These jackfruit carnitas are a delicious vegan and vegetarian dinner idea that’s easy to make with simple plant based ingredients! Packed with a spicy flavor and citrusy zip, it’ll show you why canned jackfruit is the perfect pulled meat substitute for a variety of recipes. These meatless carnitas are particularly wonderful in taquitos, tacos, vegan nachos, salads, and burrito bowls!
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The magic of plants continues to amaze me – every flavor, every meaty texture, every dish from our omnivore days can be completely recreated using only plants.
This recipe is definitely shout-it-from-the-mountain-top-worthy. It uses the amazing powers of canned jackfruit to recreate an old favorite in a very exciting way.
These vegan jackfruit carnitas pack a major punch of flavor – the perfect balance of spicy and sweet – and the texture is tender with these slightly crispy outsides that make it just melt-in-your-mouth spectacular. It’s a great twist for Taco Tuesday or any day!
Why We Love Pulled Jackfruit Tacos
- It’s so delicious! We’ve made it over and over again, and this recent update makes it the best version by far.
- Easy to make and a fun new meat alternative to try. It’s also easily made gluten-free and oil-free.
- It’s wonderfully flavorful! There’s a maddening amount of flavor packed in this jackfruit.
Vegan Jackfruit Tacos Ingredients
For this crispy jackfruit carnitas recipe, you’ll need:
- Jackfruit – Use a can of ripe jackfruit in brine and NOT syrup. You can find young jackfruit online or at some grocery stores (like Whole Foods) from popular brands like Native Forest. But our favorite option is to check out your local Asian grocery stores!
- Lime – Juiced
- Orange juice
- Soy sauce – This adds a depth of flavor along with some liquid sodium that will be soaked up by the jackfruit quite nicely!
- Taco seasoning – Most varieties are vegan, but check the ingredients just to make sure. Some “Cheesy” versions have milk powder. You can also make your own homemade taco seasoning!
- Agave nectar – For a touch of sweet
- Hot sauce – For a hint of spicy!
- Refined coconut oil – Make sure you use something labeled “refined” and not unrefined or virgin to avoid a coconut flavor.
- Red onion
- Fresh garlic
For the Avocado Lime Sauce, you’ll need:
- Avocado – Make sure it’s nice and ripe!
- Lime – juiced
- Nutritional yeast – This adds a fun nutty flavor to the crema! Note that nutritional yeast (sometimes called “nooch” in vegan circles) is a savory deactivated yeast used to add flavor to dishes. It is not interchangeable with another yeast (like Brewer’s yeast)
- Salt and black pepper – to round it all out
Why is jackfruit used as a meat substitute?
Like tofu, young green jackfruit has a neutral, almost bland flavor that really soaks in flavor and adapts wonderfully to a variety of meat-like dishes. It also has a stringy texture to it that can be “pulled” to resemble a pulled meat texture like pulled pork or chicken.
But it’s not just great for a vegan version of Mexican food and BBQ sandwiches, it’s also a great source of necessary nutrients and vitamins like potassium and vitamin C.
Substitution Options for This Jackfruit Tacos Recipe
For the jackfruit: We do not recommend substituting this ingredient, since it’s kind of the star of the show. However, you can use this method with other vegan meats like seitan, soy curls, or TVP chunks. I would not substitute tofu. Mushrooms may work. But again, this would change the whole recipe. Also, according to the Cleveland Clinic website, if you have an allergic reaction to birch pollen or latex, you should not consume jackfruit as it can have a crossreaction with those allergies.
For the orange juice: Orange juice adds a sweetness to the dish. But you could try other juices like pineapple juice or perhaps even mango or apricot nectar diluted with a little water so it’s not so syrupy.
For the hot sauce: Use any kind of hot sauce you like or sriracha. You can also replace it with some tomato paste if you don’t like heat.
For the agave: You can use maple syrup, but the final result may have a slightly sweeter texture.
For the coconut oil: Sub canola oil, vegetable oil, avocado oil, vegan butter, or sunflower oil for the refined coconut oil as needed. Extra Virgin Olive Oil could also work and add a rich depth of flavor.
For the red onion: You can use a yellow or white onion if needed, but the flavor will be a bit different.
For the crema: If you don’t want to make crema, you can use guac, pico de gallo, or vegan sour cream.
Make it oil-free:
Saute the onion and garlic in water or veg broth in a non-stick skillet. You’ll get a slightly different texture and it may not crisp up as much, but it will still be super delicious and flavorful!
Make it gluten-free:
How to Make Vegetarian Carnitas
You can make these jackfruit carnitas in just five simple steps. Six if you make the avocado lime crema.
Step 1: How to Marinate Jackfruit
Drain the jackfruit and place it in a zip-lock bag or shallow dish. Then, add the lime juice, orange juice, soy sauce, agave, hot sauce, and taco seasoning. Make sure the marinade is coating the drained jackfruit well and marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight in the fridge.
Step 2: Saute the veggies
Heat the refined coconut oil in a large skillet or high-walled pan on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the minced onions and garlic. Add a pinch of salt and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
Step 3: Simmer the jackfruit.
