Diaries of a Plant Powered Dietitian

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BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions

Fruit in a sandwich? Most of us have probably never heard of jackfruit, but this exotic fruit is making waves in the nutrition aisle as a tasty vegetarian meat substitute. Jackfruit is a large fruit (we’re talking 70-100 pounds) native to India and parts of Southeast Asia. It includes a starchy inside that has a meaty texture, making it a great stand-in for tacos and sandwiches. Mature jackfruit is sweet, just like any other fruit. However, young or “green” jackfruit is unripe and is perfect for meaty-flavored dishes. This is what you’ll want to use in cooking. In the U.S., young jackfruit is typically found canned in water or brine at your local Asian-food specialty store or health food store. If you can’t find it at home, you can purchase the brand I used on Amazon here.

Jackfruit simmering softly in spices

Jackfruit simmering softly in spices

I used Stubb’s Smokey Mesquite bbq sauce

I used Stubb’s Smokey Mesquite bbq sauce

The cabbage & broccoli slaw that will accompany your sandwich (or, makes a great side dish)!

The cabbage & broccoli slaw that will accompany your sandwich (or, makes a great side dish)!

Note: If you use jackfruit canned in brine, you’ll want to drain it and give it a good rinse in a colander to remove excess salt prior to cooking. You do not want to get jackfruit canned in syrup or juice, as it will be too sweet.

This sandwich is meant to mimic pulled pork. Serve it on a toasted pretzel bun and top with cabbage slaw, avocado, and caramelized onions and you may just be able to fool any meat junkie!

Serves: 6 Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 25 minutes


For the jackfruit sandwiches

  • 2, 14.5 oz. cans of young jackfruit canned in brine (or water). If using a 20 oz. can, you’ll use about 1 ½ cans. You can purchase jackfruit on Amazon at this link if you can’t find in the store (this is the brand I used).

  • 1 1/4 cups your favorite barbecue sauce, store bought or homemade (I used Stubb’s Mesquite BBQ sauce)

  • ¼ cup water

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (optional, depending on the sweetness of your chosen barbecue sauce)

  • 1 yellow onion

  • Grapeseed, avocado, or another high heat oil for frying

  • 6 pretzel or potato buns

  • Sliced avocado (for topping)

For the cabbage slaw:

  • 1, 10-12 oz. bag of store bought coleslaw mix with purple and green cabbage and carrots (approximately 4 cups worth)

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons white sugar

  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds or chia seeds

  • Salt and pepper to taste


1. To make the slaw: whisk together apple cider vinegar, sugar, olive oil, poppy/chia seeds, and add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the slaw mix and toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

2. Prep the jackfruit – open the can and drain the liquid off the jack fruit. Rinse under running water in a colander to remove the brine and excess salt. Then, roughly chop (it should resemble pulled chicken or pork).

3. Peel the onion and slice into rings. Place in a skillet with some grapseed oil and pan fry on medium heat until golden brown and caramelized (this will take some time, typically 20-25 mins). Be careful not to burn.

4. Meanwhile, heat grapseed oil in a large skillet on medium. Add jackfruit and spices and toss well to combine, sauteing gently for a few minutes (about 5 minutes) until jackfruit is slightly browned. Then, add the barbecue sauce and water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low for 10-15 minutes until sauce thickens slightly.

5. Toast your pretzel buns and assemble your jackfruit sandwich by layering the barbecue jackfruit, cabbage slaw, caramelized onions, and sliced avocados.


*If you get jackfruit canned in water rather than brine, you may want to add ¼ - ½ tsp. of salt to the spices when you sauté the jackfruit (based on your preferences). This recipe does not call for salt because jackfruit canned in brine already has sodium.

**If you want to save on the carbs you can opt out of the bun and use a lettuce wrap instead.

Natalie Colla