I’ll never forget walking through The Fresh Market in Melbourne, Florida two summers ago with our family friend Eileen. In the produce section, we walked past a display featuring this very large, bizarre, spiky, green thing. I had never see anything like it! From a closer look, I found out it was called “jackfruit.”
To save you the trip to Google, jackfruit is an exotic fruit derived from the fig, mulberry, and breadfruit family. It’s often used as a vegan meat replacement and has a whole website dedicated to it, so check that out because they’re (literally) the experts.
Anyways, there were recipe cards near it for Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos, only I didn’t see any kind of pork in the ingredient list. No way could this strange-looking object of nature measure up to actual shredded pork. I snapped a pic of the recipe card for future reference, even though I seriously doubted I would ever come across a jackfruit again in my life.
Fast forward to 2020—a couple of weeks ago, actually. I walk into Trader Joe’s and what do I see? A tower of canned jackfruit, surrounded by bottles of Carolina BBQ sauce! Whatttt?! Now I had to try it (Trader Joe’s rarely disappoints… IYKYK).
Because the jackfruit was packed in brine, I drained and rinsed it a couple of times before plopping it into a bowl to shred with a fork. I guess most people shred it while it’s cooking, but I didn’t know that. My wild guess is it doesn’t make a difference, but y’know, live your life. I cooked it in a skillet with some EVOO, salt, pepper and garlic powder over medium heat for about seven-ish minutes, then poured in my favorite Winking Lizard BBQ Sauce. After mixing that all up, I stuck the lid on and let the jackfruit simmer over medium-low heat for about 10 or so minutes more.
Moment of truth, y’all.
I hesitantly stuck my fork right in the pan for a taste, hoping for the best. And…drumroll… it was actually pretty tasty!
Coming from someone who is a die-hard carnitas fan, I would still pick the real deal over this jackfruit. But honestly, if you’ve made pulled pork before, you know it takes forever in the smoker or crock pot or whatever you use to cook it. I could live with the jackfruit substitute to squash a craving or streamline a dinner plan on a busy weeknight.
For me, jackfruit is to carnitas, as cauliflower rice is to real rice: it’s a healthy alternative that offers an extremely similar, fulfilling texture, but you can’t exactly replicate the taste. You still need the condiments and usual toppings, but at least you know you’ve upgraded the overall nutrition of your meal.
If you try it, let me know what you think and have a great rest of your week! 🙂