Add the jackfruit mixture along with the marinade to the pan. Cover and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, turn the heat to medium low and continue to cook (covered) for another 10 minutes.
Step 4: Shred the jackfruit.
Now, it’s time to shred the jackfruit using a potato masher and/or two forks. I like to use a combination of both!
Shred the jackfruit into small pieces until it takes on the texture of a pulled pork.
Step 5: Finish the carnitas.
Add the shredded jackfruit back to the pot with the marinade and stir to make sure everything is well-coated. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook for another 10 minutes, covered.
Then, remove the cover, turn the heat to high, and cook for another 5-10, stopping to stir the jackfruit around every 2-3 minutes (and not more often). The timing on that last step may depend on what kind of cooking surface you’re using. It’s ready when it has a nice char in places!
Step 6: Make the avocado lime crema
While you’re cooking the jackfruit, make the avocado lime sauce by adding all the ingredients to a small food processor and blending until smooth and creamy.
Taste and adjust salt and pepper as desired. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use!
How to Serve Jackfruit Lime Carnitas
Serve these vegan carnitas any way you’d serve traditional carnitas!
Some of our favorite serving ideas:
- Served in soft corn tortillas or flour tortillas for jackfruit carnitas tacos with all your favorite taco toppings like vegan sour cream, guac, and pineapple salsa.
- Wrap up a few jackfruit carnitas burritos with rice, refried beans or black beans (or both), and your favorite sauces. These are great for freezer meals!
- Make a plant-based burrito bowl over rice and beans or mixed greens.
- Turn them into crispy jackfruit taquitos!
- Make the best jackfruit lime vegan nachos.
- Use them in a plant-based taco dip for your next party!
How to Store Leftover Jackfruit
Great news! These vegetarian carnitas make fabulous leftovers. The flavor even intensifies a bit as they sit!
In the fridge: Store in an airtight container for up to 3-5 days in the fridge.
In the Freezer: 1/2 cup Souper Cubes are great for freezing in individual servings. That way, you can pop out as many servings as you need at a time and avoid having to defrost one giant block. It’s the best! Freeze for up to 8 weeks. Let it cool completely before freezing.
To reheat: To thaw, let it sit in the fridge until defrosted or you could use a microwave on defrost setting. I suggest reheating the carnitas in a pan, uncovered, medium low heat until warmed through.
More Vegan Canned Jackfruit Recipes
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We hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do. Cheers!
For the carnitas:
- 2 (20-oz) cans jackfruit, in brine
- 2 limes, juiced
- 1 cup orange juice
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 3 Tbsp taco seasoning
- 2 Tbsp agave
- 1 Tbsp hot sauce
- 3 Tbsp refined coconut oil
- 1 medium red onion, minced
- 8-10 large cloves garlic, minced
For the Avocado Lime Sauce:
How to Marinate Jackfruit
- Drain the jackfruit and add it to a zip-lock bag or shallow dish.
- Then, add the lime juice, orange juice, soy sauce, agave, hot sauce, and taco seasoning.
- Make sure the marinade is coating the jackfruit well and marinate for about 2 hours or overnight in the fridge.
Saute the vegetables.
- Heat the refined coconut oil in a large high-walled non-stick skillet on medium heat.
- When hot, add the minced onions and garlic.
- Add a pinch of salt and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
Simmer the jackfruit.
- Add the jackfruit along with the marinade. Cover and bring to a simmer.
- Once simmering, turn the heat to medium low and continue to cook (covered) for another 10 minutes.
How to Shred Jackfruit
- Remove the pot from heat and use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the jackfruit pieces from the pot to a large mixing bowl (leave the marinade in the pot for now).
- Now, it’s time to shred the jackfruit using a potato masher and/or two forks. I like to use a combination of both!
- Shred the jackfruit until it takes on the texture of a pulled pork.
Finish the jackfruit carnitas.
- Add the shredded jackfruit back to the non-stick skillet with the marinade and sitr to make sure everything is well-coated.
- Turn the heat to medium-low and cook for another 10 minutes, covered.
- Then, remove the cover, turn the heat to high, and cook for another 5-10, stopping to stir the jackfruit around every 2-3 minutes (and not more often). The timing on this last step may depend on what kind of cooking surface you’re using. It’s ready when it has a nice char in places!
How to Make Avocado Lime Crema
- While you're cooking the jackfruit, make the avocado lime sauce by adding all the ingredients to a small food processor and blending until smooth and creamy.
- Taste and adjust salt and pepper as desired.
- Cover and refrigerate until ready to use!
To Serve / Store Vegan Carnitas
Serve these jackfruit carnitas in tacos, burritos, nachos, salads, and bowls topped with the avocado crema! Store leftover jackfruit carnitas in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a week or the freezer for up to 8 weeks. See notes for more storage tips.
Souper Cubes Tip
We love to freeze leftover jackfruit in our 1/2 cup Souper Cubes to make individual servings. That way, you can pop out as many servings as you need at a time and avoid having to defrost one giant block.
Serving Size:1/6 the recipe
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 230Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 803mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 5gSugar: 15gProtein: 5g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated and may not always be accurate.