Did you know you can make this vegan Orange Cauliflower in place of the popular Chinese Orange Chicken – and guess what? You won’t miss the meat at all! This sticky orange sauce coats the crispy cauliflower and keeps you coming back for more.
If you are vegan or vegetarian, or are looking for a good place to start, this recipe is a perfect place to try out a replacement for meat.
This recipe can double as an easy appetizer. Serve at a party with toothpicks or as a main course over rice with a side of veggies.
You will need a few pantry staples to make this delicious Chinese staple!
- Cauliflower: The base of this recipe is cauliflower. It absorbs the flavors of whatever sauce you put onto it and bakes quickly. It will bake quickly in the oven just like chicken!
- Orange juice: Orange sauce is made using orange juice! Use freshly-squeezed orange juice to amp up the flavor of citrus in your sauce. You can also add a bit of your orange zest into the sauce to add even more orange flavor.
- Sugar: Orange sauce traditionally is known for being very sweet, which means you will need to add sugar! If you want to make your sauce less sweet, add in less sugar, or add in a sugar-free sweetener.
- Rice vinegar: Adding a bit of rice of rice vinegar will some zest to your sauce.
- Soy sauce: An ingredient that is typically seen in Chinese and Chinese-inspired dishes is soy sauce.
- Breading: The coating of the orange cauliflower consists of flour and panko breadcrumbs. Cornstarch will also thicken the orange sauce!
- Spices: Ground ginger, garlic, as well as minced garlic are all necessary to season and spice your dish.
How to Make Orange Cauliflower
First, chop your cauliflower into small, bite sized pieces and wash it thoroughly. Discard the leaves of the cauliflower and any large, hard pieces. Dry the “nuggets” of cauliflower and set aside.
Set out two bowls for breading the cauliflower and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In one of your shallow bowls, mix together the water, flour, salt and garlic powder. In the other bowl, add the panko. Take your (dried) cauliflower nugget and fully submerge it into the flour mixture then roll it into the panko bread crumbs. Once coated, place on the baking sheet.
Bake the cauliflower at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until they are fork tender and golden brown.
While the crispy cauliflowers are baking, you have time to make the sauce.
All you have to do is get a medium-sized bowl and mix all the ingredients together. Set the orange sauce aside until the crispy cauliflower bites are ready.
Making the Orange Sauce Less Sweet
If you’re like me and like your sauces on the less sweet side, you can adjust this classic Orange Chicken sauce to your sweetness preference.
While this recipe does call for 1 cup of white granulated sugar, it’s easy to adjust the sugar in this recipe.
First, just add in the orange juice first, and try the sauce, then add the sugar in increments of an eighth of a cup, while tasting after every addition.
Serving Vegan Orange Chicken
Now that your sauce is ready, you can put your ready to dish together!
When your cauliflower comes out of the oven, toss the sauce with the crispy cauliflower. Use as much or as little of the sauce as you would like. I find that it’s best to toss the sauce with the cauliflower just before serving, otherwise the cauliflower becomes a bit soggy.
What to Serve with Orange Cauliflower
Wondering what to serve with Orange Cauliflower? There are many options!
You can make this part of a Chinese-inspired buffet or as a quick throw-together meal.
Orange Chicken, or in this case, Orange Cauliflower is almost always served with white jasmine rice. It can also be garnished with green onions and sesame seeds.
Another dish to serve on the side is Bitter Melon with Egg, a classic Asian dish that will compliment Chinese flavors.
Other Ways to Make this Orange Cauliflower
Looking for other ways to make this dish?
Air Fryer Crispy Cauliflower:
If you have access to an air fryer, you should definitely try making your crispy cauliflower in it!
You will prepare the cauliflower the same way and heat your air fryer to 350 degrees, the same temperate as you would heat your oven.
Prepare the air fryer with a piece of parchment paper and spray with oil so there is no sticking. Fry your cauliflower for 15 minutes, and make sure to flip them half way though frying. Coat in the orange sauce and serve.
Pan Fried Crispy Cauliflower:
If you prefer to pan fry instead, you will get an even crispier result, but you will be using more oil.
Use a liberal amount of oil in a deep frying pan. Once the oil is hot, add in your breaded cauliflower. Fry for about 15 minutes, flipping them halfway through. Remove and transfer to a plate with paper towels so that any excess grease is absorbed.
Coat in the orange sauce and serve as desired.