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5 from 1 vote

Vegan Black Pepper 'Crab'

This Vegan Black Pepper 'Crab' is delicious and packed with peppery heat from black and white peppercorns. It's made with air-fried cauliflower, curry leaves and fragrant spices.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese, southeastasian
Keyword: Blackpepper, cauliflower
Servings: 3 people
Author: woonheng


  • Air-Fryer


  • 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

Batter Ingredients

  • 125 g all-purpose flour or plain flour
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper


  • tablespoons soy sauce
  • 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.