My dad was born in Kentucky, and like many people from the South, he knew a bit about barbecue. He taught me how to take a regular bottle of barbecue sauce and add a few more ingredients to make a glaze that’ll have you lickin’ your fingers without a care about who is watching.
As for meat, pork has always been my favorite for barbecuing. It doesn’t matter if it’s ribs or chops or pulled, the flavor of tender pork covered in a sweet and tangy sauce that’s got smokey notes and spots of glorious caramelization sends me into a state of backyard bliss. Barbecued pork is fun, tasty and gloriously messy.
As health consciousness goes up, however, meat consumption goes down. For many people, the thought of sitting down to a hunk of greasy pork meat is a grand departure from healthful eating. That’s why I love this recipe. It’s hard to imagine that a fruit of any kind could double as shredded meat, but jackfruit does it flawlessly.
Now, one thing my daddy taught me was to braise the meat first, so I figured why not braise the jackfruit? I added a little coconut oil to the pan and sprinkled the jackfruit with a hickory maple rub, and I let it brown on each side. The fruit began to soften up slightly, and I gently pressed down on the slices to help the process.
Once braised, I began doctoring the store bought barbecue sauce according to my dad’s specifications. Then, I combined the fruit and sauce in a pan and let it simmer until the barbecue mixture had reduced and the fruit started to shred. Then I turned it way down and let it simmer a while more. The amazing thing is that the jackfruit doesn’t require hours to become tender like pork does, so while it tastes as though you’ve been simmering the “meat” for hours, the jackfruit becomes “pulled pork” in less than an hour.
Served on a toasted bun with lettuce and a pile of caramelization onions, this imposter fruit takes so much like the real thing that your friends will be writing home about it.
By now, you must be asking, “Where do I get jackfruit?” I buy canned jackfruit in Los Angeles at any Indian grocery store. Asian markets (though not Japanese) should also carry it.
3 cans jackfruit in brine
1 bottle barbecue sauce
1 bottle of jackfruit brine equal to the amount of barbecue sauce (fill the empty bottle)
2 tsp. white vinegar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar or grated piloncillo
1 tsp. liquid smoke
1 tsp. Old Hickory Smoke Salt (or other hickory spice blend)
1 – 2 tsp. maple hickory blend spice rub
brine reserved from cans of jackfruit
1 tbsp. coconut oil
1. Open the cans of jackfruit and drain the brine into a bowl,or container to save for later.
2. Melt the coconut oil in a nonstick skillet. Add the jackfruit and spread out so all of the pieces can braise. Sprinkle the hickory maple rub over the fruit and cook on medium high until the fruit begins to darken and soften slightly. It is fine if it starts to break apart, but you don’t need to coax it.
3. Set the braised jackfruit aside. In a large mixing bowl, empty the contents of the barbecue sauce bottle. Add an equal amount of jackfruit brine by filling the bottle with the reserved liquid and pouring it over the barbecue sauce.
4. Add the vinegar, liquid smoke, hickory smoke salt and brown sugar. Stir until all ingredients are dissolved and well combined.
5. Place the braised jackfruit and barbecue sauce mixture in a large pot and simmer over medium low heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
6. After 15 minutes, turn the heat down to low and continue to simmer slowly. Stir occasionally.
7. When the jackfruit is soft, most of it will shred by itself. There will be chunks that you can break apart by applying pressure with a fork. The pulled jackfruit is done when it is soft, shredded, and most of the liquid has been reduced or absorbed. It should be the exact consistency of pulled pork and look just like it.
8. Save the reserved brine in the refrigerator to warm up leftover “pulled pork” the next day so it doesn’t dry out.
9. Serve on a bun with caramelization onion and lettuce or shredded cabbage. If you are not eating gluten, try serving it on top of fried polenta slices. Enjoy this delightful vegetarian imposter for pulled pork! We served our sandwiches with baked root vegetable chips, but parsnip fries or sweet potato fries would also be a great match.
Note: As long as the barbecue sauce used contains no gluten, the pulled jackfruit contains no gluten.