit carnitas are a game changer. You can use this recipe to fill tacos, burritos, top bowls, make sandwiches, stuff pupusas, or anywhere you need a vegan meat replacement for pulled pork.
What is Jackfruit?
Jackfruit, also known as jack tree, is related to the fig, mulberry, and breadfruit family. The trees can be found all over southern India to the rainforests in Malaysia as well as some parts of southeast Asia, Africa, and Brazil. The jack tree produces the largest fruit of all trees that can sometimes weigh over 40 pounds.
Ripe jackfruit is sweet and often used in desserts in southern Asia. Whereas, young unripe jackfruit has a mild taste and meat like texture making it a popular plant based meat replacement.
Where to Buy Jackfruit
Jackfruit is sold as a whole fruit, canned, and even frozen. For this recipe you need the canned young green jackfruit in brine, which you can find in many grocery stores nowadays in the Asian food section. But in my opinion, the best place to find it is at an actual Asian grocery store. If you happen to live in a place where jackfruit is hard to find, you can order it online.
This jackfruit carnitas recipe involves all your standard herbs and spices used in Mexican dishes along with a few ingredients to help boost that meat like umami flavor. It is this combination and ratio of ingredients that make this recipe so good. And the great news is that you most likely already have most of these ingredients in your pantry.
- Young Green Jackfruit in Brine
- White Onion
- Maple Syrup
- Low Sodium Tamari or Soy Sauce
- Liquid Smoke
- Chili Powder
- Smoked Paprika
- Cayenne Pepper
Jackfruit makes this amazing dish possible and put plant based carnitas on the map! So for this recipe you will need canned young green jackfruit in brine. Be careful to read the labels when buying because you don't accidentally want to buy jackfruit packed in syrup. It must say in brine or water on the can.
Fresh garlic is used to do what garlic does so well and add a bump of flavor. While white onion, which is a tad more mild, commonly used in Mexico, adds even more flavor without overpowering the dish.
The maple syrup is the touch of sweet and the tamari the touch of salty in this recipe. And liquid smoke for added depth and umami.
But the recipe would not be complete or be carnitas without the ever so important spices. Cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, cayenne, oregano, and cinnamon bring this jackfruit carnitas recipe to life. Cumin is that flavor you associate with mexican food. The smoked paprika helps to boost the the umami flavor along with the liquid smoke. Oregano is the aromatic and a dash of cinnamon gives the carnitas a slight warmth.
How to Make Jackfruit Carnitas
This recipe is simple to make! In just 30 minutes you will have a meat alternative for your tacos, burritos, sandwiches, and more!
To get started on the recipe, drain the jackfruit well and shred it into something that resembles pulled pork. The easiest way to do this is to use your hands. With the jackfruit in a large bowl, simply squeeze the jackfruit until it breaks into soft shredded bits. Then chop the hard center cores that are left into bite size pieces that match your shredded jackfruit. The cores will soften when cooked.
Next, heat the oil in a pan and saute your garlic along with the onions for a few minutes. Then add the spices and saute for another minute making sure to coat the onions. Now, toss in the jackfruit along with all the other ingredients and cook uncovered at medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes until the liquid has reduced to almost nothing. Finally, turn the heat up to high and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to crisp up the jackfruit.
And bam! Jackfruit carnitas complete and ready to eat!
Store leftovers in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
People love this Jackfruit Carnitas recipe because it's...
- A mind blowing meat alternative
- So close to Mexican carnitas it will fool your friends
- Savory good with crispy bits
- Easy to make and good for you
- Stores well in the fridge or freezer
I hope you enjoy this plant based culinary game changing recipe!
If you try this recipe please let me know how it turns out by leaving a comment and rating. You can also hashtag #danceswithknives with a photo of your creation on Instagram where you can find me @dances_with_knives.
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Tasty Jackfruit Carnitas Recipe
- 2 20oz cans of young green jackfruit in brine or water
- 2 tablespoon grapeseed oil or any neutral oil (canola, vegetable also work)
- 1 medium white onion, small dice (1 ½ cup diced)
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoon cumin
- 2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional for spice)
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 2 pinches ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoon maple syrup or agave
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup low sodium tamari (low sodium soy sauce if not gluten-free)
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- Drain the jackfruit well. Then shred the jackfruit. There are few different ways to do this.You can do this by cutting the hard core off the triangles and shredding the softer bits with a fork into what looks like pulled pork. Then chop the cores into finer pieces to match the shredded. You can also throw all the jackfruit into a large bowl and squeeze the jackfruit with your hands, which will shred the softer bits and leave the core. If you choose the squeezing method you have to pick out the hard cores that are left over and chop them into pieces just as you would with the first option. This is how I do it.When you complete this step drain the jackfruit again to remove any extra liquid.
- Combine all the spices in a small dish so they are ready to go before you start cooking. This includes the cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, cayenne, oregano, cinnamon, and salt.
- Heat the oil at medium high heat in a large saute pan. Then add the onions and garlic to cook for about 1 to 2 minutes until the onions are translucent.
- Next add the spice mix of cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, cayenne, oregano, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to coat the onions well and continue cooking for about 1 minute.
- Now add the jackfruit, maple syrup, water, low sodium tamari, and liquid smoke. Stir to combine and cook at medium heat uncovered for about 10-15 minutes. Check every few minutes and turn the jackfruit as needed. You want for the liquid to reduce and the jackfruit to turn into what looks like shredded pork.
- When the jackfruit liquid has reduced to virtually nothing, turn the heat up to high and cook for 2-3 minutes turning often to evenly crisp up. For extra crispy carnitas, you can also spread the jackfruit out onto a sheet pan and place under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp up. I find that I can achieve the same results on the stove top. It's just a matter of preference.
- Serve as a filling for tacos, burritos, bowls, and more! My recipe for Salvadoran Pupusas is fantastic using jackfruit carnitas as a filling!