Category: Recipes

Close up of a jackfruit. Vying for Veganism

The Butchering of a Jackfruit

Finally!  After months of false leads I got my hands on a fresh jackfruit.  And not just any jackfruit, this one was a behemoth.  Weighing in at 20 lbs, it’s a wonder how this huge fruit dangled precariously from its tiny stem without succumbing to the effects of gravity.  Then again, when is nature not amazing?

A friend and fellow fruit fanatic, Charles King, helps to pluck this massive jackfruit from its tree in Naples, FL. Vying for Veganism.

A friend and fellow fruit fanatic, Charles King, helps to pluck this massive jackfruit from its tree in Naples, FL. Vying for Veganism.

The jackfruit, a native fruit to Thailand and some other Southeast Asian countries, is the largest known treeborne fruit with some weighing in at 100lbs!  It has been hailed as a “miracle crop” and an option to possibly end world hunger.  It’s no wonder this fruit is garnering some attention lately.

Another fantastic benefit of this fruit is its versatility.  Some say young, green jackfruit almost has a similar taste or mouthfeel to pork when cooked down, while others use the sweet, ripe version for desserts or nutritious smoothies.  Little tidbit – the jackfruit is the flavor of Juicy Fruit gum.

Giant jackfruit high in the canopy... the last one. Grown in Naples, FL by Charles King. Vying for Veganism

Giant jackfruit high in the canopy… the last one. Grown in Naples, FL by Charles King. Vying for Veganism

I was pretty lucky to have scored one of these babies, let alone such a massive specimen.  I caught the tail end of the season even though the season is a bit loose according to the tree owner I received mine from.  We plucked it from the tree at the beginning of August here in Naples, FL.  Mine was already sweet so I was unable to use it in a savory dish as I had planned, but it was really easy to butcher because the fruit was so soft.

Don the apron, let’s crack this thing open!

The first and most important step is to prep your work area.  Jackfruit is STICKY – like, no joke.  You will want to have all of your tools ready and surface protected.  I used some packing paper that I hoard away for such endeavors.  I took the advice of others and wrapped my knife handle with cling wrap and wore latex gloves.  I kept some oil on hand also to grease up the blade before diving in.

Setting up for the task. Jackfruit, wrapped knives, oil, gloves and surface paper. Vying for Veganism

Setting up for the task. Jackfruit, wrapped knives, oil, gloves and surface paper. Vying for Veganism

I found the serrated knife worked best for slicing through that spiny rind.  To start, make a cut straight through horizontally, the jackfruit’s axial plane, to make even halves.  As soon as you open it you will notices some of the white juices oozing from the flesh, that’s more of the super sticky sap.  If you have a rag handy give each half a wipe to keep from spreading that everywhere.  Then divide into quarters by slicing through the median of each half.  Finally, cut the with core out from each quarter making sure to leave the fleshy pods in tact.

Steps to opening a jackfruit. Vying for Veganism.

Steps to opening a jackfruit. Vying for Veganism.

Now you’re ready for the fun stuff!  The endgame here is to extract all of the fruit pods.  Start by running your knife carefully under the pod releasing it from the rind. Once it is free you will want to make sure all of the stringy bits are pulled away so you’re left with a smooth pod.  Last step is to get the seed out of the pod along with the pink skin which may still be attached to the pod.

Separating the pods from a jackfruit rind. Vying for Veganism.

Separating the pods from a jackfruit rind. Vying for Veganism.

Repeat the steps to removing the fruit pods until you’re all done or for as long as you can stand it!  This one in particular took me about an hour, not including set up and prep.

What you can do now with the fruit you reaped is limitless!  I froze mine by laying them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment then later transferring to tupperware.  However, you can certainly use it right away, jar it or share with your neighbors…I’ll bet they’ve never tried one before 🙂

Please send any comments you have on this post or any great jackfruit recipes you may have.

‘Till next time….

Vegan BBQ Jack Tacos

If you miss that smoky, sumptuous satisfaction of barbecued meat you won’t want to miss out on trying your hand at BBQ jackfruit.  Today I prepared the jackfruit to be the star in my BBQ Jack tacos with pineapple salsa singing backup.

