Jackfruit adds a flaky texture to these vegan “crab” cakes, made rich with tofu or white beans for a soy-free option.
I’ve been experimenting off and on with young green jackfruit ever since I heard of jackfruit carnitas. Harvested before it has a chance to become sweet, green jackfruit “shreds” as it cooks until it has an uncanny resemblance to pulled pork. It doesn’t have much flavor itself, which makes it ideal for soaking up the flavors of barbecue sauce, curry, Thai chile and lime, or anything else you throw at it.
It’s fairly easy to find canned jackfruit in stores specializing in Indian and Asian groceries. Look for it to be labeled “Young Green Jackfruit” and be sure that it’s packed in water or brine, not syrup. You will also notice cans of ripe jackfruit, but don’t be tempted to substitute them or you will wind up making a barbecue or “crab” cake that tastes like dessert. Ugh.
I have to admit that I wasn’t very satisfied with my first experiment with jackfruit. I simmered it in barbeque sauce for a while and served it on buns, and while the “meat” was nice and shreddy, it didn’t provide the satiety of a protein-rich barbeque made with tempeh, tofu, or beans. In other words, both my husband and I were still ravenous after we’d devoured all the jackfruit.
Jackfruit alone is very low in calories–a whole can, depending on the brand, may contain only 60 calories–so it’s great for adding volume to a dish without adding calories, but in my opinion, it needs more than just a sauce to make it a meal. It works best if combined with a protein-rich food like tofu to make it more filling and add nutrients.
In this recipe I used it to add flakiness and texture to my “crab” cakes (remember my okara and green curry versions?) I experimented with two variations, one with tofu and the other with beans, for a soy-free option, and both did a good job of holding the jackfruit burgers together.
My daughter and I preferred the lighter texture of the tofu version, while my husband liked the density of the cakes made with great northern beans. In both, the jackfruit adds a flakiness that is eerily similar to crab cakes.
Update May 27, 2019:
I remade this recipe using the Breville Smart Oven‘s air frying feature. I lined the air frying basket with perforated parchment paper, set the temperature to 400, and air fried for 35 minutes without turning. It didn’t save a lot of time, but it was much easier not having to turn the cakes.
Jackfruit "Crab" Cakes
- 1 small onion
- 1 20-ounce can young green jackfruit in water or brine rinsed and well drained
- 14 ounces firm tofu or 1 15-ounce can white beans drained
- 2 tablespoons dried arame crushed
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning (use a little more for more flavor)
- 2 large cloves garlic pressed
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce (or salt to taste)
- 1 teaspoon prepared mustard any variety
- 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder (optional, for color)
- 1/2 cup quick or regular oats (or quinoa flakes) uncooked
- 2/3 cup Breading optional (see Notes below)
- Chop the onion finely in food processor and place it in a medium bowl. Drain the jackfruit and rinse it well and add it to the processor. Pulse until it is broken into rough pieces about 1/2-inch in size; keep it fairly coarse and be careful not to grind it into a paste. Add it to the onions.
- Place the tofu or white beans into the processor along with all remaining ingredients except oatmeal and breading. Pulse to crumble the tofu finely and distribute the seasonings. Add the tofu mixture to the bowl along with the oatmeal, and stir well to combine with the jackfruit and onions. Refrigerate for about 15-30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. If you are using a breading (see note below), spread it on a large plate.
- Scoop up about 1/3 cup of the burger mixture and shape it into a patty. Place it into the breading, if desired, sprinkle a little breading on top, and gently pat into the top and sides. Carefully place it on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining mixture. Bake for 20 minutes. Carefully turn over each cake and bake for another 20 minutes. Serve alone with tartar sauce and spicy ketchup or on a bun.
Air Fryer Instructions
- These can be made in an air fryer, but the time and temperature will vary by brand. The good news is you don't need to turn them. In a Breville Smart Oven Air, preheat to 400, add the cakes to the basket (using perforated parchment paper helps keep the breading from falling into the oven), and cook until beginning to brown on all edges, about 35 minutes.
Nutritional info is approximate.
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MidgeApril 11, 2012 at 1:05 pm
Yum, this recipe looks delish. I will definitely try it. I tried a jackfruit carnitas recipe one time and although it was good, I would have to agree with you that it probably needs more than just sauce to make it satisfying. But it is a great stand-in for pulled pork, that’s for sure. I can see how the jackfruit’s texture can mimic that of crab.
Jimmy Edge JrMarch 13, 2018 at 3:04 am
I am looking for a change in the way I eat,your recipes will fit in my plans. Looking forward to enjoying these great recipes. Thanks you
admattaiApril 11, 2012 at 1:14 pm
Looks great! I was just wondering: would these freeze well?
