Jazz up your vegan Taco Tuesday with jackfruit carnitas! This quick and easy jackfruit carnitas recipe is perfect for vegan tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tostadas, or as a nacho topper!
I love this new jackfruit carnitas recipe. Since I'm a big fan of healthy vegan Mexican food, I turned my BBQ jackfruit recipe into a Mexican dish for dinner. Jackfruit has a stringy, meaty texture similar to beef or pork. This texture and bland taste profile accommodate the flavor of whatever it's cooked—a significant reason jackfruit is such a popular meat alternative.
What is Jackfruit?
Jackfruit is a unique tropical fruit that has recently increased in popularity. It has a distinctive sweet flavor and can make various dishes. It's also very nutritious and may have several health benefits.
Since the fruit is so large and challenging to work with, cans of jackfruit are readily available in the grocery store. However, there are different types of canned jackfruit.
Types of Jackfruit
- Jackfruit in Syrup: Jackfruit in Syrup is perfect as a snack, served with ice cream, or as a delicious smoothie. It should not be mistaken for young/ green jackfruit in brine, which has a texture and flavor less suited to desserts and more to savory cooking.
- Jackfruit in Water or Brine: Green jackfruit has very little taste. The canned variety tastes more like brine than fruit and is best cooked with other intense flavors. Ripe jackfruit tastes like a cross between mango and bananas and smells like candy.
- Fresh Jackfruit: Ripe jackfruit is commonly eaten raw like other fruits or can be used in sweet applications like desserts. Unripe or young green jackfruit can also be consumed raw, but its neutral flavor makes it much more suited for absorbing flavor in savory cooking applications. However, the average jackfruit is enormous, weighing 5-7 pounds. And it is challenging to harvest and yield a large amount of fruit.
For jackfruit carnitas, choose canned jackfruit in water or brine. I suggest rinsing the jackfruit first before preparing the carnitas recipe.
Where to Buy Jackfruit
If you are looking for jackfruit, check a local Asian grocery market, which is inexpensive and plentiful. They are your best bet for sourcing fresh jackfruit as well, although the recent interest has caused giant jackfruits to start showing up at natural foods stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's (which also sells canned jackfruit). The proliferation of pre-seasoned jackfruit" pulled pork" products has put prepared jackfruit in sealed containers in the health food sections at many grocery stores, too.
Jackfruit carnitas are perfect to use as a meat alternative for tacos, jackfruit enchiladas, burritos, tostadas, or as a nacho topping. Today, I made jackfruit tacos with pineapple, corn salsa, with vegan refried beans.
And jackfruit carnitas was a big hit with my family.
Jackfruit Carnitas Ingredients
- Jackfruit: Choose jackfruit in brine or water. Avoid jackfruit in syrup. The syrup version is too sweet and does not work well for this recipe.
- Red Onion: Red onions have deep purple skin and reddish flesh, but do they taste different than yellow onions? They are like yellow onions in flavor when cooked and slightly milder when served raw.
- Garlic: Sautéed garlic brings a warm and aromatic taste to the carnitas.
- Cilantro: I used cooked cilantro and fresh cilantro as a garnish.
- Roma Tomatoes: Roma refers to a group of tomato varieties that are the prime choice for sauces and canning. They have less moisture content than other juicier tomato varieties, such as beefsteak tomatoes. In addition, Romas have a thick fruit wall and skin, firm and dense flesh, and fewer seeds.
- Cumin: Rich and hearty, earthy and warm, with an edge of citrus; Cumin adds instant depth to any dish. Use ground Cumin rather than whole Cumin seed in recipes where you want the flavor to disperse evenly throughout.
- Mexican Oregano: Mexican oregano has lemon and citrus flavors as well as some tones of licorice.
- Paprika: Domestic paprika is characteristically mild, sweet, and vegetable-like.
- Orange Juice: The citrus in the sauce helps break down the meat so that it becomes super tender; this sauce also adds brightness to the carnitas flavor. I like to use orange juice and lime juice.
- Soy Sauce: Soy sauce gives the carnitas a savory flavor.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar provides an acid component typically used in carnitas.
- Lime Juice: Fresh lime juice gives the recipe a fresh and citrus flavor.
Jackfruit Carnitas Ingredients Substitutions:
- Breadfruit is often used as a substitute for jackfruit in recipes. Also, I like shredded oyster mushrooms for this recipe.
- Choose yellow onion instead of red onion.
- Although I prefer fresh garlic, jarred garlic is an option.
- Many people do not like cilantro and say it tastes like soap. So, if you don't like cilantro, I suggest using parsley or Thai basil.
- Grape tomatoes also have fewer seeds, making them an excellent substitute for Roma tomatoes in recipes.
- Use regular oregano if you don't have Mexican oregano. But I suggest adding two times the amount in the recipe since Mexican oregano has a more robust flavor profile.
- Try smoked paprika for a smokier flavor.
- Bottled orange juice substitutes fresh squeezed orange juice.
- Tamari is a gluten-free option for soy sauce, or use low-sodium soy sauce for less sodium.
- Red wine or white wine vinegar are substitutes for apple cider vinegar.
If you are interested in making the jackfruit carnitas recipe and making my tacos, you will also need a few more ingredients:
- Corn or Flour Tortillas: I used white corn tortillas I found at the farmer's market.