The aroma spilling from your kitchen will make everybody want to see what’s cooking with this recipe. I love the Tex-Mex style of these tacos.  Pairing a bright pineapple salsa and a crisp, tart red cabbage slaw with the smoky and savory jackfruit meat, it’s just freakin’ crazy good.

Many people now are discovering this intense looking fruit for it’s ability to mimic pulled pork or chicken.  My sister drove my desire to create these tacos when she made me an amazing version of vegan pulled pork sandwiches.  They were intensely satisfying, so I wanted to take that flavor profile and run with it.  A decent amount of time is needed to inject the right amount of BBQ flavor, so make sure you have at least 2 hours to work with.

My biggest difficulty with this recipe was the hunt for jackfruit.  I know for a fact these fruits grow here in SWFL, yet tracking one down proved to be out of my scope.  Thankfully it was brought to my attention that jackfruit is sold canned too!  I then found them at the new location of the Asia Market on Pine Ridge Rd. right here in Naples.  They sell canned jackfruit a few different ways and they all taste drastically different.  In fact, the jackfruit is the official source of Juicy Fruit gum!  You might imagine that flavor profile would not work in a dish such as these tacos, so when hunting down the canned version for savory meals you will want young, green jackfruit in water or brine.  When it’s young the sugars haven’t fully developed yet.  I finally did manage to track one of these elusive behemoths in the flesh, but just a bit too late.  So instead when I get my hands on it I will have a whole jackfruit post about them.

To start the “meat”, you will need to drain and rinse the jackfruit segments. You’ll see little round pits like Swiss cheese almost and you might even see a few of the pinkish seeds still tucked into the fruit.  Since it’s been marinating in the can’s liquid for so long they will be a bit mushier than the fresh fruit version.  It won’t be terrible if a few are left in there, but for texture’s sake I like to remove as many of them as possible.  If you were handling a fresh jackfruit for this recipe do your best to remove them all.

The appearance of the jackfruit meat is important to me especially when I’m trying to impress carnivores, so before I start to cook them I slice them through the core (lengthwise) for that stringy look.  Don’t go overboard because the more you cut and stir, the mushier your jackfruit will become.  With the fresh fruit you will want all of the stringy meat around the fruit pods as your “pulled pork” texture.

I made my own collection of BBQ spices, but if you have a favorite vegan BBQ seasoning you can use 1/4 c of that in lieu of my spices.  After the fruit is cooked down with the spices and broth you can go in and start to pull it apart.  I use two forks to gingerly pull each each away from the other.  After you will want to bake the fruit at a high temp to crisp up some of the edges and drive home the texture of BBQ meat.  I originally used aluminum foil on my baking sheets, but fount that a quick spray of non-stick oil right onto the baking sheet works much better. Foil – great for easy clean up, not good for getting nice charred bits. You will also want to wait until the very end before adding the extra BBQ sauce to make sure the fruit dries out a smidge while baking and so the BBQ doesn’t burn.

I made the BBQ sauce because it’s nice to know for sure that all of the ingredients are vegan. BBQ flavors can get a little sneaky at times especially when they’re throwing around the “natural flavors” curveball.  If you have a favorite BBQ sauce that you know is vegan feel free to swap that for the one I made in the recipe to save some time.

I have paired some accruements that go well with these Tex-Mex style tacos – pickled red cabbage slaw and pineapple salsa.

Vegan BBQ Jack Tacos. Vying For Veganism

Vegan BBQ Jack Tacos. Vying For Veganism


You’ll want to shred the red cabbage pretty thin for the slaw, I used a knife but if you have an accommodating mandolin it might get the job done a bit quicker.  In the recipe I used granny smith apple balsamic vinegar, but you can certainly just use apple cider vinegar.  You will want the cabbage slaw to soak up the sweet pickling juice so make this at the very beginning, set in the fridge and give it a little toss every once and a while.

While you are waiting for the jackfruit to cook down you can start chopping up all of your salsa ingredients.  I like my things super spicy so I added a whole jalapeño in mine.  If you don’t like heat you can sub for a green bell pepper.  If you cannot locate a fresh, ripe pineapple you can certainly turn to canned or frozen versions for this recipe.  After I’ve diced my veggies I like to add them to a colander over a catch bowl to drain some of the juices – I don’t like watery salsa unless it’s restaurante style with some freshly made tortilla chips.

