This vegan orange cauliflower recipe is an incredible veggie version of a traditional favorite. Baked and not fried, but still crispy and full of flavor!
This post originally published on February 18, 2019
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Sumo Citrus. The opinions and text are all mine.
The traditional Chinese orange chicken dish was always a takeout staple in our home. I never quite equated the awful belly cramps that came from shoving the stuff down my throat with what I was actually eating. So I knew when my husband begged me to healthify this one over and over, I needed to get it done.
Vegan Orange Cauliflower
It’s not an either or choice when it comes to flavor and healthy ingredients. You can make amazingly satisfying meals without meat and dairy, I promise.
This is my superpower, using plants to make meals that fill your unhealthy food void in a way that makes your body happy. Amazing vegan Chinese food, with a healthier twist, is possible.
Can vegans eat Chinese food?
Of course! While most people think of chicken or pork dishes when they think of Chinese food, there are a ton of vegan-friendly options. Most Chinese restaurants will have quite a few tofu dishes, as well as meat-free options. Look over the menu and talk to the chefs for clarification.
What is orange cauliflower?
Orange cauliflower is the veggie alternative to orange chicken. Orange chicken is a North American Chinese food staple. It is made of chopped chicken that is battered and deep-fried. The chicken is then dredged in traditional orange sauce and served over rice.
Is orange cauliflower good for you?
Compared to it’s battered and fried originator, this recipe is pretty healthy! It uses cauliflower that is roasted instead of chicken that is fried. Plus the sauce is made using citrus and natural sweeteners instead of loads of sugar.
Why use a Sumo Citrus instead of just any orange?
The best food, always starts with a sauce. The key player in this sauce recipe is the citrus. And I for one am not going to skimp on that, so I always grab for a Sumo Citrus because of it’s incredible natural sweetness.
Back in January, I had the pleasure of visiting the Sumo Citrus farm where I learned more than I ever thought I could about this amazing little fruit.
Sumo Citrus originated in Japan, and is the perfect combo of the easy to peel mandarin with the sweet naval orange. They are also seedless, pretty much securing them as a mom’s favorite thing ever.
Please tell me I am not the only one that thinks peeling an orange ranks on up there with nails down a chalkboard? Especially when the 3 year old insists he does it himself and takes off one. tiny. piece. at. a. time.
These perfect little beings are only available from January until April, so we will call those the sane months. The work and care that goes into growing these would make your mama proud.
They require a gentle touch, from the clay used to protect their delicate skin from the sun, to the gentle handling methods to prevent bruising.
They are basically the sweetest most amazing citrus ever. The farmers pull off the fruit from the middle of the tree (Sumos love the sun so they leave the outside ones to grab those rays) so that the ones left get sweeter. Making it the perfect ingredient for this orange cauliflower sauce.
They even cure the fruit for 3-4 days after they pick it to reduce the tartness some more. They are basically nature’s candy.
I was blown away by all the work that is put into this incredible fruit. From the multiple steps on the farm to the care they put in the plant. I know that my shopping cart will be taking full advantage of these beauties until they leave us in April!
How To Make Vegan Orange Cauliflower
This recipe takes the unhealthy deep fried idea of traditional orange chicken and puts on a more nutritious makeover. I used the same crispy technique I used in my buffalo cauliflower sliders.
The crispiness you get is perfect, especially combined with the sticky orange sauce that uses the Sumo mandarin as its key player.
I love that the sauce doesn’t need the cup of sugar traditionally used, the maple flavor combined with the amazing mandarin sweetness does the trick perfectly.
- Coat the cauliflower with the crispy coating.
- Make sauce.
- Toss in sauce and bake again.
Can you make this ahead of time?
You can 100% make the sauce ahead of time. Just store it in the fridge in a container and it will keep well for a few days. This gives you plenty of time to use it up! The cauliflower will get a bit soft if you store it, so it is best to make fresh cauliflower each time for the perfect crisp.
If you don’t eat this all, first check if you have a pulse. Then take the leftovers and store in an airtight container in the fridge. When you are ready to eat this again, spread the orange cauliflower out on a parchment lined cookie sheet and rebake a bit to get some of the crisp back.
Tips for baking
If you follow the recipe, you will see that I say to use a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The reason I like using parchment on a baking sheet, is because the parchment helps make this extra crispy.
Since you are not frying to keep this a little healthier than the original, you need to rely on other ways to gain that crunch. And parchment paper does the job well!
How is orange cauliflower served best?
This recipe goes best over rice and with other veggies (like carrots or broccoli) on the side. The crunchy outer shell plus the caramelizing sticky goodness of the sauce, makes this healthier orange cauliflower recipe one I couldn’t stop snacking on!
You can also serve it with other Chinese recipes for an entire take out like experience, here are some of my favorites:
Baked Vegan Orange Cauliflower Recipe
- 1 head cauliflower , medium-size
- 1 cup orange cauliflower sauce , see below
- 3/4 cup cornmeal
- 3/4 cup bread crumbs , gluten-free if needed
- 6 tbsp hemp seeds or almond flour , grind the hemp seeds for best results (see notes)
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
To Serve (optional):
Orange Cauliflower Sauce:
- Preheat the oven to 450°F/ 232°C.
- Slice the cauliflower into large bite-size pieces. Or cut into nugget size if making for kids.
- Make the crispy coating by mixing together the cornmeal, bread crumbs, ground hemp seeds (or almond flour), and salt, then place it in a shallow baking dish.
- You can also put it into a large plastic bag for the shake and bake option.
- Make the batter by combining the almond flour, milk, water and baking powder in a bowl until fully mixed. Add a drizzle of oil if you’d like.
- Using one hand for the batter and one for the coating (this helps avoid clumping of the coating), dip each cauliflower piece in the batter then place in the coating dish and cover with coating.
- Place each piece on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Make sure to evenly spread out the pieces.
- If using the plastic bag, simply place the batter coated cauliflower into the bag and shake to coat in the topping. It should all fit but do it in parts if need be, just make sure to only use half of the coating so that it doesn't all get wet.
- Bake for about 25 minutes.
- While baking, make the sauce by whisking all ingredients, except the cornstarch and water, in a small bowl.
- Add to a pot and cook on medium until it begins to bubble.
- Combine the cornstarch and water until dissolved.
- Pour into the pot and whisk well. Simmer until it thickens, about 5-7 minutes. It will reduce by about half.
- Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and drizzle about ¼ cup sauce on top of the cauliflower pieces, trying to coat the top sides well. Using a pastry brush can help.
- Flip them over and drizzle another ¼ cup of sauce on top of the other sides, trying to coat them well. You can use more of the sauce to coat here and then have less to drizzle on top when you eat, it’s up to you at what stage you want to use the sauce.
- Put them back in the oven and bake for 10 minutes until they’re crispy.
- Serve immediately over rice with optional toppings!
- You can use almond flour instead of hemp seeds to make is easier, but I like the final texture the hemp seeds give because of their natural oils.
- I use a fine grained almond flour, but because this isn't a baked good, any almond flour would work.
- You can add a small drizzle of oil to the batter if you want. It is definitely not needed but can add an extra crispness to the final product.
- If you do not have Sumo Citrus, use a mandarin or orange to gain similar results.
- Sauce makes about 1 cup.
- Nutrition facts do not include all of the batter and coating since all of it is not used. An average of how much used is accounted for.
- To make these kid friendly, do not add the crushed red pepper. Serve as nuggets with sauce as a dipper.
Recipe by Veggies Don’t Bite, visit our site for more great plant-based recipes.