Jackfruit carnitas is a perfectly flavorful vegan option for tacos, burritos, bowls, and so much more!
If you haven’t learned about the wonders of jackfruit, I highly recommend you check out this post all about jackfruit. Basically, jackfruit is this really cool, super large fruit that is kind of like a banana, kind of like a mango, but tougher and resembles the texture of meat when unripe. How confusing and cool at the same time!
I absolutely LOVE carnitas. They are what I typically order when at a Mexican restaurant, although oftentimes the vegetarian option is just fajita vegetables. Which, while great, they do not compare to authentic carnitas.
This is where jackfruit is perfect. It takes on the intense depth of flavor that carnitas is known for and even has a super similar texture! So, let’s get to making some carnitas.
Ingredients for Jackfruit Carnitas
Carnitas requires a specific combination of spices to develop the delicious falvor! And while this may seem like a lot of spices, you can always mix the spices ahead of time to just have on hand (just like taco seasoning!).
- Young Green Jackfruit: Be sure to use canned jackfruit that is packed in water NOT brine. You can also use fresh jackfruit, but be sure to check the notes in the recipe card for this (we tried it both ways, and preferred the canned jackfruit in this recipe).
- White Onion: White onion is a slightly more mild onion making it great for carnitas so it only adds to the flavor but doesn’t overpower it.
- Garlic: Fresh is best! But, you can use pre-minced garlic too.
- Tomato Paste: Tomato paste is a bomb of umami! It adds depth of flavor and sweetness with very little effort.
- Spices: To get that amazing flavor, we will use a combination of cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and bay leaves.
- Orange Juice: Orange juice gives these carnitas a tangy, bright flavor. It’s an interesting ingredient to use, but one that I strongly stand behind!
- Lime Juice: Like orange juice, lime juice adds a brightness that takes these carnitas to the next level!
- Liquid Smoke: This is definitely the most unusual ingredient, but one I love to keep in my pantry for vegetarian meat replacement recipes. Since we are baking these, the liquid smoke helps mimic the low and slow-roasted flavor of traditional carnitas.
- Toppings and Sides: For jackfruit carnitas tacos, grab some mini street tortillas, avocado, white onion, cilantro, and lime juice to enjoy with the carnitas.
While you can use fresh jackfruit for these carnitas (pictured), I prefer canned young green jackfruit. I have tried both and have found that I get a more consistent and better quality end result by using canned jack fruit. Fresh jackfruit could be riper than your think, meaning it will be pretty sweet (great for jackfruit smoothies). Could be good, but may be a little strange in carnitas.
How to make Jackfruit Carnitas
These may sound a bit intimidating, but I promise they are super simple to make!
Step 1: Dry (If Using Canned Jackfruit)
Drain the jackfruit then rinse it well under running water. Drain well, then transfer to a clean dishcloth. Roll it up and wring tightly to squeeze as much moisture out of the jackfruit as possible. We do not want any excess moisture that could make the carnitas soggy.
Step 2: Flavor Base
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cooking until onion is soft and a bit translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. The house should smell amazing at this point!
Step 3: Spices
Stir in the tomato paste and all spices. Cook for another 2 minutes. Keep stirring this to keep the tomato paste from sticking to the pan.
Step 4: Jackfruit
Stir in jackfruit, orange juice, water, lime juice, and liquid smoke. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.
Step 5: Bake
Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Spread jackfruit onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, or until crispy at the edges. You can also broil at the very end for crispy edges. Just keep an eye on it to not burn the carnitas.
Step 6: Serve
Serve hot on tacos with avocado, cilantro, onion, and lime juice!
Where to find jackfruit: Jackfruit can be found in some organic grocery stores and at most Asian supermarkets.
Storage: Store these carnitas in an air-tight container for up to five days in the refrigerator. To enjoy later, simply reheat them in the microwave or in the oven (air fryer or toaster oven would work great too!) to get them crispy again.
More ways To Enjoy Jackfruit
Jackfruit is so versatile. Try out any of these other fun ways to enjoy it and what to serve with your jackfruit tacos!
What to Serve with Jackfruit Carnitas:
- Chipotle Copycat Cauliflower Rice pairs perfectly with carnitas. Enjoy on the side or wrapped in a taco with this low-carb rice.
- Street Corn Salad is also delicious to have alongside jackfruit carnitas. Fresh produce and tons of flavor. Yum!
- Avocado Crema is one of the best condiments for tacos, burritos, salads, and burrito bowls.
Ways to Use Jackfruit Carnitas:
- Vegan Burritos can be made and you can swap the taco meat in this recipe for jackfruit carnitas.
- Mexican Sweet Potatoes are so fun and packed with nutrients. Simply add the carnitas to the filling.
- 2 20-oz cans young green jackfruit* in water or brine, NOT in syrup, or use 6 heaping cups fresh jackfruit (see notes), 566-g cans
- 2 Tbsp oil 30 mL
- 1 cup diced white onion about 1 onion
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste 30 g
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp each oregano and smoked paprika
- ½ tsp each salt and pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ cup orange juice 120 mL
- ½ cup water 120 mL
- 2 Tbsp lime juice 30 mL
- 1 tsp liquid smoke 5 mL
- Mini tortillas
- Diced white onion
- Lime juice
- Dry (If Using Canned Jackfruit): Drain the jackfruit then rinse it well under running water. Drain well, then transfer to a clean dishcloth. Roll it up and wring tightly to squeeze as much moisture out of the jackfruit as possible.
- Flavor Base: Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cooking until onion is soft and a bit translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Spices: Stir in the tomato paste and all spices. Cook for another 2 minutes.
- Jackfruit: Stir in jackfruit, orange juice, water, lime juice, and liquid smoke. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.
- Bake: Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Spread jackfruit onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, or until crispy at the edges.
- Serve: Serve hot on tacos with avocado, cilantro, onion, and lime juice!