This orange cauliflower recipe is a mouthwatering combination of citrusy, sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and spicy flavors. Crunchy fried cauliflower florets are tossed in a zesty sticky orange sauce to create one of the most popular Chinese take-out recipes you’ll ever set your taste buds on!
What to expect from this recipe?
This crispy orange cauliflower recipe was inspired by the popular Chinese take-out meal, orange chicken. Still, we think that the best recipe to make vegan orange chicken is with oyster mushrooms. Or if you don’t fancy mushrooms, this cauliflower recipe might be exactly what you need.
The star of both recipes is the delicious sticky orange sauce. We make it with cornstarch, orange juice, orange zest, cane sugar, soy sauce, sriracha, rice vinegar, minced garlic, minced ginger, and molasses. Once combined with crispy breaded and fried cauliflower, you’ll end up with the perfect dish that will have your mouth watering for more!
Here’s why this is the best vegan orange cauliflower recipe:
- It is simple to make at home and does not require fancy equipment.
- The coating is 100% gluten-free, so it would suit anyone.
- It is fried versus baked, giving you the crispiest texture, just like in the restaurant.
- It is versatile and can be customized with other toppings and sides.
The key to making the perfect orange cauliflower is to get the sauce right.
- Corn starch
- Orange juice – Use 100% orange juice for the best results.
- Orange zest
- Cane sugar
- Soy sauce – You can also use tamari.
- Sriracha – Any other chili paste will also work.
- Rice vinegar
- Vegetable oil
- Garlic (minced)
- Ginger (minced)
- Dairy-free milk – Oat, almond, or cashew milk is recommended.
- Chickpea flour
- White rice flour – You can also use all-purpose flour.
- Garlic powder
- Salt and black pepper
- White rice flour – You can also use all-purpose flour.
- Corn starch – You can also use tapioca flour.
🛒 You can find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Preparing the orange sauce
- Peel and mince the ginger and garlic. Then wash and grate the orange zest.
- Mix the cornstarch, orange juice, orange zest, cane sugar, soy sauce (or tamari), sriracha (or chili paste substitute), and white rice vinegar in a small bowl.
- Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil, then add the minced garlic and ginger. Saute the garlic and ginger for 1-2 minutes.
- Next, add the mixture from the bowl and mix it well. Cook for a couple of minutes until the cornstarch activates and the sauce thickens.
- Add the molasses and stir well. The sauce should like thick and sticky, just like in the below photo.
Preparing the batters
- Wet batter: In a shallow bowl, add the dairy-free milk, chickpea flour, white rice flour, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. Whisk together the ingredients until it reaches the texture of a thick pancake batter (slow-flowing but not too dense). If the flour starts to thicken, you can add one teaspoon of water to make it thinner.
- Dry batter: In a second shallow bowl, use a spoon to mix the white rice flour, cornstarch, salt, and black pepper.
Breading the cauliflower
- Cut the cauliflower into small, 1-inch thick florets.
- First, dip the florets in the wet batter, taking care to coat them evenly. I found that it is easier to use your fingers instead of using a fork or spatula. Gently tap or shake to get rid of any excess batter.
- Next, gently transfer the coated florets to the dry batter.
- Sprinkle the mix over the top of the florets and pat them gently. Make sure the mixture evenly sticks to them.
- Heat the oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add just enough oil to cover the cauliflower florets. You can test whether or not the oil is hot enough by adding a bit of coating. If it sizzles, it is ready for deep frying!
- Fry the florets for approximately 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Once nicely browned, remove them and place them on a rack to drip the excess oil.
- Do not double-coat the cauliflower – Because the cauliflower florets are small, there is no need to double-bread them. The last thing you want is to have too much breading!
- Do not overcrowd the pan – Do not add too much cauliflower to the oil at once, as it will lower the temperature of the oil and increase the cooking time. As you wait for the oil to return to the right temperature, the cauliflower and breading will only continue to soak up the oil. You will know if you’ve overcrowded the pan if the intensity of the sizzling slows or stops altogether.
- Oyster mushrooms – It is the best ingredient to mimic chicken in terms of texture. They mimic the spongy and chewy texture without the mushroom taste (unlike cauliflower which has a distinct taste). All it takes is five minutes to hand-shred the mushrooms, and you have the perfect vegan orange chicken!
- Tofu – Another delicious protein-packed variation is to use tofu. We recommend firm or extra-firm tofu since they are easier to make crispy. After you press the tofu, cut them into ½-inch, bite-sized cubes. Follow our orange tofu recipe for more details.
