Jackfruit Ropa Vieja

First, let me say that when it comes to plant based cooking, the goal should never be to manipulate plants to substitute meat. Fruits and vegetables should be celebrated for what they are and can taste great by building flavor with spices. All that being said, this recipe is my one exception. I’m subbing out flank steak for jackfruit.

Ropa vieja is one of my all time favorite dishes. I would beg my grandma to cook it for me and she would teach me how to chop all of the vegetables and shred the meat. Those memories of cooking with my grandma are a large reason I’m passionate about cooking Latin cuisine. I recently made ropa vieja for the first time in my adult life while working on a family cookbook. Everything about this dish was as good as I remembered it from my childhood, except how eating red meat made me feel. So this is my version of my grandma’s dish.

Ingredients

VeggiesSpicesGrains
20 oz. Can of JackfruitCuminWhite Rice
1/2 Red OnionSazon con Azafran
1/2 Red Bell PepperSalt & Pepper
1/2 Green Bell Pepper
4 Garlic Cloves
14 oz. Can of Crushed Tomatoes
Culantro

Some notes about these ingredients: I’m using the young green jackfruit in brine from Trader Joe’s. It’s important to use the jackfruit in brine and not syrup, as the latter is too sweet for this recipe. Culantro is the cilantro’s cool older cousin. It looks nothing like cilantro but packs much more flavor that can stand up to prolonged simmering. It can be found in Asian markets as Vietnamese coriander or Ngo Gai. Sazon con Azafran is a spice mixture sold in packets. It can be found at Target and most major grocery stores.

Instructions

1. Prepare the vegetables. Slice the red onion and bell peppers into thin strips (julienne). Thinly slice the garlic cloves. Chop three culantro leaves into small bits and reserve one chopped leaf for garnish. Add all to a medium soup pot.

2. Add the can of tomatoes plus one can full of water to the pot. Add 1.5 tsp of cumin and 1 packet of Sazon con Azafran to the pot.

3. Prepare jackfruit. Strain the jackfruit with a mesh strainer. Slice large chunks into thinner strips and add to the pot.

4. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Let simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

5. After the stew has been reduced to a simmer, start making 1 cup of rice. Whether you use a rice maker, Instant Pot, or a pot on a stove, make sure to rinse the rice.

6. Serve the rice next to the Ropa Vieja. Garnish with chopped culantro.


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