How to make kung pao cauliflower

Searing the cauliflower in this recipe before marinating softens the cauliflower, which opens up the florets and creates more surface area for the marinade to stick to. If you marinate it raw, it will burn before becoming tender.



Step 1

Stir wine, cornstarch, and 1 Tbsp. soy sauce in a medium bowl; set marinade aside.

Step 2

Stir vinegar, hoisin sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and remaining 2 tsp. soy sauce in a small bowl; set sauce aside.

Step 3

Remove leaves and cut cauliflower into medium florets. Trim woody end of stalk and discard, then cut stalk into ½"-thick pieces. Heat 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a wok or large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Cook cauliflower, tossing occasionally, until browned in places and beginning to soften, 7–9 minutes. Give reserved marinade a stir to reincorporate cornstarch and add cauliflower to bowl; toss to coat. Toss occasionally while you cook the bacon.

Step 4

Reduce heat to medium. Cook bacon and remaining 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in wok, stirring often, until bacon is browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Add dried chiles and peppercorns and cook, tossing, just until fragrant (be careful not to burn), about 30 seconds. Transfer bacon, chiles, and peppercorns to a plate, leaving bacon drippings behind.

Step 5

Return cauliflower to wok with a slotted spoon; discard excess marinade. Cook cauliflower, tossing occasionally, until charred in spots and crisp-tender (short of scorching it, don’t worry about letting it go pretty dark), 8–10 minutes. Add scallion whites, serrano chile, ginger, garlic, peanuts, and reserved sauce and cook, tossing often, until fragrant and cauliflower is tender, about 2 minutes. Add bacon mixture and cook, tossing, just until sauce coats cauliflower, about 1 minute; season with salt.

Step 6

Transfer to a platter and top with scallion greens. Serve with rice alongside.

How would you rate Kung Pao Cauliflower?

One of the best recipes! I roast the cauliflower in the oven first and then add then add the marinade after. I bring the rest of the dish together on the stove as instructed. I just like how roasted it gets in the oven – can’t mimic that on the stove!

Just dropping in to say, if a recipe needs major modifications, like doubling he sauce for example, it is not a 4 star recipe. Gave this 1 star as-is. Picante and capsica overwhelms all other ingredients.

This should all work in theory. I was expecting a good balance of spice, sweetness, umami, and notes pf picante and capsicum throughout. At least, based on my experience of past kung pao. Instead its basically all pepper all the time. Totally drowns out the sweet citrus of hoisin and the acid of the wine and vinegar and heck, even the salt!. Plus the texture misses the mark – none of the clingy sauce I hoped for. It’s a waste of a perfectly good cauliflower and I won’t be making it again.

We really enjoyed this dish. I hadn’t read the comments prior to making it, and agree on upping the sauce and marinade. Solid flavors and textures.

Awesome dish! I took the advice of other reviewers and roasted the cauliflower first and then finished it in a pan with sauce. So excellent!

It was good, but it needed TWICE the amount of SAUCE!

I’m a fan! As other reviewers have said recommend roasting the cauliflower (I definitely could not have fit it all raw in my cast iron, certainly not without steaming), doubling the sauce (honestly probably the marinade too), and I don’t think it tastes like what I’m used to as “kung pao” but I still thought it was tasty. I wish I had cut my florets twice bite size as I cut them bite size and they shrunk to tiny. Also recommend upping the peanuts because peanuts are wonderful. I cooked this with bacon but one of my favorite ways to sub in for bacon bits/grease if I am cooking for vegetarians or vegans is to cut a shallot into rings, fry those rings until brown and crisp in veggie oil, then use that cooking oil as the grease. The flavor profile is not the same but it has a satisfying crunch and savoriness to it that I love. I think that would work really well here if you need a bacon sub. I believe my use of that technique also originally came from another bon appetit recipe – something like barley herby mushroom salad – that I adore.

Followed what other commenters had done – roasted my cauliflower instead of the first cook in a cast iron skillet or wok, paid particular attention to the usage of sauce vs marinade. These both helped. Good flavors and textures

Delicious! However, after cleaning the cauliflower and drying it, I tossed it in veg oil and roasted it in a 450* oven (bottom rack – preheat the sheet pan). I cooked it until it was nicely charred

30 minutes. After cooking the cauliflower, I tossed it with the marinade then warmed it through and completed the recipe as written for the other parts.

This is a great recipe. The bacon is just enough to give it a satisfying savory/meaty element. We loved it. I had to substitute Mirin for the Chinese rice wine and jalapeño for the serrano, which worked nicely too.

