Kung Pao Cauliflower

Air fried cauliflower tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce along with peppers, onions and crunchy peanuts! This vegan Kung Pao Cauliflower is best enjoyed with jasmine rice or noodles!
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Sweet, spicy and bursting with flavors, this Kung Pao Cauliflower is a delicious way to enjoy cauliflower.

Cook the cauliflower in air-fryer or on a skillet and enjoy with some rice or noodles.

cast iron skillet with cauliflower, onions and peppers tossed in a sauce

I love everything sweet and spicy and Asian inspired dishes which have these flavors are some of my favorites.

It’s no secret that I love the kung pao sauce, I have shared recipes in the past using the same sauce like kung pao tofu and kung pao chickpeas and you guys seem to love them just as much.

And since you all love it so much, I thought of sharing another kung pao recipe and this time with cauliflower.

This Kung Pao Cauliflower has sweet and spicy flavor, there’s crunchy peanuts and just so much flavor. I really can’t get enough of these flavors and can have it pretty much every day.

I recently purchased an air fryer (I know I am late to the game) and I used it to cook the cauliflower for this recipe. As is the case with any new gadget, it took me a little while to start using the air fryer but now I use it quite often.

Cooking veggies in the air fryer is right now my favorite things to do and so for this recipe, I tossed the florets in some cornstarch and air fried it, was easy and very quick.

Although I must clarify that the cauliflower here wasn’t super crispy or anything. If you are looking for a crispy cauliflower recipe, then this is not it. 

I first tried this recipe by dipping cauliflower florets in a batter made with rice flour and panko bread crumbs, and while that turned out quite crispy, ultimately both versions tasted the same after being mixed with the sauce.

So, I didn’t really see the point of trying to make cauliflower super crispy for this recipe. If you really want to keep it crispy though, then you can try the rice flour and bread crumb batter.

But remember, it will soften up as soon as you mix it in with the sauce.

This Kung Pao Cauliflower

✔is vegan and can be made gluten-free.

✔easy and quick recipe.

✔delicious way to enjoy cauliflower!

This recipe gets done very quickly. The florets take around 15 minutes to cook and in the meantime, I like to prep everything else and then just toss the cauliflower with the sauce once done.

So, this can very well be your easy weeknight meal and can be done in 30 minutes.

Ingredients

The ingredient list might look long, but it’s mostly the sauces. If you have made my kung pao tofu and other Asian recipes before, then you must already be having all these sauces at home.

Cauliflower: I used a medium sized cauliflower here, make sure that when you cut it into florets, they aren’t very small. If they are too small, they will burn in the air fryer.

It’s a good idea to have all the florets of the same size, that makes sure that they cook evenly and in the same time.

Vegetables: onions and peppers are my favorite and I love them in this kung pao cauliflower recipe. The peppers and onion impart sweetness to the dish.

I like to undercook them so that they can retain the crunch. There’s also green onion which is used as a garnish later.

Ginger-garlic: tons of ginger-garlic is always what I love in Asian inspired recipes and this one is no exception.

Sauces: this recipe is all about the kung pao sauce and yes there are several sauces and condiments here. You can adjust the taste of sauce as per your preference (see notes). If you don’t have them here’s what you can use as a substitute.

Soy sauce-> I have used regular and dark soy sauce both. You can use regular soy sauce only if you don’t have dark soy sauce.

Hoisin sauce-> this sauce adds sweet and salty flavor. If you don’t have it, you can use any sweet barbecue sauce and add some hot sauce to it and then use it as a replacement.

Mirin (Japanese sweet cooking rice wine) -> add sweetness and tanginess, if you don’t have it you can use sherry or rice wine vinegar.

Rice vinegar-> if you don’t have rice vinegar, you can use white vinegar as well.

Sriacha-> any hot sauce will do so use whatever you have on hand.

Maple syrup-> you can substitute maple syrup with honey or with brown sugar.

I also added some water to the dish because I wanted it to be little saucy but you can cut down on if you don’t want that much sauce. 

Peanuts: no kung pao dish is complete without the crunchy peanuts so this one has some roasted peanuts which I also air fried!

Serving Suggestions

This kung pau cauliflower can be served with brown rice or hakka noodles or jasmine rice.

You can also eat it with quinoa.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the recipe gluten-free?

No, it’s not since the soy sauce used has gluten. Use tamari in place of soy sauce to make it gluten-free.

Can I bake the cauliflower florets?

Yes,  try baking at 450 F degrees for 15 to 20 minutes and you can turn them once at the half way mark.

Can I deep fry the cauliflower?

Yes, you may deep fry them.

Are the cauliflower florets super crispy here?

No they are not. If you want them super crispy, you can try making a batter of rice flour and panko bread crumbs, dip the florets in that batter and then air fry. They will be crispy.

But ultimately they will turn soft the moment you mix them with sauce so I just toss them in cornstarch and air fry. 

Method

1- In a large bowl toss together cauliflower florets (make sure that they are completely dry after rinsing) with cornstarch, all purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Then add 1 tablespoon oil and toss the florets with the oil. You may need to add additional 1/2 tablespoon of oil here to make sure all florets are coated.

You can also use a oil spray here.

2- Pre-heat your air fryer to 380 F degrees for 5 minutes. Then add the cauliflower florets to it in single later. 

3- Air fry at 380 F degrees for 15 minutes, toss it once in between. You might have to do this in batches depending on the size of your air fryer. Set this aside.

