Chewy, crispy and meaty roasted jackfruit, bursting with flavour from a punchy tamarind marinade. Soya sauce and chilli paste add some deeply savoury notes, with tangy and sour tamarind, balanced with brown sugar, which facilitates optimum charring and caramelization in a hot oven. Perfect in wraps, bao, dumplings, sandwiches, on top of burgers, or how ever else you fancy!
Jackfruit is a strange and wonderful plant that was hardly heard of in the UK until very recently, despite being a common ingredient in South Asian cuisine. As a ripe fruit it is used in sweet dishes and desserts, but it’s the meaty, flakey texture of the young jackfruit (sometimes called young green jackfruit), that has made it so popular as a meat substitute over here. It can been eaten straight out of the tin, or cooked in curries, but it is really wonderful as a slightly chewy and flaky pulled pork alternative. Similarly to tofu, the marinade really makes it, and due to it’s mild flavour, jackfruit can handle some pretty punchy and powerful ingredients.
I came up with this recipe as a filling for steamed dumplings, but have since used it liberally for other things because it is SO GOOD. I’d made some attempts at jackfruit before and never been entirely happy with the results – either the texture was a bit off or the depth or balance of flavours wasn’t quite right. The main problem that I had with this version is trying not to eat all of it before I could use it as a filling. Which is not a bad problem to have.
The key to really excellent pulled jackfruit is cooking it twice; first on the hob so it can soak up all of the tasty flavours of the marinade, and then in the oven so that you get some lovely crispy, charred corners on the fruit. Roasting it also dries the jackfruit out a little and gives a less sloppy and more chewy texture – ideal for things like bao and wraps where there is a high risk of filling sploodging out.
This recipe is not complicated but due to the cooking requirements it does take a little time. If you want to use it in steamed buns you’ll also need to factor in cooling time.
How to make tamarind pulled jackfruit
To begin, prepare the onions, garlic, ginger and chilli (dice, mince and slice respectively) and drain the jackfruit. Often the core or outer edge of the jackfruit is a little tougher than the flaky petals, so cut any of these tough sections away from your jackfruit chunks, and finely slice them. You can leave the sections of petals whole as these will flake and fall apart while cooking.
Warm a saucepan over a medium heat with a little oil, then add the onions once hot. Fry for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they’re soft and starting to brown, then add the garlic, ginger and chilli and stir for a couple of minutes.
While the onions are frying, make up some vegetable stock and gather the rest of the ingredients; tamarind paste, soya sauce (tamari for gluten-free or coconut aminos for soya-free), soft light brown sugar (or caster, coconut sugar or palm sugar), and chilli paste. Once the garlic, ginger and chilli has had its two minutes, add the stock to the pan, followed by the rest of the ingredients, including the jackfruit. Bring to the boil, then simmer over a medium-low heat with a lid on for 20 minutes.
Tamarind paste can vary in strength quite considerably so be cautious! As a general rule, the darker the colour, the more concentrated the paste. I initially used a mid-brown coloured paste and needed two generous tablespoons, and another time I used a paste that was almost black in colour and ended up with jackfruit that was a bit too sour and tangy – a tablespoon of that probably would have done the trick. Similarly with the chilli paste; use what you have but adjust it to suit your taste. I really like using Gochujang, a korean read pepper paste. It’s savoury and very spicy, but not overwhelmingly so, however it often contains wheat so won’t be suitable for everyone. When making a completely gluten-free version I substituted sriracha, as I didn’t have any other paste, and that worked well.
After 20 minutes of simmering, the jackfruit will has soaked up some of the tasty broth, but the mixture will still be quite runny. Remove the lid, turn up the heat to medium, and cook until the liquid has reduced down. This should only take about 10 minutes – you don’t want the mixture to be completely dry, but reduced enough that when you give it a stir, you can still see the bottom of the pan afterwards, as in the second picture. Once it’s at this stage, spread the jackfruit in a thin, even layer on a non-stick baking tray, and put in a hot oven (about 200C) for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir the jackfruit, which should be starting to char a little, then return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes, depending on how juicy or charred you want the resulting mixture to be.
I went for a full 25 minute roasting and it came out something like this:
These jackfruit chunks were still beautifully succulent and moist, but there’s no longer any liquid. All of that juice has been absorbed by, and cooked down with, the jackfruit so you are left with crispy, chewy, flaky fronds that are bursting with flavour.
