Buffalo Cauliflower are the perfect vegan game day appetizer – even meat eaters will love them! They are tender on the inside, crispy on the outside, and super spicy. They’re so tasty, it’s almost too good to be true!
Head’s up, spice lovers! Buffalo Cauliflower has the kick you’ve been searching for. Enjoy these tasty buffalo bites with a cooling ranch sauce and veggies to please all your friends or just yourself (no judgment here!). Not a huge spice fan? Make BBQ Cauliflower Wings instead.
You won’t be missing the meat in this dish. While this cauliflower based appetizer isn’t pretending to be chicken, they have such a familiar flavor and texture to the original, you won’t care! If you LOVE buffalo sauce, make sure to also whip up a batch of my Vegan Buffalo Chicken Dip; it’s incredible.
Ingredients you need
- Cauliflower – 1 large head of cauliflower will do. Make sure to wash it thoroughly before using.
- All purpose flour – I find all purpose flour yields the best flavor and texture here, but it also works with white whole wheat flour or a gluten free all purpose flour mix. You could also use almond flour.
- Garlic and onion powder – To pump up the savory flavors.
- Frank’s Red Hot Sauce – Or your favorite hot sauce, or even a mixture of two. If spicy food isn’t your thing, use barbecue sauce to make BBQ cauliflower wings instead.
- Vegan butter – To minimize and balance the heat in the hot sauce.
- Pure maple syrup or agave – Just a tablespoon, to balance the heat.
How to cut cauliflower, the easy way
This is how I cut cauliflower in no time at all!
- Wash the cauliflower well, and shake dry. Place on a large cutting board.
- Using a large, heavy knife, cut it in half from the bottom stem all the way through the top.
- From there, cut smaller cauliflower florets.
- That’s it! Now you have smaller pieces of cauliflower, without much struggle.
How to make Buffalo Cauliflower
Once you have cut cauliflower florets, make the batter and bake the cauliflower. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Add the water, flour, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt to a large bowl, big enough to hold all the cauliflower as well as the batter.
- Whisk well until smooth.
- Add the cauliflower to the batter in the bowl and toss to combine. Feel free to work in batches if it’s easier. Remove the pieces of cauliflower, one by one, and tap off the excess batter a few times on the side of the bowl.
- If desired, roll each cauliflower piece in panko breadcrumbs. This makes them extra crispy and I highly recommend it!
- Place the battered pieces on the prepared baking sheet and make sure the florets are not touching each other.
- Bake for 20 minutes, flipping them over when done. Bake for another 15 minutes or until they’re golden and crispy. Smaller pieces will take a little less time, but if you have large florets, it may take a little longer.
While the cauliflower is baking, prepare the hot sauce and butter mixture. Melt the butter in a small saucepan on the stove over medium heat. Stir in the hot sauce once it’s melted, then set aside.
When the cauliflower is done baking, either brush each floret with hot sauce or add them to a large bowl and toss in the sauce. At this point, you can just serve them immediately, OR to make them crispier put them back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes. They will soften once mixed with the buffalo sauce, but I personally don’t mind it. If you truly want them super crispy when you serve them, don’t mix with the sauce; instead, serve with the buffalo sauce and ranch on the side and dip as you go.
To Air Fry
You can make these in an air fryer, but it may take a bit more time because there just isn’t much room in most. However, I highly recommend reheating leftovers in the air fryer if you have one, it is amazing and they are even better somehow the next day!
Add the battered cauliflower florets to the air fryer basket in a single layer (do not overcrowd). It’s best if they aren’t touching each other so each piece can cook evenly. Cook at 350ºF for 15-25 minutes, then toss in the hot sauce mixture before serving. You may need to air fry in separate batches to avoid overcrowding. If the wings are touching each other, they’ll turn out soggy.
Helpful tips and recipe variations
- Want extra crispy buffalo bites? Save the buffalo sauce for dipping only, instead of adding it to the cauliflower and baking again.
- You can use frozen cauliflower florets for this recipe if you wish. Make sure they are thawed completely before battering so that they can cook evenly. You may need to dab excess liquid with a paper towel after they’ve thawed.
- If you want to make gluten free buffalo cauliflower, there are many options. Sub in a gluten free all purpose flour mix or use almond flour instead.
- You can make these with or without the panko breadcrumbs. I like the extra crisp, but they are perfectly good without it.
These vegan buffalo wings aren’t complete without the perfect dipping sauce. Make sure to include the vegan ranch or blue cheese dressing on the side, along with celery and carrot sticks. I’ve included a super simple recipe for vegan ranch I think you will love.
This recipe would also make for a fun side dish at barbecues or for family dinners. They would go great next to vegan pizza or burgers. Bring them along to potlucks or make them a part of the spread at your next party.
Storing and reheating leftovers
You can prepare elements of this recipe beforehand if you’re looking to save time. Cut up the cauliflower, prepare the sauce, and prepare the breading and keep each in separate containers until you’re ready to make the cauliflower bites. Just make sure to heat up the hot sauce before using!
The bites are best enjoyed fresh out of the oven, but you could store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
For the best results, reheat leftovers in the oven or better yet, an air fryer if you have one until crispy, about 10 minutes.
Want more vegan game day appetizers?
- Vegan Mozzarella Sticks
- Vegan Jalapeño Poppers
- Ultimate Fully Loaded Vegan Nachos
- 5 Ingredient Vegan Queso
- Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip
- 1 large head cauliflower (about 5 cups)
- 1 cup water
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour (see notes for substitutions)
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs (may skip this step if desired)
- 1 cup Frank's Red Hot Sauce
- 1 tablespoon vegan butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup or agave
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray generously with oil.
- Wash and cut cauliflower into bite sized pieces.
- In a large bowl, add water, flour, garlic and onion powder, and salt. Whisk until well combined. Place the panko breadcrumbs in a small bowl, if using.
- Add the cauliflower to the batter in the bowl, and toss to combine and really coat the cauliflower. Remove the pieces of cauliflower, one by one, and tap off the excess batter a few times on the side of the bowl.
- Roll each floret in the breadcrumbs to coat, then place on the prepared baking sheet and make sure they are not touching each other, or they will all get stuck together as they bake. Spray the tops with oil, this will help them get super crispy.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Flip them over and bake for 15 more minutes, until golden and crispy.
- While the cauliflower are baking, prepare the hot sauce/butter mixture. Melt the butter in a saucepan on the stove over medium heat. Once melted, add the hot sauce, maple syrup or agave and stir. Set aside.
- Once the cauliflower have cooked and are crispy, toss the florets with the sauce in a large bowl, then return to the pan. You can serve them immediately, or to make them crispier, put them back in the oven for 15-20 minutes. If you want them super crispy, leave the buffalo sauce on the side for dipping as you go.
For the Easy Vegan Ranch
- Add all the ranch ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk until combined. Taste and add salt, if desired, or more herbs. That's it! Enjoy.
- I find all purpose flour yields the best flavor and texture here, but it also works with almond flour, white whole wheat flour or a gluten free all purpose flour.
- Gluten free: Use a gluten free flour or almond flour, and skip the breadcrumbs.
- Oil free: Skip the vegan butter and don't spray with oil.
- I love coating them in breadcrumbs, but you can skip this part if desired. They will still be crispy and delicious.
- Frozen cauliflower: Fresh is better, but frozen will work. Make sure to thaw and then pat dry before using.
- If you are serving a large crowd, double or even triple the recipe.
*This recipe was first posted September 2018 and has been updated with improved photos and better recipe instructions, as well as the addition of breadcrumbs. I’m always trying to improve my recipes, thank you!