Crispy baked cauliflower bites dunked in a creamy sweet and spicy sauce—yes, we are talking Bang Bang Cauliflower! This lightened up (and vegetarian) version of a classic restaurant dish is just as flavorful and so much easier to make than the traditional version. 

The versatility of cauliflower is astounding, nowadays you can find recipes for rice, gnocchi, steaks, pizza, cauliflower potato salad, and now crispy-coated bites! We love dunking these crispy bites in the bang bang sauce, and if you’re looking for a vegetarian alternative to chicken nuggets—this cauliflower is it!

Try serving the crispy cauliflower bites with our Smash Burger Sauce, Healthy-ish Russian Dressing, Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce, dill ranch dressing or our Creamy Green Goddess Dressing!

If you’re looking for a cauliflower side dish recipe, then you’ve gotta try our Cauliflower Gratin. It’s the perfect comfort food side dish.

Close up overhead image of breaded and baked cauliflower bites in a white bowl set on a dark napkin

What is Bang Bang Cauliflower?

Bang bang cauliflower is a vegetarian take on a popular shrimp dish comprised of crispy fried shrimp dunked in a creamy sweet and spicy bang bang sauce. Not only is this version vegetarian, but it’s also much healthier because it’s baked instead of fried. 

To make something “bang bang” it’s really all about the creamy spicy sauce. The base of our bang bang sauce is mayonnaise which gets mixed with sweet chili sauce, sriracha, vinegar and honey.

Bang bang cauliflower can be eaten as an appetizer dunked in the bang bang sauce. We also like to serve the cauliflower bites in lettuce wraps with cucumber and sliced serranos for a light and healthy meatless meal. 

How to Make Bang Bang Cauliflower

The process, start to finish, only takes 45 minutes! To start, cut a large head of cauliflower into bite-sized florets.

Then it’s on to breading. You can either bread the pieces individually (a fun thing to do with a partner or kid in the kitchen) or you can bread the pieces in one whole batch.

Start by tossing the cauliflower pieces in a mixture of flour and cornstarch (cornstarch is key to making a super crisp breading).

Then coat the floured cauliflower pieces in beaten egg to coat. And finally you’ll coat the pieces in a seasoned Panko breadcrumb mixture.

If baking in the oven, arrange the breaded cauliflower pieces on parchment paper and bake at 450ºF until crispy and golden brown, about 25 minutes. To ensure the pieces brown and crisp evenly, flip the pieces and rotate the sheet pans halfway through baking.

If airfrying, arrange the breaded pieces in a single layer in the fryer basket. Cook at 450ºF for about 13 minutes, flipping pieces halfway through.

Whisk up the bang bang sauce by combining mayonnaise, sweet chili sauce, sriracha, vinegar, and honey.

Test Kitchen Tips

  • If you’re cutting down on fat content, leave the oil out of the breadcrumbs and instead spritz the pieces with nonstick cooking spray before baking or airfrying.
  • Bang bang cauliflower is best eaten right out of the oven or air fryer. We do not recommend making this ahead of time.
  • Make sure you store cauliflower in the coldest area of your refrigerator. Stored this way it should last up to two weeks.
Overhead image of lettuce wraps stacked up along eachother on a light blue table. Lettuce wraps are filled with coated cauliflower, cucumbers, serranos and sesame seeds.

How to Make Bang Bang Sauce

Aside from being absolutely addictive, bang bang sauce is so easy to make. All you need for bang bang sauce is good quality mayo (this is our favorite), sweet chili sauce, sriracha, rice vinegar and honey.

FAQs

Can you make this recipe vegan?

Just a few substitutions need to be made to make this bang bang cauliflower vegan. 

First up, swap the egg for vegan buttermilk. To make vegan buttermilk:
combine 1 cup unsweetened almond or soy milk with 1 tablespoon white vinegar.
Let the mixture rest for 5–10 minutes until curdled.
Use as directed in the recipe.

Or, you can use aqua faba (canned chickpea liquid) in place of the egg. 

Then for the sauce, simply use vegan mayonnaise in place of regular mayonnaise. Et voilà—easy peasy! 

What are other delicious and easy cauliflower recipes?

Our cauliflower steaks with chimichurri are a great weeknight meal! Easy to make, fresh and flavorful. We also have a recipe for charred cauliflower steaks with romesco sauce that is absolutely delicious.

What is your favorite vegan cauliflower recipe?

Our Cauliflower Steaks with Chimichurri is my favorite vegan cauliflower recipe!

How to cook crispy cauliflower?

There are two ways to make cauliflower crispy. Both methods start with breading the cauliflower in a combination of flour, egg and panko. You can either bake the cauliflower at a high heat or you can air fry it at a high heat.

What is the best way to cook cauliflower?

There is no method that’s the best method, but a few of our favorites are roasting, breading and roasting, steaming and mixing into potato salad, ricing into a low-carb rice option,

Close up overhead image of breaded and baked cauliflower bites in a white bowl set on a dark napkin

How to Serve Bang Bang Cauliflower

There are so many ways you can enjoy bang bang cauli! Here are some of our favorite ways:

  • Enjoy it like you would popcorn chicken or chicken nuggets and dip them in the bang bang sauce.
  • Serve them up in a lettuce wrap with fresh cilantro, slices of serrano and of course a drizzle of bang bang sauce.
  • Use them in place of steak or fish in tacos.
  • Roll them up into a burrito for a buffalo chicken wrap vibe.

