Create mind-blowing jackfruit carnitas with this easy-to-follow, Mexican-inspired recipe. Learn how to prepare and cook fresh jackfruit to change the way you view vegan meat replacements!
Table of Contents
- 🌮 What are carnitas?
- 🍈 What are jackfruit carnitas?
- 🤨 What is jackfruit?
- 😋 What does jackfruit taste like?
- 🧑⚕️ Is jackfruit healthy?
- 🛒 Ingredients & substitutions
- 📝 Instructions
- 🥑 What to serve with jackfruit carnitas
- 🤌 How to eat jackfruit carnitas
- 🌡️ Storage & reheating
- ♻️ Variations
- 🧑🍳 Top tips
- 💬 FAQ
- 🍴 Similar recipes
- 📋 Recipe
🌮 What are carnitas?
Carnitas translates to "little meats," and it is the name given to this traditional Mexican dish.
Originating in the state of Michoacán, carnitas are usually seasoned with citrus and herbs like thyme, Mexican oregano, and bay leaves. Different cuts of pork are slow-cooked in a vat of lard until the meat is tenderized and falling apart.
Carnitas can be served in many ways, but the most common is in corn tortillas with fresh garnishes like cilantro and white onion.
🍈 What are jackfruit carnitas?
This jackfruit carnitas recipe is our vegan take on traditional Mexican carnitas. Instead of pork, we use fresh, unripe jackfruit to emulate the meaty texture normally found in this dish.
Since our goal was to recreate an authentic carnitas recipe, we kept the seasonings as close to the original as possible.
Whether you're vegan or not, you will be shocked at how tender and flavorful everything turns out!
🤨 What is jackfruit?
A relative of the mulberry, breadfruit, and fig tree, jackfruit is native to Southeast Asia but also grows in places like Mexico. It's often confused with durian fruit, but these two couldn't be more different!
Jackfruit is made up of many layers, some edible and some not. It's the largest tree-borne fruit in the world, sometimes weighing up to 40 kilograms!
Types of jackfruit
Fresh: A young, fresh jackfruit appears spiky and light green on the exterior with pale yellow pods on the inside. This is the perfect time to use it for jackfruit carnitas since the fruit has a fairly neutral flavor at this point. Overly ripe jackfruit isn't ideal for savory dishes.
Canned: Your next choice should be canned jackfruit (in water, not syrup), which is usually labeled as "young green jackfruit." You can replace fresh with canned, but always opt for fresh when you can.
Dried: Dried jackfruit is usually our last choice because we find the flavor, texture, and consistency to be the least desirable. However, dried jackfruit is the most convenient option of the three, which is why we always keep some on hand.
Anatomy of a jackfruit
Rind: Also known as the peel, this is the spiky, bumpy, green skin that protects the fruit. This portion is inedible.
Pods: Also known as bulbs, the yellow fruit pods are edible, and they're the main part of the dish.
Seeds: Found inside the pods, the seeds are edible (try roasting them), but they're not included in this recipe. The seeds are covered in a soft shell that is also edible. We usually just throw that in with the rest of the jackfruit.
Rags: These are the white, fibrous strands that hold the pods in place. They are edible and provide more texture in fresh jackfruit recipes.
Core: When you cut through the rind, you'll need to remove the inedible core. It's quite sticky, so make sure you wear gloves or oil your hands and knife.
😋 What does jackfruit taste like?
Young jackfruit carries a mild flavor, which is perfect for soaking up marinades and savory spices. Once cooked, it takes on the flavor of the seasonings extremely well (similar to tofu).
Ripe jackfruit tastes like a combination of pineapple, apple, and bubblegum. Most people, including us, think jackfruit tastes very similar to Juicy Fruit gum.
🧑⚕️ Is jackfruit healthy?
Jackfruit contains about 155 calories per cup, and 92% of them come from carbohydrates. Although not a high-protein source, it contains 3 grams of protein per cup. Compared to any other fruit, that's incredible!
We love jackfruit because it contains almost every single vitamin and mineral you need to stay healthy and happy.
