If you watched or read my kitchen tour last week, you might have spotted an unusual looking tin in one of my cupboards. Jackfruit is an ingredient that is becoming increasingly popular in both home cooking and restaurant menus. A plant-based alternative to pulled meats, jackfruit is a tropical fruit related to figs and mulberries. Some ethnic supermarkets do sell the giant fruit, but it is more commonly sold tinned, which makes it an easier product to work with. Whilst ripe jackfruit is sweet in flavour and often used to make desserts, young, or green jackfruit is gives the meaty texture and takes in savoury flavours. Make sure for this recipe you use green jackfruit!
One problem with the fruit being used to replace animal products is that its nutritional composition does not match the profile of meat. In particular, jackfruit only contains around 2g protein per 100g*, compared to 25-30g in chicken**. To help balance this out a little, I chose to add walnuts. Walnut taco “meat” seems to be a fairly popular plant-based option, and is a relatively soft nut, so doesn’t add too much crunch. This still only adds a few extra grams of protein per serving, but should make this dish a little more well-rounded and satisfying.
The team at Coconut Merchant kindly sent me some jackfruit to try for myself, and I really was surprised at how easy it is to cook. It takes in the flavour of the sauce and spices beautifully, leading to a very satisfying meal.
Soft or hard shell?
Whether you serve these tacos with a soft tortilla or crispy baked shell is up to you! I used small shop-bought tortilla wraps and hung them over a rack in the oven as if they were towels hung to dry on an airer, and baked for a few minutes until they could hold their shape. The longer you bake the tortillas, the crispier they’ll be. If you can get hold of (or make!) corn tortillas, then all the better.
- 1 400g tin green jackfruit
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 70g walnut kernels, roughly chopped
- 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 6 taco shells (see above)
- ¼ small red cabbage (optional)
- 2 carrots (optional)
- 1 small ripe avocado, peeled and sliced (optional)
- Natural or coconut yoghurt, to serve (optional)
- Chipotle- or similar flavoured-mayo (optional)
- Fresh coriander (optional)
- Rinse and drain the tinned jackfruit, breaking the chunks apart with your fingers or a fork.
- Next, make the sauce. Simply blend all the other ingredients together, pour into a small pan, bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes. This step can be done in advance.
- Pour the olive oil into a frying pan over a medium heat. Cook the onion in the pan for five minutes before adding the garlic and spices.
- After a couple of minutes, add the shredded jackfruit and cook for a further five minutes.
- Finally, add the walnuts and half of the sauce, and allow the mix the come to a simmer. The rest of the sauce can be saved for later, or add more if the mix looks too dry.
- Add a spoonful of the taco mix to a taco shell and add as many or few of the additional ingredients as you'd like. Serve immediately, and expect to get messy!
One of my favourite thing about tacos is the range of textures and flavours that you get in just one bite, so I would definitely recommend a good serving of the carrot and cabbage. Use a sharp knife or mandolin to get the finest slices that you can.
About five seconds before the jackfruit taco went everywhere!!
* Swami S.B., et al. (2012). Jackfruit and its many functional components as related to human health: a review. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 11(6), pp.565-576.
**McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods: Seventh Summary Edition. (2015).