If you prefer, you can skip my long-winded intro by clicking here.

This actually was something I did a couple weeks ago, and while I called it a Kitchen Activity, this was really done on the grill outside. Nevertheless, I felt it was appropriate to share this pair of recipes because their may be people with unusual dietary restrictions (or even just adventurous souls look for something new) that might benefit from the information.

There are, of course, a lot of different dietary restrictions people face these days. Some are relatively simple to deal with (low-fat, nothing fried, etc). Some of them, however, are a lot trickier (diabetes; Celiac; Phenylketonuria or PKU) and of course, some people face several health conditions that can make the seemingly simple task of making a meal into an absolute nightmare.

The nice thing, in some respects, is that there is a lot more in the way of alternatives today for recipes than there have been in years past. And while some of the alternatives developed from diet choice, they still have a benefit to people who are required to live with restrictions. I’ve never had a problem with the idea of people deciding to have a vegetarian diet, or even a vegan one, so long as they can respect my position that I am not a person who will be doing that. If you don’t feel right eating meat because it bothers you, that’s absolutely fine by me. Just don’t expect that I’ll do that, too. I like chicken, beef and pork.

But in the case of a dietary condition like PKU, vegetarian or vegan diet isn’t a choice, it’s a restriction that you HAVE to live with, and it’s not as simple as not eating meat. It’s an outright limitation on proteins. That’s right, natural occuring proteins, whether meat-based or plant-based, are a severely restricted part of the diet of a person with PKU, and given that even things like bread often have too much protein for a person with the disorder, meal planning can become quite the challenge.

A few years ago, my wife brought to my attention a fruit she had been reading about – jackfruit. Jackfruit is a multiple fruit which can be used unripened or in ripe form. When ripe, it is a very sweet fruit easily used in desserts and snacks. But in it’s unripe form, it has properties that make it very meat-like in texture, and a mild flavor which lends itself well to seasoning and various forms of preparation.

My wife and I first found jackfruit available as a product in the specialty refrigerated foods of our local Wegman’s supermarket. Kelly actually found it, and told me about it, and I discovered soon that they had a few different varieties of pre-packaged, pre-marinated flavors. Kelly tried out the various recipes and discovered, to her delight, that the flavor was fantastic, and it made for a very nice, fibrous filler for any number of meals. Most impressively, the texture of the cooked product was akin to shredded pork. With that, a new major option for Kelly was born.

We later found out that there was an option to by young jackfruit (the unripened version) in cans, conveniently located in the Asian cuisine isle at the same store. The canned version had no flavoring initially, so we were free to put on whatever Kelly would want. And the result was, frankly, fantastic. Kelly has since tried home-made taco seasoning, BBQ, and even a variation using the local favorite, Chiavettas (pronounced sort of like this: Sha-ve-tas) Chicken Marinade; a very popular vinegar-based marinade which is a hallmark of the Buffalo area. She could shred the jackfruit after cooking it and use it on sandwich buns, over salads… the possibilities seemed extensive.

Naturally, we needed to see if we could push it even further, for variation’s sake.

And so I set out to find her a new way to use the jackfruit meat. And (to get to the point of this story), I found it, in the form of a jackfruit patty.

This is essentially the same thing as a hamburger patty, but the vegetarian / vegan properties make it something anyone can have if they choose that sort of diet; and for a person who has to count protein to the gram, this is a fantastic choice, because you can literally season your mix like any normal hamburger, and away you go.

So how do you go about doing this?

First, you will need something to grind the jackfruit. A food processor will probably work, though a meat-grinder definitely worked better for us.

Start out with a can of young jackfruit. Open it, drain out any water, and put it aside. You’ll want to dice up some onions (I used red onion, but this is a matter of taste) so that you have, perhaps 1/4 cup when chopped finely.

Next, grind the jackfruit with a course grinding head, and put it into a good-sized mixing bowl. If you use a foot processor, try to use an attachment that won’t puree it. You don’t want it broken down that much. You want beef-like texture for mixing. If you do use a grinder, be prepared for some liquid to squirt from the fruit as it’s grinding.

In the mixing bowl, add your diced onion, and then add 1/4 cup of flour. For people with PKU, I suggest using the baking mix from Cambrooke foods. If you don’t need to worry about that, you can use any type of flour you’d prefer. Some people prefer coconut, other people will just use standard white flour. That’s entirely up to you and based on what you’re needs are.

