These crispy battered and fried cauliflower bites tossed in homemade buffalo sauce are a great vegetarian alternative to buffalo chicken wings. I love just about anything tossed in buffalo sauce, and you don’t have to be vegetarian to love this recipe – the first time I made them I think I ate a whole head of cauliflower!
The cornstarch and rice flour batter in these cauliflower buffalo wings is gluten free without its being forced to compromise on the crunch and flavor. This combination lightly coats the cauliflower and once fried the cauliflower florets are perfectly crisp. Served alongside carrots, celery and ranch or blue cheese these cauliflower bites make for a perfect meatless game day appetizer or snack.
Buffalo sauce is extremely easy to make at home – all it takes is a hot sauce of your choice, a bit of melted butter, vinegar, Worcestershire and garlic whisked together. I typically use Frank’s® RedHot® hot sauce when making classic Buffalo sauce. If not using the buffalo sauce right away, store the sauce in an airtight container for up to a week – warming and whisking to combine and before using. This sauce can be swapped with your favorite store-bought brand in a pinch. Just be sure to warm before serving.
All you need is:
The rich flavor of Buffalo sauce comes from a base of melted butter. I use unsalted butter so the level of salt can easily be adjusted depending on preference.
While you can use any hot sauce of your choice I recommend choosing a vinegar-based hot sauce. I use Frank’s® RedHot® hot sauce when making my buffalo cauliflower recipe.
Vinegar adds the tangy, acidic quality to the buffalo sauce in this recipe.
This fermented condiment adds a lot of concentrated flavor – a little goes a long way. The flavor of Worcestershire comes from a mix of vinegar, molasses, anchovies, garlic, tamarind extract and chili pepper.
The garlic in this recipe is minced so it blends smoothly and evenly into the buffalo sauce.
Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable – it can be used as a vegetarian fill-in for steak, finely diced and used as rice, or roasted as florets. As it fries it still holds together well making it a great vegetarian option for these chicken wing-alternatives. I buy a head and cut it into florets – it’s usually more cost effective than buying a pre-cut bag of florets!
Vegetable oil is a neutral oil meaning it doesn’t have it’s own flavor. As a result it doesn’t overpower the other flavors in this dish. It also has a higher smoking point than say olive oil. This makes it a better choice to use to stir fry the rice.
Cornstarch works well as a coating when frying. The naturally gluten-free starchy powder helps absorb any moisture keeping the outside crunchy.
Rice flour crisps up really nicely when frying. I find the rice flour also stays crispy longer when the fried cauliflower is tossed in the buffalo sauce before serving. Many other fried cauliflower recipes can become soggy before they even hit the table. It’s also naturally gluten-free so mixed with cornstarch it makes a great gluten-free batter. Brown or white rice flour works fine.
Baking powder creates very tiny air bubbles on the surface of the battered cauliflower when fried, resulting in an even lighter batter.
Since the buffalo sauce adds so much flavor, the batter is simply seasoned with a blend of garlic powder, salt and pepper.
In a small bowl whisk together the butter, hot sauce, vinegar, Worcestershire and garlic until completely combined.
Fill a large pot with enough oil to reach 2″ (5cm) up the side of the pan. Heat oil to 350°F (180ºC). In a large bowl whisk together the cornstarch, flour, baking powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Slowly add ¾ cup cold water, whisking until a thin batter forms. Add more water if needed.
Working in batches, dip the cauliflower in the batter, letting the excess batter drip off.
Add to the hot oil and deep-fry until the cauliflower is golden brown, about 4 minutes.
Remove to a large bowl and toss with ¼ cup of the buffalo sauce, adding more as needed. Serve immediately with carrots, celery sticks and ranch or blue cheese dressing.
Because the batter is liquid I prefer frying these cauliflower for the best texture though they can also be baked. Preheat oven to 425ºF (220ºC). Arrange the coated cauliflower on a baking sheet greased with cooking spray. Make sure the cauliflower are about 1″ apart. Bake for 15 minutes then flip the cauliflower and continue baking until crispy, about an additional 15 minutes. Toss in the buffalo sauce mixture as directed.
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