Ithaca, New York

Will definitely make this again, absolutely loved it. I substituted the bacon for 1 finely chopped onion which worked well. However I didn't really get the dried chilis bit, and didn't understand they needed to be put in whole and didn't have any to hand so I wrongly substituted an extra 2 chopped chilis in and ended up with a very very spicy dish. Cleared up all the blocked up noses in the house though! Apart from that, I'll definitely make it again without the above error, as the sauce had so much flavour and the cauliflower texture was absolutely fantastic.

Mmmm good flavor and texture! For a vegetarian, I was excited to see a veggie alternative to kung pao chicken. I skipped the bacon and had to make some substitutions – white wine for the chinese rice wine, and red wine vinegar for the sherry vinegar. The Serrano chile was very spicy when raw so I wimped out and only put a small amount (about a teaspooon diced) in the actual dish. It was very tasty and not too spicy at all, so maybe I'll put a little more next time. The only thing I would change is to double or triple the sauce amount, but that's just me- love the extra sauce, especially when serving over rice. Enjoy!

My gosh. so easy and so good. Used potato starch and red wine vinegar, as that's all I had in the pantry, with great results. If you're going to half the recipe as I did, I recommend not changing the marinade volume although everything else worked a treat when halved 🙂

We really enjoyed this stir fry. I didn't think it tasted like Kung Pao.

Made this tonight and considered hiding it and making something else for the family so I wouldn't have to share! Best kung-pao sauce! Had no problem following recipe-prepping ahead is a must. Will definitely make this again and will maybe share with the family. Maybe.

Chinese food lovers rejoice because we are making Kung Pao Cauliflower. Bite-sized cauliflower florets cooked in a delicious sauce will make this classic Chinese take-out dish a hit in your house. This easy vegan dish is ready in 30 minutes so it is perfect even if the craving hits on a Tuesday night.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Why Should You Try Kung Pao Cauliflower Bites

  • Quick and easy to make: Once the ingredients are ready, the recipe comes together quickly in about 20-25 minutes
  • Healthier alternative to Kung Pao Chicken: The beloved Chinese takeout, Kung Pao Chicken is usually overly sweet and saucy. Our version uses cauliflower in place of chicken, reduces the sugar, and ups the aromatics like fresh ginger, garlic, and green onions.
  • Special diet friendly: The recipe itself is vegan and with a few minor ingredient swaps it can also be gluten-free.

Ingredient List:

The ingredients for this vegan kung pao cauliflower recipe can be divided into three parts:

  • Cauliflower: Use a medium-sized whole head of cauliflower and cut it into bite-sized pieces. This also helps cook them evenly.
  • The Kung Pao Sauce Ingredients: To make the sauce you will need soy sauce, rice wine, cornstarch, hoisin sauce, toasted sesame oil, sugar, garlic, and fresh ginger.
  • The toppings: You will need chopped red chiles, scallions, lightly salted peanuts, and fresh cilantro leaves.

Helpful Ingredient Notes & Substitutions:

  • Be sure to cut the cauliflower in bite size pieces so that it will cook evenly and be easier to eat.
  • You can find all these ingredients in the Asian section of most grocery stores. Keep in mind that rice wine and rice vinegar are different things. If you can’t find rice wine, you can substitute it with sherry vinegar.
  • You can use maple syrup or agave in place of granulated sugar.
  • Red dried chiles are a classic in this recipe but if you are serving kids you can omit using them.
  • If you are following a gluten-free diet, use tamari instead of soy sauce.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

  1. Prep the rice wine mixture: In a large bowl, whisk the soy sauce, rice wine and cornstarch.
  2. Make the hoisin sauce mixture: In a small bowl, whisk soy sauce, rice wine, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, and sugar.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

  1. Par cook the cauliflower: Heat some avocado oil in a large wok (a large skillet works, too!) and cook the cauliflower until lightly browned. Transfer it to the bowl with the rice wine sauce and give it a mix.
  2. Fry the red chilis: Heat avocado oil in the now-empty wok, add the red chiles and fry until lightly golden then remove them from the wok.
  3. Cook the kung pao cauliflower: Transfer the cauliflower florets back to the wok and cook for a few minutes, until lightly golden brown.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

  1. Add the hoisin sauce: Pour the sauce over top and add garlic, ginger, and chopped fresh scallions
  2. Garnish & Serve: Transfer the delicious kung pao cauliflower to a large plate, garnish with crunchy peanuts and cilantro and serve.

Full recipe in the recipe card below.

How to store kung pao cauliflower

While this recipe is the most delicious on the day that it is made, you can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one day.

The bold flavors of kung pao chicken come alive with kung pao cauliflower, a vegetarian version of the classic takeout dish! <vegan-Adaptable alt=” width=”300″ height=”300″ />

The bold flavors of kung pao chicken come alive with kung pao cauliflower, a vegetarian version of the classic takeout dish!