At this point, you can also add different seasonings, spices and herbs into your mix. I used some parsley, oregano, Italian seasoning, and lemon and garlic peppers. A little of each was all I sprinkled in. After that? You mix the ingredients together, by hand. Now, this is where you have to watch the recipe a bit. Your goal is to get raw-hamburger-textured balls to form into patties. So you may need to add a touch of flower at a time to absorb some of the moisture. Don’t add too much at once though. I literally had another quarter cup sitting aside, and added perhaps a teaspoon at a time, mixing thoroughly by hand, and checking the consistency as I went. I’d judge that I used about 3 teaspoons to get the consistency that felt right to me. Then I put it aside and cleaned up the space a bit.

Now, forming patties isn’t exactly rocket science, but I will say that if you want to make the process as easy on yourself as possible, get a patty press of some sort. There are tons of options on Amazon, and just about any type would do. The one I have is a press with an adjustable press plate. And make sure you have some wax paper or patty sheets nearby. Also, get yourself a small metal tray, something you can put in the freezer. A cookie sheet works great.

Press your patties and lay them out on individual sheets of wax paper. I got 3 patties out of 1 can’s jack fruit. Then we put them in the freezer for about 20 minutes. During this time, I went back and made the same recipe with ground beef, egg and breadcrumbs in place of the jackfruit and flour (you do not need egg for the jackfruit version; the moisure of the fruit seems to be enough of a binder with the flour). Again, I pressed out a bunch of patties here. I used more ground beef, but I wanted to make enough regular patties so I’d have 2 for each of the rest of us; that’s approximately a pound-and-a-half of ground beef. I used 1 large egg, and about 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs. Again, you’ll want to see how the consistency is for you, but these are decent guidelines, I think.

After that, we heated up the grill and waited for it to get to at least 400 degrees. Then we get the jackfruit patties out of the freezer, and take those and the beef patties outside.

Now you should get why I suggested the freezer for the jackfruit patties; they’ll have hardened enough that you can get them onto the grill and off of the wax paper without them falling apart. Don’t just slap them down like you would with the beef patties. You’ll need to be a bit more gently, but it shouldn’t be too hard to get these transferred on. After that, you can close up your grill and lower the temperature a bit. As long as you’re at 325 or higher, you’ll be fine.

Now the beef patties could be flipped over after about 5 minutes, the first time, but the jackfruit patties should stay un-flipped for at least 10 minutes. After that, though, you can use a spatula to carefully pick up and turn them over. Once you’ve cooked them like that on each side, you can proceed to flip them a bit more to cook them through. I know a lot of people like to flip their burgers repeatedly, frequently, to get them to cook just right. You can do that with these patties too, but give 10 minutes on each side before you do – this ensures that they fully bind together.

And at this point, you might actually start having a hard time really knowing which patties are which. Well, maybe. Obviously, you won’t see any of the red juices from the ground beef on the jackfruit patties, but from this shot, they look pretty convincing.

Finally, if you like, you can add cheese on. Again, there are a lot of options out there for different tastes and restrictions, so you just choose what works for you.

If you look closer, you can see that they are lighter in color, and the texture will be slightly different; more like ground pork or chicken than beef, but given that people have made other types of meat patties, this isn’t a big deal. And it gives you options. Next time we get a chance, we may grill these and then put them into a slow cooker with some BBQ sauce; but whatever we do, I’m sure it’ll come out as another versatile recipe to help with restrictions in diet.

The Short Version

Grind the jackfruit (do not puree). Mix in flour / baking mix and onions, and add other seasonings as desired. Mix by hand (use a folding / kneading motion for good results). Form into patties (I strongly suggest using a press; makes it easier) and place on wax paper / patty paper. Put the patties (on the paper) onto a cookie sheet and freeze for about 20 minutes. Grill at 325+ degrees (Fahrenheit) for 10 minutes on one side, gently flip to the other and repeat. After that you can flip a few more times in a more frequent fashion, and then add cheese on to melt at the end.

For the ground meat version, the same instructions apply, with these ingredients:

And my suggestion for a Patty Press is here.

Oh, and for the record, this wasn’t my original idea. I put this one together based on a recipe I found, here.