This creamy jackfruit curry recipe is easy to make and full of delicately spiced Padang Indonesian flavours. It is suitable for the whole family too as (rather inauthentically) there is no chilli in this recipe so that the adults can add spicy sambal oelek to their portions and the kids can enjoy non-spicy curry at the same time. It might just become a firm family favourite in your vegan and gluten-free cooking repertoire!
Why you will love this easy vegan jackfruit curry recipe!
- Slow-cooked jackfruit with delicious tropical flavours in a mildly spiced creamy coconutty sauce.
- Easy to make (and can be made in the Instant Pot or slow cooker if you like).
- Uses mostly tinned or frozen ingredients so that you can have the ingredients on hand for whenever you want to make it.
- Very mild so it is suitable for the whole family.
- Healthy, plant-based and gluten-free.
What is jackfruit?
Jackfruit is a common South Asian fruit that is relatively unknown in the West. It is actually the largest tree fruit in the world and can grow to a massive 3 feet long! In Indonesia, jackfruit trees are commonly found in household gardens, supplying a considerable number of fruits throughout the year.
My memories of jackfruit (from when I used to live in Singapore) are of a sickly sweet bright yellow fruit that stank out my fridge! So, I was naturally a little intrigued as to how this fruit was becoming popular as a vegan meat substitute in savoury recipes.
It turns out that young (unripe) jackfruit is used as a vegetable in these savoury dishes while the bright yellow, incredibly sweet ripe jackfruit that I remember is used for eating raw or in dessert recipes. The smell of fresh ripe jackfruit is very distinctive and to some, it can be unpleasant. Thankfully for me, young jackfruit is relatively odourless!
Jackfruit as a Vegan Meat Substitute
In recent years, jackfruit has gained fame as a popular vegan meat substitute because when young jackfruit cooks down over a long time, it loses its unripe firmness and takes on a meaty texture very similar to shredded meat, much like pulled pork.
When we cook jackfruit as a meat substitute in savoury dishes, we are talking about unripe or “young” jackfruit. Do not try to use fresh ripe jackfruit which is far too sweet and soft for savoury recipes. Young jackfruit, however, is hard and nobbly and needs to be cooked for an hour or more to soften it and cook it down to that unctuous soft shredded meat texture.
Due to its current popularity, it is now fairly easy to find tinned young jackfruit in the supermarkets.
What is Padang Jackfruit?
“Padang jackfruit” or “Gulai Nangka” is a much-loved Indonesian dish from the Padang area of Indonesia (also where the more famous beef rendang comes from!). It is a mild creamy curry made by stewing young jackfruit in coconut milk and aromatic spices.
After researching and studying many Indonesian recipes, I tried making my own version using ingredients that were more commonly available to me in Western supermarkets. It was so delicious and was a surprise hit with the kids too! They were so sure that it was shredded chicken, they even double-checked half-way through eating it! This recipe is now a firm favourite for our family.
How else can you use young jackfruit in vegan cooking?
I have tried a few different jackfruit dishes with varied success. Meera Sodha’s jackfruit tacos are amazing (as all her recipes are!) whereas I’m not so keen on some of the jackfruit mayonnaise recipes that I’ve tried.
I’m a textural person and the firm, fleshy, slightly odd texture of tinned jackfruit straight out of the tin does not appeal to me. Slow-cooking improves the texture so that it resembles a soft pulled meat more similar to those textures I was used to before I stopped eating meat.
- Young Jackfruit – As mentioned above, you need young or unripe jackfruit for this recipe. If you're lucky enough to have access to fresh young jackfruit, you can use that. However, canned jackfruit is more widely available and is perfectly acceptable in this recipe. Look for tinned young jackfruit preserved in either water or brine (not preserved in syrup which would be disgustingly sweet!). You could also use the pre-cooked shredded jackfruit like the Bonsai brand. This of course will not need slow cooking as it has already been cooked so you could just cook the jackfruit in the sauce for half an hour or so, just to develop the flavours.
- Coconut Cream – This ingredient adds the essential creaminess to this soothing curry and is used in many Indonesian recipes. If you only have coconut milk, just put the tin in the fridge overnight then the next day, it will have separated so that the cream will be at the top of the tin and the liquid at the bottom. You can just take out the coconut cream with a spoon. (Note, this will only work with full-fat coconut milk).