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Kung pao chicken is a favorite on every Chinese restaurant menu. But not everyone eats meat and even if you do, perhaps you’re looking for a meatless meal to keep up with your healthy lifestyle.

That’s where kung pao cauliflower comes in. Honestly, I think cauliflower can do just about anything. I’ll show you how to make kung pao cauliflower with that same sticky glossy sauce you love for its savory, sweet, sour, and spicy notes.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Why this recipe

To make it, the cauliflower gets coated with a thin batter and then is baked until crispy. Kung pao cauliflower is definitely a healthier version of this restaurant dish that’s often cooked with lots of oil. As much as I like a crispy battered cauliflower, I actually found that some restaurant versions use too thick of a batter, which robs the taste from the cauliflower.

After testing many formulas, we discovered the best way to create crispy cauliflower for this dish without deep-frying it. So the coating is a bit thinner than the kind you see in restaurants, especially with fried cauliflower dishes, yet it’s crispy and satisfying.

Honestly, I like the thin coating better. Not only is it healthier, but it also brings out the best texture of the cauliflower. Kung pao cauliflower is a vegetarian dish, but if you use plant milk, you can make it completely vegan.

How to make kung pao cauliflower How to make kung pao cauliflower


I know the ingredient list looks long, but don’t let that scare you off.

Once you’re done prepping, you can group your ingredients into a few bowls (See the picture below, plus the coating for the cauliflower).

How to make kung pao cauliflower

TIP – How to cut cauliflower for roasting

After many rounds of testing, we found out that it’s best to cut the cauliflower into small-ish bite-sized florets. This way, the dish will result in a better texture with properly cooked cauliflower and a crispy coating. If you cut the cauliflower too big, the cauliflower will release too much moisture during the baking and it will prevent the batter from crisping up.

To cut the cauliflower:

  1. Cut off the florets
  2. Use your knife to split the florets into 2 to 3 pieces, depending on the size
  3. I like to cut the stem of florets with a tilted knife, then use my hands to split the head part.
  4. This way, you will have very few cauliflower “crumbles” falling off during the cutting. The cauliflower will have a slightly uneven surface that yields a better texture on the thin ends, plus it holds the sauce better.

Cooking process

Make the sauce

  1. Grind the Sichuan peppercorns
  2. Cook the peppercorns and dried peppers to release fragrance
  3. Cook the ginger and garlic
  4. Pour in the sauce liquid and cook until thickened

PS. I prefer to grind my Sichuan peppercorns a bit coarse, so it’s not overwhelmingly numbing.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Roast the cauliflower

  1. Coat the cauliflower with oil and milk
  2. Then coat the cauliflower with the dry ingredients
  3. Arrange the cauliflower on a baking sheet, leaving space in between (very important)
  4. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes and flip once
  5. Keep roasting until the cauliflower is cooked and the coating is super crispy
  6. Add the peppers and peanuts and give it a quick roast
  7. Stir in the sauce
  8. Coat the cauliflower with sauce and enjoy!

You’ll be surprised how crispy this baked cauliflower turns out.

How to make kung pao cauliflower How to make kung pao cauliflower

This dish is so easy and simple to put together and you’ll be rewarded with scrumptious flavors and fragrant aromas. Definitely pair kung pao cauliflower with rice to make a dinner that you’ll love. It can work as an appetizer or be served as one of your main dishes when you’re having people over. Why not invite them for a homemade Chinese takeout-themed dinner? It will be perfect!

How to make kung pao cauliflower

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The bold flavors of kung pao chicken come alive with kung pao cauliflower, a vegetarian version of the classic takeout dish! <vegan-Adaptable alt=” width=”150″ height=”150″ />

By Ela on 19. May, 2019 | 135 Comments . This post may contain affiliate links*. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

This Kung Pao Cauliflower is a delicious stir-fry that is spicy, hearty, satisfying, and comforting. It’s a great meat-free Chinese takeout alternative to Kung Pao Chicken! The Kung Pao sauce has the perfect combination of spicy, salty and sweet flavors which will make your mouth water. The recipe is vegan, gluten-free, low in fat and calories, and can be made oil-free!

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Kung Pao Cauliflower Stir-Fry

Hello dears, I am excited to share my first vegan Chinese recipe with you! I must admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Chinese food in the past. The salty/sweet combo tasted weird to me but my taste buds have changed and now I LOVE this flavor combination.

That’s why I have been busy in my kitchen lately, trying out different Chinese recipes. And this is the first one! Kung Pao Cauliflower – and let me tell you, I simply adore it and so does my boyfriend! Why should you give it a try? Because it’s…

  1. Packed with spicy, salty and sweet flavors
  2. A great meat-free alternative to Kung Pao Chicken
  3. Easy to make with simple ingredients

How to make kung pao cauliflowerHow to make kung pao cauliflower

How To Make Kung Pao Cauliflower?

