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Jackfruit Carnitas

After last week’s jackfruit pulled pork post, which was inspired by a recipe at Pure Luck (an LA vegan restaurant that is, sadly, closing) I decided to take advantage of the whole friend-of-a-friend thing and try to get the owner to give me a real recipe from his menu. Luckily for me (and you) he was happy to oblige!

One of their best menu items is their jackfruit carnitas, and I figured since I already tempted everyone to go hunt down some jackfruit I may as well do another recipe to really make it worth your while. And trust me – this one is worth your while. Even easier than my BBQ pork recipe, it comes together in about 30 minutes (which is faster than real carnitas) and is super simple. Having had both the restaurant version and my own homemade version, I can say that you really can use this recipe to get something very similar at home.

That being said, I will admit that I couldn’t resist changing a few things – I made it exactly as written once but then just had to make it again (I know, I know – the sacrifices I make) with my own modifications because the restaurant version, while amazing and delicious, wasn’t quite up to my clean eating standards.

The restaurant version essentially consists of jackfruit, “Better Than Bouillon” veggie bouillon, Mexican Coca-Cola (not regular Coke – Mexican Coke is made with real sugar instead of corn syrup), onion, garlic, and a bit of oil. My modified version is very similar except that I replaced the “Better than Bouillon” with a homemade spice blend, and replaced the Coke with maple syrup. Both recipes worked great – mine has a bit more flavor of cumin and chili powder, his is a bit more neutral and “meaty.”

To make it either way, just chop up some onions and garlic and throw them in a pot with the bouillon/spice blend until everything is softened and coated. Then add your drained and rinsed jackfruit along with your Coke, sugar, or maple syrup. The point of the sweetener is that the sugar caramelizes as it cooks and adds a little bit of brown color and crunch to the edges of your carnitas – I don’t think skipping it altogether would yield such good results, but if anyone tries it do let me know!

Once you’ve got everything mixed together, just let it cook for about 30 minutes, occasionally stopping by to break up the jackfruit into smaller and smaller pieces with your spatula – don’t stir it too often since you’re trying to get the outsides to brown and caramelize, just often enough to break up the jackfruit and prevent it from really sticking to the pot.

After 20 minutes or so it should look something like this:

I love how jackfruit starts out looking nothing like pulled meat and then once it softens and shreds a bit it’s totally convincing! Give it another ten minutes or so to really get nice and browned and caramelized and you’ll have a plate of this stuff:

That’s all there is to it! When I made it to the original recipe I made it as a burrito, so I added a can of pinto beans to the same pot I just removed the jackfruit from, along with a pinch of cumin, salt, and pepper, until they were nice and warm. Then I rolled the carnitas and beans up in a flour tortilla along with some salsa and guacamole (plus a side of sweet potato fries), and it was crazy good:

The second time I made the recipe, I decided to make tacos – so I added the jackfruit to a corn tortilla with a bit of avocado, salsa, and shredded cabbage:

Also amazing – this recipe is such a great replacement for shredded meat! Hopefully you can find yourselves some jackfruit and give it a try!

Jackfruit Carnitas - Pure Luck Restaurant Version

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 1 20 oz. can of jackfruit

Vegan, Gluten-free, Soy-free, Low fat

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil (Canola or something neutral)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 clove garlic, crushed
  • 5ml (1 teaspoon) Better Than Bouillon. (This is enough to make ~1.5 liters of vegetable broth, so if you use a different brand, use their directions to determine the equivalent amount.)
  • 1 20 oz can of Jackfruit in brine, drained (The chef says: Make sure you get Green Jackfruit in Brine or Water. You do not want ripe Jackfruit in syrup. This is sweet, gooey, sticky and will not make anything resembling a meat substitute…or anything resembling tasty.)
  • 2 Tablespoons Mexican Coke or 2 teaspoons sugar

Directions:

  1. Place a pan on medium heat. Add oil, onion, garlic, and bouillon. Stir until onions are clear and bouillon is dissolved. Add jackfruit and sugar and stir occasionally to break up the jackfruit. It will be ready when the liquid is dissolved and the jackfruit darkens and starts to look like shredded meat.

Jackfruit Carnitas - Clean Green Simple Version

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Vegan, Gluten-free, Low fat, Refined sugar free, Soy free

Ingredients:

    For the spice blend (this is relatively flexible - if you don't have a couple of the spices on hand just work with what you've got):
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pinch cinnamon
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp soy sauce (optional - omit if you're avoiding soy)
  • For the carnitas:
  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil (Canola or something neutral)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 clove garlic, crushed
  • Homemade spice blend (see above)
  • 1 20 oz can of Jackfruit in brine, drained
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup

Directions:

  1. Place a pan on medium heat. Add oil, onion, garlic, and spice blend. Stir until onions are clear and coated with spices. Add jackfruit and maple syrup and stir occasionally to break up the jackfruit. It will be ready when the liquid is dissolved and the jackfruit darkens and starts to look like shredded meat.

