This delicious Kung Pao cauliflower recipe puts a nutritious twist on the classic Kung Pao chicken. Cauliflower florets are tossed in an aromatic, spicy homemade sauce with crunchy roasted peanuts to create an irresistible sweet, salty, and spicy dish. You may not return to Chinese takeout once you learn to make this recipe!
There are many ways to incorporate cauliflower into a delicious and nutritious meal that the whole family will love. Check out my other cauliflower-based recipes, such as spicy, vegan buffalo cauliflower, sticky orange cauliflower, and creamy vegan cauliflower soup.
❤️ Why you’ll love it
This simple and easy-to-make Kung Pao cauliflower dish is one of my favorite variations when recreating popular Chinese takeout recipes. Using fresh, seasoned cauliflower, green beans, roasted peanuts, and chickpeas, this dish is loaded with goodies. However, the Kung Pao sauce itself is the star of the show, bringing sweet, salty, and spicy together to make your taste buds explode!
I love this recipe because it only has a few steps and is not complicated to follow. With just 10 minutes of prep time required, it takes a total time of just 30 minutes, making it the perfect answer to a quick weeknight meal. Not to mention, its ingredients are easy to find and inexpensive. Kung Pao cauliflower is one of the budget-friendly recipes featured in my Winter Vegan Cookbook.
This recipe is also quite versatile, so you can easily customize it to your liking or convert it into a completely different dish if you please!
🧾 Key ingredients
Each of the ingredients to make Kung Pao cauliflower are essential items that you can find in any grocery store. Many are staple items that likely already exist in your pantry.
Cauliflower – I prefer using fresh cauliflower, but frozen cauliflower works just as well.
Soy sauce, cane sugar, rice vinegar, and ginger powder are combined to make the savory Kung Pao sauce. Since I need gluten-free dishes, I use tamari sauce instead of soy sauce.
Garlic, onion, and chili flakes – Cauliflower can be a bit bland on its own, so these ingredients will help to give it flavor and a kick of heat. I always use freshly chopped onion and garlic clove for the best flavor and fragrance.
Green beans – Cauliflower pairs great with green beans, but you can add any other vegetables you like. If green beans are not in season, use pre-cooked, frozen ones. Don’t use canned beans. They are just too soft. Stir fries are better if the vegetables remain a bit crunchy.
Roasted peanuts and chickpeas – The roasted peanuts and chickpeas will give the dish extra texture and a protein boost. The chickpeas can be pre-cooked or canned. In place of the peanuts, I love using cashew nuts.
🛒 You can find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Preparing the vegetables
Before starting the recipe, the cauliflower and green beans need to be cooked. Thaw the pre-cooked frozen green beans and cut them into one-inch-long (25mm) pieces. Place them in boiling water for five minutes. Also, soak the cauliflower florets in hot water for 10 minutes, then drain.
Making Kung Pao cauliflower
Mix the soy sauce, cane sugar, rice vinegar, ginger powder, vegetable broth, and corn starch in a small bowl to make the Kung Pao sauce.
Heat a wok or frying pan over medium heat. Add the vegetable oil (or sesame oil, if you prefer), chopped garlic, onion, and sliced chili peppers and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add the cooked cauliflower florets to the pan and season them with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 5-6 minutes.
Add pre-cooked green beans. Then, increase the heat and add the Kung Pao sauce. Cook for 3-4 minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the roasted peanuts and cooked or canned chickpeas. Stir well and serve.
💡 Expert tips
Don’t overcook the cauliflower – The cauliflower should be nice and tender but not overcooked or mushy. Stop cooking it as soon as it reaches the texture you desire. Fresh and frozen cauliflower cook differently, so you must keep a closer eye on how it cooks if using frozen cauliflower. To remove the excess moisture, pat dry frozen cauliflower before cooking it.
Toss the cauliflower in the sauce while it is hot – It is best to add the cauliflower to the sauce while it is still hot. Doing so will help it coat and stick to the cauliflower more evenly than if it were cold. If the sauce starts to cool down, reheat it over low to medium heat. Take care not to overheat it, as it can alter the cornstarch and thin the sauce.