This recipe has only 8 steps which are easy to follow and not complicated at all. First, you allow the cauliflower a nice cozy bath in a batter made from chickpea flour, cornstarch, soy sauce, and water. While the cauliflower florets bake in the oven you can fry the bell pepper, garlic, fresh ginger and peppercorns in a skillet. Your kitchen will smell amazing!

You can serve the vegan Kung Pao with rice or rice noodles (both taste amazing!) and can prepare it according to the package instructions while the cauliflower is in the oven.

Meanwhile, you can also start making the spicy Kung Pao sauce which takes literary just 60 seconds. All you need to do is, combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl and whisk. Then pour the sauce into the skillet, bring to a boil, and allow it to simmer for one minute.

Finally, add the roasted cauliflower to the skillet and give it a good stir. You can enjoy it right away. However, if you want the cauliflower to be crispy, transfer it back to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes! Check the easy instruction pictures below:

How to make kung pao cauliflower

What about Kung Pao Tofu?

This spicy Kung Pao can be made with either cauliflower or tofu. I don’t eat tofu very often but if you want your Kung Pao to be packed with lots of plant-based protein you can use tofu. How to make Kung Pao Tofu?

The sauce and the ingredients for the skillet are the same but you can skip the baking part. Instead, you will need to press the tofu for about 15-20 minutes, slice it into cubes and fry it in a pan until nicely brown. You can try out both versions and let me know which one you preferred. ?

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Spicy Kung Pao

Do you love spicy food? I know it’s super healthy and I like spicy food as long as it’s not too spicy. Yesterday I ate a whole dried chili (yes, the whole chili with the seeds) and almost fainted, haha. It was too much for my tastebuds. You can make this Kung Pao with 4-6 dried chilies which you can fry with the garlic, ginger, peppercorns, and bell pepper.

However, I would suggest removing the chilies before you pour in the sauce. If you don’t have dried chilies, simply use 1/4 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper. Not a fan of spicy meals? Leave it out completely for a mild Kung Pao Cauliflower.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Does it keep?

Yes! Leftovers can be stored covered in the fridge for up to 4 days. Simply reheat in a pan/skillet.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

You Will Love This Kung Pao Cauliflower. It’s:

  • Vegan
  • Gluten-free
  • Spicy
  • Sweet & Salty
  • Satisfying
  • Comforting
  • Easy to make with simple ingredients
  • Perfect for a weeknight dinner
  • And it can be made oil-free

How to make kung pao cauliflower

A Few Helpful Tips

  1. Serve it with Jasmine rice, Basmati rice or rice noodles
  2. Double the batch and store leftovers in the fridge for up to 4 days
  3. Use tofu instead of cauliflower for a protein-rich variation

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Should you recreate this tasty spicy Chinese stir-fry, please leave a comment below and don’t forget to tag me in your Instagram or Facebook post with @elavegan and #elavegan because I love to see your remakes! If you love spicy food, definitely also check out the following vegan spicy recipes:

Crispy Kung Pao Cauliflower. Cauliflower battered and baked and tossed in spicy kung pao sauce. Super hot Appetizer for gameday. Vegan Recipe. Can be gluten-free with gluten-free breadcrumbs. Double the kung pao sauce for larger cauliflower or to serve over rice.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Sundays are shaping up for only one thing these days, Gameday! And all that excitement and 4 hours of tv calls for delicious finger food.

These crispy kung pao cauliflower bites are just that, crispy, spicy, juicy, hot, and super fun. Bake the cauliflower, make the kung pao sauce. Arrange the cauliflower in one layer in a serving plate/bowl. Drizzle the sauce just before serving.

The dish can also be served with rice or other cooked grains. The recipe is for snack kung pao cauliflower bites. Double the sauce to serve over rice, or if you have a good large cauliflower head. The sauce can get hot depending on the chilies you use. Taste before drizzling over the cauliflower. If too hot, make another batch of the sauce without the chilies and mix. For a quick recipe, toss cauliflower in salt, cayenne and oil and bake until done, or cook in a pan with a splash of water until tender, then toss in the sauce. Serve with a jar of cold water. ?

How to make kung pao cauliflower

My twist on a Chinese classic – Kung Pao Cauliflower. Baked cauliflower tossed in a delectable sweet-spicy sauce, that is made with simple pantry ingredients.

We’ve all been there. It’s been a long day, you just want to curl up with your TV show and some mouthwatering Chinese takeout – not cook or eat leftovers. What’s stopping you? Maybe you want to curb your ordering habits. Maybe you want something healthier.

