These easy vegan jackfruit carnitas are slow cooked over 8 hours, then lightly broiled to make them crispy! Stuff them in your favorite corn tortilla and top with my favorite mango corn salsa or fajita veggies and Guacamole. They are my favorite vegan meat substitute to serve to non vegans and great for busy weeknights as they only take 15 minutes to prep.
What Exactly is Jackfruit?
Jackfruit is a large fruit that is in the same family as figs, mulberry and breadfruit. It typically grows on tree in tropical and subtropical areas of the world and is very unique looking!
When jackfruit is fully ripened, it can taste sweet. This variety is great for desserts and is typically found in cans or tins at the grocery store and stored in sweet syrup. Underripe jackfruit, however is much more bland and mild in flavor and has the texture of pulled pork or pulled chicken which is why it makes for an amazing vegan meat substitute in recipes like vegan carnitas or BBQ jackfruit. Underripe jackfruit is found in cans at the grocery store stored in brine.
Jackfruit is a very large (up to 40 pounds) fruit that has a very thick, green bumpy outer shell and filled with stringy yellow, jackfruit pods.
The best way to cook jackfruit is in either a pressure cooker or a slow cooker. These methods ensure the brine flavor is cooked out of the jackfruit, and sufficiently softens the jackfruit into the best, melt in your mouth texture.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Slow cooking jackfruit makes the best carnitas texture that you simply will never get cooking it on the stovetop.
- Almost completely hands free recipe! The slow cooker does all the work – all you need is 15 minutes to dump the carnitas ingredients in.
- Freezer friendly and easily doubled, tripled or quadrupled. Great for parties, large family get togethers or meal prep.
- Customize-able! In this recipe, I’ll teach you how to make these carnitas into tacos, but you can put this vegan taco meat in anything. Burritos, quesadillas, burrito bowls, mac and cheese, etc.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Canned jackfruit – Make sure to buy jackfruit in brine, not syrup! Any brand of canned jackfruit will work. I typically use the Trader Joe’s brand or Native Forest.
- Orange juice – I highly recommend using freshly squeezed orange juice as opposed to store bought. It makes a world of a difference in flavor.
- Reduced-Sodium Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base – This vegetable base paste is typically mixed with water to make vegetable broth. I add a dollop of this to the slow cooker for a convenient source of savoriness and a boost of flavor without watering down our meat.
- Liquid smoke – Adds a great subtle smokiness to the jackfruit meat. I recommend the Lazy Kettle Brand.
- Apple cider vinegar – Adding an acid to the meat helps balance the sweet and savory flavors. Substituting with lemon juice or white vinegar is not recommended.
Step by Step Instructions
- Thoroughly rinse the jackfruit. One of the biggest complaints I see time and time again about jackfruit is that it tastes too much like the brine from the can. Slow cooking the jackfruit will alleviate this issue, but be sure to reduce that brine flavor even more by thoroughly rinsing it off of the jackfruit in fresh, cold water.
- Shred the jackfruit into a carnitas like texture. My favorite method for doing this is in the stand mixer with the paddle attachment. It shreds the jackfruit evenly in less than a minute and is extremely convenient. However, if you don’t have a stand mixer, you can shred the jackfruit by chopping it into a similar texture and pulling it apart with your hands! You’ll end up with the same great tasting tacos, it’s just a bit more laborious.
- Dump all of the carnitas ingredients into the slow cooker and mix to combine. Set the slow cooker to 8 hours on low. It’s really that easy!
- After 8 hours, you can eat the carnitas directly out of the crockpot, or for a crispier taco meat, transfer the jackfruit carnitas to a small baking sheet and place under the broiler for 10-15 minutes, watching carefully to prevent burning.
- Add the carnitas to warm corn tortillas and top with my super easy homemade mango corn salsa. Enjoy the tacos immediately while hot!
Yes and no. You can make these carnitas in the Instant Pot on the high, slow cooker setting for a minimum of 4 hours. Pressure cooking them, however, does not work as there is not enough liquid and it triggers the burn warning. The pot will never come to pressure because it just burns to the bottom.
