Sweet & Savory Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos

Sweet & Savory Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos
Makes 8 to 10 tacos, serving 4 with a salad

 

Testers: Don’t worry about the details about the toppings, use whatever you want. I’m more interested in how the actual jackfruit turns out for you.

 

Something of a legend now, the meaty, tropical jackfruit was first featured on the menu of the now defunct Pure Luck eatery in L.A., but versions of this have lived on in vegan blog land as an exciting alternative to tempeh, tofu, or seitan in vegan Mexican American cuisine. Having before enjoyed jackfruit in Sri Lankan curries, I could see how the texture of this fruit has a chewy, succulent and and flaking texture that that’s visually reminicient of pulled pork or shredded chicken.

Jackfruit is all texture and can be short on big flavors, so I added tangy sweet pineapple juice, soy sauce, chile powder, liquid smoke, and spicy chipotles in adobo sauce for saucy, sweet and smoky veggie carnitas. These are big tacos that require two corn tortillas overlapping each other to help support all the juicy filling and toppings.

If you have the time, gently searing the cooked jackfruit in a cast iron pan seals in the flavors and lightly caramelized the edges of the jackfruit shreds for that authentic carnitas touch.

Jackfruit shopping tip: For best results look for unsweetened, brined unripe jackfruit sold in cans, jars, or frozen, and don’t buy jackfruit packed in syrup. Brined jackfruit has been peeled and sliced into wedges, has a firm texture and a light pinkish color. The brine helps lightly pickle the jackfruit and gives it a meaty texture and mild flavor.Also avoid frozen green jackfruit that has not been brined. Usually this kind of frozen jackfruit will look like creamy white pods, not wedges or slices. Once thawed it will have a bland flavor and a useless mushy texture.

 

Preparing canned or jarred jackfruitDrain the jackfruit wedges and rinse with plenty of cool water. Chop the wedges into 1 inch wide chunks, then use your fingers to pull apart the pieces into shreds. The more you shred the jackfruit pieces, the more carnita-like it will look later. Then grab handfuls of the pulp and squeeze out as much water as possible before marinating.If using frozen, thaw overnight or speed up thawing by steeping the unopened jackfruit package in hot water. Squeeze out as much water as possible and separate into chunks as described for canned jackfruit above.

2 ten ounce cans canned green, brined jackfruit, or 20 ounces brined frozen unripe jackfruit, thawed *See Tip
2 rounded teaspoons ancho chile powder or Mexican chile powder blend
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon garlic or onion powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups pineapple juice
1/4 cup water
2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
2 chipotles in adobo, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and grated on a microplane grater or pressed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice

1 tablespoon molasses
2 teaspoons liquid smoke

2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons peanut oil, plus additional oil for frying if desired

Tacos
16 corn tortillas
Pickled Red Onions
Finely shredded green or red cabbage
2 ripe tomatoes and 1 ripe avocado, diced into bite sized chunks

Cashew Yogurt (page XX) for drizzling, or Sikil Pak dip for dolloping (page XX)

1. Prepare jackfruit as described in the Jackfruit Tip, then place jackfruit chunks in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with chile powder, cumin, coriander, garlic powder, and salt. Use your fingers to vigorously rub the spices into the jackfruit, then set aside. In a 3 quart pot whisk together the pineapple juice, water, tomato paste, chipotles, grated garlic, soy sauce, lime juice, molasses, liquid smoke, bay leaves, and half of the vegetable oil. Add the jackfruit and vigorously stir to coat with the marinade, then set aside for 20 minutes or even better, cover and chill overnight.

2. When ready to cook the jackfruit, turn the burner onto high and bring the jackfruit marinade to a rapid simmer for 2 minutes, then reduce heat to low. Partially cover the pot and simmer the jackfruit for 50 to 55 minutes, occasionally stirring; there should be some sauce still left in the pot. Turn off the heat, uncover the jackfruit and remove the bay leaves. You can now serve the jackfruit as is, or fry it up slightly to caramelize the edges.

3. To sear the jackfruit, preheat a 10 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, then spread a teaspoon of vegetable oil over the bottom. Pour in 1 cup of jackfruit (with sauce) and sauté for 4 to 6 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed and the edges of the shreds are browned and slightly caramelized. Transfer to a serving dish, and sauté more jackfruit as needed in small batches.

4. To assemble a taco, preheat a cast iron skillet to high. Overlap 2 corn tortillas on the dry skillet and warm just enough to get the tortillas hot and flexible, about 45 seconds. Transfer tortillas and overlap slightly on a serving dish. Pile on about 1/3 cup of jackfruit carnitas and top with onions, lettuce, pico de gallo, and cashew yogurt or sikil pak. Buen provecho!

 

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