Jackfruit Carnitas

Jackfruit Carnitas
Written by Jessica

Jackfruit carnitas – an amazing vegetarian shredded meat for tacos, burritos and much more

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
Print Recipe
4.75 from 20 votes

Jackfruit Carnitas - Clean Green Simple Version

Vegan, Gluten-free, Low fat, Refined sugar free, Soy free
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time25 mins

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

Instructions

  • 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.

69 Comments

  • Wow, this looks so amazing! I’ve bought the canned jackfruit, now just to make it!

    In your original “pulled pork” jackfruit recipe, you had cut the center core off all your jackfruit pieces. Yet I see you didn’t do that with this recipe. Did you notice any difference?

    • I didn’t do it with this recipe and suspect you might not need to do it with the other one, either 🙂 You do need to make sure you break the pieces up with a spatula a lot as they cook to get that shredded look, but they seem to fall apart pretty well in the pan! (I had previously used a slow cooker to make them, and in that scenario cutting out the middles might save the effort of breaking it up as it cooks.)

  • Hey Jessica! I am an Indian and we grew up eating jackfruit! I have mostly tried Indian recipes only with it though. Looking at your posts make me want to try all these recipes!! We get tons of jackfruit and all fresh so thanks for the recipe 🙂

  • The previous poster mentioned using fresh Jackfruit. I too have Jackfriut here on Guam and would much rather use fresh. Do you know if it would work in this recipe? Does the brine make a difference?

    • I think fresh should be fine with this recipe, I’ve never tried it but I don’t think the brine is essential to the taste. You could always add a splash of vinegar, that wouldn’t hurt the recipe and might help, but I doubt it’s necessary.

  • Yum! That looks awesome. I’ve been hearing about jackfruit a lot, and I saw it not too long ago at the grocery store. Next time I see it, I’m picking some up for sure. I’m so curious about it and this recipe looks so yummy. I’m going to bookmark it to try 😀

    • They sell it at asian markets – if your store has an international or asian section it might have it, but I think it’s not too likely unless it’s a big section. It does taste sort of fruity, but it’s a pretty mild taste.

  • Jessica, loved your recipe, we in cali are fourtunate to get fresh ones. Which one would you prefer fresh or canned. I have a summer picnic coming up and would love to make carnitas with NO MEAT !!

    • I haven’t made it with fresh yet – I plan to go find one soon and try it. I hear they are a bit of work to cut and get the fruit out, so you might want to start with canned just to get the hang of the recipe and then try fresh later.

  • 1 tsp of better than bouillon = 8 ozs (250ml) of broth according to the jar not 1.5 liters as you have indicated.
    Soooo….would the recipe still be 1 tsp????

    • Yes, still one teaspoon – my math in how much broth it makes was wrong but I used a teaspoon when I made the recipe so that’s what we should go with 🙂

  • This was amazing. I made it for my husband for father’s day. We had a big crowd and even the meat lovers thought it was great. Served it with a spicy salsa and guacamole in a wrap.
    Thanks

  • Just to clarify, do you just add 1 tsp to the mix OR 1 tsp +8oz (like the jar indicates for its basic broth)? Thanks!

  • YES!! I miss Pure Luck so much! Thank you for this!! I didn’t like Melisser Elliot’s recipe – it was sooo sour from the mass amount of salsa verde, but maybe I made a mistake somewhere.

    One question – (Assuming you live in the LA area) – I live in Koreatown and have tried my local Asian market, as well as a 99c Only store and can’t seem to find any canned jackfruit. Where do you get yours? A friend gave me the can I used to try the other recipe.

  • Hi Melissa,

    I live in Koreatown too. I usually get my canned jackfruit from Bangkok Market which is on Melrose near Harvard and Kingsley. California Market (another awesome Asian market) is closer to me, but they don’t have it. Most Thai markets should have them, as well as Figueroa Produce in Highland Park. Hopefully you’ve found a can by now.

  • I was really sad when Pure Luck closed (heard they were moving locations), so I am really glad to have found this. My jack fruit came out so great and looked a lot like your photos, just slightly less toasted at the edges. I probably should just cook it on higher heat for a minute. It’s delicious!

  • Just made these tacos today and I LOVE your recipe! I added a little more chili, garlic, and cayenne powder to mine and served it with guacamole, pico de gallo, spring mix lettuce and the tiniest line of sour cream (I’m transitioning to vegetarian/vegan)…they were so beautiful and delicious! I live in Dallas, TX and found the jack fruit in 99 cent ranch! I am a culinary student and had never even heard of jackfruit until I watched Great Food Truck race and saw the Seabirds, a vegan food truck, make jackfruit pulled “pork” tacos. Still waiting to try that recipe. 🙂

  • Thanks! I just tried this recipe out tonight. My whole family liked it! My father once told me that he does not like “fake meat”. However, after he took a bite of the taco he said “this is really good!”.

    When I tried a piece by itself, I didn’t think that it would be that good. However, in the taco it tasted pretty good.

    For the taco I just used trader Joe’s organic corn/wheat tortillas, traders joe’s organic tomatillo and yellow roasted chili hot sauce, and cabbage. As a side I used black beans and pears with gruyere cheese (i’m not a vegan…yet).

  • Hi! I’m excited to try this. I have been eyeing whole jackfruits in a local market for years. Do you have any tips on how to make this with fresh jackfruit versus canned? The response about how you want to try fresh jackfruit is about a year old, so I’m hoping you’ve tried it by now.

    Is it pretty much the same recipe, or would it require additional steps? THANK YOU!

  • I can’t believe how good this is! I made the clean green version with pinto beans and a simple homemade salsa and it was terrific.

    Thanks for posting this!