I’ve got a great alternative for you, with this Baked Kung Pao Cauliflower. This easy dinner has an incredibly quick cooking time and is super delicious. A meal the whole family will love, perfect for any night of the week. This healthier, better-than-takeout kung pao recipe is one you’ll never tire of.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

One of my most popular recipes happens to be another that utilises the wonder of oven-roasted cauliflower – Sticky Sesame Cauliflower. So I was inspired to create another recipe that would be equally loved. That matched with my adoration for anything Indo-Chinese, is how this Baked Kung Pao Cauliflower came about.

An important thing to note here – I am not sharing a traditional Chinese Kung Pao recipe here. It is definitely a loose adaptation, made with personal twists based on what is accessible in my home.

With some ingredient swaps & recipe tweaks, this version is flavorful, simple, and fuss-free.

What Is Kung Pao?

Kung Pao sauce is one of the most popular stir fry sauces in Chinese cuisine, made with spices, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar & starch. The authentic recipe calls for Sichuan peppercorn for the numbing flavor and lots of dried red chilies.

The sauce is most commonly used in a stir-fry chicken dish, paired with peanuts, scallions, ginger & dried chilli. It’s notably spicy and dangerously addictive!

For a brilliant traditional Kung Pao Chicken recipe, you can refer to Elaine’s China Sichuan Food blog.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

What’s different about my version?

  • Cauliflower instead of chicken
  • Swapping deep drying & breading for oven roasting
  • Less spicy (though you can adjust this as per your preference)
  • Less sweet (though you can adjust this as per your preference)
  • Cashews instead of peanuts
  • Black peppercorn plus red chilli flakes instead of Sichuan peppercorns

Making the Kung Pao Cauliflower

Note – if you’re serving this with rice, get that cooking before starting. This all comes together quickly, so you can get the Kung Pao Cauliflower ready just as the rice does.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Prepping the cauliflower

  • Preheat your oven to 200C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  • Chop a medium sized cauliflower into small florets.
  • Combine cornstarch, water, soy sauce, and peanut oil in a small bowl.
  • Pour over the cauliflower and mix well to coat the florets in the sauce.
  • Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the cauliflower is cooked.

Prepping the Kung Pao sauce

While the cauliflower bakes, make the sauce – which comes together in just 5 minutes on the stovetop. Its simple, yet full of incredible complex flavours.

  • Heat the peanut oil in a saucepan, add the red chillies, crushed black peppercorns and chilli flakes.

If you have Sichuan peppercorns, use those and please omit the black peppercorns and red chilli flakes.

  • Add in the nuts, minced garlic, and ginger. I used cashews here, but you can use peanuts too!
  • Cook until the ginger and garlic just start browning.
  • Combine the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar, water, and cornstarch in a small bowl and add to the pan. If you don’t have rice wine vinegar, use regular white vinegar.
  • Stir in the green onions and cook the sauce until it’s just thickened. Taste and adjust for seasoning. As I said before, I did not add too much heat for personal taste – feel free to up the spice!

Bringing it all together

  • When the cauliflower is ready, gently mix it in with the sauce and serve immediately with rice.
  • If planning to serve later, mix the cauliflower and sauce before serving to ensure the cauliflower stays crispy.

I love to plate it on a bed of freshly cooked rice and then garnish with extra green onions, red chili or sesame seeds. You can swap the rice with noodles, and the recipe is still utterly delicious. Each bite hits all the right notes of tangy, spicy and slightly sweet.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Truly conquering Asian food cravings in style! Now I just need to figure out the perfect chicken satay recipe and maybe my family will get less takeout…

More healthy, quick recipes

I hope you give the kung pao cauliflower a whirl. It is a healthy, satisfying meal that is packed with flavor and easy to make. What’s not to love?

How to make kung pao cauliflower

This recipe for Kung Pao Cauliflower is a seriously tasty way to enjoy eating cauliflower. This recipe is similar to my Kung Pao Tofu, but has a slightly different sauce and ingredients.

The cauliflower in this recipe is first roasted in the oven, and then stir-fried with the Kung Pao sauce in a pan. This gives the cauliflower a ton of flavour!

You can also skip out on the stir-frying and just toss the cauliflower and sauce together in a bowl, but I find stir-frying helps to really get the sauce nice and sticky and well-coated on all the cauliflower.

What does kung pao taste like?

Kung Pao has a flavour that is sweet, sour and savoury. The sauce gets its unique flavour from using Chinese vinegar, which gives it that sour and tangy taste. If you can’t find Chinese vinegar, you can go ahead and use balsamic vinegar in this recipe which will give you a similar taste.

