If you follow my channel, you may have picked up on my borderline obsession with jackfruit over the past half year or so. Luckily Trader Joe’s started stocking the stuff shortly after I fell in love with it (thank you universe!), so now I can shamelessly hoard cans of it more easily.
BBQ jackfruit is one of my favorite ways to prepare it. It’s super easy, requiring just a few spices, your favorite barbecue sauce, and a little bit of patience. I prefer cooking it in two steps: simmer it gently with the spices until it’s tender and easy to mash or shred, then bake it with sauce to lock in the flavors and add a slight chew to it.
Some recipes will recommend that you cut out the center pieces of the jackfruit and/or remove the seeds because of their toughness. I haven’t found this to be necessary; they soften up nicely when simmered, and provide a nice textural contrast to the more tender pieces. Plus, the jackfruit shrinks somewhat when baked, so it’s a shame to waste part of it.
This recipe is just a basic outline – go crazy with your favorite spice blends and sauces! And there are so many ways to serve this stuff: in sliders with tangy coleslaw, on vegan nachos con “carne,” on BBQ “chicken” pizza, or inside BBQ “pork” spring rolls, to name a few.
The jackfruit looks like the above photo after you simmer and mash it and combine it with the sauce. If I’m serving it on a sandwich or sliders I will usually stop at this step and just serve it extra saucy. But if I’m using it to top a pizza or nachos or in spring rolls, I like to take the extra step and finish it in the oven to improve the texture a bit, as shown below.
What Is Jackfruit? Where to Find It?
Jackfruit is a type of tropical fruit native to Indian and Southeast Asian countries. Its popularity has increased in recent years, especially in plant-based cuisine.
For savory dishes, you’ll want to make sure you purchase young green jackfruit in brine, rather than the fully ripened yellow jackfruit that often comes packed in syrup. The flavor and texture between the two is very different, so make sure you’re working with the unripe green variety.
When I first went vegan, I could only find jackfruit at my local Asian market, and if you have one in your town, that’s still the most surefire place to find it. However, it’s now more common to also see it at stores like Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, or Whole Foods.
Ingredients for BBQ Jackfruit
Canned jackfruit — Make sure to purchase the young green jackfruit that comes in water or brine, and not the ripe yellow kind that often comes packed in syrup.
Garlic and onion powder — Combined with the barbecue sauce, these make the jackfruit taste super flavorful and extra savory. Feel free to substitute in a few cloves of fresh garlic for the powder.
Paprika — Adds a nice peppery flavor without too much heat. You can play around with different kinds of chili powder if you like. Add in some cayenne if you’re a fan of spicy food.
Black pepper — Optional but recommended. It adds a nice bite to the BBQ jackfruit.
Water — When I originally wrote this recipe, I simmered the jackfruit in vegetable broth to soften it. Nowadays I usually just use plain water because the barbecue sauce and spices add so much flavor. But if you want to use your favorite vegetable broth, feel free to do so! Try not to use a brand that’s super salty, since BBQ sauce is typically quite salty already.
Barbecue sauce — Any kind works, really. My go-to brand is Stubb’s (most of their recipes are vegan, though a few of them contain honey, so double-check the ingredients). If you’re purchasing your jackfruit at Trader Joe’s, they happen to have a pretty wide variety of BBQ sauces. Their Carolina Gold is one of my faves when I’m craving something with a more mustardy flavor.
How to Make BBQ Jackfruit
Step 1: Rinse and Drain the Jackfruit
Drain the jackfruit and pour it into a fine-mesh sieve. Rinse it thoroughly to remove as much flavor of the brine as possible.
Step 2: Simmer the Jackfruit to Soften
Transfer the rinsed jackfruit to a medium skillet or saucepan that has a lid. Pour in water (or vegetable broth) and add the garlic and onion powder and paprika.
Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to low. Put the lid on and simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove the lid and continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the extra liquid has cooked off.
Step 3: Toss with BBQ Sauce
Once most of the water has cooke off, add the BBQ sauce to the pan and toss to coat the jackfruit. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring often, to heat the BBQ sauce through and allow it to thicken slightly.
Step 4: Finish in the Oven (optional)
You can finish the BBQ jackfruit in the oven to crisp it up slightly for a firmer, less saucy texture. I like to do this when I’m using it as a topping for nachos, adding it to spring rolls, or mixing it into vegan mac & cheese.
Usually if I’m serving it on a BBQ sandwich with slaw, I just skip this step and leave it saucy. It’s totally up to you!
To bake it, simply spread it out on a lined baking tray and bake in a 450°F preheated oven for 10-15 minutes. Give it a stir every 5 minutes so it cooks evenly, and stop cooking whenever it’s reached the consistency you like.
Easy BBQ Jackfruit
- 2 20 oz cans young green jackfruit in water or brine
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup veggie broth
- 3/4 cup barbecue sauce
- Drain jackfruit and rinse thoroughly.
- Add jackfruit, spices and veggie broth to a heavy-bottom skillet and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until jackfruit has softened and liquid has mostly cooked off.
- Remove jackfruit from heat and mash with the back of your spoon or potato masher. Stir in barbecue sauce.
- Optional: If you want your jackfruit slightly firmer and less saucy, preheat oven to 450°F. Spread jackfruit out evenly on a lined baking tray. Bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring midway, until sauce has dried up and caramelized slightly in places.