This Kung Pao Cauliflower is a blend of baked crispy cauliflower, bell peppers, and onions, covered in a savory and spicy sauce. A meat free remake of the takeout classic, that tastes even better than store bought!
When I was living in America, my Friday night tradition involved ordering Chinese takeout. My favorite dish was the Kung Pao Chicken, and I would sometimes order a double serving so I could have it for lunch the next day.
Unfortunately, traditional Kung Pao chicken isn’t particularly healthy. The sauces can contain almost as much sugar as several cans of soda, and the chicken was often deep fried. Instead, I opted to make my own version, that not only tasted just as good as the takeout shop but also completely meat free. I tried a delicious version from Trader Joe’s and had to recreate it!
I’ve since learned to make the dish at home and now can turn my Friday night tradition into a quick and delicious weeknight meal!
What is kung pao cauliflower?
Kung pao cauliflower (or chicken) is a traditional Chinese stir fry dish that involves chopped chicken, peanuts, chilis, and vegetables. It originated in the Szechuan province and as such, can also include Szechuan peppercorns in them.
Obviously, cauliflower isn’t the typical ingredient in it. However, as I wanted to keep it vegan and meat free, I swapped it out for oven baked cauliflower and loved it even more- It was so crispy and crunchy!
How do you make kung pao cauliflower?
- Cauliflower– Chopped cauliflower florets, as close to bite sized pieces as possible.
- All purpose flour– Part of the batter for the cauliflower.
- Milk of choice– Any milk works, as long as it is unsweetened. I used unsweetened almond milk.
- Salt and pepper– Adds a touch of flavor to the batter.
- Panko breadcrumbs– For the extra coating after the cauliflower has been covered in batter.
- Soy sauce– Use light soy sauce, not dark soy sauce. The latter has a very overpowering flavor.
- Hoisin sauce– A sweet and salty sauce, distinguishing this dish from other Asian inspired take out dishes.
- Sesame oil– Gives a lovely sesame flavor, without being overpowering.
- Coconut sugar– Gives a little bit of extra sweetness. You can also use brown sugar or white sugar.
- Corn starch– Thickens the sauce. You can also use arrowroot starch.
- Water– for the sauce.
- Bell Peppers– Sliced bell peppers. Use a mix of green and red peppers.
- Onion– Sliced finely.
- Peanuts– Optional, but gives some added crunch.
Start by preparing your battered cauliflower. In a mixing bowl, whisk together your all purpose flour, milk, and spices. In a separate bowl, add your panko bread crumbs. Moving quickly, dip the florets in the batter, before dipping in the panko breadcrumbs. Place them on a baking sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown.
While the cauliflower is cooking, prepare the sauce and vegetables. Whisk all the sauce ingredients together, until combined. Set that aside. In a large pot or deep saucepan, heat some sesame oil. Once hot, add your onions and peppers. Stir fry for 5 minutes, until cooked and tender.
Once the cauliflower is cooked, add it to the pot with the vegetables. Pour the sauce all over the cauliflower and vegetables and mix well until fully coated.
Can I make this gluten free?
Yes, you can easily make this cauliflower dish gluten free. Use gluten free versions of the flour, panko breadcrumbs, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and arrowroot starch.
These are all available in mainstream supermarkets and grocery stores, along with online retailers, like Amazon.
Tips for this recipe
- If you don’t follow a vegan, vegetarian, or plant based diet, you can sub out the cauliflower for a protein of choice. Simply stir fry the protein first, before covering in the sauce.
- Traditional Kung Pao recipes contain whole red chilies in them. I omitted it, as I was serving this for friends with varying spice tolerances. If you like a little spice, add 4-5 whole red chilis when stir frying the vegetables.
- Don’t worry if your cauliflower isn’t super crispy. The recipe isn’t intended for the cauliflower to remain crispy, but have a nice, breaded texture when covered in the sauce.
- Feel free to add extra vegetables into it, like mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and baby corn. Also feel free to add other nuts, like cashews.
Storing and Freezing Kung Pao Cauliflower
- To store: Store leftovers in the refrigerator, in a sealable container, for up to 1 week. Any longer and the cauliflower will become really soggy.
- To freeze: To freeze this, you should freeze the cauliflower and the sauce separately. This ensures the cauliflower will remain tender. Cauliflower will keep well for up to 2 months.
More delicious veggie packed recipes
Kung Pao Cauliflower
- 4 cups cauliflower chopped (about 1 large cauliflower)
- 1 cup all purpose flour gluten free, if needed
- 1 cup milk of choice I used unsweetened almond milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs gluten free, if needed
- 1 large onion sliced
- 1 cup bell peppers
- 1/4 cup peanuts chopped
- 4 large dried chilis optional
For the sauce
- 1/4 cup soy sauce gluten free, if needed
- 1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/4 cup water
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
- In a mixing bowl, add your flour, milk, and salt. Whisk well. In a separate bowl, add your panko breadcrumbs.
- Dip the cauliflower florets in the batter until covered. Next, coat in the panko breadcrumbs. Place the cauliflower on the lined tray.
- Bake the cauliflower for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown.
- While the cauliflower is baking, prepare your sauce. Whisk together your soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, coconut sugar, cornstarch, and water, until combined. Set aside.
- In a large pot or saucepan, heat up some oil on medium heat. Once hot, add your sliced bell peppers and onions and sauteed for 5 minutes until cooked. Add the whole chilis and mix until combined.
- Add your baked cauliflower into the pot with the other veggies. Cover all the vegetables with the sauce until completely coated. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and serve.