If you're celebrating Cinco de Mayo this week you likely have tacos on the brain. But actually, when do you not? It's been a while since I created a new taco recipe so when the rest of my testing for this occasion went downhill I just remembered my motto... when in doubt put it in a taco! This recipe is fresh, light, and not too spicy. It's just spicy enough and I'm someone who can't handle too much spice! The adobo cream sauce is uhhhhhmazing too.
Before we get into the recipe I wanted to break down the mystery behind canned jackfruit. Not all cans are created equal but you can find what you need pretty easily. I've started seeing it at just about every grocery store recently and now thanks to me you know what you're looking for!
I've heard from restauranteur friends that getting it in Chinatown or T&T supermarket is the best, most inexpensive location. I live in Toronto and have seen it at No Frills, Fiesta Farms, and some random markets in Parkdale and Roncesvalles - sorry, the names escape me. It will obviously be easier to find if you live in a bigger city I'm sure, but when in doubt definitely check Asian grocers and markets!
what is jackfruit?
Jackfruit is a tree that grows primarily in south and southeast Asia and it grows multiple, enormous, strange looking fruits... that we can eat! I wouldn't really advise scouring your city for an actual whole jackfruit. I see them in chinatown where I live, but ain't nobody got time to hack through and prepare it from scratch. I mean, I haven't actually done it myself. I'm just intimidated and I don't like jackfruit that much that I want a whole lot of it lying around. So canned jackfruit is very convenient!
You'll notice jackfruit in water, brine or syrup. You do NOT want the jackfruit in syrup when you're using it as a vegan meat substitute for savoury applications. It will be too sweet and preserved. You're looking for young jackfruit or young green jackfruit in water or brine.
The ingredients will be something like: jackfruit, water, salt, and an acid (citric acid, lime juice, or vinegar). Here are the brands I've come across and a few notes on the variations.
1. Chaokoh (20 oz can) young green jackfruit / from Thailand - this is my favorite brand to use as it's the most mild and isn't too salty or briney tasting. It does need to be trimmed as I find the bits of the core are still in tact and don't break up nicely. Once it's trimmed it's essentially the same amount as in the 14 oz can. I find you can use this one and the next brand interchangeably, at least in recipes we've created. I drain and rinse this from the can under cool water in a fine mesh sieve and gently pat the chunks of jackfruit dry with paper towel, then trim and break up into shreds by hand before cooking.
2. Native Forest (14 oz can) organic young jackfruit / from Sri Lanka - I was using this brand until I found the above brand. I don't love that it's so pink. It just looks kind of weird. But once you cook it in sauce and prepare it properly it's just as good if it's all you can find. I've noticed it's the most common brand in grocery stores. However, this brand tends to be very briney and wet even when drained. To prepare it I drain it from the brine and rinse it under cool water in a fine mesh sieve. Then I squeeze out as much moisture as I can through the sieve and pat it dry with paper towels. This jackfruit is much softer and tender right out of the can compared to the first brand so it will break up easily as you are straining it of moisture. I spread it out onto fresh paper towel and let the rest of the excess moisture dry up a bit more before I sauté it for a recipe. Now the flavour of the brine has been mostly neutralized and it can take on whatever sauce and spices you're using in the recipe.
3. Cha's Organics (14 oz can) young jackfruit in brine / from Montreal - I just found this on sale at Fiesta Farms in Toronto so I wanted to compare it with the others. Do not buy this one. First off, it seems very tough, woody, and raw right out of the can. I did all the same preparation methods as the others and still found that it didn't shred as nicely or get as tender. Unfortunately I had to waste this as it was that tough and it had quite a lot of the seed casings. The seeds pods are edible and you may notice a few of those in the other brands. They just break up and mesh with the rest of the fruit. But this one had a lot of tough outer skins of the seeds still in tact or something and they were not easy to chew. So I have no idea where they're getting their jackfruit from? NOTE / UPDATE: you might see Cha's comment below on this post. They've mentioned that this jackfruit is as close as you can get to raw, fresh jackfruit in a can. According to the company founder, this product needs some additional prep work (however, it doesn't say this on the can or online!) They said it should be boiled for 20 to 30 minutes before using in recipes, preferably in some veggie soup stock or spiced salt water.
