Jul 30

BBQ Pulled “Pork”

Vegetarian BBQ Pulled Pork

What looks like the real thing, tastes like the real thing, is texturally the same as the real thing, and is made from fruit?

You guessed it: vegan BBQ pulled pork. Actually, you probably never would have guessed it. I certainly know I wouldn’t have.

Not a joke, not a dream, not a July Fool’s Day joke. This is real life, and my goodness it is tasty.

I first read about Jackfruit, the miracle pulled meat substitute, a couple years ago but was never able to find it in non-sugary , syrupy form until last week. There is a teeny, tiny Asian grocer just a few blocks from us and somehow they have every ingredient I was unable to find over the last few years. Serendipitous? I think so.

Jackfruit is a tree-grown fruit native to Southeast Asia. In it’s unripened form, its flavor is comparable to heart of palm and it has a stringy, pull-apart texture. It is seriously talented in its ability to take on the flavor of nearly anything you toss in its direction, and the texture is surprisingly meat-like. It’s also full of fiber and vitamins. I mean, you ask and jackfruit probably delivers.

Before I get to this recipe, let me take you back to a story I not-so-lovingly call the “Pulled Pork Disaster of ’11.” Dan and I invited my brother and his lovely lady friend, Abby, to our place for dinner one Saturday night a couple years back. I was determined to satisfy both meat lovers and myself for that dinner, and in a moment of pure crazy, I thought making a real pulled pork dish and a vegetarian pulled pork dish was the best idea that had ever come into my mind.

I went to Whole Foods and asked for 7 pounds of pork shoulder. Seriously, 7 pounds? The butcher should have known I had a slip in my sanity and refused to sell me any meat at all when I said I was cooking 7 pounds of pork for 3 people. That is pure crazy. I thought each person I was cooking for was going to eat 2.33 pounds of meat? I phrase that as a question only because it makes me feel better to think that perhaps I did question that ridiculous pork-to-person ratio at the time. This was strike 1.

I also picked up some seitan for myself, which I had high hopes of serving as an acceptable vegetarian replacement to pulled pork.

Where it all went wrong…

As our slow cooker slaved away on the 7 pound hunk of meat, my brother, Brad, began to question whether it was pork at all. With one swift lift of the slow cooker lid, he declared that I had purchased 7 pounds of beef, not 7 pounds of pork. I at least take comfort in knowing that the butcher at Whole Foods was slightly more crazy than I on that cold March day in ’11. This was strike 2.

I tried to put my pork troubles behind me as I worked away on shredding, marinating, and cooking my seitan BBQ un-pork. I figured at least there was one silver lining in this BBQ Pulled Pork Disaster.

As I served Dan, Brad and Abby their pulled beef hot messes of sandwiches, I offered up a taste of my BBQ seitan sandwich. Brad, being the supportive younger brother, offered to try a bite to see how it compared. Upon biting into the sandwich, a dismal look came across his face as if to say “I feel sorry for you.” And then, those exact words came out of his mouth. And those words were delicately followed by the statement, “This sandwich tastes like pencil erasers coated in barbeque sauce.” And there, my friends, you have strike 3.

I’m both relieved and ecstatic to say that this BBQ pulled pork made from jackfruit tastes nothing like pencil erasers. It tastes so delicious that you’ll be double checking just to be extra certain you didn’t accidentally pick up a can of meat.

The jackfruit is coated in spices and simmered in barbeque sauce until it is fall-apart tender. The flavor, texture and look of it will be enough to woo meat lovers and vegetarians alike. AND it comes together way quicker than the real thing.

Brief synopsis: jackfruit + spices + barbeque sauce = a vitamin-rich, healthier, happier replica of BBQ pork. Get cooking.