🛒 Ingredients & substitutions
Herbs — Traditional herbs used in many carnitas recipes include Mexican oregano or marjoram, thyme, and bay leaves. Use them whole as an aromatic or ground as we do.
Spices — In addition to the herbs, we added cumin and paprika for extra savory and earthy flavors.
Onion, garlic — To flavor the jackfruit. Fresh garlic and onion are preferred over powdered. If you don't have any on hand, use about one-third of the amount of dried.
Citrus — We use fresh lime and oranges to add a zesty and sweet element to this recipe. The sugars in the orange juice also help caramelize the jackfruit. Citrus fruits are rich in dietary flavonoids, which help prevent disease.
Tamari — This Japanese-style soy sauce is formed as a byproduct of miso paste production. It contains no added wheat, making it gluten-free. The umami flavor is described as "meaty" or savory, which is perfect for this dish. If you don't have tamari, replace it with liquid aminos or soy sauce.
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
Step 1 — Rub some oil on the blade of your knife and cut the fruit in half then quarters. Cut each quarter into thick slices (like you would a watermelon) and remove the core from each slice using your knife (it's helpful to wear gloves for this part, but not totally necessary).
Step 2 — Discard the core and begin pulling the fruit pods away from the rind. Open each fruit pod and separate the seeds into one bowl and the pods into another
Step 3 — Cut away the pulp from each rind and add it to the same bowl. Discard the rinds and set your bowl of pods and pulp aside.
Step 4 — Combine the oregano, thyme, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, orange juice, lime juice, tamari, and water in a mixing bowl.
Step 5 — Heat some oil in a large pot over medium, then add in the diced onions and cook until translucent. Add in the minced garlic, and cook for another couple of minutes.
Step 6 — Add the jackfruit, marinade, and bay leaves to the pot of onions and garlic. Reduce the heat and simmer for around 40-45 minutes (make sure you give it an occasional stir to prevent sticking).
Step 7 — With about 10-15 minutes left of simmering, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Once the jackfruit is tender, begin pulling it apart with 2 forks.
Step 8 — Spread the jackfruit on a baking sheet in a single layer (this is important to get a nice crisp and char). Bake for 20-25 minutes, mixing halfway.
If you have questions about this jackfruit carnitas recipe, don't forget to check out our FAQ section at the bottom of this post.
🥑 What to serve with jackfruit carnitas
🤌 How to eat jackfruit carnitas
Jackfruit carnitas make a delicious addition to recipes like these:
🌡️ Storage & reheating
We always seem to get through this recipe sooner rather than later. But in case you have leftovers, follow these simple storage guidelines:
Fridge — Vegan carnitas will keep in your fridge for up to 4-5 days in an airtight container.
Freezer — This recipe is freezer-friendly. Make sure to let the jackfruit cool completely, then transfer it to an airtight container or freezer-safe bag. It's best to use your leftovers within 2-3 months.
Reheat — The easiest way to reheat jackfruit carnitas is in a skillet over medium for 3-5 minutes, or until warm. Alternatively, you can throw them in the oven again and bake them at 350 degrees F until crispy again.
Meal prep — Jackfruit carnitas are great to prep ahead of time. Just double or triple the batch and you'll have lunches for the whole week!
In place of jackfruit, try any one of the following substitutes:
- Oyster mushrooms
- Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
🧑🍳 Top tips
Choose young jackfruit — Look for jackfruits with solid green skin. Dark spots forming mean a ripe fruit, which you don't want for this carnitas recipe.
Oil your knife and wear gloves — Although not entirely necessary, it reduces the amount of sticky sap that gets stuck to your hands and knife.
Check the water level — Make sure the jackfruit simmers in a good amount of liquid to prevent it from drying out and sticking to the pot.
Spread out evenly — To achieve optimal crispiness, make sure the jackfruit is in a single layer on your baking sheet. We recommend using a non-stick baking sheet or lining the pan with parchment paper.
Yes, the jackfruit can be cooked in a slow cooker. Cook for around 2 hours on a high setting or 4 hours on a low setting.
If you can't find Mexican oregano, use marjoram in its place with a pinch of coriander.