Kung Pao mushrooms
For a spongy, chewy texture like chicken, swap out the cauliflower for hand-shredded oyster mushrooms, as we do in our vegan orange chicken recipe. Unlike cauliflower, mushrooms do not have a distinct taste.
Kung Pao tofu
Tofu is another alternative to cauliflower and is packed with protein. I recommend using firm or extra-firm tofu since it already has the most moisture removed. After pressing the tofu, you can cut it into ½-inch, bite-sized cubes or choose one of the other 11 ways to prepare it.
With different vegetables
This recipe already has cauliflower as the main star with green beans. However, you can mix in common stir-fry vegetables, such as bell peppers, carrots, or snap peas.
🥣 Serving ideas
Kung Pao cauliflower is often served over steamed or cooked white or brown rice. However, you can also serve it over fried rice, jasmine rice, fried noodles, or quinoa.
You can also serve it with a side of steamed broccoli and top it with a sprinkle of sesame seeds or chopped green onions. If you like heat, throw some red chili peppers on top!
❄️ Storing tips
My Kung Pao cauliflower recipe tastes best when it is served immediately. However, if you have leftovers, I recommend storing them as follows:
In the refrigerator: Once cooled, place leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.
In the freezer: I recommend freezing the cauliflower and the Kung Pao sauce separately for the best results. Doing so will ensure that the cauliflower keeps its tender texture. Once cooled, place the cauliflower and sauce in an airtight plastic bag or container and freeze for up to two months.
Reheating: Reheat leftovers in a warm skillet over medium-low heat. I do not recommend reheating in the microwave.
To bake instead of pan-frying, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking tray with parchment paper. After you cover the cauliflower florets in sauce, place them on the baking sheet, ensuring they do not touch. Bake for 20-30 minutes, flipping halfway through. You can also roast the cauliflower without the sauce and continue the recipe as indicated.
You can air-fry the cauliflower before tossing it in the sauce. Start by preheating your air fryer. Then, place the florets in the basket in one layer. Air fry at 380 degrees for 15 minutes, flipping them halfway through. Remember that your cooking temperatures and times may vary based on your air fryer model.
Yes. While the main ingredients are soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar, garlic, and ginger, chili pepper is also essential. Depending on the type you choose and the amount you add, the Kung Pao sauce can vary from mildly spicy to hot.
More cauliflower recipes
THANK YOU so much for visiting our website. Please comment below if you have tried this recipe. We LOVE hearing from you! If you loved the recipe, please don’t forget to give us a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ RATING. We appreciate all of our readers.
Kung Pao Cauliflower
- 1 Wok
- 21 oz Cauliflower
- 5 oz Green beans
- 1 cup Chickpeas (canned)
- 1 Onion
- 2 cloves Garlic
- 2 Tbsp Vegetable oil
- 4 Tbsp Soy sauce use tamari to make it gluten-free
- 2 Tbsp Cane sugar or vegan honey
- ½ cup Vegetable broth
- 1 Tbsp Rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp Corn starch
- ½ tsp Ginger powder
- ⅓ cup Dry roasted peanuts
- ⅛ tsp Hot chili powder or flakes
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Thaw pre-cooked frozen green beans and cut them into inch-long (25 mm) pieces. Cook them in boiling water for 5 minutes.
- Soak cauliflower florets in hot water for 10 minutes. Drain them.
- Mix soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari), sugar, vinegar, ginger, vegetable broth, and cornstarch in a small bowl to make a sauce.
- Take a wok or a frying pan and heat it over medium heat. Add oil, chopped garlic, onion, and chili flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add cauliflower florets and season them with salt and black pepper. Cook for 5-6 minutes.
- Turn the heat up and add the sauce. Cook for 3-4 minutes to thicken the sauce.
- Turn the heat to medium and add roasted peanuts, cooked or canned chickpeas, and green beans. Stir well.