As a girl from Chicago, one of my favorite foods to eat is anything deep fried and drenched in hot sauce. When I switched over to a vegan lifestyle, that meant TVP in the air fryer and dunked in my famous Frank’s-based sauce. And then cauliflower had her glow-up.
Now I’m not like most people who used to hate on cauliflower as being the paler, less delicious form of broccoli. I’ve always been a fan and I don’t need it covered in cheese or breading, no matter how good it might be.
In fact, I made it a goal to find different ways to have vegan buffalo wings without all the oil and calories.
And I’m pretty sure this is the winner.
So what’s the trick to tasty but oil-free cauliflower nuggets? High cook temperature.
To be fair, if you’re not concerned with going oil-free, you can always just toss the cauliflower in the air fryer and go from there. But if you are, I recommend you crank the oven to about 200C/400F (or higher) with the heat set on top and bottom, and place it higher up in the oven. That way you can cook out the water fast enough to get the cauliflower to brown and crisp just a little.
BUT and it’s a big but, if you’re all about the crisp when it comes to buffalo cauliflower wings, you probably won’t be satisfied with these oil free cauli-wings. There is some crisp, but nothing like when you bread and fry it up. But if you’d rather have more cauliflower and fries and less oil, this is the way to go.
This vegan recipe is super simple too!
For the cauliflower: How you season your cauliflower will depend on what you’re going for. I went with a grill seasoning mix, smoky & spicy paprika, a pinch of turmeric and black pepper.
For the potatoes: Grab your favorite herbs and spices. Cumin, smoky paprika, salt, black pepper & garlic. Toss the potatoes until fully coated and they’re good to go. Cook, in the oven, until crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.
For the sauce: Grab your favorite hot sauce to start. I used Frank’s RedHot because what else would I use? Traditionally you would add melted butter to his but I used citrus juice and cider vinegar mixed with hot sauce, mustard, a few drops of agave and a few drops of Sriracha to get the sauce thick enough to grab on to the cauliflower.
Now the important question: to toss or to drizzle?
That’s a good question and it is totally up to you. Really, it just depends on how “together” your cauliflower is when it comes out of the oven. If you cook it too low and the cauliflower gets more soft than firm & crispy, you’ll want to go with a drizzle. If they can be tossed without breaking, go for that.
Me? I chose to put them in a big bowl and give a gentle stir until each floret was nicely coated without being completely coated. And if there’s extra, use it to dip the fries in…don’t let a drop go to waste!
And that’s how you make quick and easy vegan bar food. And without the extra fat, maybe you can add a beer to the meal or…dessert.
What’s your favorite dipping sauce for fries? For buffalo cauliflower nuggets?