Vegan Jackfruit Quesadillas — they're a scrumptious reimagining of the classic Mexican favorite, tailor-made for the plant-lovers out there.
These jackfruit quesadillas have a tortilla toasted to that just-right, golden-brown crispiness that makes that perfect 'crunch' sound when you bite in. And when you peek inside, it's packed with this lush, young jackfruit playing the part of meat, plus a dreamy vegan queso that's all kinds of creamy. Throw in some sautéed veggies and smashed black beans for that extra oomph, and you've got a quesadilla that's not just good, it's "I-need-another-one-stat" good.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
Easy and quick to make - You can make this in under 30 minutes, so it's a great weeknight dinner.
Kid Friendly - Kids love it, and it's a great way to incorporate more veggies into their diet.
Unbelievably 'Meaty' - You’ll be amazed at how jackfruit mimics the look and texture of pulled pork or chicken– it’s a game-changer for meat-free munching.
The Cheese - The vegan queso is so creamy and decadent you'll forget it's plant-based. It's cheese without the cheese.
Crunch Factor: That crisp, golden-brown tortilla delivers the perfect bite, making it a crunchy delight your family will always crave.
Full of Flavor: The spices and sautéed veggies pack a punch of flavor.
Feel-Good Food: These vegan jackfruit quesadillas will leave you feeling great with their wholesome, natural ingredients.
What is Jackfruit?
This meat impersonator of the plant world, pictured below, can mimic the texture of pulled pork or chicken and can be used in tacos, sandwiches, curries, and in this delicious vegan jackfruit quesadilla!
Jackfruit is native to Southwest India but has found its way into the tropical regions of Asia, Africa, and South America. It's a tropical fruit that can grow to enormous sizes, weighing up to 80 pounds! Yes, you read that right. It's the largest fruit that grows on a tree, and in many cultures, it's celebrated as a miracle crop because one tree can produce up to 200 fruits in a year.
In its native lands, ripe jackfruit is often eaten fresh or used in desserts. The seeds can be roasted or boiled like chestnuts. But it's the unripe, young green jackfruit that is a staple in savory dishes like these vegan quesadillas. This is the jackfruit you'll commonly find canned in brine or water in the international aisle of your grocery store. For plant-based diets, it's commonly used in dishes that call for shredded meat, thanks to its remarkable ability to take on flavors and its meat-like texture.
Why It’s Gaining Popularity
Jackfruit is versatile but also packed with nutrients and fiber and is low in calories, making it a healthy meat alternative. It's also sustainable and relatively easy to grow, adding to its rising status as a superfood. It's so popular now you can find cans at most well-stocked grocery stores like Trader Joe's, or you can buy them on Amazon.
Does Jackfruit Taste Like Meat?
Short answer: no. But...
I think of it as the Elvis Impersonator of the culinary world. Just like those hip-shaking Elvis impersonators who capture the essence but aren't the King himself, jackfruit tantalizes with its meat-like texture and spice-infused flavor, playing a convincing role in every bite yet reminding you it's the unique star of the show. Like any good tribute act, it hits all the right notes, leaving you all shook up in the best possible way. Let me explain further.
When it's young and not quite ready to hit the fruit scene, jackfruit does a stellar job mimicking shredded chicken, especially in the texture department. It's stringy and fibrous, and when you cook it, voilà – it turns into something that could fool you into thinking it's pulled or shredded chicken.
In terms of taste, though, jackfruit is quite different from chicken. Unripe, it's got a sort of 'I can't quite put my finger on it' taste – a bit neutral with a hint of fruitiness, which makes it great at absorbing the flavors of spices and seasonings. But it doesn't have the inherent savoriness or umami quality of chicken. And ripe jackfruit? Totally different story – it goes full-on sweet mode, ditching any chicken aspirations.
You'll see its best chicken impersonation when it's all cooked up and pretending to be chicken, like in this recipe. The color and texture can be pretty convincing. Let me know in the comments what you think.
For a full list of ingredients, see the recipe card.
- canned young green jackfruit in water or brine - shredded
- bell pepper
- fresh spinach
- smashed black beans or refried beans
- Easy Vegan Cashew Queso
- flour tortillas
- olive oil
- toppings: vegan sour cream, avocado slices, chopped tomatoes, scallions, or salsa for serving
Note On Beans
You can leave the black beans whole and season them with a teaspoon of garlic salt, but I like to use smashed black beans for these quesadillas. See the recipe card for instructions.
If you don't want to smash beans, a can of vegan, fat-free refried beans works great. Tip: add about ¼ cup of your favorite salsa to soften them up and make them easier to spread.
How to Shred Jackfruit
First, rinse the jackfruit to get rid of that briny canned taste. Once it's drained and rinsed, the easiest way to shred it is to use your hands, but a fork works, too. The texture of young jackfruit is naturally stringy, so take hold of a piece and squeeze, delicately separating the fibers - you'll notice it resembles pulled chicken or pork.
It's worth noting that all parts are edible, including the slightly tougher sections. I've seen people online discard the slightly firmer, core-like parts and the seeds, but they are entirely edible and can be torn apart with your hands with a little pressure (or chop them up with a knife). There's slightly more bite to those pieces, but they soften up nicely with cooking and add variety to the texture of this dish.
Recipe In Pictures
Here are the simplified instructions with visuals for how to make the recipe. For the complete recipe, see the recipe card below.
For the smashed black beans, mix in your go-to salsa and a bit of garlic salt, then mash them up until you get a nice, chunky puree. Or, if you prefer, leave the beans whole! Set aside.
Make a batch of Vegan Cashew Queso. Set aside.
Slice the vegetables.
