This Buffalo Cauliflower Is Surprisingly Delicious

Buffalo cauliflower is a spicy, creamy, and wickedly delicious appetizer that will make you forget you ever used Buffalo sauce in any other way.

To anyone who is used to Buffalo wings, Buffalo cauliflower may seem like nothing more than a strange vegan alternative. First popularized in the early 2010s by hipster Brooklyn bars, deep fried Buffalo cauliflower bites actually harken back to a much older Chino-Indian dish. Gobi Manchurian is a fried appetizer of cauliflower coated in batter and brushed with a sticky sweet and spicy sauce. If it sounds familiar, that's because it really is.

But even the most die-hard carnivores will do a double take once they taste these baked Buffalo cauliflower bites — spicy and zingy on the outside, lush and creamy on the inside. Pair them up with ranch dressing or your favorite blue cheese dipping sauce, and you've got yourself an appetizer you won't soon forget.

Gather the ingredients for Buffalo cauliflower

To make Buffalo cauliflower, you'll need a few simple things. All of these can be found in a typical grocery store, so no special trips for exotic ingredients are required here! First off, you will obviously need cauliflower. You can buy a whole cauliflower and cut it into florets (we'll explain how in the next section), or you can buy a bag of precut cauliflower florets in a store like Costco. The latter means a faster journey to that steaming hot plate of Buffalo cauliflower, but either option is good.

For the batter, you will need regular all-purpose flour, though you can also use almond meal for a gluten-free or keto alternative. For seasoning, you'll need paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper. You can use regular or smoked paprika, whatever strikes your fancy.

And finally, you'll need milk, butter, and ready-made Buffalo sauce. To balance out the tangy flavor of Buffalo sauce, we like to add a touch of honey or maple syrup to our Buffalo cauliflower, but you can skip that if you'd like. With all your ingredients gathered, preheat the oven to 450°F.

Break the cauliflower into florets

If working with precut cauliflower florets, your cooking process is going to be much faster. You'll likely still need to cut them into smaller pieces, but it's definitely going to be easier.

If starting with a full-sized cauliflower, start by cutting off the woody base and remove any external leaves (if any exist). Then, going from the base, cut off bigger bunches of florets into more manageable sizes. Working with each bunch of florets at a time, break off florets with your hands into pieces that are about 1/2-inch wide. But don't worry about going too small! The smaller you cut your florets, the more they'll crisp – but also, the faster they cook.

Mix the batter for Buffalo cauliflower

With your cauliflower cut into bite-size pieces, you'll want to move onto mixing the batter for coating the cauliflower in that yummy, sticky outside layer. It'll help the cauliflower cook into a delicious gooey texture on the inside, which is half the magic of Buffalo cauliflower bites!

To make the batter, mix flour, paprika, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and 1 cup milk in a large bowl. Whisk until well-combined — you may have to put some elbow grease into it to get all the lumps out.

The final batter should be runny and clump-free; if it looks too dry, add more milk as needed.

Dip the cauliflower florets in batter

With your batter and cauliflower florets ready, it's time to marry the two into a beautiful union of flavor! Or basically, it's time to dip your cauliflower florets in batter.

The bad news is, there's no way of doing this efficiently without getting your hands dirty (or use tongs). You want to grab those florets by the base and dip them as deeply as possible into the batter, trying to coat most of the floret. You may even want to hold onto it from another side, to get the base coated as well.

Prepare a baking sheet by covering it with parchment paper or a reusable silicone mat. Arrange the dipped cauliflower bites on the prepared baking sheet. Leave a bit of space between the florets, giving the batter a bit of room to grow on the outside.

Bake the Buffalo cauliflower for 20 minutes

Get some oven gloves on, open the oven and let's get those babies cooking! Buffalo cauliflower florets require about 30-35 minutes of total cooking. They would obviously cook faster if you were to deep fry them, but baking them is healthier and even sometimes tastier than using a deep fryer.

For the first round of cooking, put the cauliflower florets in the oven at 450 for 10 minutes. Pull the baking sheet out of the oven, flip the cauliflower florets over, cooked them side down this time, and bake for an additional ten minutes.

In total, you'll be cooking the cauliflower florets for 20 minutes in this round, and then another 10-15 minutes after the next stage.

Whisk Buffalo sauce for the cauliflower

So, are you wondering where the "Buffalo" in Buffalo cauliflower actually comes in? Now is the time! While the Buffalo cauliflower florets are in their first round of cooking, whisk the Buffalo sauce for your florets. You can use any Buffalo sauce you like for this. Frank's Red Hot is a typical one to use, but it's not the only one by any means, so don't be afraid to try a couple different hot sauces to see if there's another one you like!

In a bowl, combine Buffalo sauce, melted butter, and honey. Either a fork or a whisk will work here, just make sure you whisk it all together until fully combined.  

Brush the cauliflower florets with Buffalo sauce and finish baking

Get your oven gloves on again, because it's time to go back into the oven. After the first 20 minutes of cooking, take the cauliflower florets out of the oven. Using a pastry brush, brush the sauce on the cauliflower florets. If you don't have a pastry brush, you can also very quickly dip the florets into the whisked Buffalo-butter mixture.

Return the Buffalo cauliflower florets to the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes, switching the oven to broil for the last 2-5 minutes. Keep your eyes open — your florets can easily burn in parts if you're not paying attention.

Ranch sauce is the perfect dipping sauce for Buffalo cauliflower

After 30-35 minutes of cooking, your Buffalo cauliflower bites are ready ... and you better get them on the table while they're piping hot! There's no need to let these babies cool. They're yummy when they're first out of the oven. Serve Buffalo cauliflower with ranch sauce, or your favorite blue cheese sauce. You can make your own ranch sauce as well, if you'd like!

Buffalo cauliflower will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for five days. To reheat Buffalo cauliflower, pop it in the oven on 375°F for about five minutes. Reheating it in the microwave will result in sad, floppy Buffalo cauliflower, so don't do that to your food!

This Buffalo Cauliflower Is Surprisingly Delicious
4.7 from 7 ratings
Even die-hard carnivores can get behind the zesty flavor of these buffalo cauliflower bites. Whether as a game day snack or just because, they're irresistible!
Prep Time
10
minutes
Cook Time
35
minutes
Servings
6
servings
hand taking buffalo cauliflower serving
Ready in 45 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 whole cauliflower
  • 1 cup flour or almond meal
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1-2 cups milk
  • ½ cup Buffalo sauce
  • 2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil, melted
Optional Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or a reusable silicone mat.
  2. Break cauliflower into florets about ½ inch wide (the smaller you cut your florets, the more they'll crisp -- but also, the faster they cook).
  3. Mix flour, paprika, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and 1 cup milk in a large bowl. Whisk until well combined. Batter should be runny and clump-free; if it looks too dry, add more milk as needed.
  4. Dip cauliflower florets in milk and spice mix until well coated on all sides. Arrange on prepared baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes. Pull baking sheet out of the oven, flip cauliflower florets over, cooked side down this time, and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
  6. In a bowl, combine Buffalo sauce, melted butter, and honey. Brush the sauce on the cauliflower florets.
  7. Return Buffalo cauliflower florets to the oven for an additional 15 minutes, switching the oven to broil for the last 2 minutes.
  8. Serve Buffalo cauliflower with ranch sauce. Any leftovers can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge for 5 days.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 216
Total Fat 16.2 g
Saturated Fat 5.9 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 6.1 mg
Total Carbohydrates 12.7 g
Dietary Fiber 4.3 g
Total Sugars 5.7 g
Sodium 428.5 mg
Protein 8.3 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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