Ready to see what all the fuss is about with this alien-like fruit? Try our carnitas recipe with jackfruit that will challenge everything you thought you knew about meat alternatives.
We have a feeling this will be the next big hit in your household!
So, have you finally decided to make a meal with jackfruit? Maybe you've even gone out and bought one!
But, where to start...? It's so foreign!
Don't worry! We're going to give you all the information you need to become a jackfruit-cooking pro (and make a classic Mexican dish in the meantime).
To our surprise, it's quite difficult to find a comprehensive post on how to prepare fresh jackfruit and cook it to perfection.
That's precisely why we made this jackfruit carnitas recipe. Seriously, we don't care whether you're vegan or not, you will be shocked at how tender and flavorful everything turns out.
What are carnitas?
Carnitas, or "little meats," is the name given to this traditional Mexican dish that originated in the state of Michoacán.
It's usually made by slow-cooking pork in an ungodly amount of lard until the meat is tenderized and falling apart.
The three herbs often used in a carnitas recipe are thyme, Mexican oregano (or marjoram, which is close in flavor), and bay leaves.
If you can't already tell, they're not super vegan. But, that's okay — we all have different preferences.
Our goal is to recreate traditional dishes in a way that's similar to the original with a plant-based spin!
Carnitas can be eaten on their own or topped with veggies, salsa verde, or salsa roja. But, our personal favorite way to serve them is in tacos with guacamole, diced white onions, cilantro, and salsa picante.
Even though you might have to do a double-take, this carnitas recipe is 100% vegan and gluten-free. Let's get cooking!
🍲 Key ingredients
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
A relative of the mulberry, breadfruit, and fig tree, jackfruit is native to Southeast Asia but also grown in places like Mexico. It's often confused with the stinky (to some people) durian fruit, but these two couldn't be more different!
Jackfruit is made up of a bumpy greenish-yellow rind, pulp (or rags), fruit pods, seeds, and a core. It's the largest tree-borne fruit, sometimes weighing up to a whopping 40 kilograms!
Ripe, unripe, young, or canned
There are quite a few forms jackfruit comes in, so we want you to be armed with the facts.
Your first choice to buy should be fresh, young jackfruit. Look for a jackfruit that's light green on the outside and pale yellow on the inside. This is the perfect time to use it in a carnitas recipe because the fruit has a fairly neutral flavor at this point.
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 (get it?).
And our last choice... We don't recommend using super ripe jackfruit because it's very sweet and isn't ideal for savoury dishes. We prefer to use a ripe jackfruit in smoothies, nice cream, or as a snack of its own.
Which part to eat
Learn how to properly prepare jackfruit in our instructions section.
We want to straighten a few things out because there's a lot of misleading information online about which parts of the jackfruit you should eat.
When you cut through the rind, you'll need to remove the inedible core. Next, remove the seeds from the fruit pod. You can eat the seeds (try roasting them), but not for this recipe.
Sometimes the seeds are covered in a soft shell that is also edible. We usually just throw that in with the rest of the jackfruit.
The fruit pod is edible, and it's the main part of the dish.
Now for the pulp. We see a lot of people online making jackfruit tacos with the fruit pod only, which we think is insane (you're literally wasting half of the jackfruit).
You definitely need to eat the pulp. This is the part of the jackfruit that provides the texture most similar to pulled pork. Just to put your mind at ease, it's completely safe to eat (ripe, unripe, cooked, or uncooked).
The taste of jackfruit can completely change depending on how ripe it is, or who is describing it.
Young jackfruit has a pretty mild flavor, which is exactly what you'll need in this savoury recipe. Once cooked, it takes on the flavor of the seasonings extremely well.
Ripe jackfruit has a flavor similar to pineapple, apple, and bubblegum all at the same time. Most people (as well as us) think jackfruit tastes very similar to Juicy Fruit gum.
We use jackfruit in this carnitas recipe because its texture becomes tender, moist, and chewy when cooked. This is one of the reasons it's so popular amongst vegans and vegetarians.
Jackfruit has about 155 calories per cup and 92% of them come from carbs. 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.
Where to buy
You can find fresh jackfruit at most Asian supermarkets or natural food stores like Whole Foods. Canned jackfruit is more widely available, so check your favorite grocery store.
Taste: traditional herbs used in many carnitas recipes include marjoram (or Mexican oregano), thyme, and bay leaves. Use them whole as an aromatic or ground as we do. All three herbs create a savoury, earthy flavor in the carnitas.
