Main course

Jackfruit Tacos Al Pastor

These smoky, savory vegan tacos al pastor combine tangy fresh fruit with rich spices for a filling and healthy dinner.

2 persons
Cooks In
30 minutes

For the sauce:

  • 1 whole pineapple
  • 1 3.5oz can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (2-4 whole peppers, plus sauce)
  • ½ cup diced white, yellow, or red onion, plus ¼ cup finely chopped for topping
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp crushed chili flakes
  • Salt to taste

Additional ingredients:

  • 2-4 tbsp fresh cilantro
  • 1 can jackfruit in water or brine
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 corn tortillas
  • Optional toppings: sliced avocado, hot sauce, pico de gallo, queso fresco
  1. Dice the pineapple: cut off both ends off of a fresh pineapple rest the fruit on one flat end, and slice off the skin. Carefully cut out the “eyes,” the brown spiky spots left on the fruit. Cut the pineapple in half vertically, and remove the core from each side. Dice the fruit into 1-inch pieces. Place half the fruit into a blender or food processor (about 2 cups) and save the rest in the fridge or freezer. 
  2. Remove the pepper seeds: this step is very important to manage the spice level of the sauce. Open the can of chipotles in adobo and place the peppers on a cutting board. Slice one of the peppers open lengthwise and unfurl it so lies flat, inside facing up–you should be able to see all the seeds that were hiding inside. Using a small knife, scrape the seeds off of the pepper and set aside. Repeat with each pepper (there are usually 2-4 whole peppers per can). Place all of the seeded peppers in the blender. Pour in any remaining sauce from the can as well. If you want a super spicy marinade, you can add back some of the seeds to the blender. Be sure to taste the marinade as you do this to make sure you can handle the heat. 
  3. Add the remaining sauce ingredients to the blender/food processor and mix until smooth. Let sit for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. 
  4. Strain the jackfruit into a colander, rinse, and pat dry. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium. Add the jackfruit and stir to coat with the oil. Fry lightly for 3-4 minutes, then add the sauce, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow the mixture to simmer for 10-15 minutes. 
  5. Meanwhile, heat the tortillas. My favorite way to do this is on an ungreased frying pan, so they develop deeper brown spots and get a little crispy on the edges. You can also heat them up stacked and wrapped in foil on the center rack of an oven or toaster oven heated to 300F. 
  6. When everything is ready, spoon ¼ of the jackfruit mixture into the center of each tortilla. Sprinkle with desired toppings and enjoy.

About This Recipe

I have really enjoyed spending more time in the kitchen now that I work from home. Getting up to prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner gives each day some much-needed structure and fills the void of my former workweek rhythm, which involved daily commutes, takeout lunches, and, frequently, 9pm protein shakes for dinner. Sure, cooking nearly all of my meals from scratch tests my resolve to keep a clean kitchen, but it also serves as an outlet for the pent-up creative energy that in the past would have otherwise been released through 80-decibel Cher sing-alongs in bumper-to-bumper highway traffic.

In order to not burn out on my go-to recipes, I’ve been exploring flavors I’d previously only entrusted to trained professionals by taking nightly trips around the world of multicultural food blogs. Collecting pointers from other cooks, especially those who grew up inhaling symphonies of garlic, ginger, hot chilies, and other magical seasonings wafting from their childhood kitchens is a great failsafe against squandering expensive aromatics. You just know a recipe is gonna be good if the author cites it as a hand-me-down from their grandma. Especially if said grandma is described as being able to produce eye-wateringly delicious dishes from memory, equipped with two sleeves-full of tricks and a kind of gastronomical finesse otherwise witnessed only in silver screen mice. So keep an eye out for bloggers who borrow recipes from family: if it’s still circulating after all those generations, it’s probably pretty tasty. 

When I try my hand at a new dish, I personally find it less intimidating to go out on a limb that stems from the tree of tried-and-tested ingredient knowledge. With that in mind, when I suddenly craved something spicy and smoky for dinner last week, I knew exactly where to start exploring. Armed with a pineapple and some courage, I queued up a mouthwatering taco tutorial for inspiration, and reached into my pantry for the versatile, indomitable, extremely shelf-stable staple known as canned chipotles in adobo.

Chipotles in adobo are jalapeno peppers that have been smoked, dried, rehydrated in a piquant tomato sauce, and stuffed into adorably tiny cans. Sliced or pureed, they can be used in a variety of savory recipes that need just a little more kick, like chili or omelettes. Here, they lay the flavor foundation for tacos al pastor, a term which means “shepherd style,” and in culinary use dates back to around 1930. Tacos al pastor originated in Mexico and drew influence from the traditional shawarma technique brought there by 20th-century Lebanese immigrants

Traditional tacos al pastor feature pork roasted on a vertical spit, marinated in a tangy blend of chili peppers, fresh pineapple, and spices, and then shaved onto a tortilla and topped with raw onions and cilantro. In this recipe, I substituted jackfruit for meat, which works perfectly thanks to its stringy, pulled-pork texture and tendency to adopt whatever flavor you throw at it. For this vegan rendition, it’s best to use canned jackfruit, which spares you the square footage investment into either a vertical meat spit or a fresh jackfruit. Seriously, have you seen those things? They’re monstrous.

You can use whatever protein you prefer–this marinade pairs well with pretty much everything, whether you’re in the mood for pork, shrimp, chicken, or tofu. Other great toppings that complement the smoky, fruity, and subtle spiciness of al pastor include additional chopped pineapple, a sprinkle of soft cheese like queso fresco, and julienned purple cabbage. You could also try using the pico de gallo from our recipe for avocado melt sandwiches. And if you can find them, use mitad y mitad tortillas, which feature the best of both worlds: wheat flour makes them sturdy enough to hold saucy fillings, and masa gives them a sweet corn flavor.