Move over, tofu, tempeh, and seitan. There’s a new meatless-meal staple that’s making our mouths water.
Unless you’ve spent time scouring Indian rain forests or haunting the aisles of Asian markets, you may not have heard of jackfruit. This large, tropical superfruit is causing excitement in vegetarian (and in less-meatatarian) circles, mostly because of its consistency and flavor once it’s been cooked. If coaxed with the right flavors, especially barbecue and Asian sauces, jackfruit mimics the taste and consistency of pulled pork or carne asada. And unlike tofu and other meat alternatives, jackfruit doesn’t have unpronounceable additives; it’s all natural.
I first discovered jackfruit at the Southern California food truck Seabirds (you may have seen them on my buddy Tyler Florence’s show The Great Food Truck Race) but it’s their new restaurant, Seabirds Kitchen, in Costa Mesa, that has me hooked. With an entirely vegan menu, it’s a natural stop for vegetarians and health-conscious eaters, but, surprisingly, it’s the carnivores and local foodies who frequent this spot the most. The main draw: their BBQ jackfruit sliders and asada jackfruit tacos.
For founder and head chef Stephanie Morgan, it was important to create new flavors out of whole foods, and jackfruit is just that: a meat alternative that people have no preexisting judgments about, and one that they wind up loving.
Food truck no more, Seabird Kitchen is now permanently parked at The Lab in Costa Mesa, CA.
You can find jackfruit in just about any Asian market, but the key is to buy canned, green unripe jackfruit in water, not in brine, and without preservatives. (Ripe jackfruit has a different taste altogether, much like chewing gum, and is far too sweet for cooking, Stephanie warns.) To prepare, cook it a bit, then douse in your favorite sauce before cooking a little longer. Since jackfruit takes on the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with, you can use just about any sauce, but those with a hint of sugar are best for a crispy, golden brown finish.
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Here Stephanie shares the recipe for the barbecue jackfruit she uses in her beloved BBQ Jack Sliders, but you can easily adjust the recipe to make tacos, burrito bowls, even Asian lettuce wraps and “crab” cakes by switching up the sauces and toppings. Suddenly, “meatless Mondays” take on a whole new, delicious meaning. (For more about Seabirds Kitchen, visit seabirdskitchen.com.)
GiadaWeekly is the digital food and lifestyle magazine from cookbook author and Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis. To get a new issue each Thursday, download the app or subscribe at www.giadaweekly.com. And follow GiadaWeekly on Instagram and Facebook.
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