Enjoy the bold flavours of this sweet and spicy kung pao cauliflower recipe! This easy dish is ready in under 30 minutes so it’s perfect any night of the week.

Two bowls of cauliflower kung pao topped with chopped green onions and cashews.

Features

  • dietary: vegan, can be gluten-free (use tamari instead of soy sauce)
  • addictive, sticky, sweet and sour sauce
  • easy to make in less than 30 minutes
  • satisfying and comforting served with warm rice and topped with scallions and peanuts

What is kung pao?

Kung pao is a Chinese dish made with chicken, peanuts, vegetables and chili peppers. It has an intense sweet and sour flavour with some heat from sichuan peppers.

In North American, kung pao is a popular menu item at Chinese food restaurants, though according to Recipe Tin Eats, it’s a not what you’d find in traditional Chinese cooking but rather a westernized version of an authentic Chinese Sichuan dish. This recipe is inspired by westernized kung pao and is definitely not authentic in any way.


Ingredient Notes

Visual list of ingredients for kung pao cauliflower. Each ingredient is labelled with text overlay.
  • cauliflower – you’ll need two small to medium sized heads
  • bell peppers – the recipe calls for red bell peppers but you could use another color in a pinch
  • sesame oil – key for flavor, don’t skip it!
  • serrano chili – can be substituted with sichuan pepper or if you can’t find either, jalapeno will work
  • low-sodium soy sauce – it’s important ot use a low-sodium variety otherwise the sauce will be too salty, for a gluten-free recipe, use low-sodium tamari
  • maple syrup – agave syrup or honey (not vegan) also work here
  • rice wine vinegar – seasoned or unseasoned both work, I used unseasoned

Complete list of ingredients with amounts and instructions is located in the recipe card below.

How to Make Kung Pao Cauliflower

There are two parts to this recipe, roasting the vegetables and making the sauce, both are easy! We’ll cover a battered cauliflower variation below if you want to take an extra step to kick this recipe up a notch

Before you Start: To get prepped for the recipe, chop the cauliflower, peppers, garlic, ginger and Serrano pepper and get the all of the sauce ingredients ready to go.

Step 1. Roast the Cauliflower and Peppers

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Arrange the cauliflower and bell pepper in a single layer on a baking tray and roast for about 15 minutes until browned and tender.

Roasted cauliflower and red bell peppers on a baking pan.

Step 2. Make the Sauce

While the cauliflower and peppers are roasting in the oven, prepare the sauce. Here’s how:

  1. Start by heating the sesame oil in a skillet then sautéing the ginger, Serrano pepper for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Mix the maple syrup, soy sauce and 2 vinegars together in a bowl and add to the pan.
  3. Bring to a light boil, then reduce heat and cook for a couple of minutes to slightly reduce.
  4. Mix the water and cornstarch together until smooth then pour into the an, reduce heat and stir to thicken, about 1-2 minutes.
Visual step by step instructions for making kung pao sauce in a skillet.

Step 3. Mix Cauliflower and Peppers with Sauce

Finally add the roasted veggies to the pan with the sauce and toss to coat.

Can I use different vegetables? Sure! Try it with broccoli instead instead of cauliflower to switch things up! The sauce is also perfect for coating crispy tofu, tempeh, seitan, plant-based chicken or chickpeas.

Serve over basmati rice, topped with scallions and roasted peanuts or cashews.

Overhead view of a bowl of kung pao cauliflower with bell peppers, green onion and cashews

Cauliflower Batter Variation

I kept this recipe very simple and did not batter the cauliflower, however, adding a batter really takes it up a notch and it only requires a simple extra step and 2 extra ingredients.

If you’d like to try it battered, use the recipe from my buffalo cauliflower wraps (just the batter part, not the buffalo sauce!). You’ll need:

  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (plus more as needed to adjust consistency)
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Everything else in the recipe stays the same.

Bowl of cauliflower kung pao topped with chopped green onions and cashews.

Storing

  • Store on its own or with rice.
  • Let cool then store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
  • Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave until heated to your preference.
  • This recipe is not ideal for freezing.
Print
Bowl of cauliflower kung pao topped with chopped green onions and cashews.

Kung Pao Cauliflower

  • Author: Deryn Macey
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Cuisine: Asian
  • Diet: Vegan

Love kung pao takeout? Try this delicious sweet and sour sticky sauce with cauliflower for a veggie alternative to kung pao chicken.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 small to medium-sized heads cauliflower, cut into florets (1900 g) 
  • 2 red peppers, thinly sliced (275 g) 
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil (15 ml)
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped (20 g)
  • 2 tbsp peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger (20 g) 
  • 1 Serrano chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped (20 g)
  • 2/3 cup low sodium soy sauce (160 ml)
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup (30 ml) 
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar, unseasoned (45 ml)
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar (45 ml) 
  • 2 tbsp corn starch (15 g)
  • 1/3 cup water (80 ml)
  • 1 bunch green onion, sliced (50 g) 
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts (125 g) 
  • rice, for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. 
  2. Place cauliflower florets and sliced red pepper on a baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes, until slightly golden brown. 
  3. While the cauliflower and peppers are roasting, take a large sauté pan and heat the sesame oil. Over medium heat sauté the garlic, ginger and serrano chilli. Cook until garlic is golden brown, roughly 2 minutes. Be aware the heat from the chilli can be quite powerful so be careful what you touch and make sure you wash your hands well after handling.
  4. In a medium bowl mix together the soy sauce, maple syrup and 2 vinegars. Pour into the pan with sautéed garlic and ginger, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for a few minutes to slightly reduce.
  5. In the same bowl you used for the soy sauce mixture,  mix the water and corn starch together until smooth and pour into the sauté pan. 
  6. Stir the sauce until thickened, roughly 1-2 minutes. 
  7. Remove roasted cauliflower and red peppers from the oven and add to the pan. Toss in the sauce until fully coated. 
  8. Serve immediately over a bed of cooked rice and top with roasted peanuts and sliced green onions. 

Notes

I kept this recipe very simple and did not batter the cauliflower, however, adding a batter really takes it up a notch and it only requires a simple extra step and 2 extra ingredients. If you’d like to try it battered, use the recipe from my buffalo cauliflower wraps (just the batter part, not the buffalo sauce!). You’ll need brown rice flour and almond milk to make the batter.

Storing: Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/6th of recipe
  • Calories: 301
  • Fat: 15 g
  • Carbohydrates: 31 g
  • Fiber: 8 g
  • Protein: 14 g

Keywords: kung pao cauliflower, kung pao cauliflower recipe