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How To Cook Jackfruit For A Plant-Based Holiday Feast

Experts share their tips for using jackfruit as the perfect vegan swap-out this season.

For the record, I love eating meat. My summers are usually spent lakeside in Wisconsin, the land of cheese curds and bratwurst. And I love my steaks, charcuterie boards, and burgers as much as the next person. What I'm saying is, I'm not a vegan—but I do have a young kiddo with a ton of food allergies, so we are trying to eat more plant-based meals to accommodate that. And in the course of some recent reporting on animal-free foods, I became curious about jackfruit.

More chefs are cooking with jackfruit in recent years, especially those in food service at healthcare facilities and college cafeterias. Dining services at New York's Rochester Institute of Technology, for example, has worked with the Humane Society of the United States, pledging to make 50% of its meals plant-based by 2025. Jackfruit is one of the key ingredients helping the university lead this charge.

Google "jackfruit" and you'll find thousands of recipes, from The Pesky Vegan's recipe for creamy jackfruit curry with tomato, coconut and lime to the Minimalist Baker's recipe for BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches with Avocado Slaw.

"Jackfruit stands out because there's so much you can do with it," says Dustin Peterson, Rochester Institute of Technology's director of operations for retail and partnerships at RIT Dining. "It shreds very nicely, like shredded chicken or pork." He notes that it serves as a nice substitution in quesadillas, tacos, and pulled pork sandwiches.

If you want to try it at home, here's what you need to know before you start cooking.

Ripe vs. unripe jackfruit

Herlan Manurung, RIT's corporate executive chef and associate director of RIT Dining, grew up in Indonesia on Sumatra Island where jackfruit commonly grows.

"There are two kinds of jackfruit," he explains. "The unripe one, that's green and mostly used here. But back home, the most common kind is the ripe one that's eaten as a snack."


Hanging from a tree, an unripened green jackfruit can be about double the size of a football. A ripe one, meanwhile, can be enormous.

"They're huge," Manurung says, "like 20 or 30 pounds."

The unripe kind typically sold in U.S. grocery stores is green and firm, and it's frequently used in savory applications like stews and braising. It's also full of antioxidants. Unlike the ripe variety, Manurung says he never eats unripe jackfruit without cooking and flavoring it.

"It binds so well to the flavors that you add to it," Peterson says. "You can make it really good with the right sauce and seasonings, like a good barbecue sauce. You can barely tell the difference. It tastes great."

Ripe jackfruit has golden brown skin, smells like bubble gum on the outside, and sounds as hollow as a watermelon when you knock on it. Inside, the mango-hued fleshy fruit can flavor ice cream or cakes, or serve as a dessert topping. To accelerate the ripening process, store the jackfruit in a warm and sunny spot. Be advised that there's also a rubbery texture to the fruit once it's ripe.


Browning and braising jackfruit

To use jackfruit in savory applications, you'll want to seek out a green one. Cut it in half, then use a knife to trace a path an inch inward from the rind to remove the flesh and seeds. Manurung recommends cutting the jackfruit into chunks and steaming those in the rice cooker for 20-30 minutes.


"If you don't want to cube and steam it, marinate and season it overnight before braising it the next day in the oven," he says.

Manurung's suggestion is to brown the jackfruit in the oven, uncovered, at 350-375 degrees for about 10 minutes. Next, pour in some seasoning and a liquid base, like a vegetable stock.

Cover it and slow cook the jackfruit at 300 degrees for about 45-60 minutes to braise it. "Then use a fork to see if it starts breaking up or if you need to add more time in the oven," he says.

Cooking with canned jackfruit

Adjoa Courtney, aka Chef Joya, a Charlotte, North Carolina–based cookbook author who runs the YouTube channel Say What! It's Vegan?, has a deep fondness for jackfruit.

"I absolutely love using it because you can substitute it for so many different things," Courtney says. "I like the flexibility of it, the way that it shreds and you can fry it."


The Milwaukee native went vegan at age 7, when her parents made the switch amid her father's health issues. Eventually, Courtney ate meat again, but in 2017, a year after becoming a personal chef, she took a 30-day vegan challenge and has been plant-based ever since.

"I would hear people on Facebook, close friends or people I was talking to as a personal chef, say that being vegan is bland," says Courtney. "But it doesn't have to be."

Courtney says the first and only time she cooked with fresh jackfruit, it wasn't a good experience: "I was like, 'never again.' I broke it down myself and it tore up my knives. You have to use a knife that you don't really care about because it's very sticky."

Then Courtney discovered the brined canned variety. It works well for savory dishes, provided you choose the right product (not this one).


"Do not go for the jackfruit in syrup, because that's the sweeter one," Courtney says. She also advises to shop Asian markets to find canned jackfruit at the best price.

Start by draining and rinsing the jackfruit in hot water to remove the brine. ("That is key," she says. "It's a must.") Ideally, let the jackfruit soak in the water for about 10 minutes until the brine is gone, changing out the water at least once.

Next, deeply season the jackfruit, because, as Courtney points out, it tastes like nothing on its own—"Which is great, because you can manipulate it the way you want," she says.

When frying jackfruit, Courtney likes to prep it by creating a marinade or a broth with lots of seasonings coupled with either vegan chicken or vegetable bouillon. "I let it boil down until it's almost nothing so the jackfruit gets rid of all the brine but is absorbing all the flavors," she says.

Once everything is cooked down, let it cool off, and then you can dip the marinated fruit into a batter for frying. For this approach, you can check out Courtney's recipe for Vegan Fried Chicken (made with Jackfruit) and Jalapeño Cornbread Waffles on YouTube.

For a recipe that roasts the jackfruit, like her Vegan Mississippi Pot Roast, Courtney seasons it generously. Usually the spice mix includes salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika, plus a host of other ingredients, including Better Than Bouillon's vegan options.


Her other secret: using Worcestershire or soy sauce. "It helps with all meat substitutes, but especially jackfruit because it helps the seasonings stick," she says.

Put the jackfruit into a hot pan in a 400-degree oven. Every 5-10 minutes, turn the fruit to ensure an even coating of seasoning as the brine is evaporating. Cook for about 20-25 minutes until the fruit takes on a nice roasted color.

Usually, Courtney then shreds the jackfruit. "The only time I leave it in chunks is when I'm making a roast, because you want that texture," she says. "Otherwise, I'm shredding or chopping it if I'm making nachos or a chicken pot pie."

This season, jackfruit will also make an appearance on her holiday table in the form of twerky (vegan turkey) with a mushroom gravy.

If you'd like to add jackfruit to your own spread this season, start experimenting now so that you'll be an expert by the end of the year. We've included a good entry-level recipe for jackfruit pulled pork below.

Jackfruit Pulled Pork

Recipe courtesy of Herlan Manurung, Rochester Institute of Technology's corporate executive chef and associated director of RIT Dining


  • 2 lbs. jackfruit (canned or fresh)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. light chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. Cajun rub
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 2 tsp. Spanish paprika
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste


1. Prep the jackfruit. If using a fresh jackfruit, slice it in half. Using a knife, trace the inside of the fruit about 1" inward from the rind. De-seed it and remove the flesh. If using canned jackfruit, rinse the fruit in water to remove excess brine.


2. Combine all ingredients and mix well.

3. Heat mixture on the stove in a pan or in a 350-degree oven. Cook between 15-20 minutes until mixture reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. (Use a meat thermometer to check.) Note: if using fresh jackfruit, it will take longer to cook until everything is soft.

4. Shred the jackfruit "pulled pork" and serve on a roll topped with barbecue sauce.