Vegetarian Pulled Pork

You're probably asking: how the hell do you make a vegetarian pulled pork sandwich? Especially one that looks nearly identical to real pulled pork!  The answer is Jackfruit. What the hell is Jackfruit?  It is the fruit of a tree native to South and Southeast Asia, but it's also grown in India, Africa, and the Caribbean. Jackfruit can be eaten raw when ripe, and the flavor is a sweet mixture of pineapple, bananas, and apples. When it's unripe, it needs to be cooked.  Which brings us to the pulled "pork."

My husband, also a vegetarian, and his band played a wedding reception for a vegan bride.  The food service consisted of pulled pork and vegetarian pulled pork. He took one look at the vegetarian one and moved on, convinced someone was playing a joke. Later, he learned from the bride that it was in fact vegan, so he dove head-first into the BBQ Jackfruit.  This is how I learned about my new bestie, Mr. Jackfruit.

I have since done a lot of research on this very bizarre fruit, including buying one from the Indian market we frequent. Unfortunately it rotted within a few days so I didn't get a chance to cook with it. So I made a trip to the Asian market and purchased an obscene amount of canned Jackfruit and avoided the fresh ones. By the way, when fresh, they look like gigantic avocados with spikes all over. They truly are fugly as hell, and I'd be scared if I didn't know what they were.

I apologize for the terrible photo quality.  I had only my phone with me and I was getting dirty looks from the workers in the Asian market.  And forgive my thumb in the lower left.  I'm an idiot.

And apparently there are quite a few vegetarians and vegans who can't eat Jackfruit, simply because it looks so damn much like pulled pork or chicken that it grosses them out too much.  I admit, I had a bit of the same reaction, but being the selfless human that I am, I took one for the team and plowed through.

This recipe is really 3 recipes in one. There's the dry rub, BBQ sauce, and pulled "pork" sandwiches. Feel free to substitute or eliminate the dry rub marinade time if you want. You can sub your favorite bottled BBQ sauce as well.

The dry rub and sauce is a bit spicy. If you don't like it as hot, reduce the amount of chili powder. If you like it sweeter, add more brown sugar. The recipe below is our favorite, but adjust to your family's tastes.

Vegetarian Pulled "Pork"
This recipe makes 8 healthy sized pulled "pork" sandwiches. You will have about 1/4 cup of dry rub left over for another use as well as 1 cup of sauce for serving with the sandwiches if someone likes them extra wet.

Dry Rub (makes about 1-1/4 c)
4 T. kosher salt
2 T. hot Mexican chili powder
2 T. onion powder
2 T. garlic powder
2 T. cumin
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. smoked paprika
1 T. celery salt
1 t. cayenne
1 t. black pepper

BBQ Sauce
1 T. vegetable oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. dry rub
2 c. ketchup
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. molasses
1/2 t. liquid smoke

Jackfruit Pulled "Pork"
3 cans Jackfruit in brine or water, drained and rinsed
1/4 c. dry rub

Make the dry rub by combining all ingredients in a bowl.

In your slow cooker insert, toss together 1/4 c. dry rub and the rinsed and drained Jackfruit. Set aside while you make the sauce.

To make the BBQ Sauce,  heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and saute 5-10 minutes or until softened and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Mix in the dry rub and cook 30 seconds, stirring. Add in the remaining ingredients and simmer gently for 30 minutes (if you have time).

Set aside 1 cup or so of the sauce for serving, if desired. Pour the remaining sauce into the slow cooker insert with the Jackfruit. Add about 1/2 can of water and stir together. Set slow cooker to low and cook for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally.

Serve piled on hamburger buns or in tacos.


~julee~ said...

I have never tried jackfruit, but I am so temped to try this!

Jorge Ramiro said...

I will also try this. I love the meat it is my favorite food. When I have been in Argentina I have rented an apartment on 4rentargentina and everithing went so well... The best of Argentina: the meat. :)

Kes said...

I'd been thinking about doing something like this myself! I had some jackfruit once and was freaked out by how meaty it tasted. Your recipe looks quite tasty. I have a question, though-- did you take the seeds out or leave them in? Thank you!

Shannon Marie said...

Kes, I just drained and rinsed the jackfruit straight from the can. I didn't remove anything. Everything was so tender (fall off the bone, if you will) that it was deliciously soft and chewy.

Anonymous said...

The only jackfruit I can find in the can is packed in syrup. Is this what you used? Thanks!

Shannon Marie said...

No, I used jackfruit in water. I think it comes in brine too. The syrup one will be very sweet and tastes like pineapple. It's a delicious treat, but I don't think I'd use it in this recipe.

Christina said...

I can only find the jackfruit in syrup in my area. I just wash it best I can, and pickle it for a day or so. Texture is a bit different and it is a sweet sandwich but it's not bad at all!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recipe! I only had access to tinned Jackfruit in Syrup (Australia), but just thoroughly rinsed it and left it in water with a dash of vinegar in it over night. The recipe I found to be SO spicy and I didn't even add the Cayenne! So you must have a incredibly spice threshold haha. It was still delicious though!

Cultivating Health and Happiness said...

We tried this recipe for a group of non vegetarian friends last night and it was awesome! We couldn't find jackfruit in water so we had to get it in syrup, but we rinsed it well and tried to dry it out first. This was fine. Because of this we did make it a point not to add any sugar or sweeteners in the BBQ sauce. Aiming for a more smokey dry flavor. It was a HIT! what was the coolest part to me was that the jackfruit really had the same consistency of traditional pulled pork!

Unknown said...

Does this really call for 4 Tbsp. of salt? I followed the recipe to the letter and my husband was very rude about the salt content. Fight ensued. Anyway, thought I'd check on the amount of salt to see if maybe it was a typo. Please, let me know.

Click here for Fishing Lodge Southeast Alaska said...

Wow this recipe is so delicious just by looking at the photos. I will try to cook this.

Shannon Marie said...

MaShelle - Yes, the 4 tablespoons of salt are for the dry rub mix. Dry rub mixes often have a lot of salt, but feel free to reduce the amount. Sorry for the fight with your husband - I hope you won!