Tuesday, April 12, 2022

J is for Jack Fruit


#AtoZChallenge 2022 Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter

A few years ago, my husband and I were visiting Silver Dollar City (an 1880s theme park in Branson, MO) and saw that there was going to be a cooking demonstration in a few minutes. The presenter was Christy Jordan from Southern Plate, and we enjoyed her stories and watching her cook. One of the recipes she demonstrated was for a bar cookie (we got samples!) and it's one of my go-to recipes when I need a quick cookie. I enjoy her blog and have made many of her recipes, all delicious.

I was looking through her recipes for ideas for the A to Z Challenge and came across one for jackfruit bbq sandwich.

I was instantly intrigued.

There is an annual festival and pilgrimage of Vietnamese Catholics in Carthage, Missouri, every August (except the past two years, because of Covid, of course) at an abbey there. Tens of thousands of Vietnamese Catholics from all over the US and Canada come to the town, most of them camping on the grounds of the abbey or in nearby neighborhoods. There is outdoor mass and food and shopping vendors and entertainment and a procession in honor of Our Lady of Fatima (which I accidentally joined one time), and we always attend several of the days and eat amazing pho and wander around the grounds. There are several vendors there selling whole fruits and other foods that are unusual to us, and one of those is the jack fruit. (You can read about one of my visits to Marian Days here and see photos of the event.)

When I accidentally joined the Our Lady
of Fatima parade. I was considerably taller
than the rest of the participants, making
it easier for my family, from whom I had become
separated, to find me in the crowd.

Jack fruit has a very strong scent and looks like an overgrown hedge apple. It's the largest tree-borne fruit in the world, can grow to 40 lbs., and I have never had any interest in trying one.

Those are jack fruit behind the vendor.

According to the Southern Plate recipe, the jack fruit used in this recipe is canned, young, green jackfruit (apparently they don't get stinky until they are ripe) and tastes JUST LIKE PORK and can be used as a "stunningly delicious" meat substitute. Christy has never given me bad recipe advice before, but I was still guarded about this.

I bought a 20 oz. can of jack fruit at a local Asian grocery store (this is not something you can run to Walmart for) and drained and rinsed it. I shredded the pieces of jack fruit as best I could, per the directions, but not all of it wanted to cooperate. After the excess water is kind of squished out of the fruit, it is placed in a medium skillet  and cooked over medium heat with as much bbq sauce as you want. It did finally begin to shred better once the fruit got warmer, but it took my husband working on it to get all the chunks broken up.

Minimal ingredients

Right outta the can

My attempt to break up the pieces.

My husband got it broken down better
than I could. BBQ sauce added.

It looks very much like a BBQ pork sandwich

That's it for the recipe. Serve on a bun once the mixture is warm all the way through. Quick and easy.

I had a rough time taking that first bite. I held a small forkful in front of my mouth for a bit before I finally put it in my mouth. It was....weird. It felt like a dryer, slightly firmer version of pineapple, and it not only didn't FEEL like pork, it didn't taste like pork, either. It didn't really have ANY taste, which I guess is a bit of a blessing, since it sure didn't taste any more like pork than pencil shavings would have.

I put a scoop of the mixture on a bun. It did LOOK the part, at least. I took a bite, a tiny bite, and it tasted like dry, firm, flavorless pineapple tossed with BBQ sauce on a bun.

That's as much as I could do

My husband came in the kitchen to try the finished product. He chewed thoughtfully, then said it tasted better with a bun than plain. He ate the entire sandwich, but he said that was enough to satisfy him indefinitely.

I guess if you were a vegetarian or vegan and had a craving for pulled pork, then this might float your boat. I am neither.

I think I'll consider this an anomaly of Christy's usual recipe offerings, give it an "L" and know that I never need to try jack fruit ever again.


  1. Most attempts to make fruit and veggies taste like meat are pale imitations. If you are like me, and had to become vegetarian for health reasons, after about 15+ years of no meat, most of the substitutes taste okay, but i can see how they wouldn't satisfy actual meat eaters.

    1. I am always wary when someone says, "It tastes JUST LIKE _____" and for just cause!

  2. I've been curious about Jack fruit. Now I don't think I want to try it!

    1. I promise I could NEVER get past the smell of a ripe jack fruit. This wasn't BAD, but it wasn't "just like" pulled pork, either!

  3. I was recommended a similar bbq jackfruit "pork" sandwich from a vegetarian acquaintance. I say acquaintance because I'm not sure a friend would have steered me in that direction. I dutifully bought a can of jackfruit that sat in my lazy susan for about two years before my husband got tired of looking at it and finally made something with it. Even then, I don't think I tried it. I was still feeling skittish after being told that nutritional yeast makes a great vegan cheese sauce. It does not. I think a vegan diet is wonderful although I've never followed one myself. I'm just not a big fan of these "substitutes" - I think I'd rather just enjoy the veggies or fruit in their natural state. Weekends In Maine

    1. Obviously, that was no friend.
      I don't know what nutritional yeast is, but I feel pretty confident that neither it nor anything else can make a cheese sauce except for cheese. I'm with you: if I ever were to become vegan (and that is highly unlikely), I would skip all the substitutes.

  4. My uncles home used to have jack fruit trees. Whenever we visited him it was abundance of jackfruits. The rip fruit try having it dipped in honey. Ita wonderful. Back home in India we get jackfruit chips too. People with diabetes need to stay away as it is supposed to have a high sugar content

    Jayashree writes

    1. I just don't think I can get past the smell of ripe jack fruit! I have a very sensitive nose :)
      You've got me wondering about jack fruit trees. Are they short trees? I'd think it would be dangerous to have those big fruits hanging way up high in a tall tree! It could kill someone if it fell on their head!

  5. Jackfruit is common in coastal parts of my state of Maharashtra, India. It grows in other regions as well. We cook it as a vegetable with coconut and jaggery and that tastes really good. The ripe fruit is eaten by itself (I personally dont like the ripe fruit) or make into something like flat bread.. I dont know how to describe it .. Maybe you need to try some of our Jackfruit recipes now! :-)

    1. I have a feeling your recipes for jackfruit are going to be a LOT better than one trying to make it be something it isn't, like pork! Marian Days are back this August after being canceled the past two years due to Covid. I will try jackfruit as it is intended there!

  6. That's definetly a new item to me... never heard or saw a can of jack fruit.

    1. I had to go to an Asian market to find it. Definitely not on the shelves at Walmart or Aldi!