Full disclosure: I hate jackfruit! Seriously. I’d had it a couple of times, once in a Reuben sandwich at a restaurant, and another time I tried to make jackfruit carnitas according to a recipe I found on YouTube. In both instances, I was beyond disappointed. The texture was mushy, and as Ben famously described it, “it feels like pineapple”. So, for the last year or so, whenever I would see jackfruit on a menu, I would avoid it. Even if the rest of the dish sounded good, the word jackfruit would immediately turn me off. I was convinced that it was a crap meat substitute. Period. Done.
However, on a whim a few weeks ago, I bought a can of jackfruit from Trader Joe’s. I had no recipe in mind, but I was determined to give it another shot. I had seen other YouTubers use it, and bake it, and it seemed, visually, to have a better texture that what I had experienced.
It being summer and all, and near the 4th of July, we decided we should probably make a BBQ recipe for my next video. But what to grill? I always struggle with choosing the best meat substitute, especially when it comes to things like grilling. I don’t love to use a ton of processed vegan meats, and I prefer to use a vegetable or whole plant food in place of the meat.
So, as with most of the recipes that I create, they are born out of necessity or a craving, or something that either Ben or I have had at a restaurant that we want to make a version of. Ben had mentioned that he was craving these chilorio tacos he used to order at Tacos & Tequila in The Luxor.
We needed to grill something. Chilorio tacos sounded good. But what kind of “meat” could I use… Did I also mention that it’s July, and I wanted to do a plastic free July? All available vegan meats and tofus and tempehs come in plastic. So now what?
There is that jackfruit I bought… And it IS in a can…
I did some recipe searches. I saw various ways to prepare jackfruit, but none, from what I could see, were cooked on an outdoor gas grill. I also searched for recipes for chilorio, a Sinaloan pulled pork dish, to see what kinds of spices they used, and how they would cook the meat with the seasonings.
Armed with a can, and a few plans, and a determination to make jackfruit work, I fired up the grill.
And guess what? On the very first shot, I nailed it! I was officially a jackfruit convert.
This recipe is easy to make, uses readily available ingredients (except the jackfruit?), and can easily be made on the grill outside, or on the stovetop and in the oven inside. Because I’m going plastic-free for this month, I took an extra step and made my own tortillas. They definitely add a freshness to the dish, but in the words of Ina Garten, “Store bought is fine”. These tacos are so incredible and balanced. They are spicy, and bright, and creamy, and you have a variety of the textures from the corn tortilla, to the pickled red onions and spicy radishes, to the fresh cabbage slaw. These are satisfying on so many levels. Make these. You won’t regret it. Especially if you’re like me, and you thought you hated jackfruit.
Give them a shot, and then let me know what you thought!
- 1, 20 ounce can green (young) jackfruit in brine (I really like the Trader Joe’s brand)
- 4 cups water
- 4 dried ancho chilis (or equivalent of any dried Mexican chilis)
- ½ medium sized onion
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon “No Chicken” or “No Beef” flavor
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon ghost pepper powder (very optional)
- 1 teaspoon smoked salt (optional), or salt to taste optional or salt to taste
- 1 cup raw cashews
- ½ to ¾ cup water
- 1 lime, juiced
- Salt to taste
- ½ large red onion, sliced into thin slivers
- ½ cup vinegar
- ½ cup water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups shredded cabbage red and/or green
- juice of 1 lime
- Salt to taste
- Thinly sliced radish
- Jalapeno slices
Preheat your grill on high. Because there is such a small amount of food actually going on the grill, I only used 2 of my 4 burners.
Bring your water to a boil on the stove. When it comes to a boil, add the dried chilis. Allow the chilis to soak and re-hydrate for about 10 minutes.
Drain your jackfruit. Peel and cut your onion in half. Turn your grill to a medium heat, and place your jackfruit and onion directly on the grill. Depending on how seasoned your grill is, you might be more comfortable lightly oiling the grill or the jackfruit. Allow the jackfruit to cook about 5 to 7 minutes per side, until they are slightly desiccated with a few good grill marks. Remove the onion and jackfruit to an 8x8 baking dish.
To a blender, add the grilled onion half along with the hydrated chili peppers that have been seeded. Add 1 cup of the chili soaking liquid, the cumin, oregano, garlic, bouillon and soy sauce. Blend until very smooth. Salt to taste.
Lightly break apart the jackfruit with your hands or a potato masher. Add the pureed chili and onion mixture into the baking dish. Stir.
With your grill set to low, place the pan of jackfruit onto the grill. If you wanted to still use the grill for other foods, you could move the baking dish the to the other side of the grill and allow it to cook using indirect heat. Just make sure that the internal temperature of your grill is about 400 degrees.
Check your jackfruit about every 10 minutes, and stir it. It will take between 25 and 35 minutes to cook, but keep an eye on it. When all of the liquid is gone, and you’re left with a deliciously tender jackfruit, it’s done.
Add all of the ingredients, starting with just a half cup of water, to a high speed blender, and blend until smooth and creamy. If your mixture is too thick, then add a bit more water. Taste for salt and acidity.
Combine the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for one minute. Remove from the microwave and stir until the salt and sugar is dissolved
Pack the sliced onions into a pint Mason jar, or seal-able container, and then pour the vinegar and water mixture over the top.
Allow the onions to marinate and "pickle" for a few hours, or preferably overnight.
Very thinly slice your cabbage. Toss with the lime juice and a bit of salt. Serve immediately, or allow to marinate for a few hours.
Warm your tortillas. Add a tablespoon or two of your chilorio jackfruit (or more, depending on the size and type of tortilla). Top with your cabbage slaw, pickled onions, sliced radishes and jalapenos, and then finish off each taco with a generous drizzle of the cashew crema.
Note: This recipe was tested on a gas grill with 4 heating units. This recipe could easily be made indoors in the oven, but the grill helps to give it a good smokey flavor.
For the tortillas, I just purchased a bag of instant masa, and followed the package instructions.