This Kung Pao Cauliflower (宫保花椰菜, Gōng bǎo huā yē cài) has a great balance of sweet, salty, spicy with a touch of tang.
Kung Pao Chicken is a popular dish from Sichuan which involves tempering the Sichuan peppercorns before adding the rest of the spices. Over the years, there are many different adaptations of this dish. My Kung Pao Cauliflower has the heat from the dried chili without the numbing spice — which is similar to the taste I grew up with.
This recipe is easily customizable to your personal preference. For example, you can replace cauliflower with broccoli or any types of florets. Today, I’m using the cauliflower that I’ve mixed with a simple batter and fry them until golden brown. To air-fry the cauliflower, please check my Spicy Orange Cauliflower.
How to cook Kung Pao Cauliflower
First, prepare the cauliflower. I prefer to cut them into bite-size florets so they can be coated with the batter easily. Plus, it takes less time to fry the florets when they are smaller.
I made a simple batter by using just flour and water and seasoning it with salt and white pepper. Feel free to use a gluten-free flour blend or rice flour.
Second, prepare the sauce. I used a mixture of soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar, dark soy sauce for the color, and sesame oil.
Then, fry the battered florets until golden brown, or check my Spicy Orange Cauliflower for the option to air-fry them. Transfer fried florets to a plate with some paper towels to absorb excess oil.
To put everything together, heat up a large wok. Add in a generous amount of oil and sauté dried chili (see tips on how not to burn the chili). Then, continue to sauté the rest of the ingredients.
Add in the sauce and let it cook down until it starts to thicken.
Once you added the cauliflower florets, quickly toss everything to combine.
Taste test and fold in the toasted cashews. Serve warm.
Kung Pao Cauliflower Cooking Tips:
- Batter – the batter should be thick enough to coat the florets with a thin layer. It’s normal if the batter starts to turn runny in the middle of cooking. This happens when the florets were not properly drained after they were rinsed. To solve this, just add more flour to the batter and mix it well, then continue with the cooking process.
- I can’t find Chinese Black Vinegar – Try rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar. Some balsamic vinegar is sweeter than others, so please start with half the amount required and adjust accordingly.
- How to temper the dried chilies – Once the wok or pan is heated, add in the oil, and turn the heat down. Add in the chilies and continue to stir until the chili starts to release its aroma or turn slightly darker. If your wok or pan is too hot, remove the pan from the heat before adding in the chilies to avoid burning the chilies.
- You’ll need to cook down the sauce until it thickens before adding in the florets. This will reduce the floret’s sogginess and give them a nice sheen.
- Can I use peanuts instead – Yes, of course, I just like the cashews’ taste. Please toast the nuts of choice before adding them to the dish.
Why you need this Kung Pao Cauliflower recipe
- It’s one of the best ways to add more veggies into your diet
- It has a great balance of spiciness, saltiness, sweetness, and a slight tanginess
- It’s really appetizing – just look at the sauce!
- Easily customizable such as replace with broccoli florets or use gluten-free flour blend and soy sauce to make it a gluten-free dish.
- It’s flavorful and delicious.
If you like cauliflower, please check out:
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!
Kung Pao Cauliflower
- 1 medium-sized cauliflower head yields about 4-5 cups of florets
- 4 slices of ginger
- 4 dried chilies cut into smaller bits and remove the seeds
- 3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- ¼ cup chopped bell pepper
- ¼ cup chopped red onion
- ¼ cup toasted cashews or nuts of choice
Batter (see notes)
- ¾ cup all-purpose or gluten-free flour
- 1 cup of cold water
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- ¼ teaspoon of white pepper
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce thin version (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons Shao Xing Wine or vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ½ cup water
- Prepare the sauce. Mix all the sauce ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Set aside
- Prepare the cauliflower. Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized florets and rinse them over cold water. Let them drain in a colander.
- Prepare the batter. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, white pepper, and water until well combined.
- Dredge cauliflower florets in the batter and shake off excess. Fry or air fry the florets until golden brown.
- Transfer the fried florets onto some paper towels to absorb excess oil (if using the fry method).
- Heat a large wok or pan and add in a spoonful of oil. Sauté chili until fragrant over low heat, then add in the ginger and sauté until fragrant. Continue to do the same for garlic.
- Add in the bell pepper, red onion, and stir fry for another minute.
- Whisk the sauce again (corn starch may have set at the bottom of the bowl) and pour into the above mixture. Then, continue to cook until the sauce is slightly reduced and thickened.
- Add in the cauliflower florets and toss to coat the florets with sauce. Taste test and season accordingly.
- Finally, fold in the toasted cashews and give it a quick toss. Serve warm and enjoy!
- The batter should be thick enough to coat the florets with a layer of coating. If the batter is too runny, add a little more flour.
- Dark soy sauce has two versions, the thick one is usually sweeter while the thin one is a little saltier. Adjust the taste accordingly.
- Feel free to replace the Chinese black vinegar with rice vinegar
- Please sauté the dried chili over low heat as they can burn very quickly.