Beach Bum Barbecue truck is famous for some of the most ridiculously meaty sandwiches in Indianapolis. The Galveston Goliath alone boasts a pound of smoked pork, brisket and chicken. But pitmaster John Barker is just as dedicated to vegan barbecue.

Barker’s “pulled pork” jackfruit sandwich is as monstrous as any of his meat stacks. The Texan seasons jackfruit with plenty of rub, smokes it as lovingly as he would beef, pork or chicken and sears on crusty edges in a hot cast-iron skillet.  

Mounded in a soft bun and drizzled with Beach Bum’s tangy signature sauce, Barker’s jackfruit is one of Indy’s best sandwiches.

The barbecue jackfruit sandwich is not the only meatless option on Beach Bum’s menu. Barker also smokes seitan ribs. Try the sandwich and ribs Feb. 17 when 10 Johnson Avenue coffee shop in Irvington hosts Beach Bum Barbecue for a 6 to 9 p.m. vegan barbecue event.

Everything on the menu will be meatless — entrees, sides and dessert — but don’t fret meat lovers. Beach Bum offers it all-meat menu 4 to 6 p.m. The coffee shop is at 10 S. Johnson Ave.

Fresh jackfruit is a huge, knobby orb native to India. When cooked, the firm, white flesh softens and pulls apart like slow-roasted pork or brisket. The flavor is mild and slightly sweet.

The meat-loving Barker never intended to offer barbecue jackfruit or other vegan dishes. The Houston native started his business because he missed his home state’s famous barbecue.

“Credit goes to my wife. She really pushed for it,” Barker said of Beach Bum’s vegan menu.

The couple noticed vegans and vegetarians had no options when the Beach Bum Barbecue truck was at public events. Nicole Barker challenged her husband to make meatless barbecue as good as his beef, pork and chicken. Nicole Barker wanted what has become a Beach Bum’s regular hashtag, #barbecueforall.

 The jackfruit barbecue took off.

“It’s been crazy. I never expected this,” John Barker said. “The vegan and vegetarian community has really supported us.”

Preparing jackfruit at home is easy. You don’t have to wrestle fresh jackfruit, usually available at international markets. Lots of supermarkets and online stores like Amazon sell plain and seasoned jackfruit in cans, jars, pouches and frozen in bags. Look for brands like Upton’s Naturals, Native Forest and The Jackfruit Company. This recipe was inspired by Beach Bum Barbecue’s jackfruit barbecue sandwich.

Barbecue Jackfruit Sandwiches

  • 2 14-ounce cans water-packed jackfruit, drained
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil or other vegetable oil
  • ½ to 1 cup medium spicy or spicy barbecue sauce
  • 2 cups coleslaw
  • 4 large rolls
  • Hot sauce

Rinse jackfruit. Trim away any tough sections from jackfruit and discard trimmings. Place jackfruit in a crockpot.

In a small bowl, blend smoked paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder and brown sugar. Add seasoning to jackfruit in crockpot. Gently stir together seasoning and jackfruit. Put the lid on the crockpot, set the heat to high and cook jackfruit for 1 hour.

Heat a large, cast-iron skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil. When the oil has heated, add the jackfruit to the pan. Saute the jackfruit, stirring occasionally, until it is well browned, adjusting the heat as needed to brown the jackfruit or keep it from burning.

Add enough barbecue sauce to coat the jackfruit in the pan. Stir to combine the sauce and the jackfruit. Add a little water if sauce seems too thick. Cooks and stir the jackfruit until the sauce thickly coats the fruit. Use two forks to shred the jackfruit. Remove pan from the heat.

Split the rolls to form sandwich buns. Evenly divide jackfruit among bottom halves of buns. Top jackfruit with ¼ to ½ cup slaw. Serve with extra barbecue sauce and hot sauce. Makes 4 sandwiches.