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Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Plant-Based Chef and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.
Curious on how to cook jackfruit for recipes? Follow this step-by-step guide for delicious, tender pulled jackfruit to use in your favorite recipes!
If you’ve ever opened a can of jackfruit before– you know it can be a little intimidating to figure out how to go from inedible, briny triangles to tender, pulled jackfruit to use in BBQ sandwiches, tacos and more. The first time I tried it, I was blown away by what a little prep and delicious sauce does to canned jackfruit.
If you love jackfruit as much as my family does, you’re going to want to save this step-by-step guide on how to make jackfruit, including how to freeze it!
Since this process takes a little bit of effort, I recommend making a big batch and then freezing into individual bags for easy meal prep. The entire process does take some time, but it’s fairly hands off and easy. It’s foolproof in creating the most delicious tasting jackfruit that you can use in sandwiches, tacos, bowls or anywhere you want to enjoy the pulled jackfruit texture.
Jackfruit is largest tree fruit in the world and most mature jackfruits weight at least 40 pounds. Don’t worry– I’m not asking you to lug the weight of a kindergartener home from the grocery store unless you really want to be a kitchen hero.
Instead, young green jackfruit is sold canned in brine in many stores and this is the type of jackfruit that you’ll want to grab as a meat substitute.
Think of jackfruit like papaya; there is a stark difference between unripe green papaya that’s used in papaya salad and ripe papaya that’s enjoyed as a juicy, sweet fruit. Jackfruit is similar. You’ll want to seek out the unripe canned jackfruit that’s packed in either water or brine and ensure that it’s not packed in syrup.
Sweet jackfruit is an entirely different way of enjoying this fruit and has a similar taste to a mild mango. Ripe jackfruit can be used in desserts, ice cream, smoothies and more. You can usually find ripe jackfruit in the frozen food aisle, but it’s also sometimes canned in syrup in Asian markets or well-stocked grocery stores. The sweet, syrupy kind won’t work in these savory recipes.
Young green jackfruit, like in the can shown below, is very similar to tofu in that it doesn’t have much flavor at all and instead relies on whatever you season and cook it with. This is the real benefit of jackfruit as it’s incredibly versatile to whatever flavor profile you want to make with it.
I love it most as a pulled pork like BBQ sandwich but it’s also fantastic in tacos, as carnitas, in bowls or anywhere you like a stringy, meat-like texture.
These days, you can find jackfruit in most well-stocked grocery stores. However, I almost always purchase jackfruit from Trader Joe’s or a local Asian grocery store as the price is so much better than what I can find at my local grocery store. These cans are only $1.99 compared to $3-4 each at my grocery store.
There is also prepared jackfruit on the market, like the kind by Upton’s Naturals. This type of jackfruit is already prepared and also won’t work for this type of preparation. If you grab that kind then you don’t need to do any additional prep work.
You can find it on Amazon as well if you don’t have a well-stocked grocery store or Trader Joe’s near you.
Once you grab the jackfruit, it should look like the above when you open it. Not exactly appetizing, is it? This jackfruit prep school is what you need in order to create delicious jackfruit.
I’ve been making jackfruit for years and really believe that these prep tips are essential in creating the best way to prepare jackfruit to use for jackfruit recipes. The boiling method creates a nice stringy texture and helps to remove any tinned or metallic taste that canned jackfruit (and other canned goods) can typically have.
If you’ve already had jackfruit and don’t think you like it, I urge you to try it prepared like this before swearing it off. I’ve made jackfruit like this and compared it to jackfruit I’ve prepared when I haven’t done this and it really does make a big difference in the overall taste.
Drain the jackfruit from the cans, then place in a large pan and cover with water. As I mentioned earlier, I highly recommend making more than one can of jackfruit for easy meal prep. I typically do 6-10 cans at a time, depending on who I’m serving and how much of a freezer stash I already have.
Bring the water and jackfruit to a boil, then cook for 45 minutes.
Once the jackfruit has boiled, drain it and rinse with cold water so it’s cool enough to handle.
Using your hands, a knife, or a potato masher, begin to shred the jackfruit into silky strains. If using your hands, pick up the softened jackfruit and pull apart then place back into the pan and repeat with the rest of the jackfruit.
If using a knife, then gently chop, using your hands as needed to pull apart the fruit. You can also use a potato masher and mash the jackfruit; it should shred fairly easily after being boiled.
After doing this for all of the jackfruit, cover again with water and bring back to a boil. Cook a second time for 30 minutes; this second cook helps to really tenderize the jackfruit and give it that pulled, tender BBQ texture. If you are pressed for time, then you can skip this step.