Kung Pao is also usually made with Sichuan Peppercorns. These are different from regular peppercorns and have a slight citrus taste and cooling/numbing effect on your taste buds. (This is a very slight effect, they won’t make your whole mouth go numb!) If you can’t find Sichuan peppercorns, you can go ahead and just use regular peppercorns. It will still be delicious ?

How to make this recipe

Toss the cauliflower florets with some olive oil and corn starch, then roast the cauliflower in the oven at 425 degrees F for 25-30 minutes.

Toss the cauliflower in and sauce together in a skillet until the cauliflower is evenly coated.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Serve on it’s own as a side or on top of rice and top it off with some green onions, sesame seeds or crushed peanuts.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Different ways you can prep the cauliflower

You can coat the cauliflower florets in a breading or some panko if you prefer to make cauliflower “nuggets”

To make a coating combine 1 cup flour (gluten-free if needed) to 1 cup almond milk and dunk each cauliflower floret into the batter. Let any excess batter drip off. Optionally dunk in panko after the batter.

Then roast the cauliflower at 425 for 25-35 minutes flipping halfway through.

Tips for making this recipe perfectly

  • Cut all the cauliflower florets to be about the same size so they all cook evenly in the oven.
  • If using a big cauliflower, double the sauce and add more as needed.
  • Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 days and reheat in the oven at 400 degrees F.

More cauliflower recipes to try

If you tried this Kung Pao Cauliflower or any other recipe on the blog let me know how you liked it by leaving a comment/rating below! Be sure to follow along on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook for even more deliciousness!

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How to make kung pao cauliflower

Kung Pao Cauliflower

  • Author: Jessica Hoffman
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1 x
  • Category: Side
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: Chinese
  • Diet: Vegan


This Kung Pao Cauliflower packs a punch! It’s loaded with a sweet and tangy flavour and can be enjoyed as a side, main, or served with rice!



  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp corn starch or tapioca starch

Kung Pao Sauce

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce (gluten-free if needed)
  • 1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar (can sub balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce (gluten-free if needed)
  • 1 tsp coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp sambal Olek (can sub sriracha)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, (can sub regular)


  • Sliced green onions
  • sesame seeds or crushed peanuts
  • (optional) rice to serve


  1. Preheat the oven to 420 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the cauliflower florets with the olive oil and corn starch then spread evenly on the baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through.
  3. Prepare the sauce by mixing all the sauce ingredients together.
  4. Pour the sauce into a skillet on medium-high heat and let it cook for about 1 minute until it gently bubbles.
  5. Add the cauliflower and toss together until evenly coated.
  6. Top with sliced green onions, sesame seeds or crushed peanuts.


Cut all the cauliflower florets to be about the same size so they all cook evenly in the oven.

If using a big cauliflower, double the sauce and add more as needed.

Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 days and reheat in the oven at 400 degrees F.


  • Serving Size: 1/4 of recipe
  • Calories: 130
  • Sugar: 6g
  • Fat: 6g
  • Carbohydrates: 10g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 2g

Keywords: Kung Pao cauliflower, asian cauliflower recipe, stir fry cauliflower

This vegetable-based Sichuan entrée features crispy diced potatoes with tender florets of cauliflower, bell pepper, onion and celery with peanuts, chilies and mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns. Better yet, this Kung Pao cauliflower recipe comes together in under 30 minutes for an easy weeknight meal. The dish is traditionally prepared with chicken thighs though I opt to keep it vegetable-heavy and use cauliflower instead. The swap lends itself well to the salty and slightly spicy sauce and contrasting texture the potato and peanuts provide. Serve with rice or on it’s own.

Kung Pao Cauliflower

Table of contents

How to make kung pao cauliflower

A Note On Stir Frying

Stir fry dishes move quickly (a blessing and a curse). For that reason, it’s important to have all your ingredients prepped ahead of time and set out in your mise en place so you can add the ingredients to the pan as needed. I recommend using a wok or a large cast iron pan so that it gets hot and cooks evenly.

What is Kung Pao?

Kung Pao chicken is a favorite on both American-Chinese and Chinese menus alike. The classic Sichuan dish typically features stir-fried marinated pieces of chicken thighs with peanuts in a tangy, slightly spicy, sticky sauce seasoned with a combination of chilies and Sichuan peppercorns. There are plenty of variations on this dish – some dredge the chicken in egg and cornstarch and flour, some use a more sugary, sticky sauce and others add additional vegetables. I take the liberty of swapping cauliflower for the standard chicken.

