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The Succulent BBQ Recipe That Skips the Meat

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When I turned vegetarian a few years ago, there was one meat (or meat category?) that I really, really missed: barbecue. Memphis-style ribs, Texas-style brisket, and Alabama-style chicken; if it was smoked and smothered in sauce, I was all for it. My favorite barbecue dish was, hands down, pulled pork sandwiches: specifically ones piled high with juicy, smoky meat and topped with a zippy slaw and an embarrassment of pickles. To me, they were the epitome of meatiness—and, sadly, I had sworn off them.

Recently, however, I read about the magic, meat-mimicking properties of jackfruit, and soon began seeing it popping up in a myriad of dishes on trendy menus everywhere. Jackfruit tikka masala! Jackfruit biryani! And, most appealing to me, barbecue pulled jackfruit.

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Jackfruit Biryani

Jackfruit Biryani by Sneha Gupta

Is barbecue jackfruit exactly the same as pulled pork? No, of course not. But, in my humble opinion, it is the closest that non-meat-eaters can get to pulled pork. When cooked down with barbecue sauce, young, green jackfruit has a similar texture and flavor to the tender, juice-dripping sandwiches I still crave; it's sweet and spicy and vinegar-y and kissed with chili. Barbecue pulled jackfruit is a feast that requires neither a 6-hour cooking time nor an outdoor smoker, one that's a lot more low-maintenance than pulled pork—and it's vegan to boot.

Saucy, barbecue goodness.
Saucy, barbecue goodness. Photo by Julia Gartland

Here's how to make it:

First, mix up a quick DIY barbecue seasoning featuring paprika, chile pepper, cayenne, and cumin. Drain some canned jackfruit (get the stuff in water, not brine!) and then add it to the bowl with the seasonings.

Next, heat a drizzle of oil in a large saucepan and cook a sliced onion just shy of caramelized. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, then toss in your seasoned jackfruit. Heat it until it gets a little color and you can just start to break it up with the back of a spoon (don't worry, it won't break down totally yet). Add a cup of barbecue sauce (use your favorite brand, or head to the recipe link for one of our favorites) and stir to combine. Cook the mixture for a few minutes so that the jackfruit softens completely, then use two forks to break it up, pulling it apart into threads.

All that's left to do is to decide how you want to serve it! Here are a few of our favorite ways to eat barbecue pulled jackfruit:

  • Layer it on a bun (or thick piece of Texas toast), then top it with more barbecue sauce, avocado, coleslaw, and pickles.

  • Serve it over rice, nestled between black beans and salsa and crunchy, thinly-sliced cabbage.

  • Use it as a filling for a burrito, alongside rice and corn salsa and some roasted vegetables.

  • Spoon some on top of cornbread, paired with collard greens.

  • Sandwich it between two slices of bread, top with cheddar (or vegan cheese), and toss it in a pan for a crunchy, oozy griddled sandwich.

  • If you're feeling especially over-the-top, toss some on a big batch of nachos.

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Barbecue Pulled Jackfruit

Barbecue Pulled Jackfruit

Catherine Lamb Catherine Lamb
Serves 6 to 8


  • 2 cans of young green jackfruit in water
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 small white onion
  • 1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce, or use the recipe below

Barbecue Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil
  • 1/4 cup white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste, or about half of a can
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon puréed chipotle peppers, optional
  • 1/4 cup water
Go to Recipe

What's the favorite thing to do with jackfruit? Give us some inspiration in the comments!

Tags: Vegetable, Grill/Barbecue, Vegetarian, Vegan