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You Don’t Know Jack

Best known for its ability to mimic pulled pork sandwiches or as a filling for tacos, jackfruit has become a beloved vegan “meat.” Wait a second, though… Jackfruit is so much more!

Did you know it’s really a fruit with many sweet applications? Most people recognize young, unripe or green jackfruit, which has a neutral taste and stringy texture that takes on whatever flavor it’s seasoned with. But when ripe, it gets sweet like a cross between mango and banana with texture a little like pineapple.

Jackfruit bears the largest fruit of all trees, weighing anywhere from 30 to 100 pounds, and a mature tree can produce literally tons of fruits annually. Grown in tropical climates throughout Asia, South America, and Africa, jackfruit is in the same family as mulberries and figs (though they look and taste completely different). The jackfruit tree is also hardy, easy to grow, and resistant to drought, heat, and many pests. The part we eat is usually the petals of the jackfruit, as well as the seeds.

It’s time to meet jackfruit again and look forward to new favorite ways to eat this extremely versatile fruit. Start the day with Spiced Breakfast Bars. For brunch or lunch, try BBQ Jackfruit and Biscuit Casserole, Sweet and Tangy Meatless Balls, or Curry Jackfruit Stew. French Dip Sandwiches are decadent and comforting on a winter night. Italian Herb Stuffed Peppers will please the whole family, and Orange Cherry Jackfruit Cake with Pudding Layer is a centerpiece jewel on any celebration table.

Notes on Jackfruit: Prepared jackfruit is sold in cans and packets, packed in brine (savory), syrup (sweet), or water (neutral). For recipes below, each will note the preferred packing liquid, and since the cans/packets are all different sizes, portions are measured in cups, with the jackfruit already cut. Dried or dehydrated jackfruit is not recommended for these recipes.

Spiced Breakfast Bars
(Makes 16 bars)

3 Tablespoons ground flaxseed meal
6 Tablespoons warm water
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup whole-wheat flour (oat flour for gluten-free)
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped pistachios (or almonds or sunflower seeds)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch ground cloves
1 cup canned lychees, liquid reserved (use pears as alternative; see note)
1 cup shredded jackfruit, drained (water or syrup)
1/2 cup lychee syrup (from can)
1/3 cup smooth no-salt almond butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tablespoons rose water (see note)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9×13-inch baking dish with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together ground flaxseed meal and warm water until thick. Set aside to gel into a binder.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together all dry ingredients including oats, flour, cranberries, coconut, pistachios, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. Set aside.

Add all wet ingredients to a food processor or strong blender. Gently pureé lychees, jackfruit, lychee syrup, almond butter, maple syrup, rose water, and vanilla. When smooth and creamy, scrape into dry ingredients and add flaxmeal mixture. By hand, combine all ingredients until a thick batter forms. Batter should not be runny; if it’s too dry to absorb all the dry ingredients, add more lychee syrup by the Tablespoon until batter holds together.

Press into baking dish, pushing batter evenly into all four corners of the dish. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until edges are browned and top is firm to the touch. Allow to cool fully, before slicing into 16 bars.

Cook’s Notes: Canned lychees can be found on the edges of the canned fruit aisle or in the Asian foods aisle. If lychees are unavailable, canned pears will work.

When shopping for jackfruit for this recipe, use jackfruit that is either in water or in sweet syrup; packets of plain or naked jackfruit will also work. Brined jackfruit is too savory for this sweet recipe.

Rose water is a common flavor in many ethnic cuisines as well as in desserts, cocktails, and drinks. It has a light, floral taste. Be sure to look for culinary rose water, which is safe to eat. Can’t find rose water? Just sub another teaspoon of vanilla.

Total calories per bar: 204 Fat: 8 grams
Carbohydrates: 30 grams Protein: 5 grams
Sodium: 32 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams


BBQ Jackfruit and Biscuit Casserole
(Makes 12 portions)

3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 cups young/green jackfruit, shredded (in brine or water)
1 cup chopped onion
2 whole cloves garlic
1 yellow squash, sliced into half moons
2 cups chopped collard greens (about 1 bunch)
Two 15-ounce cans seasoned, low-sodium vegan chili beans (such as Bush’s, Eden, or Westbrae)
15-ounce can chopped tomatoes with juices
1/2 cup canned or thawed frozen corn, drained
2 Tablespoons no-salt tomato paste
1 Tablespoon pickle relish
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or rice vinegar)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups quick baking mix (like Bisquick)
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1-1/2 cups plain, unsweetened vegan milk
1/2 cup vegan cheddar shreds (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray an oven-safe 9-x13-inch casserole dish with non-stick spray. Set aside.

Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of olive oil to a large pan with the shredded jackfruit. Sauté over medium heat, stirring often, about 5-7 minutes, until shreds begin to dry out a little. Add onion, garlic, squash, and remaining olive oil. Continue cooking until jackfruit is lightly browned, onion is translucent, and squash is softened. Add collards and stir-fry for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a large mixing bowl with beans, tomatoes, corn, tomato paste, pickle relish, parsley, paprika, vinegar, and thyme. Fold ingredients together and pour into the prepared casserole dish.

In a second bowl, stir together baking mix, nutritional yeast, parsley, and garlic powder. Pour in vegan milk, stirring constantly until just combined. Wet hands, and using water to prevent sticking, form dough into 12 round biscuits. Arrange on top of casserole. Top with vegan cheese, if desired.

Bake uncovered for 10-12 minutes, until casserole is bubbly, cheese is melty, and biscuits have risen and have browned lightly. Serve hot, topped with optional Quick-Pickled Red Onions (recipe follows).

Total calories per serving: 287 Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 50 grams Protein: 13 grams
Sodium: 581 milligrams Fiber: 12 grams

Quick-Pickled Red Onions
(Makes about 1-1/2 cups)

1 large red onion, thinly sliced into rings
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (or rice vinegar)
1 Tablespoon organic sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1-3 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

Add all ingredients into a 2-cup (16 ounce) glass jar with a lid, and fill with water. Put lid on tightly and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to 2 weeks before serving.

Total calories per 1/4 cup serving: 23 Fat: <1 gram
Carbohydrates: 5 grams Protein: <1 gram
Sodium: 389 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram

Curry Jackfruit Stew
(Serves 8)

1 onion, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 cups young/green jackfruit, cut into shreds (in brine or water)
15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
15-ounce can lite coconut milk
14.5-ounce can chopped tomatoes
2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock (or water)
1-1/2 cups chopped eggplant
10-ounces frozen kale or spinach (or 5 cups fresh, chopped)
1 cup chopped potato
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Pinch ground allspice
Pinch red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 bay leaf
Fresh cilantro or parsley (to garnish)
Scallions (to garnish)
Fresh basil (to garnish)
Lime wedges (to serve)

Sauté onions and carrots in 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil until onion is soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add jackfruit and remaining olive oil stirring often, over medium heat about 5-7 minutes, until shreds begin to lightly brown and dry out, and carrot is soft with browned edges.

Add chickpeas, coconut milk, tomatoes, vegetable stock, eggplant, kale, potatoes, garlic, ginger, curry, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, allspice, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf to the pot with sautéed ingredients. Bring to a boil, uncovered, then lower heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Top with chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, scallions, and fresh basil. Squeeze fresh lime juice on just before serving. If desired, serve over cooked noodles, rice, or quinoa, or as a stew by itself.

Total calories per serving: 149 Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 24 grams Protein: 5 grams
Sodium: 208 milligrams Fiber: 8 grams

French Dip Sandwiches
(Makes 6 sandwiches)

1 cup chopped mushrooms, any kind, wiped clean
1-1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock, divided
3 cloves garlic
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons lite soy or tamari sauce
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup chickpea flour (gram flour)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon grill/steak seasoning
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon onion powder
Pinch ground white pepper
1 cup shredded jackfruit (in water or brine)

To make Sandwiches
6 crusty, oval-shaped rolls
2 teaspoons vegan margarine
2 cups shredded jackfruit (in water or brine)
2 sliced onions
Vegan cheese slices or shreds (optional)
6 Tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
Horseradish (optional)

Vegan Jus Dipping Sauce
2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1/2 cup vegan dry red wine (or use more stock plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar)
1 teaspoon lite soy or tamari sauce
1 teaspoon vegan Worchestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
Pinch ground white pepper

To make the seitan, preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray. Add mushrooms, vegetable stock, garlic, olive oil, soy sauce, and Dijon to a food processor or high-powered blender. Pureé until smooth and all veggies are broken down. Add vital wheat gluten, flour, nutritional yeast, grill seasoning, paprika, thyme, parsley, sage, onion powder, and white pepper. Process until well mixed and add jackfruit shreds. Pulse until just combined. It should look like the jackfruit is suspended in the seitan.

Turn out mixture onto a countertop and knead the seitan for about 2-3 minutes until stretchy and pliable; do not overwork. Shape seitan into a loaf and place in a prepared loaf pan.