Key Ingredients in This Recipe

  • Fish sauce – I love the funky salty flavor fish sauce adds to any dish. It gets its savory, umami flavor from fermenting fish like anchovies over a few months.
  • Cauliflower – I recommend buying a whole head of cauliflower and cutting it into florets. It’s often cheaper than buying pre-cut bagged pieces. Because the cauliflower is stir-fried I recommend cutting it into smaller pieces so it can cook quickly.
  • Sichuan peppercorn – Sichuan (or Szechuan) peppercorns are common in Chinese cuisines and can be found in the spice section of most grocery stores. It’s a misnomer, they aren’t actually a part of the pepper or peppercorn family but are actually considered citrus. The aromatic spice numbs the mouth, creating a unique tingling feeling.
  • Tianjin chilies – These small, bright red peppers (also called Tien Tsin or Chinese red peppers) have a medium heat level, at 10,000-60,000 Scoville. If you cannot find Tianjin peppers at your grocery store or Asian market, I recommend substituting with chiles de arbol. They are another type of dried chilis with a similar spice range. Cooking these chilies in the stir fry adds a subtle heat that complements the other ingredients without overpowering them.
  • Bell pepper – Though they don’t have any heat, bell peppers add a sweet flavor, especially when sautéed. Red bell peppers are fully ripe, mature peppers. They can be substituted with another color of bell pepper in this recipe as the difference is subtle though I like the pop of color.
  • Peanuts – I use roasted, unsalted peanuts in this recipe. I prefer unsalted so that the salt can be adjusted to taste within the dish.

Instructions for Kung Pao Cauliflower

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Step 1: Mix the sauce.

In a small bowl whisk together the soy sauce, chili paste, fish sauce, and sugar. Set aside until ready to use.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Step 2: Fry potatoes.

Heat a large cast iron pan or wok over medium heat, add oil and heat through.

Add the potatoes and fry until browned all over, about 6 minutes. Remove to a large bowl or baking sheet and set aside.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Step 3: Cook cauliflower.

Return the pan to medium heat, add the cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 6 minutes. Remove to the bowl with the potatoes and set aside.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Step 4: Cook vegetables.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the onion, bell pepper and celery, cooking until the onion is soft, about 4 minutes.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Step 5: Add aromatics.

Next, add the garlic, ginger, peppercorns and chiles, cooking until fragrant, about 10 seconds.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Step 6: Toss ingredients in the sauce.

Return the cauliflower and potatoes to the pan. Add the sauce and half the peanuts to the pan and toss to coat. Continue to cook until it reduces and forms a sticky glaze, about 3 minutes.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Step 7: Garnish and serve.

Remove from heat and serve the Kung Pao cauliflower immediately topped with the remaining peanuts, jalapeños and green onions.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Tips and Tricks for This Recipe

How to Make this Recipe Vegan

The addition of fish sauce keeps this recipe from being vegan. To make this recipe vegan, swap the fish sauce in the Kung Pao sauce with lime juice. It won’t be exactly the same since fish sauce has a distinct, funky flavor, but it will help add that sharper note.

How to Make this Recipe Gluten Free

The Kung Pao sauce is not gluten free because of the soy sauce. Simply swap the soy sauce with tamari or liquid aminos to make this recipe gluten free.

Kung pao cauliflower is a spicy vegetarian stir-fry. It’s a delicious, satisfying dish to serve over rice or with noodles. A crisp-tender cauliflower, shiitakes and crunchy cashews all tossed in a garlicky sauce.
To get tasty browned edges on the cauliflower but also maximum flavor and some good texture, we use a two-step method for this recipe and start with roasting the cauliflower in the oven.
We stir-fry the shiitakes, garlic and onion before we add the cauliflower to the wok together with the kung pao sauce. Cauliflower turns golden brown as it soaks up this flavorful sauce.
To make this dark rich sauce we only use easy-to-find Asian ingredients like soy sauce, rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil. It coats each and every bite with an aromatic flavor from garlic and Sichuan peppercorns. A handful of crunchy cashews and fresh scallions are the finishing touch, and dinner is served.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

This is a super flavorful dish. It’s crunchy, spicy and saucy with a subtle sweetness. Serve as a side dish, with jasmine rice, steamed sushi rice or fried udon noodles. Add as much spice as you’d like (or none at all). Enjoy! It’s heavenly!
Can’t find cashews? Swap them for peanuts.
Let me guide you through the recipe with this
step-by-step VIDEO.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

You need

cauliflower + marinade

  • florets from 1 small cauliflower
  • 3 tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil

stir-fry sauce

  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) low sodium soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sambal, more or less for your own taste
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) water
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp corn starch

for stir-frying

  • 100 g (3½ oz) shiitakes, torn into small pieces
  • 3 tbsp peanut oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, cut into thin slices
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp crushed Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 tsp dry chilis, finely chopped

for serving

  • 6 scallions, finely chopped
  • toasted cashews
  • steamed rice or udon noodles

How to

Let me guide you through the recipe with this step-by-step VIDEO.