This recipe is gluten-free due to the use of tamari instead of soy sauce. If you have celiac disease, always make sure there is no cross-contamination.
You can find fresh jackfruit at most Asian supermarkets or natural food stores. Canned jackfruit is more widely available, so check your favorite grocery store.
🍴 Similar recipes
If you enjoyed this jackfruit carnitas recipe, be sure to check out some more tasty Mexican and Mexican-inspired dishes like these:
- Tacos al pastor: Spit-roast tacos made completely meat-free.
- Quesabirria tacos: Melty vegan cheese and shredded oyster mushrooms stuffed between corn tortillas.
- Crispy black bean tacos: An easy weeknight dinner that's ready in under 30 minutes.
- Sopes: Crispy corn discs topped with beans, cheese, and veggies.
- Sweet potato black bean quesadillas: Tender corn tortillas stuffed with delicious fillings.
Crispy Jackfruit Carnitas
- Chef knife and cutting board
- Large pot
- Mixing bowls
- Baking sheet
- 2 pounds fresh, young jackfruit ($3.86)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided ($0.11)
- ½ medium white onion, diced ($0.17)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced ($0.12)
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano ($0.03)
- ¾ teaspoon thyme ($0.01)
- 1 teaspoon cumin ($0.01)
- 1 teaspoon paprika ($0.01)
- ½ tablespoon salt ($0.01)
- ½ teaspoon black pepper ($0.01)
- 1 ½ fresh navel oranges, juiced ($0.30)
- 2 tablespoons lime juice ($0.12)
- 2 tablespoons tamari ($0.36)
- ⅔ cup water ($0.01)
- 2-3 Mexican bay leaves ($0.01)
- To prepare the jackfruit, rub some oil on your knife and cut the fruit in half then quarters. Cut each quarter into thick slices like you would a watermelon. Then, remove the core from each slice using your knife (it's also helpful to have gloves on for this part).
- Once you have discarded the core, begin to pull the fruit pods away from the rind and remove the seeds from inside the pods. Separate the seeds into one bowl and the fruit pods into another.
- Once you have removed the fruit pods, cut away the white pulp from the rind and add it to the same bowl as the pods. Discard what is left of the rinds and set your bowl of fruit pods and pulp aside.
- Combine the oregano, thyme, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, orange juice, lime juice, tamari, and water in a mixing bowl.
- Then, preheat 2 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium. Add in the diced onions and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until translucent. Add in the minced garlic, and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- Next, add the jackfruit, marinade, and bay leaves into the pot of onions and garlic. Give it a good stir, then reduce the heat to low-medium. Cover the pot and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking to the bottom.
- With about 10-15 minutes left of simmering, preheat your oven to 375°F.
- Once the jackfruit is tender enough to pull apart, begin shredding it with 2 forks or a potato masher (it should come apart quite easily).
- Transfer the jackfruit to a baking sheet in a single layer (this is important to get a nice crisp and char). Bake for 20-25 minutes, mixing halfway. Check to see if they are crispy starting at the 20-minute mark and keep a close eye until done.
- Serve your jackfruit carnitas on their own or in homemade corn tortillas with guacamole, diced onions, sliced jalapeños, hot sauce, lime wedges, cilantro, etc.
- Choose young jackfruit — Look for jackfruits with solid green skin. Dark spots forming mean a ripe fruit, which you don't want for this carnitas recipe.
- Oil your knife and wear gloves — Although not entirely necessary, it reduces the amount of sticky sap that gets stuck to your hands and knife.
- Check the water level — Make sure the jackfruit simmers in a good amount of liquid to prevent it from drying out and sticking to the pot.
- Spread out evenly — To achieve optimal crispiness, make sure the jackfruit is in a single layer on your baking sheet. We recommend using a non-stick baking sheet or lining the pan with parchment paper.
- You will need approximately ¼ of a medium-large jackfruit to get 2 lbs.
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price or calories of our recipes.
- We calculate nutritional information for our recipes with Cronometer.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe to recipe. All prices are in USD.
Note: We've updated this post to include new information and helpful tips about the recipe.