Drain the mixture one more time and rinse again with cold water. Let sit until cool enough to handle, then pick up a small handful of the jackfruit and squeeze, removing as much water as possible.
Squeeze the jackfruit just as if you were squeezing water from thawed from frozen spinach or shredded zucchini before making zucchini fritters. You want to remove as much water as possible so the jackfruit can soak up the yummy cooking sauce and not become soggy.
You can see in the photo below how dry the mixture becomes after you’ve squeezed as much water out as possible. For reference, the below bowl is 6 cans of jackfruit prepared this way.
I know some people don’t like the bulb sections of the fruit, but I can’t tell a difference once it’s cooked and think it’s silly to throw away perfectly good fruit just for appearance.
Your jackfruit is now ready to use in any recipe you’d like! If you aren’t sure where to start, I recommend my Vegan BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich.
If you want to freeze what you’ve just prepped, here’s how to do that.
Place the prepared jackfruit in freezer-safe bags then lay flat and squeeze out as much air as possible. I do the straw-trick to vacuum seal the bag: after you’ve pressed out as much air as possible, insert a straw into the corner of the bag and seal around the straw. Then suck the air through the straw until the bag collapses around the jackfruit and no visible air is left.
While still maintaining some sort of suction, slowly pull out the straw and quickly seal the rest of the bag. Ta-da! Who needs a fancy vacuum seal machine when all you need is a straw?
Place the bags flat into the freezer. Once they are completely frozen, then you can remove and stack in the freezer. Freezing them lying down reduces and extra air getting into the bag and makes them easier to store.
Jackfruit freezer bags will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months. Before using in your jackfruit recipe of choice, remove the jackfruit bag and place on the counter or fridge to thaw completely before using.
I know it seems like a lot of effort, but it’s mostly hands-off time. Plus, I highly, highly recommend making several cans at once so you only have to do this once every few months.
Remove the jackfruit from the freezer and thaw overnight in the fridge, or grab what you’ve just prepped. You can now use the jackfruit in any recipe that you’d like, or simply season as you would chicken, pork or other meat.
Sauté an onion in a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until the onion is fairly soft and translucent.
Add in the jackfruit and cook another minute or two; this is now the time to add seasonings. For example, if I’m making a BBQ version then I’ll usually add in a pinch of smoked paprika, chili powder, garlic powder and cumin.
If you are using a sauce, you’ll want to add it now. Toss the jackfruit in the sauce and cook until the mixture is very well-coated and thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring often.
You’ll likely need more sauce than you think, if I am making BBQ jackfruit sandwiches then I’ll usually use about 3/4 cups of a jar per 2 cans worth of jackfruit. As the jackfruit is pretty flavorless, your seasonings and sauce is providing most of the flavor so make sure to choose a sauce you like!
If you are making tacos, curries, a stir fry or other recipes — simply replace the BBQ sauce with another sauce of choice or a marinade.
I love this BBQ jackfruit on a bun with slaw (and baked beans on top! I know, it sounds weird but delicious). However, you can use jackfruit in any of your favorite jackfruit recipes.
If you try this recipe, let me know! Make sure to come back to rate the recipe and leave a comment. Your feedback helps others and seeing you make my recipes makes my day!Print
How to Cook Jackfruit! A step-by-step guide on how to make jackfruit and how to freeze it for easy weeknight meals.
Follow the directions in the post for more details on each step, including how to freeze for easy meal-prep.
(7 comments) leave a comment
Does boiling it for so long affect the nutritional value?
Alex! I don’t often comment on recipes (like never!) but I had to give you a shout out for this Jackfruit recipe! Having made Jackfruit previously, I can say without any hesitation, this is the perfect recipe for jackfruit. I will use it consistently from this day forward! Thanks so much!
Hello! Thank you for these detailed instructions! Why did my jack fruit turn purple when it was boiled? Thank you!
Purple? What shade of purple? Was it slightly grey and very light purple? In that case, it’s fine and a result of the jackfruit being canned. Can you see in my photos the shade of jackfruit boiled? That should be the color– if it’s too off from that then I don’t know. Turning purple is often a result of acidic/basic changes but that shouldn’t be the case with jackfruit.
I am excited to try Jackfruit as I’ve never eaten it before. I plan on making your BBQ version tomorrow. Is it ok to prep the jackfruit tonight and then cook it tomorrow?
hi Tisa– yes, OK to prep the jackfruit tonight and then cook tomorrow. I often prep a lot at one time, freeze it, then use in recipes throughout the summer. Let me know what you think!
Love it and everyone I’ve made it for loved it too!