 

Carolina Pulled “Pork” Sandwich

Hey! Are you vegetarian/vegan/avoiding meat for some reason?

Have you heard about Jackfruit?

No?

Duuuude. I’m so about to rock your world.

There’s this restaurant in LA called Pure Luck. It happens to be owned by a friend of a friend of mine, but it’s also just an awesome vegan place with a great menu. Sadly, they are going to be closing soon. Happily, they introduced me to the magical world that is the Jackfruit. It’s this crazy Asian fruit that looks like this:

[source]

But if you prepare it properly (and don’t worry, it’s available in cans, which are much less intimidating), it can look like this:

Yeah – that’s not pork. It’s…fruit. I know, I know – I can see how it might be hard to believe that fruit could look like, much less taste like, pork. But trust me when I tell you that not only does it look like it, but it really does pass quite well for a fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth, pulled pork.

Sadly, I haven’t found a great online resource to buy it – if you google “Jackfruit in brine” you can find a couple of places that sell it, but I would recommend just looking at your local asian market (if you’re in the Los Angeles area, 99 Ranch has it) and making sure you buy the kind that comes in brine, not syrup.

If you can manage to get your hands on some, it’s really fun to experiment with. Pure Luck, the restaurant I mentioned above, uses it for pulled pork and for Mexican carnitas (I’ll definitely get around to posting a carnitas recipe sometime!) and it’s excellent in both dishes.

And now I will stop going on about it and get to the recipe already! Crack open your can of jackfruit and rinse it really well (if you get the kind that’s in brine, it will have a slight vinegary taste which you want to rinse off as much as possible), and you’ll have something that looks like this:

What? That doesn’t look exactly like pulled pork to you? Huh. Well…we’ll get there. Take each chunk and cut off the center piece, like so:

You should be left with just the stringy bits, which we’re going to coat in our nice dry rub. This is just a mixture of various spices that you can combine and then pour all over your jackfruit. Heat it all in a medium pot over medium heat until everything is nice and toasty – maybe about five minutes.

While the spices are toasting, mix together the wet part of your seasoning, which is just a blend of various standard ingredients like maple syrup, tomato paste, and spices. You can also add tamarind paste (which, if you made my baked beans from yesterday, you already have out) to make this whole thing super awesome. Pour your mix over the toasted jackfruit and let it all simmer for maybe 30 minutes, up to an hour or so. While that is simmering you can throw some chopped onion in a skillet over medium low and let it caramelize until it’s a nice dark brown. Again, this recipe goes very well with yesterday’s baked beans – you can prepare the onions for both in the same skillet and then just roughly divide them in half when you’re done.

Once your “pork” has simmered for a while, use a fork to sort of rip apart the jackfruit pieces into stringy bits and spread this mixture out on a cookie sheet and roast it at 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes. You don’t have to do this step, it’s delicious straight out of the pot, but it makes it a little less soft and a little more firm/chewy.

Then just load up some sandwich bread or a roll (I used ciabatta bread, but honestly that was a little too much bread – I’d recommend just regular sandwich slices. If you use gluten free bread the whole recipe is gluten free) and go to town!

As written, this recipe is fairly spicy – if you want it to have a little less of a kick, cut back on the cayenne and red chili flakes.

So how fun is that? I love how much it looks like pulled pork. The jackfruit itself has a pretty neutral flavor so as long as you season it with some nice strong spices, it just kind of picks up that flavor.

Have any of you heard of or had Jackfruit before? Any other ways to use it I should try?

Carolina Pulled “Pork” Sandwich

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: Makes enough for 2 large or 4 regular sandwiches.

Vegan, Gluten free if you use GF bread, Low Fat, Refined Sugar Free, Soy Free

Ingredients:

  • 1 can jackfruit in brine, drained and rinsed well with the solid center pieces removed (as shown above)
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Sandwich bread or rolls
  • For the dry rub:
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • pinch garlic powder
  • pinch onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • For the wet sauce:
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp canola or other neutral oil
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind paste
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 2 tsp maple syrup

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add onion to a skillet over medium low and heat until it is caramelized and browned. Add garlic for the last minute or so, until fragrant.
  2. Mix together dry rub spices and toss jackfruit pieces in mixture until coated. Add to a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat for about five minutes to toast spices.
  3. Mix together wet sauce ingredients and add to saucepan, along with onion and garlic. Simmer jackfruit in sauce for 15-30 minutes until well heated and softened. Using a fork, shred the jackfruit pieces into small stringy bits. Spread mixture evenly on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes until slightly dried out and toughened.
  4. Divide evenly amongst your bread or rolls and serve!