More Cauliflower Recipes to Try

Watch How to Make It

Bang Bang Cauliflower Recipe

4.59 from 17 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Yield 8 cups (4 servings)
Category Appetizer
Cuisine Asian/American

Description

Crispy baked cauliflower bites dunked in a creamy sweet and spicy bang bang sauce. Perfect as an appetizer or vegetarian dinner!

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups whole-wheat Panko bread crumbs (regular or gluten-free Panko also work)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • teaspoons garlic powder
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour blend
  • ¼ cup cornstarch or arrowroot starch
  • 1 large head cauliflower, about 2 pounds, cut into florets
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sweet chili sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons sriracha
  • 2 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon honey

For serving, optional

  • thinly sliced scallions
  • Bibb lettuce or iceberg lettuce
  • thinly sliced english cucumbers
  • thinly sliced serranos
  • sesame seeds

Instructions

  • Heat oven to 450°F (232ºC) with racks set in upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Whisk together flour and cornstarch in a large bowl. Add cauliflower florets and toss to coat.
  • Dump cauliflower into a strainer set over a sink; shake to discard excess flour.
  • In now empty large bowl, beat 3 eggs. Add flour-coated cauliflower and stir to coat using rubber spatula.
  • Whisk together 2 cups Panko, 2 tablespoons oil, 1½ teaspoons garlic powder, 1¼ teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a second shallow bowl.
  • Dredge cauliflower pieces in Panko mixture to coat.
  • Arrange cauliflower pieces in a single layer on prepared sheets.
  • Bake cauliflower until crispy and golden, 22–25 minutes, flipping pieces and rotating pans halfway through.

Bang Bang Sauce

  • Whisk together ½ cup mayonnaise, ¼ cup sweet chili sauce, 1–2 tablespoons sriracha, 2 teaspoons vinegar and 2 teaspoons honey.
  • Serve bang bang sauce as a dip alongside crispy cauliflower, drizzle it over top crispy cauliflower in lettuce wraps, or toss cauliflower with sauce—you choose!

Air Fryer Instructions

  • Heat air fryer to 450ºF (232ºC). Arrange coated cauliflower pieces in single layer in basket.
  • Air fry until crispy and golden brown, about 13 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Video

Notes

I love using whole-wheat Panko, but you cal also use regular Panko or gluten-free Panko if you need to.
If you’re making this gluten-free, use a 1:1 baking flour blend and gluten-free Panko instead of almond meal, corn meal, etc.
This is our favorite mayo to use. Though any type of mayo will work (including vegan mayonnaise). 
Make it vegan: if you would like to make this vegan, use vegan buttermilk or aqua faba in place of the egg and use vegan mayonnaise.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 150kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 4gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 25mgSodium: 161mgFiber: 3gSugar: 5g
Like this? Leave a comment below!I love hearing from you and I want to hear how it went with this recipe! Leave a comment and rating below, then share on social media @zestfulkitchen and #zestfulkitchen!
Overhead image of lettuce wraps stacked up along eachother on a light blue table. Lettuce wraps are filled with coated cauliflower, cucumbers, serranos and sesame seeds.

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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Comments

    1. Hi Janet, as it states in the second paragraph of the instructions, the oil is combined with the panko breadcrumbs, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Hope that helps!

  1. 5 stars
    This was soooooo good! My husband and son loved it too. I was wondering what the best way is to freeze the breaded cauliflower? The breading part was what took the longest but I’m hoping there’s a good way to freeze them so I can just toss them on a cookie sheet and throw it in the oven.

    1. Hi Courtney! I’m so happy to hear you all enjoyed it! 🙂 Great question—I would recommend lining a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper. Arrange the breaded cauliflower on the prepared sheet in a single layer and freeze until solid, about 4 hours. Once frozen solid, transfer the cauliflower to a resealable zipper-lock bag. I haven’t tested this—but I would anticipate the bake time to be a bit longer than listed in the recipe. If you try this, let me know how it goes! 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    This recipe was delicious. I will make it again. I didn’t make it to take the place of meat rather a way to cook vegetables for an appetizer night. Everyone liked them. Thanks

  3. 5 stars
    This was delicious and a hit with vegetarians and meat eaters! A bit of prep, but I deployed one of my teen daughters as sous chef in charge of panko. I also love how it isn’t fried.

  4. 5 stars
    Loved the bang bang cauliflower! The sauce was delicious and easy to make. Will use the sauce on other foods.
    See you in Minnesota! Can’t wait!!

    1. Hi Laura!
      I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed this recipe. I love the sauce as well, great for dipping all kinds of stuff in it!

      Looking forward to seeing you soon!

  5. Made the recipe! I added some old bay to the flour and panko and made it vegan. I added a little corn starch to the nut milk mixture to make sure it stuck. It was PERFECT! Eay to bread and easy to bake! I brought them to party they went WILD!