The corn tortillas called for in this recipes just felt right, sort of a nod to cornbread and BBQ. I really love a touch of char on my tortillas, but the frail nature of corn tortillas can make achieving that difficult.  More often than not I just double up the tortillas so it’s more sturdy.  I have read numerous sources that instruct to quickly dip the tortilla in water and place on a nonstick or cast iron pan at about med-hi heat.  My success rate was about 60%, so if you don’t want to bother just go for the flour tortillas, they’re much more forgiving.


Let’s make it!


Vegan BBQ Jack Tacos



BBQ Jack

  • 2 cans young green jackfruit in brine or water (not syrup)
  • 1/2 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 3/4 c vegetable broth
  • 1/4 c agave syrup
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke

Red cabbage slaw

  • 1/2 of 1 red cabbage, thinly sliced (about 2 c)
  • 1/2 c grated carrots (optional)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp apple balsamic vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Pineapple salsa

  • 2 c pineapple, diced
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

BBQ Sauce

  • 1 c ketchup
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c molasses
  • 4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder

For serving:

  • toasted corn tortillas
  • lime wedges



  1. Drain and rinse the jackfruit, removing as many seed as possible.  Slice longwise through the segments (through the core).  Add jackfruit, onion, garlic and spices to an oiled pot and cook at med heat for about 5 minutes.  Add vegetable broth, agave, vinegar, tamari and liquid smoke to pot, bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook liquid down for about 50-60 minutes, stirring about every 20 min.
  2. Add cabbage, carrots together in a mixing bowl.  In a microwave safe dish add oil, vinegar, coconut sugar and salt.  Microwave for about 1.5 minutes stirring every 30 seconds until sugar melts into brine.  Coat cabbage mixture with brine. Toss. Refrigerate until needed tossing at least 2 more times while it rests.
  3. Mix together pineapple, tomatoes, onion and jalapeño in a colander. Place a bowl under and let drain for about 30 min.  Add lime juice and salt.
  4. Preheat over to 400° F. Add all BBQ sauce ingredients into sauce pan and cook down on med-lo heat for about 20 min.  Once all of the jackfruit moisture is cooked down, gently pull segments apart and mash slightly.  Spread pulled jackfruit out on baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray. Place in the preheated oven for 20-30 min.  Try to achieve some char and crisp up the edges a bit. Remove from oven and gently mix in BBQ sauce.
  5. Serve with warm tortillas, lime wedges and extra BBQ sauce.






Vegan banh mi. Photo by

Vegan Banh Mi

With more people taking stock of their health and coming to terms with environmental challenges, the number of vegans is increasing.  And that includes the culinary-forward Naples.  The problem, however, is not many restaurants in Southwest Florida are embracing or celebrating the culture…yet.  Whether you’re a full fledged vegan or dipping your toes into the Meatless Monday movement or just looking to inject some more nutrient rich substitutions into your diet, I have a few fuss-free recipes that take our long-loved comfort foods and recreate them with low-fat and cruelty free alternatives.  Let’s get into it!


Today I will be showing you how I transcend the worldly flavors of the banh mi sandwich into a vegan version sure to hit the mark on all of the traditional flavors … and offer a few gluten free alternatives as well.

Cilantro. Vying For Veganism.

Cilantro. Vying For Veganism.

So the classic Vietnamese banh mi basically just means sandwich, but usually contains some form of pork or other meat.  We’ll be making some nice grilled tofu as our main protein and layer in all those great Asian flavors we love so much.  Even if you’ve never tasted a banh mi, this is a great sandwich to kick your palate into gear.  We will need some nice crunchy baguettes or rolls.  If you are vegan don’t forget to check your rolls for eggs, milk or whey which is a milk derivative.  Arnold brand is typically vegan. It can be tricky decoding a product ingredient list, so if you want to be 100 percent sure look for a Jewish or Kosher deli for your breads, and of course if you are gluten sensitive you’ll want to find an alternative gluten-free roll for this recipe.


First things first, tofu needs help.  I don’t think there is anyone out there who enjoys tofu right out of the package.  You will need some time for the tofu to marinade, you can even start the marinating the day before.  Tofu does best when given ample time to soak up the flavor, but you will want to marinade for at least 30 minutes.  Firm tofu will stand up to the heat best, I use extra-firm.  Slice your tofu and dry well by lining a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels. Place tofu slices on top in a single layer. Cover with another layer of paper towels and press gently to remove excess moisture.