Susan VoisinApril 11, 2012 at 1:18 pm
I think they would.
VyoletApril 11, 2012 at 1:26 pm
Susan, can I just say that you are a food genius?? I LOVE your blog! I have been an avid fan for years now and I am always impressed with your delicious recipes and your creativity with cooking. I just discovered Jackfruit recently and I’m excited to see you come up with a recipe using it. Thanks for a great blog 🙂
sharonApril 11, 2012 at 2:12 pm
Thanks Susan. I have had a can of jackfruit in my pantry for ages not knowing quite what to do with it. Will be trying this recipe out for sure.
RenataApril 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm
Hi! So excited to try these. Do you have a suggestion for the type of firm tofu to use?
Susan VoisinApril 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm
It should be one package of firm or extra firm water-pack tofu (not silken). Anything but silken or soft should be fine.
TristenApril 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm
I never heard of jackfruit – I’m so interested in checking it out. I’ll have to look for it. What kind of sauce did you use for dipping? Thanks for sharing!
Susan VoisinApril 11, 2012 at 3:10 pm
The sauce in the photo is a simple tartar sauce made with low-fat vegan mayo and sweet relish. I also serve it with a spicy ketchup-based sauce containing ketchup, horseradish, and hot sauce.
Yadsia @ShopCookMakeApril 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm
In Puerto Rico we eat Jackfruit right off the tree. We cut it in chunks, then deep fry it, after soaking the small pieces in very salty water for 30 seconds. It’s crunchy texture and salty tasty is addictive!
MichelleApril 11, 2012 at 3:07 pm
SO….fresh jackfruit in Thailand smells horrendous. Does the stuff that comes in the can smell bad too? honestly, it smells like stinky feet.
Susan VoisinApril 11, 2012 at 3:09 pm
Nope, no real odor with the canned kind. 🙂
Susan BApril 12, 2012 at 3:20 am
I think you are referring to durian — that is what smells so bad. They both have spikes and look similar from photos on the outside, but are very different creatures on the inside.
SharonApril 12, 2012 at 8:36 pm
Yes, Durian – I’ve tried it before and can’t take it. Tastes like sweet onion-garlic custard and the taste stays for days. They don’t allow it on public transit in Thailand!
SomerApril 11, 2012 at 3:50 pm
I have never tried Jack fruit! Super excited to add something new to our vegan diet! Hopefully I can find it locally. I am using your KISS (Keep it simple, soups and salads) approach to eat to live and have been able to enjoy it more then the basic plan. Thanks for all the great recipes and ideas!
GenaApril 12, 2012 at 6:57 am
I’ve never heard of jackfruit, but what an innovative way to make crab cakes!!
Kale CrusadersApril 12, 2012 at 8:31 am
Thank you so much for pointing out the difference between young green and ripe canned jackfruit. I was bound to mix that up.
I love the idea of mixing jackfruit with tofu or beans for a savory breaded cutlet. I might mix up the seasoning a bit to remove the crab-like taste—unfortunately I am not a fan. Thanks again, Susan!
SusanApril 12, 2012 at 10:01 am
Perhaps you will present us with a dessert made of the “ripe” jackfruit? (Please, please, please!) 60 calories and lots of volume sounds like good ingredients for a dessert! I guess this is a challenge for all of us to come up with something sweet using this ingredient. Thanks for introducing us to something new.
SharonApril 12, 2012 at 8:35 pm
It’s a great idea – I had a Jackfruit curry at a vegan friendly Indian Restaurant before and it was a amazing, I love that you can get canned Jackfruit, never thought of that before!
Kathy HesterApril 13, 2012 at 9:20 am
You have now given me reason to actually open the can of Jackfruit that’s been in my pantry the past few years. Happy Friday the 13th!
Christina HApril 13, 2012 at 8:14 pm
What a great idea! I recently tried jackfruit for the first time at an Indian restaurant and LOVED it! You’ve inspired me to seek out a can and experiment with it!
CarolynApril 14, 2012 at 11:10 am
Susan, I make zucchini based crabless cakes and love them, but I saw a recipe at I Eat Food a couple years ago that also uses canned unripe jackfruit, and just never got around to trying that recipe yet. Will definitely try your version, as zucchini is apparently kind of similar to jackfruit in that it is pretty low-cal. But zucchini has to be squeezed until it begs for mercy due to the water content! That can of jackfruit in the pantry will be pulled out today (seems like everyone here is in the same boat- we bought a can and then stared dumbly at it for two years, wondering what to do with it!!)
