Canada Day, Independence Day or Meatless Monday – whether you are celebrating a national holiday this weekend or just trying to have a meatless meal, this vegan take on pulled pork has you covered!
Traditional pulled pork is a well-seasoned lower quality cut of meat (usually pork shoulder), slowly cooked over a barbecue or open fire pit until it is fall-off-the-bone fork tender. Carolinian slaves and servants working on the plantations during the colonial era mastered the technique of preparing the tough, fatty cuts of meat that their employers typically didn’t want. Steps included brining the meat overnight and letting it smoke for several hours over a pit dug in the ground until the meat was tender and flavourful. Over time, Carolinian pulled pork has become renowned for its distinct smoky barbeque flavour that usually begins with a dry rub and finishes with a vinegar based sauce that is used to both brine and “mop” the meat throughout the cooking process. While there is little disagreement amongst traditionalists that the pork should be cooked slowly over a barbeque pit, there is plenty of disagreement about the addition of tomatoes in the finishing sauce. I have prepared finishing sauces with and without tomatoes and I like it both ways. This recipe includes a little tomato paste in the sauce.
This recipe attempts to capture the flavour of an authentic Carolinian pulled pork but includes a couple of fundamental changes to the method of cooking and ingredients in order to stay true to purpose of my blog. That is, to provide healthy and delicious recipes that are vegan, gluten free, oil free, soy free and refined sugar free. For starters, I substituted canned jackfruit for the pork. Jackfruit is a tree fruit, widely grown in the tropics and is known for developing a stringy texture similar to pulled pork once it is cooked. For that reason, jackfruit is a perfect vegan substitute for pork in this recipe! Second, I cooked everything in a fry pan on top of the stove in under 30 minutes. Jackfruit doesn’t require a slow cooking process in the way that a tough cut of meat would and a long cooking process wouldn’t enhance the flavour or texture in any way. In spite of these fundamental changes, I think this recipe is a winner!
About Canned Jackfruit
I was both surprised and thrilled to find fresh jackfruit at a local Asian supermarket a few weeks ago. Just as I was about to pay, the cashier engaged in a conversation about jackfruit, asking me if I liked it and what I was going to do with it. She seemed a bit reluctant to ring it through. I told her that I had never tasted it before, but that I was looking forward to trying it. Right away she told me I should buy the canned variety instead of the fresh one I had in my hands, insisting that the fresh one was “not good.” At the time, I didn’t really understand why the heavy, firm, bumpy outer-shelled fresh jackfruit I was holding was inferior to the cans she ran off to grab for me. Perhaps it was out of season, under ripe, or over ripe. What I do know is that this woman clearly knew more about jackfruit than I did and if she thought canned jackfruit was better than the fresh one I intended to buy, I was going to trust her. So, I put the fresh jackfruit back – even though I don’t particularly like canned fruits or vegetables.
I bought 2 different brands of canned jackfruit and used them both in this recipe. The label on the can of the first brand stated packed in water and the label on the other stated packed in brine. In both cases, the ingredients were jackfruit, water, salt and citric acid. However, the label on the water-packed can of jackfruit also stated that it might contain sulphates. The difference in the appearance and taste of the 2 brands was minimal enough to be insignificant, so in the future, I will likely buy the jackfruit packed in brine as sulphates were not listed as a potential ingredient. Just make sure to purchase jackfruit packed in water or brine – and not syrup.
And now, here is a vegan recipe for pulled “no-pork” sandwiches using canned jackfruit!
- 2 cans jackfruit in brine or water, thoroughly rinsed, drained and patted dry
- 4 sandwich buns
- cole slaw
- ½ tbsp. ground cumin
- ½ tbsp. garlic powder
- ½ tbsp. onion powder
- ½ tbsp. chili powder
- ½ tbsp. smoked chipotle powder
- ½ tbsp. ground paprika
- 2 tsp. Celtic or Pink Himalayan salt
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, mix together all of the spices and set aside.
Finishing Sauce “Mop”
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 4 tsp. maple syrup
- 3 tsp. apple cider vinegar, (can use lemon juice or lime juice)
- ½ tsp. Celtic or Pink Himalayan salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup water
In a small bowl, mix together all of the wet ingredients and set aside.
Thoroughly rinse and pat dry the canned jackfruit.
Cut off and discard the triangular tip of each piece as in the photo below. You can leave it in if you want, but I don’t recommend it as the triangular tip doesn’t break apart into shreds, mimicking the nature of pulled pork.
Place the remaining chunks of jackfruit in a large Ziploc bag and toss with the dry rub. Heat a medium sized non-stick fry-pan over medium heat and add the coated jackfruit to the pan.
Toss the jackfruit gently for about five minutes until fragrant and starting to darken, but do not let it scorch.
Pour half of the mopping sauce over the jackfruit – the mixture will bubble up and be absorbed fairly quickly. Continue stirring and tossing gently to blend everything together. When the mop is absorbed by the jackfruit, add the remaining sauce and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all of the sauce has been absorbed and the mixture looks fairly dry.
Preheat the broiler while the jackfruit is simmering.
Using 2 forks, gently start pulling the jackfruit pieces apart separating the strings. Toss the mixture once or twice to coat the strings. When the broiler is ready, stick the whole pan onto one of the top shelves and broil the jackfruit for a few minutes until just starting to char around the edges. (If your fry pan doesn’t have an ovenproof handle, double wrap the handle in tin foil to protect it from melting or burning before putting the pan in the oven). Alternatively, you could transfer the jackfruit mixture to a baking sheet before broiling. (The jackfruit can be prepared ahead to this point and stored in the refrigerator, in a sealed container).
Does that look like pulled pork or what??
When ready to serve, warm up the cooked jackfruit and divide it evenly between 4 buns. Add a pile of coleslaw on top of each, and enjoy! Since I was making these sandwiches for my non-vegan, non gluten-free family, the buns in this photo are not gluten free. They are brioche buns that I picked up at Safeway’s but you can substitute your favourite gluten free buns for the ones I used – any type of bread will work. You could even serve the pulled “pork” on regular sandwich bread.
How simple was that??
Yield: 4 good-sized pulled pork sandwiches
The coleslaw can be dressed with the same finishing sauce used to the mop the jackfruit. That would certainly keep things simple, but since I had my own vegan mayonnaise on hand, I used that instead. But don’t be afraid to use your favourite cole slaw dressing – any dressing will work.