My first experience with jackfruit occurred when we were living in Brazil.
It sparked from curiosity and determination to figure out the name of the massive piece of produce taking up most of the table at the farmers market. It was every bit as large as a 2-year-old child.
I soon learned it was jackfruit and I also realized that I had been walking under these massive fruits on my walks through the park near our apartment. Thankful that none had ever fallen on my head, I started asking questions.
I can’t recall having jackfruit in a dish in Brazil, but they were always at the markets. I was warned pretty early on that the substance surrounding the fruit was like a glue, and a mess to clean up so I steered clear of buying the whole fruit to tackle at home.
After we left Brazil, we traveled around Southeast Asia for a while. That was when I finally tried it. In one of those wonderful fresh fruit shakes vendors sell from carts along the streets in Thailand. It had a pleasantly sweet flavor that subtlely resembled banana.
When we moved back to the States, and I started shopping at the international markets, I found a canned version preserved in syrup that I eventually turned into Jackfruit Muffins.
But until about a year ago, the savory version was foreign to me.
If you don’t eat meat, you probably already know that jackfruit is all the rage in the vegetarian and vegan food communities. The young fruit is a bit like tofu in that it will absorb all the flavor of what it’s cooked with, but unlike tofu, jackfruit very much resembles the texture of shredded chicken or pork.
We’re pretty gifted in the area of taco trucks around the Central Valley and we have one around here that serves jackfruit tacos. They are excellent. Then when in Kauai this past March, we had jackfruit quesadillas.
But I never really made the connection for how the sweet fruit became a savory meat-free meal.
Then a few months ago, I found green jackfruit packed in brine at Trader Joes. That was it. Soon after, pitches were showing up in my inbox for other companies making a similar product.
I bought one can of the TJ’s jackfruit and made tacos. I later had my husband stock up with about 4 more cans. You know how they are there. Products tend to mysteriously disappear.
Since that initial excitement, the cans have sat in the pantry. I’ve had ideas for using it in other things, but just haven’t gotten around to it.
Hungry for tacos a couple weeks ago, and on a mission to eat our way through the pantry as the year ends, I decided to open the can and jot down the recipe.
To give it a bit of a twist, I dressed up some purple cabbage with coconut and lime to create a quick slaw for a topping. It turned out to be the best accompaniment.
I’ll get around to being a little more creative with it soon, but for now…tacos.
Jackfruit Tacos with Coconut Lime Purple Cabbage and Green Onion Slaw
Makes 2 to 3 servings
What you’ll need:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 (20 oz.) can green jackfruit in brine, drained
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
6 to 8 corn tortillas, warmed
1 cup shredded purple cabbage
2 green onions, sliced
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
How to make them:
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, cook for 3 minutes, until the onions begin to soften.
Stir in the chili powder, cumin, coriander, chipotle chili powder, and lime juice. Add the jackfruit and cook for 2 minutes, stirring well to coat the jackfruit with seasonings.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the water. Use a potato masher to mash and shred the jackfruit. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the cilantro and salt. Remove from the heat.
To make the slaw, add the cabbage and green onions to a medium bowl. Stir together the mayo, coconut milk, lime juice, and salt in a small dish. Continue to stir vigorously until no lumps remain. A small whisk can be helpful.
Top tortillas with jackfruit and a spoonful of slaw for each serving.