I have one more can left so I promise to give it another try, however, if it's going to take the extra time it still might not be my first choice. I'll cook it as they suggested and then try out the same application for this taco recipe to compare properly!
Anyway, for those who live in the USA and are near a Trader Joe's you'll find a comparable in-house brand that will look much like the Chaokoh brand that I use. So get to know jackfruit! I think you'll love it and it all really comes down to the preparation. You'll find a couple more spectacular jackfruit recipes in the upcoming cookbook (February 2018) too so start practicing with this awesome taco recipe. The texture or feel is reminiscent of fish or chicken in this one, but by now you've probably seen the most common jackfruit recipe - a version of a pulled pork, smothered in BBQ sauce!
If you can find pre-sauced packaged jackfruit, even better! When I've visited friends in the US I've come across a few brands and I really like this one by The Jackfruit Company. Of course, it won't taste the same as the seasonings I've cooked the jackfruit in for this recipe, but for this particular recipe I would use BBQ or Tex-Mex.
Another common packaged jackfruit is by Upton's Naturals but personally I found the jackfruit texture to be too fiborous and woody even after being warmed up thoroughly and their product is supposed to be ready to heat quickly and serve. But their other vegan meat products are quite good.
Ok, onto my recipe... it's SO good!
** makes 6 tacos
roasted poblano peppers:
3 large poblano peppers
1 x 20 oz/280 g can of young green jackfruit in water (Chaokoh brand)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon sage
1 tablespoon vegan worcestershire
abobo cream sauce:
1 x 7.5 oz / 212 g can (about 1/2 cup) chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 cup cashews (soaked for 20 minutes in hot water)
1/2 cup fresh water
1 lime, juiced
6 flour tortillas
2 cups finely shredded red cabbage
1 handful cilantro leaves
1/2 lime, juiced
extra lime, as garnish
To roast the poblanos you can either roast for about 6 to 8 minutes per side on a baking sheet under the broiler in the oven. Ensure you place the baking sheet on the middle rack rather then too close to the element. Or you can char them over an open flame if you have a gas range stovetop. It's also about 6 to 8 minutes and turn them occassionally with a pair of metal tongs to get the peppers evenly charbroiled. Either way do not leave these unattended or forget about them so you don't start a fire! They're done when they've softened a bit and have turned a deep browny green colour and have dark charred spots all over.
Immediately place the peppers in a plastic bag and tie it. This will allow them to sweat and steam helping to remove the skins easily. Leave them in there while you prepare the sauce and jackfruit.
To make the adobo sauce drain and rinse the cashews from the soaking water and place the nuts along with the rest of the sauce ingredients in a high powered blender. Blend on high until very smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Drain and rinse the jackfruit from the can in a fine mesh sieve. Pat dry with paper towels. Trim the woody tough core from the pieces of the jackfruit if necessary and then break it up into a bowl with your hands until it looks shredded.
Remove the poblano peppers from the plastic bag and scrape off the skin with the back of a knife or your hands. It should come off very easily. If it doesn't then they haven't roasted long enough. Split the pepper in half and remove the inside seeds. Slice the peppers lengthwise and set aside.
Heat a pan over medium heat with vegetable oil. Add onions and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes until quite soft and slightly lightly browned. Then add garlic and jackfruit and continue to sauté for 4 minutes, browning the jackfruit lightly and breaking up more as necessary. Reduce heat to prevent garlic from burning.
Add salt, spices, worcestershire, sliced poblanos and cook for about another 3 minutes . Turn off the heat and cover with a lid to stay warm while you prepare the rest of the taco ingredients.
Toss shredded cabbage and cilantro with lime juice in a bowl.
I also warmed up the flour tortillas over an open flame of the gas element as well to get them nicely toasted and brown. You can also do this to corn tortillas if you prefer. I'm always a corn tortilla taco gal, but I felt like this recipe called for a nice fluffy flour one. It really is nice to bite into with the filling, slaw, and sauce and it held up nicely!
Assemble tacos with slaw, the warm poblano and jackfruit filling, and top with as much adobo cream sauce as you like. You'll want to serve the extra sauce at the table for dipping along with extra lime wedges!
HOT TIPS: if ya want to keep this more mild omit the adobo cream sauce and use our cashew sour cream or ranch dressing instead... it's also just as tasty and complimentary! I even added leftover caesar dressing and it was awesome.