Preheat the oven to 230C (450F).

Cut cauliflower into florets. Cut bigger florets in two, but don’t make them too small as they will shrink in the oven.
Combine the ingredients for the marinade, add cauliflower florets. Toss to coat. Place on a baking sheet. Roast the cauliflower for 15 minutes until tender-crisp.

Cook the noodles or rice according to package directions.
Make sure you have all your ingredients prepared, sliced and chopped.
Make the stir-fry sauce by whisking the ingredients together in a bowl.

When cauliflower is ready. Heat your wok or skillet over high heat until smoking-hot. When ready, add 1 tbsp peanut oil, add shiitakes and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Remove from wok.
Heat 2 tbsp peanut oil over high heat. Add garlic, onion, ginger, Sichuan pepper, black pepper and chilis. Fry, until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Stirring constantly. Add cauliflower, stir-fry for 1 minute. Add shiitakes back to the wok and pour the sauce. Fry, tossing until the cauliflower is coated, about 1 minute. Stir in cashews.

Serve immediately with chopped scallions alongside rice or with noodles. Enjoy!

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Looking for a new and delicious way to cook your cauliflower?

I got the perfect recipe for you! This Vegan Kung Pao Cauliflower in an instant pot, so it’s fast and easy. Plus, it tastes amazing. You won’t be able to get enough of this dish!

How to make kung pao cauliflower

See the recipe card for quantities

The Preparation

How to make kung pao cauliflower

In a small bowl combine ginger, garlic, ½ cup water, soy sauce, hoisin sauce brown sugar, rice vinegar, and sesame oil

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Add the sauce and cauliflower florets in the bowl of an Instant Pot.

Close and lock the lid. Set steam valve Sealing.

Cook on manual/high pressure for 2 minutes.

Release pressure immediately.

Open the lid and scoop out the cauliflower from the instant pot.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Turn the pressure on sauté mode.

Meanwhile, whisk cornstarch and 2 tablespoon water together until smooth. Add cornstarch mixture to the instant pot bowl.

Simmer for 2 minutes until the sauce thickens. Put back the cauliflower with the sauce

Serve over rice if desired

Top with peanuts and chopped green onions.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Kung Pao and Szechuan are two terms that are associated with Chinese cuisine. . Kung Pao is a classic dish in Szechuan cuisine. Thus, the main difference between Kung Pao and Szechuan is that Kung Pao is a dish whereas Szechuan is a cuisine style

Yes, It does, I use brown sugar, but you can also use 2 tablespoon maple syrup.

The key ingredient of hoisin sauce is fermented soybean paste. Some hoisin sauce ingredients include starches such as sweet potato, wheat, and rice, and water, sugar, soybeans, sesame seeds, white distilled vinegar, salt, garlic, red chili peppers, and sometimes preservatives or coloring agents.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

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How to make kung pao cauliflower

My family loves Chinese food, but Hubs and my son are not eating animal protein other than seafood right now. I hardly eat poultry and I never eat beef or lamb. We really enjoy being mostly plant based and I am constantly trying to find more interesting ways to serve vegetables, even as a main dish.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

This recipe is a take on Kung Pao Chicken. It is saucy and hearty and we love the classic garnish of salted peanuts. Cauliflower is a great swap for chicken because it is bland and versatile and easy to cook in different shapes. BUT, it doesn’t have any protein, so I try to include another protein in our meal, like quinoa instead of rice, tofu or edamame, and/or garnish this dish with protein (e.g. peanuts or cashews or sesame seeds.)

How to make kung pao cauliflower

We either eat this with rice or in lettuce leaves or both! What I love about this meal is that it feels light but satisfying. That, and everyone loves it! My son is the biggest fan!

How to make kung pao cauliflower

The step of roasting the cauliflower gives it a little bit of a coating and a char for a delicious flavor boost. If you don’t have time, then just roast cauliflower as you would regularly and proceed with the recipe. The sauce is where it’s at! That said, you can roast or saute tofu until crispy and use that in place of the cauliflower.

How to make kung pao cauliflower

Kung Pao Cauliflower can be tweaked according to what you have on hand or your preferences. Skip the bell pepper if you want and swap in snow peas. Do half cauliflower and half broccoli. Use half tofu and half cauliflower. Swap cashews for peanuts or omit the nuts altogether. Something I do appreciate about plant-based recipes is that they stay good in the fridge for longer than meat-based recipes. This is a perfect recipe to make in advance and reheat!

How to make kung pao cauliflower

As always, if you make any of my recipes, please tag me @pamelasalzman #pamelasalzman so I can see them. It makes my day to see your beautiful creations!

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