Unripened Jackfruit

Seasoned Jackfruit

Vegetarian BBQ Pulled Pork

4.8 from 11 reviews
Vegetarian BBQ Pulled "Pork"
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Jackfruit takes the place of pulled pork in this fall-apart tender and flavorful vegetarian sandwich.
Recipe type: Sandwich
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4
  • 1 can green, young jackfruit in water or brine
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon smoke salt (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ cup barbeque sauce
  • ¼ cup water
  • 4 whole-wheat buns
  1. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender (5-7 minutes).
  2. Drain and rinse the jackfruit in a strainer. Cut the core of the jackfruit (the triangular tip) from the flesh and discard the core.
  3. Mix chili powder, cumin, smoke salt, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and brown sugar together in a medium bowl. Add in the jackfruit flesh and toss to coat.
  4. Add seasoned jackfruit to the skillet with the onions and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes.
  5. Whisk the barbeque sauce and water together. Pour into the skillet with the jackfruit. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until tender.
  6. While the jackfruit simmers, toast the buns in a toaster.
  7. Remove the lid from the skillet and shred the jackfruit with a fork. Continue to simmer with the lid off for 5-10 minutes or until the barbeque sauce is reduced.
  8. NOTE: you can either enjoy the "pulled pork" as is OR spread it on a baking pan and bake it in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Readers have reported that this makes the texture more "pork" like.
  9. Fill each of the buns with a mound of jackfruit and top with garnishes of choice (ideas: pickled red onions, cilantro, parsley, etc).




  1. I love this, so funny! I’m definitely going to need to try this recipe!

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  3. Can this recipe be made with fresh Jackfruit? I think I’ve seen this at farmers markets here in Atlanta.

    • I haven’t tried it, but I definitely think it would work! I’ve heard they take a bit of love to clean up and chop, but I’m guessing this recipe would probably be even tastier with fresh Jack Fruit. You might just need to simmer it a bit longer in the pan or you could try popping it in the oven to roast at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes after you simmer in the pan to dry everything out and make the texture more meat-like. Please let me know how it goes if you try it!

      • Like canned, fresh Jackfruit can be ripe or green. Ripe, it is an adventure to get the fruit out partly because there is latex sap and partly because they are so big and intimidating. Fresh green (unripe) jackfruit is even harder to find than ripe outside the tropics and it cuts like a vegetable. In both cases oil your knife and hands so you can get the latex off. The flaky texture comes from what is called the “rag” which connects the core and the fruit/seed. If the fresh Jackfruit in the store is still firm, but is mature enough to ripen soft at home, it may be too mature to use in this recipe. By the way, fresh ripe Jackfruit is nothing like the sad tasteless syrupy things you find in a can. It is very aromatic, and has a wonderful flavor. Think Juicy Fruit gum but alive.

  4. -_- I tried making this, it came out tasting like mango’s boiled in BBQ sauce. No idea where I went wrong.

  5. This is ingenious! I’ll be picking up a can of green jackfruit next time I stop by the asian market. But first, one question: does this freeze well? I wonder if the texture would suffer after freezing.

    • Hi Chris! Thanks for commenting! I am not sure how it freezes up as I devoured the batch by myself in one day! The batch is on the small side, so you will likely not have to worry about freezing. If you do decide to freeze some, please comment or email me to let me know how it goes!

  6. Let me start by say holy cow! This is such an incredible recipe! The hard part is finding the jackfruit, but once pat that hurdle, this is sooo easy to prepare! Taste and appearance was spot on. Texture was a little more chewy than what I remember pork being like, so I will throw it in the oven for a little next time. Thank you so much for this great recipe!

    • Thank you for the awesome compliments on this recipe, Geoff! You know, I think I’m going to add a note into the recipe about baking it at the end because a few people have mentioned that it improves the texture. Thanks for your feedback :)

  7. Fantastic recipe! :D

  8. Alejandro says:

    omgosh! Pencil and erasers?!? :( One of those things you look back at eh? :)
    Thanks for the post, looks (and sounds) YUMMY!!!!!!!!!! and I was SUPER EXCITED when I found some jackfruit in brine (boo….gunna get my rinse and wash on! :p ) at the Asian grocery store.

    Annnd heres the part where you (I hope you don’t :p ) laugh! *runs and hides in shame!* What IS Barbecue sauce in America? Silly question? perhaps, BUT I’ve noticed there’s a BIG difference in some American/Australian products that go by the same or similar names (e.g tomato sauce/ketchup/tomato puree/tomato paste etc)
    This is what we have and think of as “Barbeque Sauce”, http://www.masterfoods.com.au/sauces/squeezy-sauces/squeezy-barbecue-sauce/
    Is this the same?
    Thank you!

    • Ashley says:

      Haha, yes, pencil erasers! Not very appetizing, right? As for your question, no laughs on my end — it’s a great question! Based on the list of ingredients, your Barbeque Sauce appears to be what our Barbecue sauce is in the US, so you should be able to use it in the recipe without any issues. I’m glad you were able to get your hands on some jackfruit; it’s a tricky ingredient to find. I hope you enjoy the recipe, Alejandro!

