How to Make the Ever-Spicy, Smoky Jackfruit Carnitas

Verde Executive Chef Justin Lewis reveals how to make his spicy best-seller, served at last week’s sold-out “veghacker” dinner.



A couple of months ago, the Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina team and I put our heads together and decided to come up with a Brazen Kitchen-inspired event. The result was last week’s sold-out Verde veghacker dinner, an electric evening with fantastic food whipped up by Executive Chef Justin Lewis.



I designed the menu with Lewis and handed him my favorite recipes. He put his own spin on them, and the result was a three-course, plant-powered menu: black-eyed pea fritters with spicy carrot-tomato sauce, smoked jackfruit carnitas with avocado-cashew cream and amazing pickled vegetables and — to end it all — a fluffy apple and pear empanada. With Verde’s unbeatable margaritas added to that equation, we had a very happy house going for hours.


Let me say, though, that the jackfruit carnitas were a big hit. I don’t think you can get them anywhere in the ’Burgh. Lewis started out by smoking the young jackfruit in a mix of hickory and mesquite. Then he shredded and stewed them with hot peppers and a host of spices. The result was a spicy, flavorful and very, very addictive taco.

He said that Verde will keep the taco on the menu for a limited time, so hightail it to the restaurant to grab some. In the meantime, here is the recipe so you can give it a go at home. This definitely is going to be a taco night and party staple at my house!


Smoked Jackfruit Carnitas

By Executive Chef Justin Lewis, Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina
Serves 12-15


  • 3 14-ounce cans young green jackfruit in brine
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 ounces hot peppers (cherry bomb, jalapeno, cayenne, serrano), seeds removed, diced
  • 1 7.5-ounce can chipotle in adobo sauce, chopped or blended in food processor
  • 6 cups tomato-based vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon freshly toasted and ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon freshly toasted coriander
  • 2 tablespoons chile powder (ancho chile powder is preferable for color and flavor)
  • 2-3 handfuls of hardwood for smoking (hickory, mesquite, alder, etc.)
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper


  1. Drain and thoroughly rinse jackfruit.
  2. Pat dry and smoke by your preferred method over low heat with natural wood chips (charcoal grill or electric smoker) until fruit has shrunk slightly and browned lightly around the edges. Refrigerate overnight. Then “shred” fruit into strands, discarding any woody core pieces.
  3. Sweat onions in 1-2 tablespoons olive oil until translucent (5-7 minutes).
  4. Add hot peppers and cook for a few minutes more, stirring often, regulating heat and adding vegetable stock to prevent scorching.
  5. Add garlic, spices and half of the chopped, canned chipotle; cook another 2 minutes until fragrant.
  6. Incorporate shredded jackfruit and barely cover with vegetable stock and add orange juice.
  7. Cover pan and slowly simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding stock as needed.
  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add the remaining chipotle, if desired, for more spice.
  9. Serve with corn tortillas and your choice of toppings — avocado, cilantro, crema, chimichurri, mangoes, etc. And don't forget about this Brazen Kitchen habanero lime crema!


Categories: Brazen Kitchen