A Labor Day Jerk? by Cindy Thompson, VLCE

Before I went vegan 10 years ago, one of my favorite things was jerked chicken. There’s just something magical about the spicy combination of allspice, cinnamon, vinegar, onions, habaneros, and brown sugar! One of my fellow firefighters used to make the BEST jerk at the firehouse, in fact, she was the one who introduced me to Caribbean jerk.

It was so goodbut then I became vegan and didn’t make it anymore. Until now! Because I’ve discovered young green jackfruit, and it’s perfect for making jerk!

What is Jackfruit?

Jackfruit is a tropical fruit related to durian, mulberry, okra, and figs and originated in SW India. It’s found in the tropics and subtropical areas including Phillipines, Thailand, Malaysia, Africa, Brazil, Florida, Hawaii, and Australia and is the national fruit of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka! Jackfruit’s the largest tree fruit in the world and very prolific—one tree can produce 100-200 fruits per year. Ripe jackfruits can weigh up to 100 pounds each and be 3 feet long, although most are 10-25 pounds each. As it is related to durian, ripe jackfruit can have a similar unpleasant odor when uncut, but when cut, people say smells and tastes like juicyfruit gum! When green and unripe, jackfruit is flavorless and stringy, making it a great meat replacement.

You can find jackfruit in many Asian markets and even regular grocery stores now. Even my local grocery sells whole and halved ripe jackfruit in the produce section. However, these jackfruit are ripe and sweet, generally not the young, green jackfruit that you want as a meat-substitute.

Whole jackfruits are fairly difficult to cut as they are large, spiky, and extremely sticky inside. Fortunately, you can find canned young green jackfruit at many stores. I’ve been able to find cans of jackfruit at Asian markets in the canned fruit aisle, in regular grocery stores with the Asian foods, and Trader Joe’s carries it in their canned vegetable section. You and also find it online through Amazon. In any case, for this recipe you want to make sure you’re buying young green jackfruit in brine and not sweet, ripe jackfruit in syrup.

Jerked Jackfruit Sliders

Serves 4


4 cans young green jackfruit in brine
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1-1/2 bunches of scallions, chopped
2 habaneros, seeded and minced (or however hot you want it)
2 Tbsp soy
1 lime, juiced
5 tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground cloves
2 bay leaves
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Jamaican BBQ Sauce:
1 1/4 C of ketchup
1/3 C soy
2 Tbsp jerk marinade
½ bunch scallions, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tbsp of minced fresh ginger
1/3 C brown sugar
1/3 C apple cider vinegar


Red and green cabbage, finely shredded

Vegan Mayo


Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line two sheet trays with parchment or silicone baking sheets.

Green Jackfruit chunk from a can.

Drain and rinse the jackfruit pieces. Set to drain in a colander. Squeeze each piece by hand to remove all the brine and then chop into small bite-sized pieces (this is key to great-tasting jackfruit).

In food processor combine vinegar, scallions, habanero(s), soy, lime juice, allspice, cloves, bay leaves, garlic, sugar and cinnamon. Reserve 2 tbsp of jerk marinade for the BBQ sauce.

Place jackfruit pieces in a bowl and mix marinade evenly. Pour onto the two prepared sheet trays and bake for about 40 minutes, flipping pieces halfway through, or until jackfruit starts to brown.

Make Jamaican BBQ Sauce while jackfruit is baking. Mix BBQ Sauce ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat and simmer until the sauce is thick and sticks to a spoon (I usually let this go on for quite awhile as it makes the flavors blend nicely).

Jackfruit shreds after squeezed of brine

When jackfruit is done baking, mix in desired amount of BBQ sauce.

Make coleslaw with shredded cabbage and mayo.

Serve Jerked Jack on buns dressed with a little mayo and top with coleslaw.

This sandwich will make your mouth do a happy dance! It is just so good! I love to serve it for parties because I can make it ahead and then reheat with more sauce in a crockpot, so it’s perfect for a Labor Day BBQ, potlucks, or on game day. It also makes the house smell divine and draws everyone to it with it’s delicious allspice and cinnamon. And non-vegans love it too—they usually don’t even realize it’s made from plants!

Jerked Jackfruit freezes great too! You can also use it in burritos, enchiladas, or just serve over rice.

About the Author

Cindy Thompson is a Main Street Vegan Academy Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator; an American Council on Exercise certified Health Coach, Peer Fitness Trainer, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist; WellStart Health Coach; Rouxbe Culinary School Plant-Based Professional; a 5 Gyres Ambassador; and Soil and Water Steward for Tilth Alliance in Seattle, WA. Recently retired from a 20-year firefighting career, she has a MS in Leadership, specializing in Servant Leadership. She provides health, lifestyle, and zero waste coaching at Trimazing! Vegan Lifestyle & Health Coaching. Find her on Facebook  and follow on Instagram @TrimazingVLC. Cindy can be reached by email.



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