Better Than Takeout Kung Pao Cauliflower.
Sharing my healthier twist on a classic Chinese dish with this Better Than Takeout Kung Pao Cauliflower. Oven-roasted cauliflower tossed in a sweet, spicy, and sticky kung pao sauce. I’ve swapped the chicken for nutrient-packed cauliflower, and replaced the deep frying with oven roasting. This kung pao cauliflower is the perfect healthy, but still delicious, alternative to the traditional heavier sugary version. It has a quick 30 minute cooking time and uses pantry staple ingredients. Making this recipe perfect for any night of the week.
This feels like a very appropriate Monday recipe. Vegetarian? Check. Gluten-free? Check. Healthy? Check. Vegetable filled? Check. Delicious? Absolutely.
Aside from possibly a salad, this is the ideal Monday night dinner. It’s beyond good, super easy, and pretty dang healthy too. Yet, it tastes more like guilty pleasure take-out style food. So it’s also crave-worthy.
Promise it’s not too good to be true. It’s all in the uniqueness of a head of cauliflower. And yes, I know cauliflower is being used a lot right now, but I’ve shared several cauliflower recipes over the past six years. Including these popular sriracha buffalo cauliflower bites and this Indian coconut butter cauliflower.
And like the rest of the world, I’ve been obsessed with cauliflower ever since I realized how many different foods it can be substituted into. I’m not sure why I haven’t shared this recipe sooner. It’s one that has been on my list for a few months now. Think of your very favorite takeout style Kung Pao chicken. Swap the deep-fried chicken for lightly breaded and roasted cauliflower. Swap the sugar-filled sauce with a less sweet and much healthier version. Put the two together and you have the BEST vegetarian Kung Pao recipe that doesn’t even taste “healthy”.
It’s SO GOOD.
I don’t have a whole lot to ramble on about…except this recipe…so let’s jump right in!
As you might guess from all the above, this is a really simple recipe, with only two parts…
Step one is all about preparing the cauliflower. To keep this recipe light and healthy, I skipped the breading and deep frying and instead tossed the cauliflower in a light “batter”. Then I threw it under the broiler to give it a quick char. I find this method to work SO well, and I actually prefer it to deep frying. Which yes, I did try and ended up not liking very much. Cooking the cauliflower in the oven allows for it to hold its shape and retain flavor. With frying all I tasted wad the oily breading…roasting is tastier, easier, and healthier too.
While the cauliflower is cooking, start step two, the Kung Pao sauce. Not going to lie, this is what this recipe is all about. Yes, the cauliflower is good, but it’s really just a vessel for the sauce to “stick” to.
And trust me, this sauce is so very good.
It’s a mix up of salty soy sauce, sweet and tangy hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, and green onions. The hoisin sauce is the key, it lends a sweet and tangy flavor that sets the sauce apart from others. It’s addictingly good and a condiment I always like to have on hand for easy Chinese inspired recipes at home. It’s not the healthiest sauce to buy store-bought though. So when I have time I really like to make homemade hoisin sauce via this recipe on Bon Appétit. It allows me to control the ingredients going into the sauce and make it tangier and/or spicier too!
When I don’t have time to make my own hoisin, this one is my favorite from the store. A little goes a long way!
Aside from the hoisin, this sauce is hinted with garlic, ginger, and green onions, making it incredibly flavorful.
The sauce comes together in about 5 minutes on the stove-top. Then slide in the cauliflower, toss to combine, add salty roasted peanuts, and DONE. Yes, it’s that easy and quick. In fact, it’s so quick that you can probably make the entire dish and have it ready before your rice is finished cooking. Hint, start the rice before you get to work on the cauliflower.
The sauce coats the cauliflower and it’s beyond perfection. Sweet, sticky, salty, tangy, and a touch spicy…you don’t even realize you’re eating a vegetable.
Serve over your favorite steamed rice, or even quinoa. You’ll have a vegetable-filled dinner that’s satisfying and so delicious.
Monday night takeout…only made at home, made healthier, and honestly, better than the real deal takeout.
Next up on my takeout style recipes? Thinking about chicken fried rice. Thoughts?
If you make this Better Than Takeout Kung Pao Cauliflower, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
Extra Sticky Kung Pao Cauliflower.
Oven-roasted cauliflower tossed in a sweet, spicy, and sticky kung pao sauce. I’ve swapped the chicken for nutrient-packed cauliflower, and replaced the deep frying with oven roasting.
- 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons canned full fat coconut milk
- 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce or Braggs Liquid Aminos
- 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons real maple syrup or honey
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sesame or peanut oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
- 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
- 4 green onions, chopped, plus more for serving
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, more or less to taste
- 1 pinch black pepper
- 1/4 cup salted peanuts, chopped, plus more for serving
- steamed white or brown rice, for serving
1. Preheat the broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
2. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with 1 tablespoon cornstarch to coat. Add the coconut milk and 2 tablespoons soy say, tossing to evenly coat all the florets. Spread the cauliflower in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and broil for 3-4 minutes, until the cauliflower is just beginning to char on the edges. Reduce the oven temp to 425 and bake another 5 minutes, until just tender.
3. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Combine the remaining 1/3 cup soy sauce, hoisin sauce, honey, vinegar, crushed red pepper flakes, and a pinch of pepper. Add 1/4 cup water and the remaining 1 tablespoons cornstarch, whisking until combined and smooth.
4. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and green onions, and cook 5 minutes or until fragrant. Stir in the soy sauce mixture and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low. Add the cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the peanuts.
5. Serve the cauliflower and sauce over bowls of rice. Top with additional peanuts and green onions. Enjoy!
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