  9. Sam Kear says:

    I tried this recipe out today and it made the most amazing bbq sandwiches! The taste and texture of the jackfruit was simply amazing, it definitely satisfied my craving for bbq.

    I think finishing it off in the oven as recommended definitely improved the overall texture and flavor.

    Being from Kansas City I like to use Arthur Bryant’s rich and spicy BBQ sauce (http://fave.co/SHnDhB) which worked very well in this recipe.

    • Hi, Sam! Thanks so much for your awesome feedback on the recipe, and I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed it! That BBQ sauce looks amazing. Anything labeled “rich and spicy” sounds delicious in my book!

  10. Made this tonight to serve to my brother and mother at a party tomorrow. I made bbq pork for everyone else, and am so happy to have something for my vegetarian family members to have, too! It is so good!! Instead of discarding the core, I just chopped it up really fine. The rub really made this special. I think it tastes better than my pork that is just slathered with sauce alone… :(

    • Hi Liz! Thank you for commenting with your adjustments and sweet words! What a compliment that you think it tastes better than the pork with bbq sauce! I hope your brother and mother enjoy the recipe, and you’re so thoughtful to make something special for them :)

      • Just wanted to update with how it went. My mom and brother loved it! My mom is not a fan of anything spicy, and she said she could taste the heat but it wasn’t too much for her (I know, I know – there isn’t even that much cayenne in there!) My vegan friend is due with her first baby any day, and I have been looking for some meals to bring her. I’ll be making her this for sure! Even my pork-loving sister took the recipe from me.

        • I’m so happy to hear that they both loved it, Liz! Thanks for sharing the recipe with your family and for reporting back on the outcome — it always makes me smile to receive such positive feedback! :)

  11. Tried this recipe basically to the letter yesterday..I added a few things to the spice rub and made these into tacos with a brussel sprout slaw. Wow! I feel like a whole new world of possibilities has opened up. I really impressed my roommate and can’t wait to use jackfruit in the future.

  12. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe! I added a bit of extra spice with hickory smoke and also put in some maple syrup. Delicious!

  13. Love this recipe! Tried it 2x now and used a sweeter BBQ sauce the second time and it came out just how I remember as a meat eater but I feel so much better about it knowing it’s so delicious, healthier, and cruelty free! I made homemade vegan coleslaw to go on top and it was the best addition! I recommend this to all my friends now especially because canned jackfruit is so cheap. :) Thank you for the recipe!

    • Hi, Carrie! I’m so happy to hear you’re loving this recipe! Thanks for sharing your adjustments and additions; putting vegan coleslaw on top sounds like the best idea ever. It’s making me hungry just thinking about it! I hope your friends are enjoying it too, and thanks for passing the recipe along to them :)

  14. Hi, Ashley! Thanks so much for your pulled “pork” recipe. As an ex-carnivore, bbq is one thing I missed. I have my own veg blog (VegCookingForCarnivoresBlog.com) and recently posted my version of your recipe. I changed the directions a bit and made my own barbecue sauce. Your directions were clear and easy to follow. Great job!

    • Hi Bonnie! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe on your blog and taking the time to comment with your feedback. I’m so happy to hear that you’re enjoying it so much! BBQ is definitely one of the trickier things to make veg-friendly, so it’s always exciting to know there are other options to fill that void :)

  15. I made your High-Protein Breakfast Crepes and filled them with this. Winning combo!

    • What a great idea, Birgit! I’ll have to try that myself. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your feedback and brilliant idea!

  16. Thank you for this recipe! I served it to my family yesterday for a Memorial Day/birthday/anniversary celebration, and my 15-year-old niece said, “This is FRUIT?? It tastes just like pork!” It was hard to find a jackfruit BBQ recipe that looked both good and easy enough to make – this was perfect. :)

    • Hi, Nancy! I love that your niece had that reaction; that’s the best. Glad you and your family enjoyed this dish, and thanks for taking the time to share your feedback.

  17. I tried fresh jackfruit and cooking it after simmering did give it a more meaty texture. It took the BBQ flavors well but how do people get the ‘pulled’ consistency? Mine just ended up in chunks.


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