  • Bless your precious heart for finding and posting this recipe. I have made it so many times when I just need my Pure Luck fix.

    But, one thing never quite adds up for me.

    For the Pure Luck version of the recipe, you mention cooking until the liquid is dissolved. But every time I make this, it’s almost immediate. Hot pan, only two tablespoons of liquid, it never turns out right. At first I thought maybe I was supposed to add water and actually make broth with the bouillon but I see in above comments that that’s incorrect as well. When I attempt to cook the jackfruit until tender, the pan gets burned on the bottom and it takes quite a while. What am I missing here?

    Thank you!

  • My neighbor just gave me a jackfruit from his tree, can this recipe be made with fresh jackfruit? If so, how would I go about the jackfruit – i have never used it before and i am so intrigued!!

    • I haven’t done it but I’ve heard from my readers that it can indeed be made with fresh jackfruit – if you try it let me know how it goes!

  • WOWWWW!!!!!!!!!!! I just made these for my husband and myself, and wow. My husband took one bite and said, “This is ridiculously good.” He’s right. I served it with sliced avocado, salsa (for lack of pico), and fresh cilantro and extra limes, plus roasted corn and sweet potato fries. Delish! Officially in the repertoire.

  • I just had Sea Bird’s jackfruit asada tacos today and they were amazing! I wish you could try them. I’d never really heard of it until recently, and now I can’t wait to try making this on my own.

  • I tried jackfruit last night to make crab cakes and they were so good I started looking for other recipes. I can’t wait to try this one now! This is my new favorite “fake meat”. I also noticed when I pulsed it in the food processor, it looked like tuna – so can’t wait to try a tuna sandwich now, too!

  • For those of you wondering about using fresh jackfruit, this has been my experience. I made it today with fresh jackfruit which i got at the Asian food market BEFORE I saw the this recipe. By the way, this was the first time I ever had any dealings with this stuff. There were several kinds of jackfruit to choose from and since I didn’t know what I was doing I picked the kind that was already cut and orangish in color, because it was more appealing to the eye. It ended up having quite large pits (about the size of an apricot pit). It didn’t look anything like the raw picture above in the pan. Unfortunately it did not turn out and I ended up with a gooey gob of sticky stuff (an expensive $9.-mess). The flavor was not bad, but my kids would not touch it 🙁 I am going to try the one that looked more like the pic next time and hope it turns out better if not I’ll move onto the can. I’ll post on future outcomes.

  • I have made a very similar recipe twice, once with canned and then with fresh jackfruit. I was much less time consuming with canned, but fresh was worth it! I had to you tube how to work with fresh, and I found some at my local Asian market. I added molasses and liquid smoke along with more of the recommended spices. It was amazing! Someday I will make a blog or video of my own with more details. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • i found the centre/cores stayed quite hard and didn’t really break down, maybe if i cooked them for longer it might’ve worked? next time i may just cut them off though. the rest of it was delicious!

  • I love your blog! I’ve made three items from your recipe list tonight with the Jackfruit Carnitas as one of them. They were pretty good. I’m so glad you shared this. I’m newly vegan and my boyfriend isn’t, but he found this really tasty. It’s nice because he’s a bit of a picky eater.

  • I did it and it was indeed great. I added a few canned chipoltie peppers. I’m thinking about having it again for breakfast. Thanks

  • I just made the second version of these– they are amazing! I made some salvadorian “curtido” coleslaw and a garlic sauce to go with them, and ate them in a brown rice tortilla. Amazing X infinity! I feel like I’m in a restaurant (: Thank you so much for posting this recipe and I can’t wait to experiment with more jackfruit.

  • […] Commonly found in Indian curry dishes jackfruit also makes great BBQ and carnitas. Which leads to the next recipe that I wish I could claim, but in researching recipes on the world wide web I stumbled across this delectable version. So good I served it to a party of 15 non-vegans and it was a hit! They all left with “to go” containers and were still talking about it weeks laters. Recipe courtesy of cleangreensimple.com. […]

  • I guess i was supposed to add water with the better than beef? didnt’ say to, so I didn’t but it was still a wonderful dinner for the 4th of July

  • I grow jack fruit it is the grossest food to work with. It has a white stringy glue, is impossible to work with! .I recommend lots of oil on hands, knife, cutting board, anything it touches before it gets to the pot or in the pan, There is no other fruit or vegetable like it ,closest is a unripen bread fruit with a similar white glue Or taking the slime off a conch GROSS! I made a great soup with the jackfruit like a minestrone when making the stock for Jackfruit Carnitas The glue got to me I did fry it tasted it I found it to bland and added bay leaf and a liquid smoke , that was a great touch to just give it a unique flavor like a barbequed soup.

  • I made these for the third time tonight & just want to thank you for a delicious, healthy recipe. We eat it in Trader Joe’s corn tortillas with salsa, avocado, and shredded lettuce and it’s delicious. We tried fresh jackfruit just as fruit & our family loves it. If you use fresh jackfruit for the carnitas, I think you would have to get a green one because the ripe ones are very different from the young, green canned ones! I plan to try the pulled pork next!

  • I’m not a jackfruit expert, but the type canned in brine is “green” or unripe jackfruit. Like many fruits, it appears to convert its starches to sugars during the ripening stage. If you’re buying canned, avoid ripe jackfruit packed in syrup and look for it in brine or water. If you have access to fresh jackfruit, you may need to ask the vendor for green or unripe jackfruit. I hope that helps!

  • I’m confused about the liquid. It says not to make the broth, but otherwise there is no liquid? I’m making it now, and I seem to be getting a scorched pan.

    • It doesn’t have much liquid – it’s more like sauteing vegetables or searing a steak – if it’s sticking to the pan maybe add a touch more oil or water and stir more often.

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