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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.

overhead photo of Better Than Takeout Kung Pao Cauliflower in a bowl with rice and chopsticks

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.

roasted cauliflower on baking sheet before tossing with sauce

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.

Better Than Takeout Kung Pao Cauliflower in skillet

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…

overhead photo of Better Than Takeout Kung Pao Cauliflower in bowl

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.

Into it!

side angled close up photo of Better Than Takeout Kung Pao Cauliflower in serving bowl

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.

overhead close up photo of Better Than Takeout Kung Pao Cauliflower in bowl with chopsticks

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.

Looking for other “better than takeout” style recipes? Try my coconut butter cauliflower, 20-minute peanut noodles, szechuan noodles with sesame chili oil, or my favorite weeknight udon noodles.

Next up on my takeout style recipes? Thinking about chicken fried rice. Thoughts?

side angled close up photo of Better Than Takeout Kung Pao Cauliflower in a bowl with rice an chopsticks

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!

Extra Sticky Kung Pao Cauliflower.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories Per Serving: 182 kcal

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

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Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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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Comments

    1. Hi Kelly,
      Happy Friday!! I am so glad to hear this recipe was a winner, thanks for giving it a go:) xTieghan

  1. Hi Tieghan, I love your recipes! I have used this one with just cauliflower and it turned out amazing. I have three young kids and think they might like something like this with chicken. Would you do anything differently for chicken? Also, can I prepare this recipe or any parts of it ahead of time?

    1. Hey Victoria,
      Happy Friday! Thanks so much for giving this recipe a try, I love to hear that it was enjoyed! xTieghan

  2. I made a double batch of this sauce glaze and put half on cauliflower and half on boneless chicken. Worked great! Thanks for the recipe!!!! (Also used cashews – didn’t have peanuts. Yum!)

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Fantastic! Thank you so much for making this recipe, I am so glad to hear it was enjoyed! Happy Holidays!🎄 xx

  3. 4 stars
    I will make this again, but I will dispense with the coating of the cauliflower before roasting. Maybe I did something wrong but just didn’t see that it enhanced the recipe. Next time I will just roast the cauliflower as I usually do and then put it into the sauce. The sauce was really yummy. I did add cashews and orange bell pepper.
    Thanks so much..

    1. Hey Jenny,
      Happy Friday! I am thrilled to hear that this recipe was enjoyed. Thanks so much for making it and happy holidays!❄️ xTieghan

  4. This was seriously delicious and very quick to make. Thanks for the wonderful recipes and really practical search and sort feature!

  5. 4 stars
    I wanted to love this but I’m not sure about the flavors-they are a bit strong and I think could be more balanced-maybe needs a citrus or some lightness.

  6. 5 stars
    I just made this tonight for dinner and it was delicious! Great sauce! And I learned how to use my broiler finally! Thank you 🙂

    1. Hey Nisha,
      Thanks so much for making this recipe, I love to hear that it was enjoyed! Have a great week:) xTieghan

    1. Hey Donna,
      Wonderful! Thanks a bunch for giving this recipe a go, I am so glad it was enjoyed. Have the best weekend:) xTieghan

  7. 5 stars
    I had a whole head of cauliflower in my fridge and desperately needed inspiration. This was super and REALLY delicious. I especially like that you’ve done a healthy twist on a crowd favourite. I would love to see more recipes like this!

    1. Hey Liane,
      Thanks so much for making this recipe, I am so glad to hear that it was enjoyed! Have a wonderful day:) xTieghan

  8. 5 stars
    Ok this was by far the best cauliflower recipe I’ve ever tried!!! My husband and I ate every last bite. I served it with brown rice. We love spice so I added sliced serranos to the sauce and extra crushed red pepper. Will absolutely make this again! I will say however, there’s no way you can make this in 30 minutes. I cook all the time and know my way around the kitchen, but this entire meal took almost an hour. I’m sure it’ll be quicker next time, but the prep does take a bit. It is very easy though. Thanks for another great recipe!!

  9. We tried this tonight and it was good but not delicious. I followed the recipe to a T, so not sure what happened.

  10. 5 stars
    This recipe is so delicious! I think I’m addicted. I didn’t read the recipe properly and put all of the soya sauce in with the cauliflower at the beginning when roasting it and it was still delicious!