Kung Pao Cauliflower

March 9, 2022

Your weeknight takeout has met its match. My Kung Pao Cauliflower is my healthy twists on a dish inspired by classic Chinese takeout. This dish is loaded with tender cauliflower, vibrant veggies, and gets a special, spicy kick from a not-so-secret ingredient. Plus, it’s gluten-free, grain-free, and is a vegan dish that will impress even your most die-hard meat-loving friends. My family and I love this recipe for a super easy weeknight dinner, and I’m so excited to share it with you.

A large bowl of kung pan cauliflower, with veggies, cashews, bright scallions, and white rice. Lime wedges and chopsticks rest on the bowl, and a glass of water can be seen in the background.

Have you started thinking about New Year’s Resolutions again? I have. Maybe it’s because I tend to be a very forward-thinking person, and I truly try to stick to the goals that I set, but for me, this time of year is always about reflecting on the goals that I’ve set and figuring out how I can achieve them. Some of my resolutions were to take more time for myself, spend more time doing fun things with my boys, and even hopefully take a solo trip or two… all of which I still hope to do.

But for lots of people, their New Year’s Resolution is to start eating healthier. And if that’s you, then friends, have I GOT YOU!

If you’ve come to this recipe looking for inspiration for a healthy weeknight dinner, then you’ve come to the right place. This Kung Pao Cauliflower is not only super healthy, but it’s way better than takeout, and will come together faster than your Doordash delivery will arrive. 

A large bowl of the kung pao cauliflower, with lime wedges, chopsticks, and other dishes scattered in the background.

I grew up eating and loving Kung Pao Chicken, which is a dish that originated from the Sichuan region of China. Now, I’m not going to claim that the same Kung Pao Chicken that we get at a conventional Chinese takeout restaurant in America is the same as the native dish, but I will say that the Kung Pao Chicken I grew up eating was always SO GOOD.

This recipe takes a nod to that classic takeout dish, but this time, we’re making a few changes. First, we’re swapping out the chicken in place of cauliflower. Cauliflower is not only a delicious and versatile ingredient that will take on any flavor that you give it, but it’s also high in fiber, antioxidants, and Vitamin C. Plus, we all know that eating a more plant-focused diet tends to be more nutritious anyway, and cauliflower is the perfect way to add more plants in!

A close up image of the kung pao cauliflower, with fresh scallions and a lime wedge.

Second, we’re using a simple sauce, with no refined sugars and/or gluten. Now, I have no problems with these ingredients, but because I have a sensitive gut, sometimes they can be too much for me. And I know I’m not alone in that. So, this sauce is coming together with just a few simple ingredients: rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, coconut aminos, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and tapioca flour. It’s as easy as that!

A Note on Keeping This Dish Vegetarian / Vegan

As I mentioned earlier, one of the ingredients in this dish is Hoisin Sauce. Now, despite the word “hoisin” translating to “seafood” in Cantonese, most traditional hoisin sauces don’t contain seafood ingredients. HOWEVER… some do.

If you’re someone like me who eats all foods, meat included, then use whichever hoisin sauce you would like! BUT, if you are vegetarian and/or vegan, or making this dish for someone who is, double-check to make sure that your hoisin sauce is seafood free. 

A baking sheet topped with raw cauliflower, cashews, chopped bell pepper, zucchini, and seasonings.

What You Need to Make This Knockout Cauliflower Dish

  • Cauliflower: Of course, cauliflower is the star of this dish! You can buy a whole head, or also use pre-cut, frozen cauliflower if you prefer. There are no rules here. 🙂
  • Bell Pepper: In this recipe, we’ll be using both red AND green bell peppers. Woohoo!
  • Zucchini: Roasted zucchini is an underrated vegetable, in my opinion. Once it’s roasted, it gets nice and tender, which pairs perfectly with our cauliflower, here.
  • Onion: I use a yellow onion in this recipe for the best flavor!
  • Jalapeño: A jalapeño may seem like an unconventional ingredient here, but it adds the perfect amount of heat to this recipe, without being too overpowering.
  • Cashews: Traditional Kung Pao dishes use peanuts, but in this recipe, I’m using cashews. Why? Cashews are loaded with heart-healthy fats, plant-based protein, and are rich in magnesium! Plus, they’re just delicious.
  • Avocado Oil: I love using avocado oil in this recipe, since it’s neutral in flavor and lower on the inflammation scale.
  • Rice Vinegar: Rice vinegar adds sweetness and tang, but just know – a little goes a long way!
  • Hoisin Sauce: Hoisin sauce adds a slightly sweet-and-salty taste to this sauce. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, see my notes above!
  • Coconut Aminos: I love using coconut aminos in this recipe because it’s gluten-free, and contains less sodium than soy sauce. However, soy sauce/tamari will give the sauce more flavor, since it has a stronger flavor than coconut aminos. If using soy sauce, I recommend looking for low sodium soy sauce.
  • Sesame Oil: Sesame oil adds a rich, toasty flavor to the sauce that truly can’t be beat!
  • Ginger: I really love using fresh ginger in this recipe, because it does make a difference with the flavor panel. That said, if you don’t have it, feel free to use pre-ground ginger. Just don’t skip the ginger, it really tastes so delicious in this recipe!
  • Garlic: The same goes for garlic; fresh is best, but if you don’t have it, pre-minced garlic is perfect too! Work with what you have for this recipe.
  • Tapioca Flour: Tapioca flour adds a thickness and bounciness to the sauce, that will help it really stick to the cauliflower! You can also use arrowroot flour here, too – they’re essentially the same thing. 🙂
  • Garnishes: I recommend garnishing this dish with some sesame seeds and chopped green onion. This is optional, of course, but adds flavor, texture, and vibrancy to this dish!
Two chopsticks holding a pice of kung pao cauliflower, on a bed of rice, in a large bowl.

