Cauliflower has been all the rage in recent years, and I’m not complaining! It’s one of my favorite veggies, known for its earthy flavor and versatility. Whether it’s a recipe for pizza crust, low-carb hashbrowns, gnocchi, alfredo sauce, or fried rice, home cooks have been finding ways to sneak in cauliflower. Today’s Crispy Baked Breaded Cauliflower Bites are one of my favorite applications.
Buffalo Cauliflower Wings were one of the first viral recipes I stumbled upon as a new vegan in 2016, and they quickly became a staple in my repertoire. I’d toss my cauliflower florets in a simple spiced batter, bake them until crispy, and then dip them in my favorite sauces. I made them so much I stopped even measuring the ingredients; I could’ve made them with my eyes closed!
Then one day I decided to take it one step further by tossing the battered cauliflower in panko breadcrumbs before baking. They came out of the oven even crispier and more satisfying than usual, and I’ve been making them that way ever since! These Baked Breaded Cauliflower Bites can be dipped in buffalo or barbecue sauce and served as “wings,” but they’re also delicious in tacos, or served as an entrée tossed in sweet ‘n’ sour, General Tso’s, sweet chili, or orange sauce.
Ingredients for Crispy Cauliflower Bites
- Cauliflower. Look for a medium-sized head that weighs roughly 2 pounds whole. You’ll need about 4-5 cups of florets.
- Flour. Almost any kind of flour will work in this recipe. All-purpose is my go-to, but to make the recipe gluten-free, try brown rice or chickpea flour, or use a 1:1 all-purpose blend like Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Flour. You may need to adjust the liquid depending on the absorbency of your flour.
- Spices. Onion and and garlic powder make the batter nice and savory. You can get creative with spices and add chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, nutritional yeast, or really anything else you’d like!
- Plant milk. Use unsweetened, plain milk. Any kind works; I typically use soy to sneak in some extra protein. I’ve also prepared this recipe with coconut milk and lime zest and it made a delicious filling for tacos. In a pinch, you can even use plain water in the batter.
- Panko breadcrumbs. These breadcrumbs have a light and airy texture that will give you the crispiest results. You can also use regular breadcrumbs, but the texture will be different. To mix things up, try replacing half the panko with cornmeal or shredded coconut!
- Spray oil. Optional, but a little spritz will help the cauliflower bites brown and crisp up a bit better in the oven.
How to Make Baked Breaded Cauliflower
- Prep. Preheat the oven and line a baking tray with parchment or a silicone baking mat. If you have neither, you’ll at least want to generously grease your baking tray, because the batter will stick.
- Cut the cauliflower. Chop off the leaves and stems and cut the head into florets as large as you’d like. I cut larger florets if I want to make these into cauliflower “wings” for easier dipping. I cut them much smaller for crispy cauliflower “bites” if I want to use them in tacos.
- Mix the batter. It should be similar to the consistency of pancake batter, or a little thicker. Add an extra splash of plant milk if needed to thin out the batter. This may especially be necessary if you used a flour alternative that is a little more absorptive than regular all-purpose, such as chickpea flour. (Pro-tip: use a really big bowl to make it easier to toss the cauliflower later.)
- Batter the cauliflower. Toss the florets in the batter. You want them to be mostly coated, but it’s okay if there’s not batter in every nook and cranny. If you don’t mind getting a little messy, I find it’s easiest to use my hands for this step.
- Bread the cauliflower. Toss the battered cauliflower into seasoned panko breadcrumbs to coat. It helps to have one wet hand and one dry hand. The wet hand will transfer pieces of battered cauliflower to the dish of breadcrumbs. The dry hand will scoop breadcrumbs onto the cauliflower to help coat it, then transfer to a baking tray. This helps you avoid breadcrumbs coating your fingers.
- Bake. Bake until golden brown and crispy.
- Sauce it up. You can toss the baked cauliflower in your favorite sauce, rearrange it on the tray, and then pop it back the oven for 5-10 minutes to bake the sauce back on, but this is optional. You can also simply serve the cauliflower with sauce on the side for dipping.
How to Serve Breaded Cauliflower
This is a super versatile recipe!
My most common way to enjoy Breaded Baked Cauliflower is with a variety of dipping sauces as a snack. It’s great with buffalo or barbecue sauce, sriracha mayo, vegan ranch, or even just ketchup! It makes a great game day snack that’s not too heavy, and it’s a fun way to sneak vegetables into your diet.
If I’m craving tacos, I cut the florets smaller than I would if making wings. Then I have little Crispy Cauliflower Bites that are easier to pile into taco shells or tortillas. I might add a few teaspoons of taco seasoning into the batter. Sometimes I’ll use canned coconut milk with a squeeze of lime juice as the liquid, and these make an amazing filling for tacos with fresh cabbage slaw and cashew crema!
Crispy Cauliflower Entrée
Finally, you can serve the cauliflower as an entrée by tossing it in your favorite sauce and serving with steamed veggies and rice. Some ideas are sweet & sour cauliflower (add stir-fried bell peppers, onions and pineapple), General Tso’s cauliflower, glazed orange cauliflower, or gochujang cauliflower (toss them in the sauce from my Gochujang Tofu recipe).
How to Store & Reheat Breaded Cauliflower
You can store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days. The breadcrumbs will soften, but you can re-crisp them two ways:
In the oven: Place leftover cauliflower on a baking tray. Bake in an oven preheated to 350°F for 10-15 minutes, or until crisp.
In the air fryer: Place leftover cauliflower in the basket of an air fryer set to 370°F for 5-8 minutes. Keep an eye on them and give the basket a shake once or twice while cooking to help them cook evenly. Remove when crispy. (This will vary slightly depending on your air fryer.)
For more information about this recipe, check out the video on YouTube!
Baked Breaded Cauliflower
- 1 medium head cauliflower about 2 lbs whole
- 3/4 cup flour see notes
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- black pepper to preference
- 3/4 cup unsweetened plain plant milk
- 1 – 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- spray oil optional
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Chop the cauliflower into medium-sized florets and set aside.
- In a very large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, spices, salt and pepper. Stir in plant milk. Depending on the type of flour you use, you may need an extra tablespoon or so of milk to reach the right consistency. The batter should be completely smooth and just slightly thinner than pancake batter.
- Add cauliflower florets into the batter and toss in batter to coat. A flexible spatula works best for this, or use your hands if you don’t mind getting a little messy! The cauliflower doesn’t need to be 100% coated, but we want to distribute the batter evenly so all the florets have batter on them.
- Add panko crumbs to a shallow dish and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. You might not need the entire 2 cups depending on the size of your cauliflower; I usually start with 1 cup and then add more to the dish as needed.
- Working a few pieces at a time, dip battered cauliflower florets into breadcrumbs and toss to coat. Transfer to a lined baking tray and repeat until all the cauliflower is breaded. Optionally, spray lightly with oil to encourage more even browning.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. Give the cauliflower a flip with a spatula at around the 15 minute point.
- Serve immediately with your favorite sauce on the side, or toss in sauce and return to oven for another 3-5 minutes to bake the sauce into the cauliflower. Leftovers can be refrigerated and re-crisped in the oven (at 350°F for about 10 minutes) or in an air fryer.
For buffalo cauliflower
- Toss with buffalo sauce and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
For bang bang cauliflower
- Combine 1/4 cup mayo and 1/4 cup sriracha and toss cauliflower in sauce.