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Jackfruit is a fascinating and often overlooked option to bring to your table. It’s perhaps easy to see why: it looks intimidating in the store, and strange enough to maybe make you wary of taking a chance on.
However, you should rethink that notion. The fruit is fairly budget friendly (great price per pound, if not per fruit) and is the key to quite a few excellent and underrated vegetarian friendly barbeque recipes. For those who want to move into a plant based lifestyle, the humble jackfruit is their friend.
The first thing you need to know, before cooking it, is how to prepare a jackfruit in the first place. So let’s get on that.
1. How to Prepare Jackfruit?
While jackfruit are large, spiky, and intimidating looking, they’re actually pretty easy to prepare.
First, cut the fruit lengthwise, then cut it into smaller pieces (eighths or sixteenths is good). Remove the hard, white core bits.
From here, you have a couple of options. You can cut the fruit from the rind directly (which is a bit tough, but doable) if you want to eat the fruit raw. It’s quite tasty this way, but that isn’t perfect for our purposes.
Instead, toss them in a pot and boil them for about 45 minutes. Afterward, the rind will strip right off.
Whichever way you do it, separate the seeds from the flesh and set them aside. The seeds are excellent for roasting later, like pumpkin seeds. Though if you’re on blood thinners or certain other medications, they can be bad for you; check with your doctor.
Once you have the flesh separated you can move on to step two!
2. How to Make Barbeque Jackfruit?
Jackfruit, whether you prepare it fresh or from a can, has an interesting texture for a fruit. It has a stringy, meaty texture to it that many people liken to pulled pork (which is essentially the best thing you can make out of it), but has always reminded me more of canned tuna in terms of texture, the way it crumbles.
You can make it a few ways, depending on how you cut it. My favorite two recipes would be for grilled jackfruit, and for a sort of pulled pork substitute.
In either case though, you’ll need a great sauce so aim for exceptionally flavorful products. Unripe jackfruit (which is usually what’s available in the US, whether canned or fresh) doesn’t have very much flavor to it. However, it loses some of its appealing meat-like qualities when ripe, so you shouldn’t wait for it to ripen up if you plan to barbeque it.
Just keep that in mind going forward. This fruit acts more as a vehicle for the sauce and flavorings you put in it than a unique, flavorful dining experience in and of itself.
If you like grilling food, the jackfruit is a nutritious substitute for cultured meats. This is excellent as a sort of grilled tuna or salmon alternative, and is very simple to make. If you’re planning ahead, it might even be good to change your initial preparation of the fruit slightly, to ensure it comes out in more even disks or half circles rather than more nondescript lumps.
Figure out what kind of seasoning you want on it, but make it a bit snappier than usual.
For example, a bit of salt, black pepper, garlic, and onion makes pretty much any meat taste great, with nothing else needing to be done to it.
In this case, you’ll want to add something with a bit more flair. Try highly flavorful seasonings like paprika, turmeric, Za’tar (and other citrusy flavorings), or cumin in your spice mix. Go wild; don’t skimp.
Rub these generously into the little “steaks” you’ve cut out, and heat up your grill.
Lay down a bit of tin foil as well, or even use something like a cedar grilling plank the same way you would for salmon. This will prevent the fruit from slipping into the cracks between the grill grates. Cook about 15 minutes or until it softens up just a bit, but retains a satisfying firmness; one of the benefits of cooking a fruit is that you don’t need to be too exact with the temperature for it to be safe to eat, so just cook it until it’s warm throughout and has hit your preferred texture for eating.
Serve alongside whatever sides you wish. A dipping sauce doesn’t go wrong here either; opt for a more impactful sauce if you use lighter seasonings, or vice versa.
Barbeque Pulled Jackfruit
Rather than pulled pork, the texture here is going to be more akin to pulled CHICKEN in the end. I make this distinction because I’ve seen many recipes call this plant-based meat a pulled pork substitute, but it really doesn’t have the same texture at all, remaining a bit firmer, in larger shreds for the most part.
Preparation here is simple: slow and low until it begins to fall completely apart. Much like above, the exact timing doesn’t matter much; you cook to your preferred level of firmness. About 30 minutes is going to be enough to get it all pull apart-y.
You can do the cooking in a slow cooker over the course of a few hours as well, though I wouldn’t recommend leaving it in there TOO long. This is more of a “I’m going to toss this in my cooker on low for 2 hours while I run a couple of errands before everything closes” than a meal to toss in the Crock Pot at 8 AM so it’s ready to eat after work kind of recipe.
It works just as well at a simmer in a sauté pan for 30 minutes.
In either case, add your sauce WHILE you’re cooking, rather than afterward. Jackfruit is a fairly dry fruit, so it’s not going to provide a ton of its own moisture; similar to plantains, if you want it to simmer you’ll need to add the moisture first.
And…it’s really that easy. Toss it in a pan with barbeque sauce and stir regularly until it breaks apart! Serve alone, or on a bun.
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