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 and now crispy-coated bites! I love dunking these crispy bites in the bang bang sauce, but if you’re looking for a vegetarian alternative to chicken nuggets—this cauliflower is it! I like to serve them with honey mustard, BBQ sauce, ranch and more!

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 restaurant dish comprised of crispy fried shrimp dunked in a creamy sweet and spicy 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 bang bang sauce is mayonnaise. The rest is simple, sweet chili sauce, sriracha, vinegar and honey.

Bang bang cauliflower can be eaten as is—it makes a great appetizer. I also like to serve the cauliflower bites in lettuce wraps with cucumber and sliced serranos. 

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

How do you make bang bang cauliflower? 

The process, start to finish, only takes 45 minutes! Here’s the deal, the cauliflower florets undergo a classic breading process; flour, egg then breadcrumbs.

From there you pop them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake them until their golden and crispy. Simple! While the cauliflower bakes whisk up the bang bang sauce.

overhead image of three bowls laid out on a gray counter. one bowl has bread crumbs, another has flour and the third has eggs in it.

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 butter milk:

  1. Combine 1 cup unsweetened almond or soy milk with 1 tablespoon white vinegar.
  2. Let the mixture rest for 5–10 minutes until curdled.
  3. 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! 

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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Bang Bang Cauliflower

Print Recipe
4.42 from 12 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Yield 8 cups (4 servings)
Category Appetizer
Cuisine Asian/American
Author Lauren

Description

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

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups whole-wheat Panko bread crumbs* or gluten-free as needed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • teaspoons garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour*
  • ¼ cup cornstarch or arrowroot starch
  • 1 large head cauliflower, about 2 pounds, cut into florets
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise*
  • 2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Thinly sliced scallions, serranos, and sesame seeds (optional)
  • Bibb lettuce and thinly sliced english cucumbers for lettuce wraps, optional

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450°F (232ºC) with racks set in upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Beat eggs together in a shallow bowl. Combine Panko, oil, garlic powder, 1¼ teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a second shallow bowl. Whisk together flour and cornstarch in a third bowl.
  • Dip a piece of cauliflower in flour mixture to coat; shaking excess flour off. Transfer to egg and dip, turning to coat; let excess egg drip off then dredge in Panko mixture to coat. Transfer coated cauliflower to prepared baking sheet. Repeat breading process with remaining cauliflower pieces.
  • Bake until cauliflower is crispy and golden, 22–25 minutes, flipping pieces and rotating pans halfway through.
  • For the sauce, whisk together mayonnaise, sweet chili sauce, sriracha, vinegar and honey.
  • Serve bang bang sauce on the side, drizzle it over top of the cauliflower, or toss the sauce with the baked cauliflower—you choose!

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 instead of almond meal, corn meal, etc.
Vegan/avocado mayo also works well here.
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.
Make it gluten-free: use gluten-free Panko or bread crumbs and use a 1:1 gluten-free flour blend.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 150kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 4gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 25mgSodium: 161mgFiber: 3gSugar: 5g
Keywords baked cauliflower bites, bang bang cauliflower, vegan bang bang cauliflower
Did you make this recipe?Leave a comment below and tag @ZestfulKitchen on Instagram and hashtag it #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!