I really wanted to like jackfruit, a fruit that can be purchased in a can and stored in the pantry, that has the texture of meat, that takes on the flavor of just about anything. But every time I tried it, it was too acidic and salty, and I like acidic and salty food. And I couldn’t get past the fact that it’s often used as a stand-in for meaty protein, yet it lacks much protein. Or the fact that it wasn’t filling enough. But, if I’m anything, I’m persistent (when it involves solving a recipe or design problem). “I’m going to try those BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Sandwiches one more time.” “Oh, Mel. No. More. Jackfruit.” Oops, I did it again. And I got it right this time. Kev approves.
We’re in the 1-2 year stretch of life with a new baby, where dinner doesn’t happen unless most of it’s in the pantry or lives a long life in the fridge. This recipe is that. It had to be. And the buns are in the freezer. And if I’m not turning into my grandma, well, I am. Because we bought a deep freezer that’s only full of buns and milk (for the baby), with dreams of being filled with homemade freezer meals. But, due to said baby, we’ve only managed to fill it with milk and buns. Buns from the store. That’s a really long way of telling you, almost everything you need for this recipe is in the pantry. Amen.
The “Meaty” Mixture
Let’s talk about the “meaty” mixture to replace the more traditional slow-cooked pulled pork in a BBQ sandwich like so. The jackfruit, which is quite neutral in flavor, minus the aforementioned brine, looks like meat and pulls apart like meat. Yet it lacks that creamy, lush, meaty quality of meat. So I smashed in chickpeas, that are both creamy in texture and high in plant protein, and the mixture became something worth posting about. The chickpeas also play the leading role in calming the overly briney brine.
To make, mash and char the jackfruit chickpea mixture on a hot cast iron skillet in a large glug of oil, which adds some necessary fat for flavor and crisping. Then coat it in the brown sugar and spice mixture, and allow it to char up a bit more. To do so, let it be. Continual stirring will prohibit charring. Finish it off by stirring in your favorite BBQ sauce and voila. Is it pulled pork or pulled jackfruit?
Does it even matter? The only thing that really matters—dinner’s ready in under 30 minutes, made mostly from pantry staples and plenty of plants. And all the people said, amen. Even Kev. Who also said, “You can make these again and again.”
These BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Sandwiches are made meatless by way of jackfruit and creamy chickpeas, coated in a sugar and spice mixture, cooked until charred, and topped with a quick slaw. Dinner is ready in under 30 minutes and made with pantry staples.
Make the Quick Slaw. In a bowl, whisk together the mayo, vinegar, brown sugar, and salt and pepper. Stir in the slaw mixture to evenly coat. Set aside. This can be made the day before and stored covered in the fridge. Before serving, taste, adding more salt and pepper as needed.
Make the Pulled Jackfruit. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of the oil. Then add in the drained and rinsed jackfruit and chickpeas. Smash to break apart the jackfruit hunks and expose the creamy centers of the chickpeas. Pan fry for about 5 minutes to cook off the extra moisture, stirring occasionally.
Coat with the sugar, spices, salt, and garlic. Allow to char for another 8 minutes or so, adding more oil as needed, about 2 tablespoons. Stir occasionally. (Note: continually stirring prohibits charring. Let it be.) Remove from heat and stir in your favorite BBQ sauce plus a couple of tablespoons of water. (This is my favorite.) Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Meanwhile, toast the buns, either in a toaster, on a cast iron surface, or under the broiler. Spray with a bit of oil for flavor.
To serve, divide the pulled jackfruit evenly among the buns. Top with the prepared slaw, jalapenos, and pickles.
*I typically make everything the long way, shredding my own slaw. But life with a baby has me taking some shortcuts. You can shred your own, using a mix of hardy vegetables like cabbage, carrots, broccoli stems, and this tool. For an extra quick prep, grab freshly cut slaw from the store, adding in any desired extras, like kale or herbs. Speaking of, check out this quick kale slaw that would also be delicious on this sandwich.
**Most canned Jackfruit readily available in stores sit in some sort of brine (a salty acidic, often limey) solution. If you are able to find Jackfruit in water, you may need to add a squeeze of lime (or vinegar) and extra pinch of salt to balance the flavors in this recipe.
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