Pour some vegetable stock into the loaf pan and use aluminum foil to create a tent over the dish. Bake for 30 minutes, then pull out and pour more stock over the roast. Bake 30 more minutes and repeat braising; bake a final 30 minutes. When done, the roast will have a crust on the edges and be cooked all the way through. Allow to cool completely before slicing into sandwich-sized slices.

Seitan can be made up to one week ahead and stored in a bag or container in the fridge until ready to assemble French Dip Sandwiches.

Time-Saving Option: In a hurry? Skip homemade seitan, and purchase enough of your favorite store-bought variety (such as Blackbird Foods, No Evil Foods, Pacific Foods, Sweet Earth, Tofurky, Upton’s, or Westsoy brands) for six sandwiches.

To assemble sandwiches, cut open rolls and toast if desired; set aside. In a pan, melt vegan margarine, then add shredded jackfruit and sliced onions. Sauté about 5-8 minutes, until jackfruit is lightly browned and onions are fragrant and wilted. If using vegan cheese, top jackfruit-onion mixture with cheese slices or shreds, and turn heat to low. Cover pan and melt for 3-5 minutes. If not using vegan cheese, proceed to assembling sandwiches. Smear each roll with vegan mayonnaise and optional horseradish. Layer in slices of seitan and top with sautéed jackfruit-onion mixture. Serve with Vegan Jus Dipping Sauce.

To make Vegan Jus Dipping Sauce, add all Vegan Jus Dipping Sauce ingredients to a saucepan. Heat through over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 6-8 minutes. Remove thyme sprigs. Serve beside sandwiches in a small dish for dipping.

Total calories per sandwich: 516 Fat: 16 grams
Carbohydrates: 47 grams Protein: 41 grams
Sodium: 875 milligrams Fiber: 11 grams

Italian Herb Stuffed Peppers
(Makes 8)

2/3 cup farro or barley (see note)
2 cups water (or low-sodium vegetable stock)
8 bell peppers, any color
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 cups young/green jackfruit shredded (from can or packet, in brine or water)
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup zucchini, chopped
15-ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained
14.5-ounce can low-salt tomato sauce
1/2 cup vegan mozzarella cheese shreds (optional)
1 Tablespoon Italian herb blend (see note)
3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional, to taste)
Pinch white pepper (optional, to taste)
8 teaspoons vegan breadcrumbs (see note)
8 teaspoons Noochy-Nut Sprinkle (recipe below)
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley and/or basil

Cook the farro by boiling water, then adding farro. Simmer, covered, about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all liquid is absorbed and farro has plumped. If using barley, simmer, covered, about 40 minutes.

In the meantime, cut tops off peppers and scoop out all the seeds and ribs. Place upright in a casserole dish. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of olive oil to a large pan with the shredded jackfruit. Sauté, stirring often, over medium heat about 5-7 minutes, until shreds begin to dry out a little. Add onion and zucchini with remaining olive oil. Continue cooking until jackfruit is lightly browned, onion is translucent, and zucchini is softened. When done, add to a large mixing bowl.

In the mixing bowl, combine sautéed ingredients with cooked farro, white beans, tomato sauce, vegan cheese (if using), Italian herb blend, garlic, red pepper flakes, and white pepper. Stir with a wooden spoon or your hands. Once everything is well combined, stuff the filling into peppers. Depending on the size of the peppers, all the filling will get used up, so be sure to really pack the edges of each pepper.

Top each pepper with 1 teaspoon of breadcrumbs and 1 teaspoon of Noochy-Nut Sprinkle. Cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil and bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Uncover and return to the oven for 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Cook’s Notes: Usually associated with Italian cuisine, farro is a whole grain with a chewy texture and nutty taste. It is in the wheat family. Don’t have farro on hand? Use 2 cups cooked barley, or for a gluten-free option, use 2 cups cooked brown rice or quinoa instead.

Italian herb blends usually contain dried basil, parsley, and oregano. If you don’t have an Italian herb blend on-hand, use 1 teaspoon of each.

To make this recipe gluten-free, omit breadcrumbs or use gluten-free breadcrumbs.

Can’t do nuts? Sub in plain nutritional yeast for the Noochy-Nut Sprinkle.

Total calories per serving: 235 Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 43 grams Protein: 10 grams
Sodium: 72 milligrams Fiber: 11 grams

Noochy-Nut Sprinkle
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups; about twenty-four 1-Tablespoon portions)

2/3 cup walnuts
2/3 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch white pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or high-power blender and pulse until nuts are crumbs. Do not over-process, or it will become a nut butter. Sprinkle as desired anywhere you want a Parmesan-like topping, such as pasta dishes, roasted veggies, or salads.

