This vegan jackfruit tinga is simmered in a smoky and spicy tomato chipotle sauce. The shredded unripe jackfruit mimics shredded chicken in traditional chicken tinga recipes. Serve it in tacos, burritos, or in a rice bowl!
The first time I had tinga was in a burrito from one of my favorite restaurants, Quesadilla La Reina del Sur. It’s an awesome vegetarian/mostly-vegan Mexican restaurant in Chicago. They make all types of traditional Mexican dishes with soy-based meats and vegan cheese, and serve 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.
Tinga has such a great flavor, so I love cooking it at home between takeout orders and trips to Quesadilla.
One of the best vegan alternatives to shredded chicken and pork is young jackfruit, so jackfruit was the way to go with this recipe. Jackfruit tinga is flavorful, naturally gluten-free, and is a nice alternative to your typical tofu or seitan burrito fillings.
Aside from the jackfruit, this recipe calls for common ingredients like olive oil, onions, tomatoes, and chipotle peppers in adobo. It’s very simple to throw together, and cooks rather quickly.
The chipotle tomato sauce is not an exact science. You can add more or less tomato juice depending on how saucy you like it. You can also adjust the amount of chipotle depending on your tolerance for heat.
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 and Asian markets. If you don’t have easy access to international grocery stores, you can order it online.
Young 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. 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, or tinga, 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. Unless you live near a jackfruit farm, of course!
🥫 Canned vs packaged
I used Upton’s Naturals Original 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.
Depending on the type of jackfruit you use, the salt content and cooking time may vary. 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.
If you use the Upton’s jackfruit, try smashing (or ~massaging~) the pieces of jackfruit in the pouch before opening to break up the large pieces. You may need to add a little more salt to taste because this jackfruit doesn’t contain salt.
If you’re not a fan of jackfruit or can’t find it, you can use another protein for this tinga recipe. I wouldn’t recommend using tofu or tempeh (these will be too mushy and crumbly), but these vegan proteins would work great.
Store bought chicken strips
Prepare according to the package instructions then add to the recipe.
Soy curls or TVP
I’d recommend rehydrating the soy curls/TVP in a marinade or hot water before adding them to the sauce. They’ll absorb a large amount of liquid and you don’t want the tinga to dry out.
🌶 Cooking methods
I recommend making this recipe in a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. This will give the jackfruit a chance to brown and crisp up before you add the sauce.
The mixture will cook in 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
You could also use a slow cooker or Instant Pot according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Slow cooking will allow the flavors to develop.
🧊 Freezing instructions
This recipe is fantastic for cooking in bulk and freezing. I actually quadrupled the recipe and froze the leftovers when I made this batch.
To freeze the tinga, let cool, then portion it out in airtight containers, or freezer bags.
🌮 Serving suggestions
- Use it for tacos! Just add corn tortillas, chopped onion, cilantro, and your favorite salsa.
- Make a burrito with Spanish rice, refried beans, vegan cheese, tomato, lettuce, and avocado. Don’t forget the hot sauce!
- Put it in a rice bowl with Spanish rice and sliced avocado.
- Add it to a Southwest salad.
- Top a sope or tostada, and add some chopped tomato and onion, avocado, and vegan sour cream.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion diced
- 10 ounces young unripe jackfruit 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.
This recipe was originally published in 2017 and has been updated with more relevant information. The recipe has not changed.