Fun fact: one major difference between thyme and oregano is that thyme is a herb while oregano is a species of plant.
Taste: we use lime and fresh oranges to add a zesty and sweet element to this recipe. The sugars in the orange juice help caramelize the jackfruit, while tangy lime balances out the sweetness.
Health: citrus fruits are extremely low in calories, yet very high in vitamins and minerals. Most of us know citrus fruits are a good source of vitamin C, but did you know they are rich in dietary flavonoids that help prevent disease?
What is it: tamari is a Japanese form of soy sauce formed as a byproduct of miso paste production. It contains no added wheat (making it gluten-free) and is made with a higher volume of soybeans compared to soy sauce.
Taste: tamari is salt-forward followed by umami, which is exactly what we're going for in this recipe. The umami flavor is often described as "meaty" or savoury since it's what most people think of when eating meat.
Fun fact: tamari contains around 230 mg of sodium per tablespoon while soy sauce has 900 mg.
If you have questions about this jackfruit carnitas recipe, don't forget to check out our FAQ section at the bottom of this post.
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 (this should be quite easy).
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.
We always seem to get through this recipe sooner rather than later. But, in case you have leftovers, make sure to follow our storage guidelines.
Vegan carnitas will keep in your fridge for up to 4-5 days in an airtight container.
If you have tons of leftovers, don't worry! This recipe is freezer-friendly. Make sure to let them cool completely before transferring to an airtight container or freezer-safe bag. It's best to use your leftovers within 2-3 months.
The easiest way to reheat your 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 at 350 degrees F until crispy.
These jackfruit tacos are great to make ahead of time. Just double or triple the batch and you'll have lunches for the whole week!
💭 Pro tips
Time to share our tips and tricks we learned while creating the best jackfruit carnitas:
- Choose young jackfruit. Look for jackfruits with solid green skin. Dark spots forming means a ripe fruit, which you don't want for carnitas.
- Taco Tuesday! This recipe is great to double or triple for large gatherings.
- Oil your knife and wear gloves. Although not 100% necessary, it reduces the amount of 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.
🍴 Tasting notes
We absolutely love making carnitas from jackfruit, and we know you will too! They're:
If you try these jackfruit carnitas, please rate the recipe and leave us a comment below! Want to stay up-to-date with new recipes? Subscribe to our newsletter or connect with Broke Bank Vegan on social media. Happy eating!
- Chef knife and cutting board
- Large pot
- Mixing bowls
- Baking sheet
- 2 lbs young jackfruit ($3.86)
- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided ($0.11)
- ½ medium white onion, diced ($0.17)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced ($0.12)
- 1 tsp Mexican oregano ($0.03)
- ¾ tsp thyme ($0.01)
- 1 tsp cumin ($0.01)
- 1 tsp paprika ($0.01)
- ½ tbsp salt ($0.01)
- ½ tsp black pepper ($0.01)
- 1 ½ large navel oranges, juiced ($0.30)
- 2 tbsp lime juice ($0.12)
- 2 tbsp tamari ($0.36)
- 1 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 in another.
- Once you have removed the fruit pods, cut away the pulp from the rind and add it to the same bowl. Discard the rinds and set your bowl of pods and pulp aside.
- Preheat 2 tbsp of oil in a large pot over medium, then 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.
- In the meantime, combine the oregano, thyme, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, orange juice, lime juice, tamari, and water in a mixing bowl.
- Then, add the jackfruit, marinade, and bay leaves into the pot of onions and garlic. Give it a good stir, then reduce the heat to just over low. Cover the pot and simmer for around 40-45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
- With about 10-15 minutes left of simmering, preheat your oven to 425°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.
- 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.
♻️ Similar recipes
For more tasty Mexican dishes, check out our:
- Tacos al pastor if you want another traditional Mexican recipe made meat-free.
- Crispy black bean tacos for an easy weeknight dinner that's made in under 30 minutes.
- Bean and cheese sopes to try a crispy and delicious antojito (aka snack).
- Sweet potato black bean quesadillas to see what authentic quesadillas really taste like!
Both carnitas and pulled pork take advantage of slow cooking the meat (or jackfruit) until tender. The difference is that carnitas is finished off in the oven to give a nice brown and crisp.
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.
While you can use canned jackfruit, we always recommend fresh for the best flavor and texture. Use equal parts canned to fresh jackfruit in this recipe. Note: make sure it is canned in water, not syrup.
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.