Drain, rinse, and shred the jackfruit. *See the notes above for how to shred jackfruit. Doesn't that look like shredded chicken?!
Now, let's begin the quesadillas.
In a large skillet, sauté onion and bell pepper in olive oil until softened.
When the onions are translucent and the peppers are soft, add minced garlic.
Add the shredded jackfruit and all the spices, mixing well to combine. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the jackfruit has absorbed the flavors.
In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, add oil or spray oil to cover the pan. Place a tortilla in the skillet, and add vegan queso to the entire quesadilla.
Add the prepared black beans or refried beans to half the tortilla.
Layer the jackfruit mixture on top of the beans.
Add a final layer of spinach.
Take a peek underneath to see if the tortilla has browned to your satisfaction, and then fold the tortilla over.
Let the quesadillas cool down. Serve warm with optional vegan sour cream, sliced avocado, chopped scallions, cilantro, and salsa.
When buying canned jackfruit, make sure it's young green jackfruit in water or brine, not in syrup. The jackfruit in syrup is sweet and won't work well in savory dishes like these quesadillas. Canned jackfruit is available nowadays in most major grocery stores in the international or Asian food section.
Whether you make whole quesadillas or fold them in half like in this recipe, always sandwich the jackfruit filling between two layers of queso. It helps the tortillas stick together and keeps the insides from falling out.
That being said, I've discovered that using a single tortilla and folding it in half to make the quesadilla keeps things tidier compared to using two tortillas to create a full quesadilla.
Give the vegan jackfruit quesadillas some time to cool before you slice into them; it really cuts down on the mess. If you go for the cut while they're still pretty warm, you'll find the filling tends to ooze out. Letting them cool helps everything inside settle and firm up, making for a neater, more satisfying slice. Trust me, a little patience goes a long way here!
These quesadillas make a great appetizer when cut into wedges and served with salsa or guacamole.
You can also pair them as a main dish with a fresh salad or vegan Spanish rice and a side of tortilla chips.
Add some jalapeños to your jackfruit mixture. You can also add zucchini or any other vegetables you have on hand.
For a smoky twist, add a dash of liquid smoke to the jackfruit mixture.
If you need to use a vegan cheese sauce without cashews, Best Nut-Free Vegan Cheese Sauce is a great choice for this recipe.
Yes, but ensure it's young green jackfruit, not the ripe, sweet variety.
You can store it in the fridge for 3-4 days in a tightly sealed container.
Yes, just be sure to use gluten-free tortillas.
Smashed Black Beans
- 1 can black beans or refried beans
- ¼ cup of salsa
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt or adobo seasoning
- 1 batch of Vegan Cashew Queso.
- 1 can young green jackfruit in water or brine, drained and shredded
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 bell pepper, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon of chili powder
- ½ teaspoon of cumin
- ½ teaspoon of paprika
- ½ teaspoon of Mexican oregano (optional)
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- ¼ teaspoon of black pepper
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 handful of fresh spinach
- 8 flour tortillas, large 8-inch
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- topping suggestions: vegan sour cream, avocado slices, scallions, tomatoes, salsa
- Prepare the smashed beans by adding ¼ cup of salsa and 1 teaspoon of garlic salt. Use a bullet or blender to partially puree the beans, or use a fork. Heat in a small pot for a few minutes so the flavors can be incorporated. Alternatively, leave the beans whole or use canned refried beans.
- Make a batch of Vegan Cashew Queso.
- Chop the vegetables.
- Shred the jackfruit. *See the post for how to shred jackfruit.
- In a large skillet, sauté onion and bell pepper in olive oil until softened.
- Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add the shredded jackfruit and all the seasonings, mixing well to combine. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the jackfruit is tender and has absorbed the flavors.
- Heat a separate non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add a drop of olive oil or use oil spray to coat the bottom of the pan.
- Place one tortilla in the skillet. Spread vegan queso on the entire tortilla.
- On half of the tortilla, place a few small dollops of the black bean mixture and spread it out a little.
- Then top with jackfruit mixture over the beans.
- Top with a few sprigs of spinach.
- Check the bottom of the tortilla, ensuring it has browned to your liking.
- Fold half of the tortilla over the side with the ingredients and gently remove the quesadilla from the skillet.
- Allow to cool so that it is easier to cut.
- Serve warm with optional vegan sour cream, scallions, tomatoes, avocado slices, and salsa.
- Substitute the seasonings with 1 tablespoon of taco seasoning and adjust the salt and pepper.
- If you want to make whole tortillas, sprinkle a generous layer of vegan cheese on one whole tortilla and add a scoop of the beans, jackfruit mixture, and spinach on the entire tortilla. Top with another tortilla. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side or until the tortilla is crispy and golden. Flipping can be tricky so make sure the tortilla has hardened enough to flip.
- If you use a can of refried beans or whole black beans, add about ¼ cup of salsa when you are heating them up. This makes the refried beans softer and easier to spread on the quesadilla and adds a great flavor to the whole beans.
- If you need a nut-free vegan cheese, try The Best Nut-Free Vegan Cheese Sauce.
- You will have leftover queso sauce, which can be used to dip the quesadillas or used for Vegan Nachos.
- Mexican oregano is optional. You can substitute it with regular oregano or leave it out entirely.
- Due to the variety of ingredients used, nutritional information is only an estimate.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- Category: main course
- Method: stove stop
- Cuisine: Mexican-inspired
- Diet: Vegan
- Serving Size: 1 quesadilla
- Calories: 252
- Sugar: 2.1 g
- Sodium: 1029 mg
- Fat: 7.5 g
- Carbohydrates: 38.6 g
- Protein: 8.5 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
Keywords: quick, cheese, international, game day, super bowl, kid friendly