You’ll want to add this vegan black pepper ‘crab’ dish to your weekly dinner plans. It’s scrumptious and packed with wonderful flavors from freshly pounded peppercorns. Each bite comes with a buttery taste, peppery heat, and aromatic herbs.
Inspired by the popular Southeast Asia Black Pepper Crab (黑胡椒螃蟹 Hēi hújiāo pángxiè) dish, I made this vegan version using air-fried cauliflower. To some foodies, this sauce ranks as high or higher than the famous Chili Crab, which I have also veganized in Vegan Chili ‘Crab’. Personally, they both have their own uniqueness in taste which brings different types of heat, one from chili heat and the other from the peppery heat. Let’s check out the key ingredients and steps on how to make this delicious dish.
Vegan Black Pepper ‘Crab’ Key Ingredients
- Peppercorns – use a mixture of both black and white peppercorns to give this a complex peppery heat. A quick tip is to dry toast them on a heated pan for a few seconds before grinding the peppercorns. Alternatively, crushed pepper will work just fine if you can’t find whole peppercorns.
- Shallots and Garlic – brings a touch of sweetness and balances out the heat from the peppercorns.
- Vegan butter – is added to create the buttery taste and act as a binder for the sauces.
- Vegan ‘oyster’ sauce is the umami component in which you can use store-bought or my homemade Vegan Stir-Fry sauce.
- Curry or lime leaves are always a great addition for when you need that extra herbal fragrance.
How to make Vegan Black Pepper ‘Crab’
If you are using whole peppercorns, lightly toast them on a heated non-stick pan. Then, grind them in a spice grinder or a food processor into tiny bits. I used a mortar and pestle and pound them as I love cracked peppercorns. Quick note: Do not toast peppercorns for too long as it will turn them bitter.
Prepare your choice of vegetables in which I used air-fried cauliflower that I coated with a simple batter. To bake the cauliflower, brush the coated florets with oil. Then lay them flat on a greased baking pan and bake at 425°F (220°C) for 25 – 30 minutes.
To make the sauce, sauté shallots and garlic in oil until aromatic. I like to sauté the shallots first and garlic next as garlic tends to burn quickly. Then, add in the butter, chilies, curry leaves, crushed peppercorns, and stir to combine.
Season with soy sauce, vegan ‘oyster’ sauce, and sugar. Then, toss cauliflower florets with the sauce until all is incorporated. Garnish with more chilis and chopped green onions before serving.
This Vegan Black Pepper ‘Crab’ is now my new favorite as it is
- Full of peppery heat
- Quick and Simple
- Easily customizable (substitute gluten-free soy sauce or tamari for regular soy sauce and use gluten-free flour for the batter)
- & TASTY!
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Vegan Black Pepper ‘Crab’
- 1 head of medium-sized cauliflower about 500g
- 2 large shallots about 100g
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 red jalapenõ or 3 Thai chilies
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter
- ½ tablespoon whole black peppercorn
- ½ tablespoon whole white peppercorn
- oil for cooking
- a handful of curry leaves
- a handful of chopped green onions
- 125 g all-purpose flour or plain flour
- ¾ cup water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1½ tablespoons soy sauce
- 1½ tablespoons vegan ‘oyster’ sauce
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- Clean cauliflower and remove the outer leaves. Cut cauliflower into florets, rinse with water and drain well. This is a crucial step as you don't want the excess water to dilute the batter.
- To prepare the cauliflower, mix the batter ingredients in a large mixing bowl until well combined. Then, dip florets into the batter and air-fry in a preheated air-fryer at 390°F (200°C) for 8-10 minutes until golden brown, with a shake in between.
- In heated non-stick pan, toast peppercorns for 30-45 seconds, then let it cool down.
- Transfer to a mortar and pestle and pound them into tiny bits. Alternatively, use a spice grinder or small food processor to crush the peppercorns. See Notes for crushed peppers.
- To make the black pepper sauce, add a tablespoon of oil in a preheated non-stick pan, then sauté shallots until translucent, and continue to cook the garlic until fragrant.
- Add in the butter and let it melt, then continue to add the add chilies, curry leaves, and crushed peppercorns.
- Stir until well combined and season with soy sauce, sugar, and vegan 'oyster' sauce. Add the cauliflower florets and toss until well combined.
- Garnish with chopped green onions and more chilis, then serve warm.
- To substitute whole peppercorns with ground black and white peppers, use: 3 teaspoons of crushed black pepper and 1 teaspoon of white pepper.
- Other methods to prepare the cauliflower:
- BAKE – Brush the coated cauliflower florets with oil. Then lay them flat on a greased baking pan and bake at 425°F (220°C) for 25 – 30 minutes.
- FRY – Fry coated cauliflower florets in 365F (185°C) until golden brown.
- For a homemade vegan ‘oyster’ sauce, please see my Vegan Stir-Fry sauce.