Kung pao cauliflower is the perfect healthy alternative inspired by one of my favorite classic Chinese dishes: kung pao chicken. It's vegan, gluten-free, and has way less sugar than the traditional kung pao sauce while still being equally delicious. This recipe is perfect served as an appetizer or as part of a main dish.
Growing up, Chinese food was me and my dads 'thing.' Vegetable dumplings and kung pao chicken were staple take out items. Since going vegan, we've had to find ways to still enjoy our favorites today so this recipe is the perfect way to do just that! Watch out PF Changs, this homemade kung pao cauliflower might just be better than take out. It's similar to our fan favorite bang bang cauliflower recipe but uses an entirely different sauce.
This vegan kung pao cauliflower is crispy, healthy, easy to make, and your new guilty pleasure. Serve this recipe alone as an appetizer, or over a bed of rice with roasted peanuts to make an easy weeknight meal.
This kung pao cauliflower is easy to make and calls for pretty basic, pantry-friendly ingredients!
- Cauliflower: Cauliflower is so versatile and takes on flavors so perfectly. This recipe is no exception!
- Corn Starch: tossing the cauliflower in corn starch will ensure that a nice, crispy coating is achieved after roasting or air-frying.
- Oil: to help the corn starch stick to the cauliflower.
- Kung Pao Sauce: this vegan kung pao sauce is truly the star of the show (no offense to the cauliflower). It's the perfect combination of salty, sweet, and tangy made from tamari or coconut aminos, hoisin sauce, maple syrup, rice vinegar, sesame oil, fresh garlic, minced ginger, sriracha, and pepper.
This recipe is super simple to make, with really only two major steps: make the cauliflower and make the sauce! Start by preheating your oven to 425 degrees F and lining a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Toss the cauliflower in olive oil and cornstarch and spread evenly across the prepared baking sheet. Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping half way through.
- In a bowl, whisk together tamari or coconut aminos, hoisin sauce, maple syrup, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sriracha, pepper, water, and cornstarch.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and sauté the garlic and ginger for 1 minute until fragrant. Add the sauce and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Remove from heat.
- Add the cauliflower to the sauce and stir until evenly coated.
- Serve as is or over rice, topping with peanuts, scallions, and sesame seeds. Enjoy!
Recipe Variations & Substitutions
I love this recipe as is but feel free to try out these simple changes:
Air fry the cauliflower instead of baking/roasting it. Air fryer kung pao cauliflower is seriously top notch! To do this, preheat your air fryer to 400 degrees F and place the cauliflower in the basket in a row. Cook for 12-15 minutes, or until golden, giving the basket a shake halfway through.
Make cauliflower 'nuggets' instead by tossing the cauliflower in a batter made of your favorite dairy-free milk (1 cup), flour (1 cup), and seasonings and then coating in breadcrumbs before roasting.
Keep this recipe gluten-free by ensuring you're using a corn starch that is gluten-free and tamari or coconut aminos instead of soy sauce.
- Cut the cauliflower florets into the same size to ensure they all cook evenly. Also, the larger you cut the florets, the crispier they'll stay (smaller florets can get really soft and mushy).
- Eat the kung pao cauliflower immediately, otherwise they'll start to get soggy about 20 minutes after you toss them in the kung pao sauce. Or only toss them in the sauce when right before you're ready to serve.
- Double the sauce or more if needed depending on the size of your cauliflower head.
You can serve them as is as an appetizer or a snack, or you can put them over a bed of rice with peanuts, scallions, and sesame seeds as a satisfying plant-based meal.
Kung pao cauliflower is best served immediately. However, you can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Reheat in the oven at 400 degrees F.
Other recipes you might like
- Bang Bang Cauliflower
- Maple Glazed Cashew Tofu
- Buffalo Cauliflower Wraps
- Curried Cauliflower Pita Wraps