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Sharing an easy week night recipe with you inspired by the Chinese dish Kung Pao Chicken. I loved ordering Chinese food takeout as a kid and since going vegan in 2016, I’ve taken my hand at attempting to veganize old favorite Chinese recipes! This Kung Pao Cauliflower might not be traditional, but it is a healthier version of an old favorite, packed with flavor from the fresh garlic, ginger and lime juice and comes together in about an hour!
Before going vegan, I didn’t really eat or buy cauliflower all that often. It basically was just broccoli to me but..white and a little crunchier. I didn’t know what to do with it and so, I just never used it really! I think the first recipe I ever tried that used cauliflower instead of real chicken was Lauren Toyota from Hot For Food’s Cauliflower Buffalo Wings. She talked about how meaty cauliflower can be and hot when it’s baked and covered in a delicious sauce you basically can’t tell the difference.
And do you know what? She was right! The stems of the cauliflower sort of emulate the slightly stringy texture of chicken once baked and with a good sauce, they can be just as good as the real thing! Better if you ask me!
Something I’ve also learned since going vegan is the protein or “meat” of choice isn’t what makes a dish good. It’s the sauce or method in which the food is cooked. People don’t enjoy eating boiled, plain chicken because it doesn’t taste good. What makes it good and enjoyable is the sauce, seasonings or crispiness it gets when baked, fried, etc.
how to cook your cauliflower
For this recipe, chop your cauliflower into bite sized florets. First drench your cauliflower florets in the flax egg mixture and then lightly coat them in corn starch. This will help the cauliflower crisp up a bit and hold it’s shape when we toss it in the sauce later.
TIP: I like to use as much of the cauliflower head as possible, including the stem because it’s extra “meaty” when baked.
Bake these florets on parchment lined baking sheets. You likely will need two to be sure they’re not overcrowded on the sheet pan. If they’re too close together, they tend to steam and don’t crisp up as much as we want them to!
now for the kung pao sauce
Arguably the best part of the recipe! While the cauliflower is baking, make the sauce.
Only 12 ingredients and hopefully a lot of ingredients you already have on hand! Apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, fresh garlic, fresh ginger, brown sugar, lime juice, chili flakes, sriracha, salt and maple syrup!
Fresh garlic and ginger are key here. They give this dish so much flavor and the ginger helps give it a slight spicy kick! Not to mention the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory boost! Who couldn’t use that right now?!
Whisk it together and set aside until your cauliflower is ready!
While the cauliflower is baking I also like to chop up some bell pepper and toast some cashews. You can add these in with the cauliflower and toss in the sauce or throw it in at the very end to keep them crunchy. Totally up to you!
Now, right before the cauliflower is ready to come out of the oven, start warming up your sauce in a large skillet. I used a cast iron skillet, but you could use a wok if you have one or any large skillet should do! You want to make sure it’s large enough to fit all of your cauliflower pieces in.
Once warm, add in the cauliflower florets, bell pepper and cashews if you choose to and toss in the sauce until fully coated.
Continue tossing the cauliflower until the sauce is almost completely stuck to the cauliflower. You should not have a lot left over in the pan. At this point it should be smelling really, REALLY good.
Once ready, serve with rice, extra lime, cilantro, extra bell pepper, sesame seeds – whatever you’d like!
This dish is so easy and seriously DELICIOUS. Best way to feel like you’ve order takeout but much healthier and so easy.
What’s your favorite Chinese food dish? If there are any recipes you’d want me to try and make vegan I’d love to hear about it!
As always, if you try this recipe, please leave me a comment and don’t forget to share it on social with us. And if you haven’t yet, I recommend checking out my 30 minute crispy peanut tofu. Another takeout inspired dish that is seriously good.Print
This Kung Pao Cauliflower might not be traditional, but it is a healthier version of an old favorite, packed with flavor from the fresh garlic, ginger and lime juice and comes together in about an hour!
- 1 large head of cauliflower
- 1–2 bell peppers
- 1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews
- 4 flax eggs (4 tablespoons ground flax seed mixed with 10 tablespoons water)
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 3 teaspoons sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons corn starch
KUNG PAO SAUCE
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 5 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 7 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, minced
- 4 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1/2 of a lime, juiced
- 2 teaspoons sriracha
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
FOR SERVING (suggestions)
- white rice
- sesame seeds
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, Fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Prepare your flax eggs in a large bowl and set aside to form.
- Cut your head of cauliflower into bite sized florets, including the cauliflower stem!
- Once your flax eggs resemble the texture of egg whites (gelatinous), whisk in the garlic powder and sesame oil.
- Add all of the florets to the bowl with the flax egg mixture and toss with a spatula until all florets are lightly coated.
- Next, sprinkle in 3 tablespoons of cornstarch and toss again with a spatula until all florets are lightly coated.
- One by one, remove each floret and place on the parchment lined baking sheets. Be careful not to crowd the florets on the baking sheet or they will not crisp up. Bake the cauliflower for 25-30 minutes or until crisp.
- While the cauliflower is baking, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients in a medium sized bowl and set aside (picture for reference above in post).
- During this time, I also like to chop the bell pepper and lightly toast the cashews in my cast iron skillet. To toast the cashews, add a 1/2 cup of raw, unsalted cashews to a cast iron skillet or other large skillet over medium heat and toss until slightly browned and fragrant (about 5 minutes). Move the cashews frequently to prevent burning. Remove them from the heat and set aside in a small bowl.
- When the cauliflower has about 5 minutes left in the oven, add the sauce to a large skillet or wok over medium heat and allow it to simmer. You want your skillet to be large enough to fit all of the cauliflower florets.
- After the cauliflower is baked, immediately add it to the sauce along with the bell pepper and cashews and toss until all florets are coated (about 5 minutes). There should not be much sauce left pooling in the bottom of the skillet (see photo in post for reference).
- Serve with rice, sesame seeds, cilantro, and limes.
- I do not recommend using tin foil for this recipe as the cauliflower batter will stick.
- Best served immediately but will hold up in the fridge for 3 days. I have not tried freezing this recipe.
- Category: Main Dishes
- Method: Stovetop/Oven
- Cuisine: Chinese
Keywords: vegan chinese food, kung pao cauliflower, vegan kung pao chicken, chinese food, chinese takeout, easy vegan recipe, 1 hour recipe, gluten free recipe