Total calories per Tablespoon: 45 Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 2 grams Protein: 2 grams
Sodium: 49 milligrams Fiber: 1 gram

Orange Cherry Jackfruit Cake with Pudding Layer
(Makes 16 thin slices)

To prepare two 8- or 10-inch cake pans:
Parchment paper
2 Tablespoons vegan margarine (Earth Balance and Country Crock/Almond both tested)
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

Dry Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup arrowroot starch (or cornstarch)
1 Tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

Wet Ingredients
1-1/2 cups unsweetened, unflavored oat, pea, or soy milk (other plant milks not tested)
2/3 cup organic sugar
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 cup jackfruit, shredded (in water or syrup)
1/2 cup canned mandarin oranges with juices
1/3 cup dried cherries, chopped

Pudding Layer
One 8- or 10-inch cake pan, same size used for cake
Non-stick spray
1 1/2 cups full fat coconut cream
1 1/2 cups orange juice
1/2 cup arrowroot starch or cornstarch
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon orange or vanilla extract
A few drops natural orange food color (such as Color Garden; optional)

Frosting (Optional)
1-1/2 cups organic powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons vegan margarine, room temperature
1 Tablespoon unsweetened, unflavored vegan milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cranberry Glaze (Optional)
10-ounce bag fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
2/3 cup organic sugar
1/3 cup water
2 Tablespoons arrowroot starch or cornstarch

To make the cake layers, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut circles of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of two cake pans (8- or 10-inch). Grease pans with vegan margarine, add parchment paper circle, grease over parchment, and dust with flour. Set aside.

Sift together all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Whisk dry ingredients to further combine and lighten, about 30 strokes. This adds air and makes the cake texture lighter.

In a second bowl, combine vegan milk, sugar, canola oil, apple cider vinegar, and extracts, and whisk until smooth. Fold in jackfruit, mandarin oranges and juices, and dried cherries. Add to dry ingredients and stir until well combined, about 50-60 strokes.

Pour evenly into prepared cake pans and bake for 18-23 minutes, rotating oven rack positions once during baking. Eight-inch pans take about 1 minute less than 10-inch.

Allow cakes to cool completely, at least four hours, and chill overnight in their pans. When ready to trim, the cooled cakes will drop easily from the pans. Handle carefully so they do not break, and remove parchment.

Before assembling with pudding layer, use a long serrated knife to trim the mounded tops of the cake flat. This step is optional; however, the assembled cake will be unsteady if the layers are not leveled.

Keep those extra cake scraps! They’re delicious crumbled over non-dairy ice cream, added to a chia pudding parfait, or to just munch on as-is!

To make the Pudding Layers, spray an 8- or 10-inch cake pan with non-stick spray; use the same size as the pans used for cake. In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk coconut cream, orange juice, arrowroot starch, maple syrup, vanilla, and food coloring. Cook for 3-5 minutes until bubbly and thick. Turn off heat and pour pudding into prepared cake pan. Chill overnight to make firm for cake assembly.

To assemble the cake, you’ll need a cake plate. Carefully transfer the first cake layer and center it on the serving plate. Next, flip the chilled pudding layer evenly on top. Add the second cake layer. If decorating, continue with instructions below. If not decorating, serve cold. Store cake in fridge. Both the cake and pudding layers will tighten up and become more secure in the cool air.

Or decorate the cake as in photo (optional), make frosting with electric mixer, beating together powdered sugar, vegan margarine, vegan milk, and vanilla until silky and creamy. Use a spreader or butter knife to smooth over top and sides of cake as desired.

To make Cranberry Glaze, add cranberries, sugar, water, and arrowroot to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and reduce by half over medium heat. Strain mixture through a sieve and chill for at least 2 hours. When cool, pour over chilled cake.

Cook’s Notes: When shopping for jackfruit for this recipe, use jackfruit that is either in water or in sweet syrup; packets of plain or naked jackfruit will also work. Brined jackfruit is too savory for this sweet recipe.

Can’t find cranberries? Frozen cherries work just as well in the glaze recipe.

Pudding Cake:

Total calories per slice: 264 Fat: 11 grams
Carbohydrates: 40 grams Protein: 4 grams
Sodium: 144 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams


Total calories per serving: 57 Fat: 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 11 grams Protein: <1 gram
Sodium: 15 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram


Total calories per serving: 44 Fat: <1 gram
Carbohydrates: 11 grams Protein: <1 gram
Sodium: <1 milligram Fiber: 1 gram


Written by Rissa Miller

Written for VRG (The Vegetarian Resource Group)

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