This post may contain affiliate links. By browsing this website, you agree to our privacy policy and terms of use.

This vegan takeout inspired dish is tangy, spicy, and slightly sweet! A delicious, simple and gluten free weeknight meal that only requires 30 minutes of prep!

Cauliflower tossed in Kung Pao sauce served over white rice in white bowl.

I'll admit, being vegan does limit the amount of good takeout options you have. But good news is you can recreate all your favorites at home in a healthier, more delicious way!

Skip the excess oil and cholesterol and try this healthier spin on a classic favorite.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Cauliflower makes for an excellent chicken substitute in vegan cooking! If you're not convinced, check out this Cauliflower Buffalo Wings with Tahini Ranch recipe.
  • The flax egg mixture helps get the cauliflower nice and crispy in the oven to hold that crunch when tossing in the sauce!
  • The homemade vegan kung pao sauce is made with fresh ginger, chili flakes, and sriracha to give this dish a little heat!

What You'll Need

Base ingredients of recipe measured out into individual bowls.

The Base Ingredients

  • Cauliflower – Our preferred substitution for chicken in this inspired version! If you don't have cauliflower on hand, I'd recommend trying soy curls!
  • Bell Pepper – You can use any vegetable you'd like here, but the bell peppers pair so nicely here.
  • Cashews – Gives this dish the best crunch! So delicious when roasted and tossed in the sauce!
  • Flax eggs and cornstarch – Our vegan egg substitute for coating the cauliflower before baking. Makes the florets so nice and crispy – don't skip!
Sauce ingredients measured out into bowls.

The Sauce

The best combination of sweet, savory and spicy! A few key notes:

  • Fresh ginger – Gives this dish a perfect level of heat and freshness!
  • Brown Sugar and Maple Syrup – I like to use a combination of both here as the maple syrup provides deep notes of a caramel-like flavor and the brown sugar provides a good molasses flavor.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – Gives this sauce the perfect tang and a hint of sweetness! I don't recommend substituting with traditional white vinegar.
  • Sriracha and Chili Flakes – Bringing the heat here! I gave my recommendations for how much to use in the recipe card below, but feel free to adjust based on your own spice preferences.

Step By Step Instructions

First, we will prepare the cauliflower florets for baking!

Step by step process showing how to prepare the cauliflower florets.
  1. Add the cauliflower florets to a large bowl. You want them to be relatively the same size so they will cook and crisp up evenly!
  2. Add in the flax egg mixture.
  3. Toss florets in the flax egg mixture until evenly coated.
  4. Add in the cornstarch.
  5. Toss florets in the cornstarch mixture until evenly coated.
  6. Place florets on parchment lined baking sheet. I like to use two baking sheets to be sure the cauliflower florets have enough room. If you crowd them on the baking sheet, they won't get as crispy!

Note: You may have some excess batter pooled at the bottom of your mixing bowl! This is fine and can be discarded!

As simple as that!

Cashews and bell pepper dry roasted in a cast iron skillet.

Next, while the florets bake, dry roast the cashews and diced bell pepper until nice and fragrant.

No oil is necessary here – the cashews and bell pepper won't stick and the dry skillet helps give them excellent flavor and color!

Adding the sauce to the cashews and bell pepper in the skillet.

Once the cashews and bell pepper have roasted, add in the sauce and simmer until thickened.

I like to add a tablespoon of additional corn starch here to help thicken the sauce, but this is not necessary! If you prefer a thinner sauce, you can leave it out completely.

Cauliflower after roasting on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Once the cauliflower has roasted, remove it from the oven and immediately add it to the sauce.

Cauliflower tossed in the sauce.

Toss to coat until well incorporated and serve immediately! This dish really is best served fresh!

FAQs and Expert Tips

Does this kung pao sauce have sugar?

Yes. You need sweetness to balance out the savory and spicy in a good kung pao sauce and I do not recommend trying to leave it out. This dish uses two sweetness – maple syrup and brown sugar. You can test using other sweeteners but I cannot confirm they will work successfully.

What does kung pao sauce taste like?

The perfect combination of sweet, savory and spicy! There's really nothing like it! It's also got a hint of sourness to it from the vinegar!

I am out of cashews. Can I use a different nut?

Yes! Although I prefer cashews, you can use peanuts here!

Expert Tips

  • Make sure to bake the cauliflower at a high heat and space the florets out between multiple baking sheets if needed. In order for the cauliflower to crisp up properly, it needs high heat and space! If the florets are crowded, they likely will steam and remain soft instead.
  • Don't use tinfoil! Baking the cauliflower florets on tin foil will result in sticking. Use parchment paper or a silicone baking mat only.
  • Taste the sauce before adding it in to the skillet! Although I love this sauce as written, you may want to make slight adjustments to the spices or sweetness based on your personal preference. Taste it before adding to the skillet to simmer to make sure it's just right!
Dish served in two white bowls and garnished with green onion over rice.