- Coat the cauliflower florets while the orange sauce is still hot. The sauce will stick to the breading much more evenly versus when it is cold. If the sauce cools, you can reheat it over medium heat (do not heat it over high heat as it can affect the cornstarch and cause the sauce to thin out).
- Coat the florets per serving versus all at once. We like to take ¼ of the orange sauce and add it to a warm skillet or pan, then mix it well with one serving of cauliflower florets.
- Once done, serve it immediately over steamed or cooked white or brown rice. Or get creative and use sweet potato rice.
- For extra zest, sprinkle it with chopped green onions and sesame seeds.
- Wok, skillet, or frying pan – A wok will give you much more pan space. However, you can also use any cast-iron skillet or non-stick frying pan to make the sauce.
- Whisk – A whisk will ensure that the batter is lump-free.
- Deep frying pan – A deep-frying pan with a strainer basket is recommended, as it will be deep enough to avoid a lot of splatters, and the basket will allow you to cook a larger batch. You can also use a deep stockpot or an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven.
Fried and breaded recipes are best served hot and immediately to preserve their crunchy texture. However, if you have leftovers, we recommend you store them as follows:
In the refrigerator: Place the cauliflower in an airtight container and store it for up to three days. For the crunchiest leftovers, use them within 24 hours. After the first 24 hours, they will become dry and soggy.
In the freezer: We do not recommend freezing this dish, as it does not freeze well.
Reheating: If not coated in sauce, leftover breaded cauliflower can be reheated and made crispy again in an air fryer or by re-frying in hot oil for a couple of seconds. If already coated, it is best to reheat them in a toaster oven or a regular oven to preserve the crispy texture. We do not recommend reheating in a microwave.
While baked orange cauliflower is possible, we tested it out and found that the coating is less crispy than when you fry them. To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the florets so that they do not touch. Bake for 20-30 minutes until crispy, flipping midway.
To do so, place the breaded cauliflower florets in the basket in one layer. Turn on the air fryer and set the temperature to “high.” Fry for a couple of minutes and then check for doneness.
Orange cauliflower is most often served with steamed or cooked white or brown rice. However, you can get creative and use alternatives such as fried rice, cauliflower rice, quinoa, or fried noodles or serve it alongside common stir-fry vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, or snap peas.
To save time, you can make the orange sauce in advance. Once cooled, store the in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks, or the freezer for up to three months. Reheat on the stove over low heat, stirring frequently. Please note that the coating lose its crispiness the next day.
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Sticky Orange Cauliflower
- 14 oz Cauliflower
Prepare the batters
- Wet batter → Take a shallow bowl and mix dairy-free milk, chickpea flour, white rice flour, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper with a whisk. It should have a texture of a thick pancake batter, slow-flowing but not too dense. In time the flour may thicken the batter a bit, so add 1 tsp of water to thin it again.
- Dry batter → Take another shallow bowl and mix white rice flour, corn starch, salt, and black pepper with a spoon.
Breading the cauliflower
- Cut cauliflower into smaller florets (around 1-inch thick).
- Have both wet batter and dry mix in two separate shallow bowls.
- Dip the cauliflower florets first in the wet batter. Coat them evenly. I found it is easier to use your fingers to do that instead of using a fork or spatula.
- Transfer the coated cauliflower florets gently to the dry batter. Sprinkle the top and pat them gently. Make sure the mix sticks to them evenly.
Deep-frying the florets
- Take a pot and add enough oil to cover the florets. Heat it over medium/high heat. You can test whether it is hot enough by dropping a bit of coating in it. If it sizzles, you are good to go.
- Stir them occasionally. It will take 3-4 minutes to fry them. Once the cauliflower florets are nicely browned, take them out to a rack to drip the excess oil.
Prepare the orange sauce
- Peel and mince ginger and garlic. Wash and grate some orange zest.
- Take a small bowl and mix corn starch, orange juice (100%), orange zest, cane sugar, soy sauce, sriracha (or other chili paste), and white rice vinegar.
- Take a saucepan and heat it over medium heat. Add oil and minced garlic, ginger and saute them for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the mixture from the small bowl and mix well. Cook it for a couple of minutes until the corn starch is activated and the sauce starts to thicken.
- Add molasses and stir well. Your sauce is ready now!
Serve it immediately
- We recommend adding one serving of deep-fried cauliflower to the sauce at a time, especially if you don’t have a large enough pan or skillet. It is easier to coat it like that.
- Take ¼ of the orange sauce and add it to a warm skillet or pan. Add 1 serving of fried cauliflower florets and mix well. Serve it on steamed or cooked rice.