How to use your tamarind pulled jackfruit
There are so many ways you can use this! Here are a few ideas for inspiration, but let me know in the comments below if you can think of others!
- In steamed buns:- You can buy frozen dumpling wrappers in oriental supermarkets, or make your own. Use about 1 tbsp jackfruit per wrapper, then steam for 7-8 minutes. You can have them with a dipping sauce but they are delicious by themselves!
- In bao:- Bao are one of my absolute favourite delicacies and are ideal for encasing this jackfruit recipe. You can use my recipe here for the buns, then pack them with jackfruit, shredded crunchy vegetables, and crushed salted peanuts.
- In a salad:- Pulled jackfruit is a really quick way to liven up a salad – some crunchy fresh vegetables and herbs such as cucumber, carrots, red cabbage, coriander and spring onions with a little toasted sesame oil and soya sauce, with tamarind jackfruit on top and a sprinkling of sesame seeds would make an amazing lunch or light summer dinner.
- In burgers:- A pulled jackfruit bap by itself is a thing of beauty, but if you’re feeling really extravagant, why not pile this on top of your [vegan] burger? Extra flavour, texture, and succulence, and sooo much healthier than a meaty counterpart.
- In wraps:- I had some jackfruit left over from my last dumpling attempt (which I failed to photograph), so plonked some in a wrap with some avocado, coriander, crushed salted peanuts and sriracha. It was divine.
Or (and this is what I’m doing next time) make double quantities so you can try a few of these out!
Please let me know if you give this recipe a try! I’d love to hear how you get on, and any feedback is really appreciated. You can comment below or find me on instagram and twitter @greedybearbakes.
Tamarind Pulled Jackfruit
Chewy, crispy and meaty roasted jackfruit, bursting with flavour from a punchy tamarind marinade.
Vegan, Gluten-free, Grain-free, Nut-free, Soya-free
- 400g tin young jackfruit (250g drained weight)
- 1 small onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1cm piece ginger
- 1 finger chilli
- 1 tbsp oil
- 250ml vegetable stock
- 1–2 tbsp tamarind paste*
- 2 tbsp soya sauce, tamari, or coconut aminos
- 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar (sub caster, palm or coconut sugar)
- 1½ tsp chilli paste**
- Drain a 400g tin of jackfruit. Cut off the tougher parts (usually the core and sometimes the outer edges and seeds), and slice these finely. You can leave any chunks of fronds as these will soften and separate as they cook. Set aside.
- Finely dice 1 onion, mince or grate 3 cloves of garlic and a 1cm piece ginger, and finely slice 1 finger chilli. Heat up a saucepan with 1 tbsp oil over a medium heat, and add the onion. Fry, stirring occasionally, for 8–10 minutes.
- While the onion is frying, gather the rest of the ingredients and make up 250ml vegetable stock. Once the onion is soft and starting to brown, add the garlic, ginger and chilli and stir fry for 2 minutes. Then pour in the stock, followed by 1–2 tbsp tamarind paste*, 2 tbsp soya sauce (or tamari / coconut aminos), 2 tbsp brown sugar and 1½ tsp of chilli paste, and stir until they’ve dissolved into the stock. Add the jackfruit and bring to the boil, the cover and simmer over a medium–low heat for 20 minutes.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200C fan. Remove the lid from the stewing jackfruit and increase the heat to medium. Cook for a further 10–15 minutes, stirring regularly, until the liquid has reduced to the point where you can see the bottom of the pan when you stir the jackfruit. Tip onto a non-stick baking tray and spread into a thin, even layer.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and stir, then return to the oven for another 5–10 minutes, depending on how juicy or charred you want your pulled jackfruit to be. Eat straight away as a bao, burger or wrap filling, or leave to cool and use as a steamed dumpling filling, or to top crunchy salad.
*Tamarind paste can vary considerably in strength so it’s best to taste before adding the full 2 tbsp. Paler pastes tend to be less concentrated, whereas if your paste is almost black then you may only need 1 tbsp. You can always taste and add a little more right before it goes in the oven.
**Any chilli paste will do or even chilli sauce. You can add more or less depending on how spicy you want your jackfruit, but I prefer restraining the heat and adding chilli sauce afterwards if the mood takes me. I like using gochujang (korean red pepper paste) but be mindful if you have a gluten intolerance as this often contains wheat.