More Vegan Takeout Inspired Recipes

[popout_newsletter]

 

Home-Cooked Roots Logo

Vegan Kung Pao Cauliflower

5 from 8 votes

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
This vegan takeout inspired dish is tangy, spicy, and slightly sweet! A delicious, simple and gluten free weeknight meal!

Ingredients
 

  • 8 cups cauliflower florets
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1/2 cup raw unsalted cashews raw and unsalted

Cauliflower Batter

Kung Pao Sauce

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce I used tamari
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger freshly grated
  • 4 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 7 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt to taste
  • squeeze of lime juice to taste

For Serving

  • white rice
  • limes
  • green onion
  • sesame seeds

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, Fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Mix together the water, ground flaxseed, sesame oil, and garlic powder for the cauliflower batter and set aside for 10 minutes to thicken.
  • In a large bowl, toss together the cauliflower florets and ground flaxseed batter mixture with a spatula until cauliflower is coated.
  • Next, sprinkle the cornstarch over the cauliflower florets and toss again with a spatula until all florets are coated.
  • One by one, remove each floret and place on the parchment lined baking sheets. Bake the florets for 25-30 minutes or until crisp.
  • While the cauliflower bakes, whisk together all of the kung pao sauce ingredients and set aside.
  • Once there is 10-12 minutes left until cauliflower is finished baking, begin simmering the sauce. Start by roasting the cashews in a dry skillet over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
  • Next, add the chopped bell pepper and dry sauté for another 3-4 minutes.
  • Then, add the kung pao sauce and allow to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. If desired, you can stir in 1 tablespoon of corn starch to help thicken the sauce (I usually do this).
  • Once cauliflower is crispy, immediately add it to the skillet and toss to coat the cauliflower in the sauce. There should not be much sauce left pooling in the bottom of the skillet.
  • Serve immediately over rice and top with sesame seeds and green onion, if desired.
  • Storage: Best served immediately but can refrigerate for up to3 days. I have not tried freezing this recipe.

Video

Notes

  • I do not recommend using tin foil for this recipe as the cauliflower batter will stick.
  • I've found that the sweetness and flavors between different brands of sriracha vary widely and can greatly change the flavor profile of this sauce. I use this sriracha if you'd like to use the same one!

Nutrition

Calories: 343kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 19g | Sodium: 1955mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 13g

Disclaimer: The Nutritional Information provided for this recipe is only an estimate. The accuracy of the facts listed is not and cannot be guaranteed.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese

Did You Love This Recipe?

Rate the recipe here and make sure to leave a comment below!

5 from 8 votes

Update Notes: This post was originally published on April 29, 2020 and has been republished on March 2, 2021 to include step by step process shots, new photos, tips, FAQs and an improved recipe.

12 Dirt Cheap Weeknight Dinners ebook page.
12 Dirt Cheap Weeknight Dinners ebook cover.

Wallet-Friendly Recipes & Smart Shopping Tips in Your Inbox

Plus get a free cookbook with 12 Dirt Cheap Dinner Ideas that’ll cost you $2 or less per serving.

leave a comment

I love to hear from you. Submit your recipe questions or review here and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

11 Comments

  1. Hello, can we use rice vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar? Can we also use more maple syrup instead of the brown sugar?

  2. 5 stars
    Loved it! I actually made the cauliflower in the air fryer because it’s too hot outside to turn on the oven and it was delish. Thanks!!

  3. 5 stars
    I absolutely LOVE this dish! The sauce is a perfect combo of sweet and spicy, which makes me feel like it’s take out from a local restaurant! My fiancé, who eats meat, also loves it! I added roasted chickpeas (needed to use them up) too! Thanks so much xoxo

  4. Mikyla T Meckelson says:

    5 stars
    I made this last night and the whole family loved it! Thanks for a great recipe!

  5. 5 stars
    I made this last night and just had the left overs which may have been even more tasty! YUM! Mine was not nearly as picture perfect because I used brown rice and yellow and orange bell peppers, but it was delicious! 😋

    1. Nicolette says:

      Yay! I love dinners that are also delicious leftovers!

  6. 5 stars
    This sauce sounds absolutely amazing! I wonder how it would be on broccoli!

    1. Nicolette says:

      Hi, Maren! Thank you. I bet it would be just as good on broccoli! I’d love to hear if you try it!

related recipes