The first time I had tinga was in a burrito from one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago, Quesadilla La Reina del Sur. It’s an awesome vegetarian/mostly-vegan Mexican restaurant that makes all types of traditional Mexican dishes with soy-based meats and vegan cheese, and serves fresh juices and smoothies. If you’re ever visiting Chicago, Quesadilla is not to be missed (and if you need more Chicago vegan food recs, I have a guide here). For those not in the know, tinga is typically made with shredded chicken stewed in a spicy chipotle tomato sauce. One of the best vegan alternatives to shredded chicken and pork is young jackfruit, so jackfruit is the way to go. Jackfruit tinga is flavorful, naturally gluten-free, and is a nice alternative to your typical tofu or seitan burrito fillings.
A couple of weeks ago, I found myself in possession of an entire case and then some (like, 20 boxes) of Upton’s Naturals jackfruit. I do food and product photography for Upton’s on a regular basis, so I’m bringing home all sorts of food each week. If you follow them on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve likely seen a bunch of my photos from the Breakroom (it’s a small, vegan world), or jackfruit photos from Thailand.
Since I had all of this jackfruit, and only have so much kitchen storage space, I wanted to make a recipe that I could cook in bulk. I actually quadrupled this jackfruit tinga recipe and froze the leftovers, so yes, it freezes well! Aside from the jackfruit, this recipe calls for common ingredients like onions, tomatoes, and chipotle in adobo. It’s very simple to throw together, and cooks rather quickly as well. The chipotle tomato sauce is not an exact science; you can add more or less tomato juice depending on how saucy you like it, or adjust the amount of chipotle depending on your tolerance for heat.
Once you’ve finished cooking your jackfruit tinga, you can add it to a burrito, tacos, or serve over rice. It’s so good in a burrito with Spanish rice, vegetarian refried beans, vegan cheese, tomato, lettuce, avocado, and hot sauce. My favorite readily available hot sauce is the green jalapeño Tabasco because I can’t take too much spice.
The type of jackfruit you’ll want to use is unripe, young jackfruit and comes in a pouch (like this), or a can (like this). You can find these products at well-stocked supermarkets, Asian markets, or you can Amazon Prime it if you don’t have access to jackfruit where you live. This jackfruit is harvested before it ripens, so it will not be sweet or have a pronounced flavor. This makes it ideal to use as a shredded meat alternative because it will take on the flavor of the sauce or seasoning that you add.
Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT use fresh ripe jackfruit. If you live anywhere other than a tropical climate, any fresh jackfruit you’ll find is most likely ripened and sweet. If you use that in a savory recipe like vegan pulled pork, BBQ sandwiches, this tinga, or any of these jackfruit recipes, it will be similar to cooking with ripe mango. Gross, right? Even if you would prefer to cook with fresh ingredients, this is one of those times where it’s not possible.
As I said above, I used Upton’s jackfruit in this recipe, which comes in ~10 ounce packages. Cans of young jackfruit also work out to be about 10 ounces when drained, so you’ll only need one package or can for this recipe. If you use Upton’s, try smashing the pieces of jackfruit in the pouch before opening. If using canned jackfruit in brine, your cook time may be a little shorter. Also, go easy on the salt before taste testing because the brine contains salt. I’d recommend doubling or tripling it if you want leftovers. You could also use soy curls, TVP, crumbled tofu, or seitan in this recipe if you can’t or don’t want to use jackfruit.
Get the recipe:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 10 ounces young, unripe jackfruit (1 package or can)
- 2-3 chipotles in adobo
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes or fresh tomatoes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the onions and saute until golden, 6-8 minutes.
- Lower the heat slightly, then add the jackfruit to the saucepan, stirring to coat.
- Once the jackfruit begins to soften, mash with a potato masher to begin to achieve a shredded texture. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Meanwhile, drain the tomatoes and reserve the liquid.
- Combine the chipotles, garlic, and tomatoes in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
- The consistency sauce should be like tomato sauce, and will reduce further while cooking. If it seems too thick, add some of the tomato liquid.
- Pour the sauce over the jackfruit and onions, stirring to coat.
- Cook on low, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, so the jackfruit absorbs the sauce and flavor, and any excess liquid simmers off.
- Remove from heat and gently mash the jackfruit again to shred it further, using a fork if necessary. You want it to be shredded like pulled pork or chicken, not mashed and paste-like.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve in burritos, tacos, or over rice.
- The flavors will develop over time, so you can make it a day before serving.
• You may need to adjust the cook time and seasoning depending on what type of jackfruit you use. I used Upton's Original jackfruit which comes in a pouch. It tastes fresher than canned, and does not have added salt, but your cook time may be longer because it starts in larger pieces that are meant to be cooked. Canned jackfruit starts very soft and tender, so it will pull apart more easily, but may be saltier, so keep that in mind when seasoning.
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