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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DebbieJune 21, 2014 at 8:52 pm
I am having a hard time finding arame. Where do u buy it? Is there anything I can substitute for it? Love your site. Love your recipes. Everything I’ve made has been delicious!
Matt AllenAugust 6, 2015 at 12:29 am
I really was impressed with these! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I really enjoyed the flavor and texture of these. they really tasted good. they are REALLY good in a sandwich with some coleslaw! I’m going to try to freeze a batch of these!
BKKMay 25, 2020 at 6:38 pm
I’m not sure how this recipe has such great reviews, I had to make SO many adjustments: salt, sweet, spicy, etc. I added about 6 other things to make it palatable.
RandyOctober 10, 2016 at 10:30 am
We celebrate World vegetarian Day every year with a potluck sometime in October. This year it was this past weekend. I made these crab cakes for the first time (FFV has never let me down). I doubled the recipe and got about 20 cakes. They were a big hit. This recipe is going into the “make these again” pile.
Susan VoisinOctober 10, 2016 at 11:24 am
I’m so happy to hear this! Thanks for posting.
Mrs PorterOctober 31, 2016 at 2:02 pm
Just tried this recipe today. It is amazing. Had to make my own Old Bay as I am in the UK but it was so good.
frannieJanuary 5, 2017 at 4:32 pm
Great Recipe! I made a batch using half tofu and half beans, because I figured that would be the best of both worlds. The only alteration I made was to take a small portion of the finished mix (just before the forming and breading) and put it in the processor to make a grainy paste and then added it back into the mix. I did this to get closer to the texture of a real crab cake (I’m omnivore and have recent comparisons).
Also, I made a bunch of appetizer sized cakes out these (about 1 1/2 diameter) and froze them prior to breading stage. When I thawed and tried to cook them they were hard to keep from crumbling apart, so I improvised by mixing them up in a bowl together with some mashed steamed potato to help hold them together. Worked perfectly and just as delicious!
KimApril 9, 2018 at 4:20 pm
Another Win, Susan. I made them with Tofu. Fun stuff! Thanks you!
DMarch 7, 2019 at 10:11 am
I can only find jackfruit in brine in my area……any way i can use it in this recipe?
Susan VoisinMarch 7, 2019 at 10:16 am
As long as it’s young green jackfruit, in brine is fine.
DMarch 7, 2019 at 10:13 am
I already have nori in my cabinet. Can i use that instead of arame?
Susan VoisinMarch 7, 2019 at 10:18 am
I’m not sure how much you should use, so just add it to taste.
Christine ScalfoSeptember 10, 2019 at 5:11 pm
I’ve made this recipe many times and it’s one of my favorites. I am writing about Jackfruit for an upcoming newsletter and was wondering if I can post a link back to this page. Please let me know. Thanks!
Susan VoisinSeptember 10, 2019 at 6:44 pm
Of course! Link away. I’m glad the recipe is one of your favorites.
MaraikaApril 9, 2020 at 11:53 pm
Hi. Should you remove the core from the Jackfruit first or is it all used. Thanks.
Susan VoisinApril 10, 2020 at 9:27 am
Since I was using canned jackfruit, I used it all, but I’m not familiar with fresh jackfruit, so I’m not sure how to handle it.
KathleenMay 16, 2020 at 11:38 am
We love this recipe and I have made it several times. I don’t have Arame so added some dulse.