VegiegailApril 15, 2012 at 12:20 pm
OMG, I adore jackfruit, and I cannot wait to make this! Thank you, Susan!!!!
Theresa KApril 16, 2012 at 11:58 am
The photo of the shredded jackfruit in the food processor looks eerily like canned tuna!
Paul WhiteheadApril 16, 2012 at 7:49 pm
Could not find Jack fruit in my local grocery store. My oldest daughter has been to India, so she knows what it looks like before it is canned. Our Wegman’s is usually very good at carrying unusual food items. So I substituted celery root. I peeled it, shredded it in the food processor and microwaved it for 2 minutes. Every body loved it. My 12 yo daughter loves crab cakes and was shocked when I told her there was no crab in them. The nori really gives it a sea food taste. If I find jack fruit, I will give it a try, but this was an excellent recipe with this substitution.
MinyApril 17, 2012 at 5:27 pm
I made these today, and they’re totally awesome. We served them alongside brown rice, a stirfry and a variety of dipping sauces – my favourites being plum sauce, sweet soy sauce, apple cider vinegar and a mix of bbq sauce + ketchup + tabasco. I wonder though, if these would freeze well? They are kind of time consuming, even if they’re awesomepantz.
MaryApril 17, 2012 at 5:44 pm
I am curious, as I have been a vegetarian for 42 years and have never tasted crab cake, what does one serve with them if you don’t serve them between a bun?
Susan VoisinApril 17, 2012 at 6:06 pm
We usually have them with mashed potatoes or baked sweet potatoes and coleslaw or carrot salad plus a vegetable.
RobinApril 18, 2012 at 6:38 am
Looks gorgeous as always, Susan. Coincidentally, I have a recipe using jackfruit in the new issue of VegNews — for Sri Lankan Jackfruit Curry. It’s an amazing ingredient!
Susan VoisinApril 18, 2012 at 7:52 am
That sounds delicious, Robin! I will look for it!
WesApril 20, 2012 at 4:21 pm
I liked this recipe but was expecting more seaweed flavor from the arame. After the required amount, I could not taste it. Either the arame was old (bought on sale) or this recipe could use a more potent flavored type of seaweed.
A friend made the tofu version while I made the white bean version. Either one worked. I think mine had too much onion even for the small onion I used (probably about 3 inches across). But my friend like the stronger flavor.
We sampled each other’s recipe with just a little lemon juice. It was nice and it didn’t lose the subtle flavors of these cakes as did with the cocktail sauce I had tried earlier.
Susan VoisinApril 20, 2012 at 4:34 pm
I’m not a fan of fishy tasting things (too much and I can’t eat it) so yes, the seafood flavor is very light. Wakame or nori would provide more of a fishy taste.
mustelidMay 21, 2012 at 11:45 am
I haven’t tried this recipe, but I have a jackfruit “crab” cake recipe of my own and mine have a nicely pronounced fishy flavor. Instead of shredding the jackfruit straight out of the can, I first simmer it for about 30 minutes in 4-6 cups of water, a tablespoon or so each of salt and dry mustard, 1/4 cup or so of rice vinegar, a 1/2 cup of arame, and a 2″ piece of kombu. I remove the kombu after draining but mix the arame into the cakes and it is great! You might try this technique if you are looking for a more pronounced “of the sea” flavor.
Michele "Mick"April 21, 2012 at 9:28 am
Will be making 2nd batch tomorrow. I’ll use less Old Bay (I don’t care for the strong celery taste) and as others have commented I’ll add lemon (maybe a small amt of peel??). Good texture and very tasty. Will, again, make w/white beans and serve a Spanish Tortilla made w/tofu to replace the eggs.
Thank you for great recipes.
Low Fat Vegan Chef VeronicaApril 23, 2012 at 11:04 pm
I love working with Jackfruit! I have Jackfruit carnitas cooked in a pressure cooker in my upcoming recipe ebook Vegan Comfort Foods From Around The World. It’s so tasty.
I even made it for my mom’s omni Texan friends and they were like “wha? this tastes like pulled pork… it’s a fruit? Uh… well I’m going to keep eating it cuz it’s damn good!”
It was so funny. They still couldn’t understand it when I showed them later. I gave the recipe to my mom so she can make them now. Jackfruit carnitas/faux pulled pork work great in sandwiches and buns too for quick meals!
LynnMay 4, 2012 at 7:17 pm
Brilliant! My family is Indian and my mom makes a killer jackfruit curry. She even cooks the jackfruit seeds (I don’t think you can get those canned). I must try this!