Grilling marinated tofu steaks. Vying For Veganism.

Grilling marinated tofu steaks. Vying For Veganism.

The marinade includes garlic, cilantro, soy sauce, ginger and sesame oil. Throw all of these into your processor or blender until a paste is formed.  Thoroughly coat each piece of tofu with the marinade and let sit for at least 30 minutes.  Make sure to keep the remaining marinade to brush on after grilling the tofu.


While your tofu is marinating you’ll want to prep your carrot-daikon pickled slaw.  Daikon is a Japanese white radish you can find at almost any Asian market… by the way, many times Asian markets have amazing fresh produce for a great price, so if you’re not lucky enough to have a bustling farmers market near you, definitely look into the Asian markets for your produce and spices.  Toss the shredded carrot and daikon in with the vinegar, sugar and salt. Give them a little toss occasionally so every little bit can absorb the flavors.

Grilled tofu for a banh mi. Vying For Veganism

Grilled tofu for a banh mi. Vying For Veganism

If you want those nice grill marks on your tofu slices you will need a piping hot grill.  I use an indoor cast iron griddle as I find it easier to control than a charcoal or gas grill outside.  I can also keep an eye on the tofu while I prep the rest of the ingredients.  You’ll want that griddle to be about Med-Hi heat.


While that’s heating, you can prep those fresh veggies to accompany our tofu in the roll.  You can obviously tweak these to your own preference, but I like to add crisp cool cucumbers, spicy jalapenos, I also add some green onions and a ton of cilantro because it is the quintessential flavor component of the sandwich.

Vegan banh mi assembly. Vying For Veganism

Clean and oil the griddle surface.  The cleaner your surface the less smoke will billow from it and you will avoid setting off the fire alarms… mine was not cleaned entirely. 🙂  Place the marinated tofu pieces at a diagonal to the grates and DON’T touch them for about 4-5 minutes carefully rotate the slabs about 90 degrees and continue for about 4 more minutes.  Flip tofu and repeat until both sides have nice grill marks and are nice and crispy.  Remove from heat, let cool slightly and brush with remaining marinade.


Slice open the baguettes or rolls and place them right on the hot griddle until nice and toasty and remove.


Finally, it’s time to assemble our banh mi! First slice, the cooked tofu into slices just smaller than your roll.  Spread your desired amount of vegan mayo on either side of the roll and add your chili sauce.  Layer the sliced tofu, pickled carrot/daikon slaw, cucumber spears, jalapeño slices, and cilantro. Slice in half and have at it!


Enjoy your meal!!






2 Baguettes or Rolls (vegan or GF)

Vegan mayo

Sriracha (or other chili sauce)



  • 1 lb extra firm tofu block
  • 1 cucumber, speared and seeded
  • 1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 2 c grated carrots
  • 2 c grated daikon
  • ¼ c sliced green onions
  • ¼ c rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. sugar (lt. brown, coconut  or palm)
  • 1 tsp salt


  • 3 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 large bunch of cilantro
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce (or GF tamari)
  • 2 tbsp. minced ginger
  • 3 tbsp. sesame oil (or vegetable oil)



Slice tofu into about 1/3 inch slabs and dry well.  Heat grill to med-high heat.

Add all marinade ingredients into processor and blend into a liquid. Thoroughly coat each piece of tofu with marinade and let sit for at least 30 minutes or overnight.  Reserve remaining marinade.

Toss shredded carrot and daikon with the vinegar, sugar and salt. Occasionally toss.

Clean and oil the grill surface.  Place marinated tofu pieces at a diagonal to the grates for about 4-5 minutes, carefully rotate the slabs about 90 degrees and continue for about 4 more minutes.  Flip tofu and repeat until both sides have nice grill marks and are nice and crispy about 7 min total.  Remove from heat, let cool slightly and brush with remaining marinade.

Slice open rolls and toast on hot grill. Remove.

Slice, the cooked tofu into pieces just smaller than your roll.  Spread mayo on either side of the roll and add chili sauce.  Layer sliced tofu, pickled carrot/daikon slaw, cucumber spears, jalapeño slices, and cilantro between rolls. Slice in half.


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