How to Make Simple, Delicious Cauliflower Recipe

Making this dish could not be any easier! Simply start by preheating your oven to 450 F and prepare your veggies by chopping them up. Set your jalapeño to there side for later, but take the rest of your veggies and spread them out on a baking sheet alongside your cashews, avocado oil, salt, and pepper. Toss, then bake for 22 minutes, tossing again at the halfway point.

Then, prepare your sauce by adding your sauce ingredients to a small bowl and mixing until fully combined. Transfer your sauce to a large pan or pot and cook on the stove over low-medium heat. Next, mix together the water and the tapioca/arrowroot flour in a small bowl.

Once the sauce thickens, add in your veggies and fully coat in the sauce. Add in your jalapeño and cook for another 5-6 minutes.

Garnish, Serve on its own or over rice, and enjoy!

I hope you guys love this recipe! If you make it, be sure to leave a comment below and let me know what you think! And if you post to Instagram, I repost your remakes on my IG stories! xx

Dairy Free/gluten-free/Grain Free/Paleo/Refined Sugar Free/snacks/Vegan

Kung Pao Cauliflower

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Nicole Modic
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 40 mins
SERVES 4 Servings
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Your weeknight takeout has met its match. My Kung Pao Cauliflower is my healthy twists on a dish inspired by classic Chinese takeout. This dish is loaded with tender cauliflower, vibrant veggies, and gets a special, spicy kick from a not-so-secret ingredient. Plus, it's gluten-free, grain-free, and is a vegan dish that will impress even your most die-hard meat-loving friends. 

Equipment

Ingredients

For the Cauliflower

  • 1 Large Head Cauliflower cut into small, even-sized pieces
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper sliced
  • 1 Green Bell pepper sliced
  • 1 Zucchini diced
  • 1 Onion diced
  • 1 Jalapeño sliced thin, with the seeds removed
  • 3/4 Cup Cashews raw and whole
  • 2 Tablespoons Avocado Oil
  • 3 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons Hoisin Sauce
  • 1/3 Cup Coconut Aminos
  • 2 Tablespoons Sesame Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 3 Cloves Garlic mashed or minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Tapioca Flour OR Arrowroot Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Water

For Garnishing (optional)

  • 1 Teaspoon Sesame Seeds
  • 1 Stalk Green onion diced

Instructions

  • Start by preheating your oven to 450 F.
  • Then, prepare your veggies. Chop your cauliflower, bell peppers, zucchini, onion, and jalapeño, but set the jalapeño aside for later.
  • Spread the rest of your veggies out on a baking sheet, along with the cashews. Drizzle your avocado oil on top, and add salt and pepper. Use tongs or your hands to toss everything well, making sure that your veggies are fully coated.
  • Bake for 22 minutes, tossing again at the halfway point (11 minutes).
  • While the veggies are roasting in the oven, prepare your sauce.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, coconut aminos, sesame oil, ground ginger, and mashed/minced garlic.
  • Transfer your sauce to a large pan or pot and cook on the stove over low-medium heat, for about 2 minutes.
  • While the sauce is cooking, mix together the water and tapioca/arrowroot flour in a small bowl.
  • Slowly stir the mixture into the sauce until it thickens. If not already, make sure that your sauce is simmering on low.
  • Once the veggies are done, remove them from the oven and add them to the pan/pot with the sauce. Mix until the veggies are fully coated in the sauce.
  • Then, add in your chopped jalapeño and cook for another 5-6 minutes.
  • Garnished with chopped green onion and sesame seeds, if desired
  • Serve your Kung Pao Cauliflower on its own, or over brown or jasmine rice, and enjoy!

Did you make this recipe?

I’d love to see what you made – tag @kalejunkie
in your posts and I’ll re-share!

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