Yes, the drained weight of both cans is ironically almost the exact same. Use them interchangeably in this recipe (or any jackfruit recipe!)
I have only tested this recipe with canned varieties of jackfruit so I unfortunately cannot advise.
This carnitas taco meat will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. To reheat, simply warm over the stovetop or microwave.
Allow the carnitas to cool completely, then transfer the jackfruit to any freezer safe bag, jar, or Souper Cube (my favorite! ) for up to 6 months.
To thaw, simply transfer to the fridge and allow to thaw completely (about 24-48 hours). Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.
- Double this carnitas taco meat recipe and put half of it in the freezer. Make two dinners at once to save time in the future when you don’t have time to cook dinner!
- Try these vegan carnitas in tacos, but also try it on a taco salad, in a burrito or in a quesadilla with your favorite vegan cheese! It’s so versatile!
- Be sure to use reduced sodium Better than Bouillon vegetable base. Full sodium will be too salty!
Other Easy Recipes Using Jackfruit
If you love this recipe, grab my 10 Vegan Jackfruit Dinners ebook! It contains this carnitas recipe, as well as 9 other vegan jackfruit recipes! It’s gluten-free friendly, oil-free, and has tons of freezer/make ahead options!
More Easy Vegan Dinners To Try
- Vegan Hamburger Helper (One Pot Pasta!)
- Vegan Lentil Meatloaf with Oats
- Vegan Taco Salad Bowl with Tempeh
- Vegan Potato Corn Chowder
- Vegan Tempeh Walnut Taco Meat
Vegan Jackfruit Carnitas (Crockpot)
- 2 (14 ounce) cans jackfruit in brine -
- 4 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 cup orange juice - freshly squeezed
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Reduced Sodium Better than Bouillon Organic Vegetable Base
- 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
Slow Cooker Instructions
- Drain and rinse the jackfruit thoroughly.
- In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or by hand, shred the jackfruit. See pictures in post for reference on how you want the texture to look. In the stand mixer, this will only take 1-2 minutes.
- Add the shredded jackfruit to an Instant Pot or a Crockpot. Add all of the marinade ingredients in the ingredient list and stir to combine (see post photos for reference). Slow cook on low for 8 hours.
- After 8 hours, you can serve immediately from the slow cooker. Or, if you prefer crispier meat, transfer the meat to a small sheet pan and broil the jackfruit under the oven broiler for 10-15 minutes. Watch carefully to prevent burning.
- Serve the jackfruit carnitas in warm corn tortillas with mango salsa, guacamole, lime juice, and cilantro. Enjoy!
- Store this jackfruit in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- To freeze: Allow the carnitas to cool completely then transfer to a freezer safe bag, jar, or freeze in Souper Cubes.
Instant Pot Instructions
- Add all ingredients to bottom of Instant Pot with ½ cup of water (this will prevent burning). Cook on manual high pressure for 15 minutes. Release remaining pressure, then turn on the "saute" function for 5-10 minutes to thicken up the sauce. Transfer to a sheet pan to broil or serve immediately right from the Instant Pot.
- Be sure to buy the type of jackfruit that is in brine, not syrup. This is the one I used.
- You can cook this on the slow cooker setting in either an Instant Pot or Crockpot. You cannot however cook these carnitas in the Instant Pot on manual high pressure. There is not enough liquid and it will burn.
- Make sure to use freshly squeezed orange juice – makes a huge difference! I juice citrus at home with this very affordable juicer.
- This recipe is easily doubled or tripled. Adjust to your servings needs!
General note about salt
Please pay attention to the type of salt called for in the recipe (if applicable). Not all salts are made equal and cannot be substituted 1 for 1. If you are substituting table salt for kosher salt, you will need to cut the amount called for in the recipe by at least half.
Disclaimer: The Nutritional Information provided for this recipe is only an estimate. The accuracy of the facts listed is not and cannot be guaranteed.
This recipe was originally published May 3, 2020 and has been updated on January 5, 2022 to include an improved recipe, new step by step photos, ingredient notes, tips for success and answers to the most asked jackfruit questions.