GKBMay 17, 2012 at 5:54 am
very innovative.In India we make curry out of this and if sliced thin enough we can make fritters too!
CatherineMay 20, 2012 at 8:40 pm
Awesome veg patties! They hold very well and don’t crumble, unlike most veg burgers, even though I used a medium firm tofu. I agree the texture is almost «meaty», and reminding of crabmeat. I made these thai style, by replacing the original seasonings with lemongrass, ginger, hot pepper sauce and lime juice. I will do this recipe again… next time I go to the oriental market I’ll buy more Jackfruit !!
SJ CoryMay 29, 2012 at 4:56 pm
I did not have oatmeal so I substituted wheat germ. These came out awesome! They were so easy and quick to make.
Celeste KemmererJune 19, 2012 at 4:17 pm
Can you substitute fresh jackfruit? I have never seen canned jackfruit, but I have seen fresh jackfruit in our local Mexican market. I pretty much looked at it and said, “What is that good for?” Not having ever eaten any…
email@example.comAugust 19, 2012 at 6:17 pm
My husband and I are fairly new to the vegan thing,.(We are grandparents!) We have been vegetarian for a while thanks to my animal activist daughter and writer! I am amazed at the wonderful recipes I am discovering.I have never been very interested in cooking,but I am loving this challenge of healthy cooking. I made these last night and they were good. I had rolled them in Panko crumbs.I had 2 leftover so tonight I decided to brown them in the smallest amount of grapeseed oil.I made some vegan tartar sauce.Wow! They were so crispy and the tarter sauce made them crazy good.I just discovered your site yesterday.I love it.
Susan VoisinAugust 19, 2012 at 7:33 pm
I’m so glad you liked them! Thanks for letting me know.
MarlaOctober 19, 2012 at 5:23 pm
I made these jackfruit “crab cakes” OMG these are awesome. Susan, so far I made your Rediculously Lentil Stew, Cabbage Noodle Soup, Peppered Baked Tofu and EVERYTHING is wonderful. I am doing the Eat to Live diet and your recipes rock for this lifestyle. Keep up the awesome work.
MarlaOctober 19, 2012 at 5:25 pm
I meant “Rediculously Easy Lentil Stew, lol. Oh and the Tofu-Cashew Mayo is to die for! I will not be buying Vegannaise again. I made this into a dip by adding fresh dill. So, so good.
firstname.lastname@example.orgJanuary 20, 2013 at 10:09 am
Dol you remove the core, seeds, and seed capsules from the Jack Fruit before using it in the cakes? I did not, and the seeds and core were a bit distracting.
Susan VoisinJanuary 20, 2013 at 10:23 am
I used it straight out of the can, and mine didn’t have seeds.
KristynApril 2, 2013 at 11:26 am
I made these last night and we (3/4 of us) really enjoyed them. I have 10 year old twin girls. One loved them the other hated them. That’s par for the house. I made up some tartar sauce (silken, relish, mustard and lemon juice) to go with them. They are very filling! I’ll be making them again as they are really easy too.
KathiApril 5, 2013 at 5:44 pm
I made these tonight and they are wonderful – spicy and flavorful, moist, slight sea flavor (I used dulse because I had it…). The texture of the jackfruit makes it very much like lump crabmeat. I think you could fool folks! Thank you for sharing your recipe!
ShellieApril 7, 2013 at 4:55 pm
Do you have to use arame or is nori just as good? Thanks.
ShellieMay 7, 2013 at 12:53 am
We made these tonight for dinner. We got 9 good size patties. DELICIOUS!! The jackfruit really gave a lump crab consistency. The mixture of the tofu alone with the seasonings was delicious. I did use quinoa flakes instead of oatmeal, and used Trader Joe’s organic wheat bread crumbs for the coating. I’m glad I picked up a few cans of the jackfruit after searching high and low to find them. I found an Indian market that had them (same can in your pic in brine) and the other spices for last nights Kale and Toor Dal. I just love your recipes. Thanks. 🙂
ShellieMay 7, 2013 at 12:55 am
Oh….and I did use Arame. Wish I bought it last week because Whole Foods raised the price $3.00 as they have their other products that they’re putting a non-GMO sticker on the shelf.
Melissa MilesAugust 30, 2013 at 6:26 am
Thanks for the recipe! I’ve been craving seafood for awhile now, but we gave up meat last October. These turned out nicely, paired with a big salad. We topped them with a mango salsa, and I liked the salsa’s sweet red papers with them. We used the Great Northern beans, but I may try with tofu next time just to see which we prefer. This was the third jackfruit recipe I’ve tried, and I have to say we are becoming fans. Thanks again!