- Fresh Pineapple: Chop the pineapple and set aside until you are ready to assemble the tacos.
- Corn Salsa: I make my own corn salsa recipe.
- Refried Beans: I buy oil-free canned refried beans.
- Cilantro Garnish: I add fresh cilantro to the top of each taco for added flavor.
- Smaller or large tortillas or any kind work for this jackfruit carnitas recipe.
- Skip the pineapple or choose a fruit you enjoy with tacos.
- Trader Joe's makes a great corn salsa in a jar if you don't want to make your own.
- First, rinse the jackfruit in a colander to remove the brine from the can.
- Although the seeds are edible, I find them tough to chew, so I remove any visible seeds.
- Dry the jackfruit by blotting it with paper towels to remove the excess water.
- Place the jackfruit into a large food processing bowl with a large blade and shred by pulling until all the jackfruit is shredded.
- Then, transfer the shredded jackfruit to a towel or cheesecloth, squeeze the excess water from the shredded jackfruit and set it aside.
- Saute the garlic and onions in a large skillet until the onion is translucent.
- Add serrano peppers, cilantro, Roma tomatoes, and shredded jackfruit.
- Next, add the lime juice, spices, apple cider vinegar, orange juice, and soy sauce.
It's essential to cook the jackfruit carnitas slow and low and cook it down. This is how to get the desired texture and crispiness. Allow it to cook for a few minutes, and then stir and repeat. The jackfruit, which has been dried out, absorbs all the flavors in the ingredients and then becomes crispy.
When all the fluid dissipates and it starts to brown, the jackfruit carnitas is done!
Jackfruit's stringy texture makes it an excellent vegan substitute for pulled pork or chicken," Ilic says. "It has under 3 grams of protein per cup, making it much lower in protein than meat. Keep that in mind as you consider the protein sources in your diet.
Jackfruit is a tropical tree fruit grown in Asia, Africa, and South America. Under its thick, bumpy rind is a stringy flesh that you can eat raw or cooked in various dishes. Jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world, weighing up to 40 pounds or more.
Jackfruit is a low-calorie fruit that will help you with your weight loss struggles. In addition, the abundance of vitamin C in jackfruit and various antioxidants make this fruit an excellent immunity booster.
- Rinse the jackfruit and remove visible seeds.
- If you don't have a food processor, shred the jackfruit using two forks, using a pulling motion to shred.
- I use a vegetable chopper as a shortcut for preparing the vegetables.
- If you don't have Mexican oregano, substitute regular oregano but add twice the amount.
- Drying the jackfruit before and after shredding helps prepare it to get the correct texture when cooked.
Next time you plan a vegan Mexican meal, consider jackfruit carnitas as a vegan meat substitute.
Other Great Vegan Mexican Recipes
If you love jackfruit carnitas, give us a 5-star review and comment below. We would love to hear from you!
- 1 20 ounce can jackfruit in water or brine, drained, rinsed and dried
- ½ red onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 serrano peppers, deseeded and diced
- 2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 Tablespoon Mexican oregano or 2 Tablespoons regular oregano
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- ¾ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce or Tamari for a gluten-free option
- 1 lime squeezed
Jackfruit Carnitas Taco Ingredients
- 6 corn or flour tortillas
- ½ cup corn salsa
- ½ cup fresh pinapple chopped
- ¼ cup cilantro, choped
- Rinse and drain the jackfruit in a colander.
- Remove any visible seeds.
- Dry the jacfruit wedges by blotting with paper towel.
- Add the jackfruit to a larger food processor bowl equipt with a large blade.
- Pulse until jackfruit is shredded.
- Remove the jackfruit from the food processor and place it in the center of a cheesecloth.
- Squeeze the excess moisture from the shredded jackfruit. Set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium-low heat, saute the garlic and onions until the onions are translucent.
- Add the serrano peppers, and cilantro, and cook for a few minutes.
- Then add the shredded jackfruit, cumin, Mexican oregano, and paprika and cook until it begins to brown and stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Add the soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, and orange juice.
- Stir releasing the bits of browned jackfruit from the bottom of the pan.
- Reduce the heat to low and lowly cook until all the liquid dissipates, and the jackfruit begins to brown.
- Remove from the pan and add cilantro garnish and lime wedges.
Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos
- Heat tortillas in a skillet or the microwave.
- Add a serving of jackfruit carnitas to the center of each tortilla.
- Top with chopped pineapple, corn salsa, and fresh cilantro and lime wedges.
- Serve with a side of vegan refried beans.
- Make sure to buy canned jackfruit in brine or water NOT syrup.
- Drain and rinse jackfruit to remove the brine. I use a colander.
- Remove any visible seeds. I find them tough to chew and they don't shred well, leaving chunks in the jackfruit mixture.
- If you don't have a food processor, use two forks and pull to shred.
- Drying the jackfruit before shredding and after is a game changer. It helps dry out the jackfruit to get the right texture.
- Remember to cook slow and low. That is how the flavors are absorbed and the crispiness is achieved.
Hi! My name is Kathy, I am a retired high school English teacher & vegan enthusiast and blogger. My entire blog is fully plant-based vegan. I truly believe what we eat & how we live determines our health & the preservation of our planet! 🙂