The first time I ever saw a jackfruit, I thought I’d stumbled upon some kind of pre-historic dinosaur cage, or perhaps they were elephant eggs. I was already in a very foreign place to begin with, an Asian Grocery Market. I decide to venture out on my own to visit this magnificent space, as I was told that they had all kinds of exotic vegetables and fruits that were great for plant-based eaters like myself. Boldly going to a place, unguided, I felt immediately intimidated walking through the door, as every sense I have was bombarded with uncommon newness. Sounds of the shoppers speaking in various Asian tongues; Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, all picking and selecting interestingly colored and shaped fruits and vegetables; and the smells, pungent, strong, earthly. I didn’t know I could have such an experience in middle-America. This was one of those defining moments that let you know how much you really don’t know.
Perusing through the aisles I came across these huge oddly shaped and most unforgiving smelling fruit (side note: still at this point I had not seen or smelt a Durian; so to my ignorance the jackfruit was the king of weird smells and sight, that changed immediately after my Durian experience, more about that later.) I became deeply disturbed by their size and smell, and for the next few visits to the Asian Market, I purposely avoided that section of the produce aisle. Talk about ignorance!
About one whole year later, I finally tasted jackfruit. A favorite Indian restaurant of my husband’s had an offering of curried jackfruit on the hot bar. I was amazed as its taste and texture. I ran home to research more about it. It was then that the ‘Vegan-Gods’ smiled upon me and granted me the access of unlimited greatness, known as Jackfruit. For years plant-based eaters around the world consume this fruit in many different ways. Best savory applications occur when the jackfruit is young and brined, similar to olives. The brining process helps remove all the sweetness and distinct jackfruit flavor. Fresh jackfruit is extremely sweet with a strong fruity flavor. My taste buds experience a tangy pineapple and cherry combination when I have it fresh. The popular 1980’s chewing gum ‘Juicy Fruit’ is artificially flavored after the jackfruit. So you have probably tasted it and didn’t even know it J You can get a can of young jackfruit at most Asian grocers. The possibilities are needless when using it. Most common vegan American dishes that use jackfruit typically are ‘BBQ pull-pork style’ sandwiches, ‘Chicken-bits’ for pizza toppings, and tacos.
Like most Texans, I like my food to have bold flavor, especially my tacos. My recipe for the jackfruit tacos while dangerously delicious is on the spicier side of life. So please adjust the heat by decreasing, or eliminating, the jalapeno and crushed red pepper flakes. If you like more moisture in your taco fillings, try adding a chopped tomato. Cook the tomato along with the marinated jackfruit. I typically like topping my tacos with a purple slaw and some slices of fresh avocado, but you can try of Daiya shredded cheddar or just some finely shredded romaine lettuce. But be creative and fearless with this recipe. This recipe will yield about 5 mini size tacos. So it’s great to share or save for another meal.
Mini Jackfruit Tacos
- 1 – 16oz can of young green jackfruit (not fresh)
- 2 - 3 minced garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp of diced red bell pepper
- 3 tbsp of diced white onion
- ¼ to 1/3 of diced jalapeno (or a Serrano for more heat J)
- 1 ½ tbsp of chipotle chili powder
- 2 tsp of ground cumin
- 1 tsp of sea salt
- 1 tsp of black pepper
- ½ tsp of garlic powder
- ½ tsp of onion powder
- ¼ tsp of crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ tsp of dried oregano
- ½ tsp of hot smoked paprika
- 4 – 6 tbsp of avocado oil or grapeseed oil
Drain jackfruit from can and rinse well. Remove any large seed pods from the ‘meaty’ chunks. Cut jackfruit chunks down into smaller pieces. Take a fork and separate the small chunks into ‘bits’, resembling something like pulled-pork. In a medium-sized bowl combine the prepped jackfruit and all the spices. Toss well and set aside for a quick marinade. This can be done ahead of time, and allowed to marinate for a longer time, the longer the better. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-heat. Sautee onions and peppers for 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook for another 2 minutes. Don’t let the garlic brown too much, this will make it taste bitter. Now add your jackfruit and stir well. Make sure it does not stick. Reduce heat and cover with lid. Continue to simmer on low for an addition 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and add fresh cilantro. Serve with fresh diced tomatoes and warmed mini organic corn tortillas.