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 type 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!
Vegan 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.
Just cooked this – absolutely delicious! Will try oven roasting next time to make it healthier but the textures were just gorgeous and all very tasty – thank you for the recipe.
What time & temp for the air fryer?
Hello Oanh, you can use this temperature (similar to my black pepper cauliflower) Preheated air-fryer at 390°F (200°C) for 8-10 minutes until golden brown, with a shake in between. Thanks!
This dish brought me so much joy on a rainy night! Excellent recipe! I sprayed batter dipped florets with oil and baked in a regular oven at 450F for 30 min, stirring cauliflower half way through and it worked like a charm! Highly recommend.
I made this tonight and it was delicious! I roasted the cauliflower in the oven using your suggestions to put oil on the baking sheet and brushed on the cauliflower. It came out great! I paired it with some rice for our dinner.
Just made this recipe this morning after I got off work, and I have to say it is delicious. I am a new fan of yours now and will be looking for more fabulous recipes. Thank you 💖
Hello 🥰 I have been a follower and big fan for long.
I wanted to ask if I can skip the nuts cause I can’t do nuts and they make me nauseous.
Hello Alessandra, thanks so much for the support. Yes, you can skip it for sure. 🙂 Have a beautiful day. Best, WoonHeng
Thank youuuuu for replying!! I hadn’t got any notification so I thought you didn’t see it ❤️😍🥺🥺
Made this for dinner tonight and it was absolutely delicious and didn’t feel really heavy. I don’t have an air fryer and I’m a little intimidated by deep frying so I just pan fried the cauliflower in about 2 tbsp of olive oil and they still came out super crispy. If you’re craving takeout but want to cook something fun this is great. Will be making again (:
Yay, thanks so much Alyssa for sharing your feedback and tips with us. I’m really glad to hear you loved this recipe and will be making again – woohoo! Many thanks and have a wonderful weekend. Best, WoonHeng
Absolutely awesome, will be making this a favorite recipe, Thanks so much
Thanks so much Jules! 🙂
hi Woon Heng. when you bake it in the oven, do you still need to coat it in batter?
Hey HC, yes, you’ll need to coat it with batter. 🙂 I’ll grease the baking pan as well, then brush the coated florets with a thin layer of oil. This will make them more crispy. Hope you like it. Best, WoonHeng
Thank you! I first tried your sanbei tofu 2 weeks ago and it was awesome! Going to explore more of your recipes! 🙂
Thanks so much HC! 🙂
I’m in the same boat. I’ve never deep fried anything in oil and I’m going to try the baking route. What temperature do you recommend baking at? (p.s. I love your mapo tofu recipe!)
Made this last night. I used brown rice flour for the batter and air fried. Worked great. Seemed like ingredient quantities were small so I doubled 1/4 cup amounts of vegs and cashews. That seemed just right. Used mirin in the sauce instead of Shao Xing wine. Not sure the difference it made because I’m not familiar with Shao Xing but flavors were very good. Thanks for this recipe!
Many thanks Josh for sharing your options and feedback. I’m glad you loved it. Mirin is more on the sweet side and the Shao Xing wine is more on the saltier side. So glad it all worked out. Thank you.
I love this recipe! I’ve made it once with cauliflower and once with broccoli and both were great. I don’t bother with making a batter and just roast the cauliflower in the oven while preparing the rest of the dish. My husband is an omnivore who usually wants some meat on his plate, but he was completely satisfied with this vegan dish!
I’m a little confused by the two different types of soy sauce in the recipe — are you supposed to choose one or the other, or use both for a total of 4T? I wasn’t sure so used 2T of the thin soy sauce.
Hello Lori S, thank you so much for your feedback and so glad that both broccoli and cauliflower worked great for you. 🙂 The dark soy sauce is to give it the dark color with a little touch of sweetness. Using thin soy sauce is perfect too. 🙂 Thanks again and hope you get to try other recipes soon. Best, WoonHeng
This is another tasty dish from Woon Heng 😊 I increased the spice level and might bake the cauliflower (as I read in comment above) next time as battering and frying it really took me a long time. We enjoyed the flavours so this is another dish that will be going into my regular meal rotation 😊
Thanks so much Fiona for your feedback. So glad it worked out for you. Happy cooking and have a beautiful day. Best, WoonHeng
@cherienooz / Niny
My husband and I decided to do plant based meals for a month. This was my first recipe from WoonHeng (I found this recipe from another vegan’s Instagram account) and boy, it delivered. I made this yesterday 02/01) – it may call for a little bit of work (making the batter & frying the cauliflower separately before stir-frying) but that’s the fun part in cooking and it is worth it. When you have garlic, ginger, onion and the right sauces in any recipe particularly Asian recipes, you can bet the kitchen will smell heavenly (and nostalgic for me).
For non-vegans, you couldn’t tell that this had cauliflower in it and we enjoyed this dish tremendously. I would think picky eaters will enjoy dish and I would’ve enjoyed this as a child (I was that picky eater too growing up). We had seconds (could go for thirds, really) and literally wiped the wok clean. It’s savory and the spiciness level is very low. You can add more dried chilies or not discard the chili seeds if you want a little kick in this dish but this recipe, in my opinion, is already perfect as it is. If somehow you find this a bit salty due to the abundance of soy sauce, you can balance the flavor out with sugar and taste as you go or opt for low sodium option if that’s available. I’ve looked into WoonHeng’s other recipes (everything looks soooo promising) and I think she should make a cook book 🙂 I definitely look forward to making more recipes from her website after a successful dinner last night.
Your message made my day. I’m SO SO happy that you and hubby loved it and decided to do plant-based for a month. It will be fun that both are doing it together, best support you can get. I greatly appreciate you sharing your feedback with everyone here. Cookbook – I’ll work harder for one. 🙂 Thanks A LOT for your support. Wishing you and family well. Best, WoonHeng
What temperature do you recommend frying the cauliflower at?
Hi Madeline, I normally used a pair of chopsticks to test the oil temperature, it’s usually about 375F. Hope that helps. Let me know if you need anything at all. Best, WoonHeng
What a delicious dish! My famiy loves it. My son, who doesn’t like veggies, had two bowls of rice with this dish. Thank you for sharing this delicious and easy to make recipe.
Yay! so so awesome to hear! I’m glad your son enjoys this dish. yay!! Thank you for making. Best, WoonHeng
Hi! What kind of chilies do you use?
Absolutely loved making this. Was so much fun and the recipe was very easy to follow. Thank you!!
Many Many thanks! I’m so glad you loved it. thanks again for your feedback. 🙂 Best, WoonHeng
This recipe was fantastic! Instead of frying I baked the cauliflower (and broccoli) in the oven at 450 for 30 minutes flipping halfway through and they came out perfectly crispy. I would definitely make this again. Super flavorful and satisfying!
Yay, thanks so much Molly! Yours look fantastic and thank you for sharing your feedback! I love them and so happy to hear you’ll make it again. yay. Best, WoonHeng
How much corn starch goes into the sauce? I didn’t see that as a listed ingredient. Thanks!
Many many thanks for pointing this out. I used 1 tablespoon and updated it. Happy cooking!