- Lemongrass – this gives the delicate slightly floral citrus tones. If you don’t use it often in your cooking, you can keep the rest of the packet in the freezer to use whenever you need it (just throw it in straight from frozen).
- Lime leaves – these have a very particular flavour but if they are hard to come by where you live, just substitute for ½ teaspoon grated lime zest and 1 tablespoon lime juice. Again, you can keep lime leaves in the freezer to use from frozen when you need them. It diminishes the flavour very slightly but the usefulness (and waste reduction) far outweighs the slightly milder flavour.
- Green beans – these add some greenery to the dish and bulk it out a bit more. You could use whichever green vegetables you like best.
Spice Mix Ingredients
I like to make my own spice paste because it is very easy to throw the ingredients into the blender and the result is a fresher flavour. Feel free to use a commercial spice blend instead, if you prefer. For this spice paste, I use turmeric, coriander, garlic, ginger, onion, lime leaves, macadamia nuts, coconut oil and a splash of water.
- Lime Leaves - If you can’t find these, you can use 1 teaspoon grated lime zest instead.
- Coconut Oil - substitute with vegetable oil instead if you like.
- Macadamia Nuts - for true authenticity, you would use candlenuts. However, I can't find those easily here in Doha or in the UK so I use macadamias instead, which are a good substitute. If you don't like those nuts, you could use cashews or brazil nuts instead.
Please see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for full list of ingredients and their quantities.
How to make this recipe
This is such a simple recipe to make!
- First, you make the spice mix by throwing all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and whizzing to a smooth paste.
- Next, gently fry the spice mix for a few minutes. Then slowly add the vegetable stock, stirring to make a sauce. Add the drained and rinsed jackfruit, the lemongrass and the lime leaves and put the lid on. Leave to simmer for 1-2 hours stirring occasionally.
- When the jackfruit is tender, gently tease it apart with two forks (or leave as whole chunks if you prefer), stir into the sauce and add the sugar, salt, coconut cream and green beans. Cook, covered, for 3-5 minutes until the beans are cooked.
Serve with rice and condiments.
This is a summary only. Please see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this page for full instructions.
Tips for Making the Best Indonesian Jackfruit Curry
- Make sure to buy the tinned jackfruit that is in brine NOT in syrup. The sugary syrup would absolutely ruin your dish so be very careful to buy the right one!
- Make sure to drain the tinned jackfruit pieces and rinse them really well to remove any sliminess.
As with most curries, the best way to serve this is with steaming hot rice and a range of Indonesian condiments for everyone to adjust the dish to their own palates. Here are the condiments I like to serve with this jackfruit curry:
- Indonesian sambal oelek (chilli sauce)
- Fried crispy onions
- Ketcap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
- Chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
- Lime wedges
For those on a low-carb diet, this jackfruit curry works really well with cauliflower rice. I find the quickest and easiest way to make cauliflower rice, is to grate half a cauliflower (or, for thermomix users, whizz chunks of cauliflower for 5 secs / Reverse sp. 5), then put it in a glass bowl in the microwave with 2 tablespoon water. Microwave for 2 minutes, then stir and microwave again for 2 more minutes, then stir in a spoonful of coconut oil and a generous pinch of salt.
Making Ahead and Storage
As with all curries, the flavours of this Padang Jackfruit Curry will develop over time so it is great to make it a day or two ahead and then keep it stored in a sealed container in the fridge. You can also store it (and any leftovers) in the freezer for up to six months.
Once you are ready to eat it, defrost thoroughly in the fridge overnight, then warm it up gently on the stove.
Vegan Indonesian Jackfruit Curry FAQs
For super soft, tear apart jackfruit, use tinned young jackfruit (unripe jackfruit) and slow cook, simmering gently for 1-2 hours. Once cooked, use two forks to gently pull it apart into a shredded meat, pulled pork kind of consistency.
Since jackfruit is not very high in protein, this is not a high protein dish. There is some protein from the nuts but if you want to add more protein, serve with wholegrain brown rice or you could also add some fried tofu or tempeh. For an easy way of preparing tofu, check out this crispy air fried tofu recipe which would be delicious with this curry.
