You can make delicious jackfruit "pulled pork" sandwiches with creamy homemade coleslaw in just over 30 minutes! These vegan sandwiches are perfect for barbecues and quick weeknight meals.
Before I went vegetarian, pulled pork sandwiches were one of my favorite foods. Thankfully, it's really easy to imitate pulled pork texture with shredded jackfruit!
These vegetarian shredded BBQ jackfruit sandwiches are made with sweet BBQ sauce, homemade coleslaw, and pickles for the perfect vegetarian summer sandwich.
Even though it doesn't have the same flavor, the texture of jackfruit makes it a great vegetarian pulled pork substitute!
- Quick & easy: BBQ jackfruit is ready in just over 30 minutes using only 6 ingredients.
- Texture: Shredded jackfruit has a great texture that makes it a great vegetarian alternative to pulled pork or chicken.
- Easy to customize: Choose your favorite BBQ sauce or make homemade sauce. I recommend using a sweet BBQ sauce to keep that classic shredded BBQ sandwich flavor.
- Dietary-features: Vegan, vegetarian, soy-free, gluten-free optional (just use a GF bun and BBQ sauce), nut-free.
What is jackfruit?
Jackfruit is a large tropical fruit that grows in Asia, Africa, and South America. It's so big that it can actually grow up to 100 pounds! It has a bumpy exterior and stringy interior that makes it a great texture substitute for pulled pork.
Because jackfruit is a fruit, it is low in calories and low in protein, so it is not at all nutritionally similar to pulled pork. However, it does contain a variety of nutrients like Vitamin C, B vitamins, and potassium.
Jackfruit is available ripe or as young green jackfruit. Young jackfruit is not as sweet and is what is used as a pulled pork substitute.
Ripe jackfruit is more labor-intensive to prepare, is very sweet like fruit, and is not a great pulled pork substitute.
- Canned jackfruit, also known as "young green jackfruit" canned in brine or water. I recommend jackfruit canned in water for the best "pulled pork" flavor, but jackfruit in brine will work if that's all you can find. Fresh jackfruit and jackfruit canned in syrup do not work here. You can find canned jackfruit at many health food stores, Trader Joe's, and Asian grocery stores.
- BBQ sauce: I love using my vegan sweet BBQ sauce but any store-bought barbecue sauce works here. This is a very versatile recipe!
- Coleslaw: Use half of a small white cabbage combined with shredded carrots or save on time by using a coleslaw mix. Toss with vegan mayonnaise and cider vinegar for a simple but high-impact vegan coleslaw.
- Buns: No sandwich is complete without a burger bun! I recommend choosing your favorite brand of burger bun. These sandwiches are pretty versatile, so you can even use a gluten-free bun to make this a gluten-free sandwich.
Jackfruit prep instructions
Canned jackfruit is packed in brine or water. Make sure to drain off the liquid/brine from the can and rinse the jackfruit thoroughly under running water to remove any brine flavor.
Use scissors or a knife to cut each jackfruit piece into 3-4 smaller pieces. Even though the jackfruit breaks down as it cooks, this part is essential to make sure you don't have big pieces of jackfruit in each bite.
The core and seeds are edible and I leave them in for extra texture that is shockingly similar to pulled pork.
How to make the sandwiches
Cook the jackfruit
- Sauté onions and garlic until softened.
- Add the shredded jackfruit and vegetable broth to the pan.
- Cover with a lid and simmer the jackfruit. This softens the jackfruit and allows it to absorb the vegetable broth flavor, which covers up the canned jackfruit flavor.
- After 10 minutes of simmering, remove the lid and add BBQ sauce to the jackfruit. Continue simmering the pulled jackfruit, uncovered, until thickened. Serve jackfruit on a burger bun with coleslaw and pickles.
Tips and variations
- Toppings: I like keeping it simple with coleslaw and pickles. Tahini coleslaw is a great option if you don't like mayo-based slaws.
- Protein: Although it's a great texture substitute for pulled pork sandwiches, jackfruit is low in calories and protein. I always serve it with a hearty side or add shredded BBQ tofu to the sandwiches to make it a more satisfying meal.
- Side ideas: Make a picnic-style meal with jackfruit pulled pork sandwiches and a fresh fruit salad, broccoli salad, and vegan mac and cheese. Black bean salad is a good protein option to serve on the side.
- Make smoky pulled jackfruit by adding ½ teaspoon smoked paprika or ¼ teaspoon liquid smoke to the simmering jackfruit. You can also just choose a smoky BBQ sauce.
- Make it spicy by adding ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1-2 teaspoons hot sauce to the simmering jackfruit.
- This method for making BBQ jackfruit works in more than just sandwiches. It also goes well in jackfruit tacos or as a topping in burrito bowls and vegetarian burritos.
Leftovers: Refrigerate leftover jackfruit pulled pork and coleslaw in a closed container for 3-4 days.
Reheat the BBQ jackfruit on the stove over medium heat or in the microwave with a splash of vegetable broth.
Freezing: Jackfruit freezes well. Let cool to room temperature before transferring to a freezer-safe container. Freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
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BBQ Jackfruit Pulled Pork Sandwiches
For the Jackfruit
For the Coleslaw
- ½ head green cabbage or 14 ounces coleslaw mix
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- ¼ cup vegan mayo regular mayo works too
- 2 tablespoons whole seed mustard
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon white sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
For the Sandwiches
- 4 medium burger buns
- 1 teaspoon vegan butter
- pickles for topping (optional)
- Drain cans of jackfruit. Transfer to a colander and rinse with cool water. Cut jackfruit into smaller pieces with a scissors, until it is mostly shredded. I use all parts of the jackfruit, including the seeds and core.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, drizzle in the olive oil. Add diced onion to the hot oil. Sauté until softened, around 6-8 minutes. Add in minced garlic and sauté a minute more, until aromatic.
- Add in shredded jackfruit and vegetable broth. Cover with lid and let simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes.
- Uncover the pan. If any large pieces of jackfruit remain, use a potato masher to break them down. Add in the BBQ sauce, stirring to fully cover jackfruit.
- Cook jackfruit uncovered over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a spatula to prevent sticking. The jackfruit is done when the sauce is thickened and the jackfruit is no longer watery.
- Slice half a white cabbage into thin strips. Cut in half to make smaller as needed. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with shredded carrots.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, apple cider vinegar, sugar and salt.
- Pour the dressing over the cabbage and shredded carrots. Gently toss to coat. Cover and place in the fridge until ready to serve.
- Heat a large non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the vegan butter. Once melted, place burger buns on the skillet to toast the insides. Heat for 1-2 minutes, or until golden.
- Assemble sandwiches with coleslaw, jackfruit, pickles and extra BBQ sauce as desired. Enjoy!
- Jackfruit: Cans of green young jackfruit come in a variety of sizes. Anywhere around 14 ounces will work. Fresh jackfruit and jackfruit canned in syrup do not work.
- BBQ sauce: I use homemade BBQ sauce but any sweet BBQ sauce works well.
- Salt content: You can cut down on salt content by using homemade BBQ sauce or a lower sodium BBQ sauce, by thoroughly rinsing/draining the jackfruit, and using a reduced sodium vegetable broth. Nutrition facts are calculated using store bought sauce. Nutrition calculations vary widely based on which ingredients you use.
- Check out my "BBQ Jackfruit 2 Ways" video on YouTube for more tips & tricks.