Sticky Vegan Pulled-Pork BBQ Bao

  • Jun 14, 2018

I watch a lot of food documentaries. From those focused on global warming to those about pure, hedonistic gluttony (has anyone seen Ugly Delicious?). I remember one which focused on BBQ in the Deep South with Michael Pollan – and while I don’t eat meat, it did make me wonder what something cooked for several days until you’re able to pull it in the threads might taste like. I think its the passion and dedication to craft that draws me to all of these documentaries….

I know that Jackfruit has been around for ages and many people have tried it in plant-based “pulled-pork” recipes – but we’ve not had it available in South Africa until now, thanks to Faithful to Nature. So far, they’re the only stockists of this amazing fruit. They asked us if we’d like to play with their new product and, ever the experimenters, we couldn’t say no. We had no idea what the fruit would taste like (or even feel like!) but discovered that it’s an incredibly versatile ingredient. You can make all sorts of “pulled” dishes and the fruit takes on the flavours of your other ingredients – a trait we’ve always liked tofu for.

Jackfruit is an exotic fruit grown in tropical regions of the world. It is native to South India and is part of the Moraceae plant family, which also includes fig, mulberry and breadfruit. It is also the biggest tree fruit in the world! What makes Jackfruit unique from other fruits, though, is its protein content. It provides more than 3 grams of protein per cup, compared to 0–1 grams in other similar types of fruit, such as apples and mangoes. It’s high in vit B6, magnesium and antioxidants all while offering a low-carb snack or even the perfect vegan “pulled-pork” sandwich.

Deciding to play with this idea (with a little twist) we created delicious, sticky Vegan Pulled-Pork BBQ Bao! Drawing inspiration from our recent Tangy BBQ Carrot and Bulgar Wrap, we updated this crowd favourite with some of our favourite Asian flavours and a soft, fluffy, cloud bao to hold it all together.

This kind of bao is a little like a burger, but lighter and with the added benefit of being able to roll them out to your prefered size. After you’ve prepared the dough and let it rest for a few hours, they steam in just a few minutes with the final dish coming together in less than 30mins.

Jackfruit is a great substitute if you’re looking for texture in your dish but would like to keep it plant-based. It’s the perfect alternative for those trying to avoid soy products – actually, I wonder how it would fair as a replacement in a classic spaghetti bolognese? Excuse me while I order some more and dash to my kitchen!


Makes 6 Large Bao buns


For the buns (these can be made a day in advance)

  • 2 1/2 cups bao flour/All Purpose Flour
  • 2tsp Instant Yeast
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1tsp Sea Salt
  • 2tsp Sugar

For the Filling


  • 1 Cucumber, ribboned
  • 5g Fresh Coriander, roughly chopped
  • 1tbsp Black Sesame Seeds
  • Kimchi for serving

For the buns

  1. Combine all your dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, use a whisk to aerate all the dry ingredients. Add 120ml warm water and 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil, combine roughly with a wooden spoon.
  2. Once the ingredients are roughly combined start combine the dough with your hands to ensure none of the dry ingredients remains. If the dough is too dry, add extra warm water (a tablespoon at a time).
  3. Using your hands or a standing mixer with a dough attachment knead the dough for roughly 10 minutes, or until it becomes elastic and smooth.
  4. Form your smooth elastic dough into a ball and rub a little oil over the surface. Place in a clean bowl and cover with a warm, clean dishcloth, place the bowl somewhere warm and let proof for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.
  5. Using a two-tiered bamboo steamer, cut 2 circles of baking paper to line the steamer. Some also prefer to use cabbage leaves to prevent sticking. Use a knife and pierce the baking paper several times to allow steam to escape.
  6. Once the dough has doubled in size tip it onto a lightly floured surface and punch the dough down with your hands. Then split the dough into 8 equal parts, rolling them into balls.
  7. Place the balls on a lightly floured surface, cover with a kitchen towel and leave for a further 30 minutes.
  8. Once the dough has risen for a second time, use a rolling pin to roll each ball into a 1/2cm thick oval, fold in half and insert a square sheet of baking paper in the centre.
  9. Line your bamboo steamer with the 2 circles you cut earlier and fold your buns inside for a further 30 minutes of proofing. Place 3 buns on each tier.
  10. A wok is generally the best to use, but any pot that will snugly fit your steamer is good to use, you want as little steam as possible to escape. Place your pot on a medium-high heat and fill halfway with boiling water and place your bamboo steamer, with your buns inside, on top. Once your water starts to simmer, you’ll be able to hear it, set your timer to 10 minutes. Once your timer goes off, remove your buns from the heat and let rest for 5 minutes.

For the filling:

  1. Open your tin of jackfruit and drain the excess liquid. Cut the firm pointy ends off, these are the parts that hold the strands of jackfruit together. Once the pointy ends are removed, using a medium-sized bowl, pull the jackfruit into strands. You can choose to cut up the pointy ends and add them, but their texture is slightly different.
  2. Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add your peanuts and dry roast for 3-4 minutes, shifting occasionally to allow for even colouring. Once your peanuts are complete, remove from pan and set aside to cool. Once cooled roughly chop your peanuts, or alternatively use a pestle and mortar, set aside until serving.
  3. Place the same pan back on the stovetop adding a drizzle of olive oil and fry your spring onions, garlic and ginger for 2 minutes, or until softened and slightly translucent. Add your five Chinese Spices and fry for a further minute to incorporate all the spices.
  4. Add all hoisin sauce, tamari sauce, maple syrup, chilli sauce and rice vinegar, mix well and add your grated carrot and jackfruit. Stir well to combine and distribute the sauces. If you find the mixture needs extra sauce, taste to test and adjust accordingly. If you’d like a slightly more bbq flavour. add more hoisin, if you’d like it to be sweeter add extra maple syrup, and if you’d like the filling to be saucier add a little extra of all the ingredients. Once you have the balance just right, add in your jackfruit, stir to coat and cook until warmed through. Remove from heat.
  5. To assemble your bao buns, fill each with a little bit of sliced red cabbage, a heaped spoonful of your jackfruit mixture, sprinkle with some sliced spring onions and chilli and top with crush peanuts and a final squeeze of lime juice. Repeat with all bao buns. We’ve included some optional extras you could include on your bao bun.
  6. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Note: This recipe was created as part of a paid partnership with Faithful to Nature, a brand who’s ethos we support wholeheartedly.