I also air fried the peanuts at 380 F degrees for 2 minutes. You can also toast them in a pan or use roasted peanuts straight away.

4- Meanwhile whisk together all ingredients listed under sauce- soy sauce (regular + dark), hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, mirin, sriracha, sesame oil, maple syrup and 2 teaspoons cornstarch. Mix until it’s all well combined.

step by step picture of making kung pao cauliflower

5- Heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium heat in a skillet. Once the oil is hot, add the dried red chilies, ginger and garlic. Sauté for 1 minute.

6- Then add the peppers and onion cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

7- Stir in the prepared sauce along with 1/2 cup water and stir. It will start to thicken immediately. You can cut down on the water if you don’t want it to be saucy (I wanted more sauce so I added it).

8- Add in the air fried florets and mix until all of the cauliflower is well coated with the sauce. Turn off the heat and add in the roasted peanuts.

step by step picture of making kung pao cauliflower

Garnish with green onions and serve kung pao cauliflower hot with rice or noodles.

kung pao cauliflower served with white rice on a plate

If you’ve tried this Kung Pao Cauliflower Recipe then don’t forget to rate the recipe! You can also follow me on FacebookInstagram to see what’s latest in my kitchen!

Kung Pao Cauliflower

cast iron skillet with cauliflower, onions and peppers tossed in a sauce
Manali
Air fried cauliflower tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce along with peppers, onions and crunchy peanuts! This vegan Kung Pao Cauliflower is best enjoyed with jasmine rice or noodles!
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian
Servings 4
Calories 275 kcal

Ingredients

For the cauliflower

  • 1 medium head cauliflower cut into florets, around 500 grams (5 cups cauliflower florets)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch 30 grams
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour 12 grams
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1.5 tablespoons oil 22 ml

For the sauce

  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce 60 ml, I used 3 tablespoons regular soy sauce and 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1.5 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1.5 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha adjust to taste
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup 30 ml, adjust to taste, can add 1/2 tablespoon more for extra sweetness
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

Stir-fry

  • 1 tablespoon oil 15 ml
  • 2 whole dried red chilies broken
  • 1.5 tablespoons ginger chopped
  • 1.5 tablespoons garlic chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper cut in squares
  • 1 medium red pepper cut in squares
  • 1 medium red onion quartered and petals separated
  • 1/2 cup water 120 ml
  • 2 tablespoons peanuts roasted, add more if needed
  • 2 stalks green onions chopped

Instructions
 

  • In a large bowl toss together cauliflower florets (make sure that they are completely dry after rinsing) with cornstarch, all purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Then add 1 tablespoon oil and toss the florets with the oil. You may need to add additional 1/2 tablespoon of oil here to make sure all florets are coated.
    You can also use a oil spray here.
    cauliflower florets in a steel bowl
  • Pre-heat your air fryer to 380 F degrees for 5 minutes. Then add the cauliflower florets to it in single later. 
    Air fry at 380 F degrees for 15 minutes, toss it once in between. You might have to do this in batches depending on the size of your air fryer. Set this aside.
    I also air fried the peanuts at 380 F degrees for 2 minutes. You can also toast them in a pan or use roasted peanuts straight away.
    air fried cauliflower
  • Meanwhile whisk together all ingredients listed under sauce- soy sauce (regular + dark), hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, mirin, sriracha, sesame oil, maple syrup and 2 teaspoons cornstarch. Mix until it's all well combined.
    sauce being whisked with a wire whisk
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium heat in a skillet. Once the oil is hot, add the dried red chilies, ginger and garlic. Sauté for 1 minute.
    ginger, garlic and chilies in a skillet
  • Then add the peppers and onion cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
    Stir in the prepared sauce along with 1/2 cup water and stir. It will start to thicken immediately. You can cut down on the water if you don't want it to be saucy (I wanted more sauce so I added it).
    onions, peppers tossed in a sauce in a skillet
  • Add in the air fried florets and mix until all of the cauliflower is well coated with the sauce. Turn off the heat and add in the roasted peanuts.
    air fried cauliflower being added to a skillet with onions, pepper and sauce
  • Garnish with green onions and serve kung pao cauliflower hot with rice or noodles.
    cauliflower with onions, peppers, peanuts

Notes

  1. The flavor of the kung pao sauce can be adjusted to taste. If you like it spicier, add more hot sauce and reduce the amount of maple syrup. You can also add some red chili flakes to spice it up. On the other hand, if you prefer sweeter sauce, add more of the maple syrup.
  2. The cauliflower can also be baked. Bake at 450 F degrees for 15 to 20 minutes and you can turn them once at the half way mark.
  3. For crispier florets, make a batter of rice flour and panko bread crumbs and dip the florets in that batter and then air fry.

Nutrition

Calories: 275kcalCarbohydrates: 35gProtein: 7gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 1359mgPotassium: 728mgFiber: 6gSugar: 15gVitamin A: 1237IUVitamin C: 136mgCalcium: 74mgIron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @cookwithmanali or tag #cookwithmanali!

5 thoughts on “Kung Pao Cauliflower

  1. Hey Manali,
    I am big fan of your cooking. And whenever i want to try new recipes i opened your website and try new recipe.
    and i have tried this recipe and it was yummy.my huband liked it so much.
    Thanks for the recipe.

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