Indonesian food is usually very spicy but my recipe is very mild since I created it as a family meal to eat with my young children who won’t touch anything remotely spicy! For family food, I always cook without chillies and then we adults adjust the heat individually on the plate. For Indonesian food, we add a big dollop of sambal oelek (Indonesian chilli sauce) onto the side of the plate to spice up our adult portions while the children can eat the same meal without the heat. Of course, if you don't have this particular issue to contend with, then the recipe would no double be improved with a chilli or two thrown into the spice paste. Adjust to your liking!
Yes! This kind of recipe is perfect for cooking in a slow cooker or pressure cooker.
- For the Instant Pot, just follow the recipe using the sauté function on the Instant Pot for the initial frying then after you add the stock, lemongrass and lime leaves, put the lid on, seal and set to high pressure for 1 hour.
- For the slow cooker, fry the spice paste in a frying pan first then after you add the stock, lemongrass and lime leaves, transfer the mixture to the slow cooker and cook for 4 hours on high or 6 hours on low.
📖 Recipe 📖
Indonesian Padang Jackfruit Curry
- 7 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- 4 cm piece of ginger, (or 2 teaspoon ground ginger) peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 small onion , (or ½ large onion) peeled and roughly chopped
- 4 macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
- 3 lime leaves, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 tablespoon coconut oil
- 2 tablespoon water
- 500 ml vegetable stock
- 1 x 400g tin young jackfruit in brine, drained and rinsed well (400g tin gives 225g drained jackfruit)
- 1 piece lemongrass, (or 1 teaspoon jarred lemongrass) bruised
- 2 lime leaves
- 2 teaspoon coconut sugar , (or dark muscovado sugar)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 100 ml coconut cream
- 100 g fresh or frozen green beans
- 2 tablespoon crispy fried shallots
- 1 lime, cut into wedges, for serving
- coriander (cilantro) leaves
- ketcap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
- sambal oelek or chilli oil, to taste
- First make the spice mix by putting all spice mix ingredients into the blender and whizzing until it becomes a smooth paste.1 teaspoon turmeric powder, ½ teaspoon ground coriander, 7 garlic cloves, 4 cm piece of ginger, 1 small onion, 3 lime leaves, 4 macadamia nuts, 2 tablespoon coconut oil, 2 tablespoon water
- In a large frying pan or casserole dish, fry the spice mix over a medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 5-10 minutes until the oil starts to separate and the mixture changes from a vibrant yellow colour to a deeper golden brown.
- Then slowly add the stock, little by little, stirring constantly so that it is nice and smooth. Then add the drained and rinsed jackfruit, the lemongrass and the lime leaves, put the lid on and simmer for 1-2 hours over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until jackfruit is soft. Top up with a little water whenever it gets too dry.(Note, 1 hour is the minimum time but it can happily sit cooking over a very low heat for as long as you’d like, adding a little water whenever it gets too dry).500 ml vegetable stock, 1 x 400g tin young jackfruit in brine, 1 piece lemongrass, 2 lime leaves
- Once cooked, the jackfruit should feel very soft and you can pull it apart with two forks and squash down any lumpy bits so that it looks like shredded meat in the sauce. Give it a good stir into the sauce then stir in the coconut sugar, salt, and coconut cream. Add the green beans, put the lid back on and cook for 3-5 minutes until the beans are soft but still a vibrant green. (Note, fresh beans will take a few more minutes to soften).2 teaspoon coconut sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, 100 ml coconut cream, 100 g fresh or frozen green beans
- Serve garnished with a little more coconut cream, some crispy fried shallots and a squeeze of lime juice (and chilli oil or sambal oelek if you fancy a bit of heat!).2 tablespoon crispy fried shallots, sambal oelek or chilli oil, 1 lime, cut into wedges
- Since we have young children in the family, I do not cook with chillies, and instead I add chilli oil or sambal oelek to the food on my plate, but feel free to add a chilli or two to the spice mix if you are not cooking for young chilli-phoebic children!
- Serve with brown or white rice or cauliflower rice and lots of condiments - ketcap manis, sambal oelek, fried shallots, fresh coriander (cilantro) and lime wedges.
- For added protein, you could add some fried tempeh or tofu pieces. This air fried crispy tofu is a good option.
- You could also make this in the Instant Pot (1 hour high pressure) or slow cooker (4 hours on high). See blogpost for further details.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a ⭐ star rating ⭐ on the recipe card!
If you like this Vegan Jackfuit Curry recipe, you may like these other delicious vegan and gluten-free recipes too: