I’ve been on a roll lately with the soups and stews, and actually have a few more of those ready to share. (Along with several desserts!) But for today at least, I’m changing it up with this sticky sesame cauliflower recipe.
We have been making cauliflower wings every week or two since last fall. In fact, I shared a teaser of this same recipe on Instagram a while back. I ended up redoing the pictures because during that passage of time, I got my new macro lens and love the cozier feel that my photographs have now. I’ve made so many different wing flavors that I just now got around to sticky sesame again.
That being said, I’m actually not going to classify this particular recipe as “wings”. The cauliflower and breading become light and tender when mixed with the sticky sesame sauce, making them super delicious but not really viable as finger food unless you want to make a colossal mess. This is great with a side of some steamed vegetables or cauliflower rice. I don’t find that I want or need actual rice with it because there’s already plenty of heartiness from the batter. (If you’re looking for a great, CRISPY, hand-held cauliflower “wings” recipe, check out my Thai peanut cauliflower wings recipe from last year).
I’m a known consumer of gluten, but I specifically prefer to make recipes like this gluten-free. With regular all-purpose wheat flour, you have to be a lot more careful when mixing the batter not to overmix it and allow gluten strands to form, which can make your baked cauliflower tough and dense. With gluten-free flour, that’s much less of a concern, although it’s still good to avoid overmixing. I keep my pantry stocked with my favorite store-bought gluten-free flour blend, which is widely available in stores here and works in a variety of recipes.
Another bonus? This sticky sesame cauliflower recipe is really really easy. I know the batter recipe by heart now – and there’s no added steps of dredging or dipping in breadcrumbs. Just mix together one bowl of batter, dip the florets in it, and you’re done. I often just wing it with the sauce too (sesame or otherwise) until I get something tasty. Of course, I measured the exact quantities for my sauce this time before sharing it with you, but it’s very open for experimentation! As a general rule, add as little liquid as possible to your sauce to get the best textural result with this cauliflower. That’s why you don’t see a cornstarch slurry in my sticky sesame sauce, which many similar non-cauliflower recipes include.
The amount of agave nectar in this recipe is prone to sending me into a food coma, so reduce it if you like, but know that that’s where the “sticky” sesame comes from. I keeping meaning to try this out with brown rice syrup instead, so I’ll update here if I do.
If you make this sticky sesame cauliflower, let me know how you like it in the comments! And/or tag me on Instagram with @yupitsvegan and #yupitsvegan to show me your creations. Bon appetit!
Sticky Sesame Cauliflower
For the baked cauliflower:
- 1 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup water plus more as needed
- 1 small head of cauliflower cut into florets (scant 4 cups of florets)
For the sticky sesame sauce:
- 2 and 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil divided
- 1/2 inch ginger minced or grated
- 2-3 cloves garlic (to taste), minced or grated
- 3 and 1/2 tablespoons agave nectar (or less, to taste)
- 2 and 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon chili paste like sriracha
For the sticky sesame cauliflower:
- battered cauliflower (above)
- sticky sesame sauce (above)
- toasted sesame seeds for serving
- chopped green onions for serving
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare two large baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, garlic powder, and salt. Add 1 cup of water and stir. Continue adding water 1 tablespoon at a time until a pancake batter-esque consistency is reached. You want batter that is thick enough to stay on a cauliflower floret but thin enough that you can easily shake off the excess. I usually need another couple of tablespoons of additional water.
One by one, dip the cauliflower florets into the batter, gently shake off extra batter, and place them onto the baking sheet. Leave plenty of space between florets on the baking sheet so that they can get crispy. You may not be able to quite fit a whole head of cauliflower on two baking sheets.
Bake the battered cauliflower for 20 minutes, rotate the position of the trays, and then bake for another 5-10 more minutes or until crispy and browned.
Meanwhile, heat two teaspoons of the sesame oil in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and ginger and saute over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, for about 60-90 seconds, or until the garlic and ginger are softened and fragrant.
Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and stir well. Continue cooking on medium-low heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and thickened slightly. Turn the heat to low and leave on the burner, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. Stir in the remaining sesame oil just before mixing with the cauliflower. (I do this to make sure there's a nice noticeable sesame flavor).
Once the cauliflower is done baking, use a spatula to gently mix it together with the sauce in a bowl or the saucepan if large enough. Spread it back out on the baking sheets, and return it to the oven for just 2-4 minutes, to thicken the sauce onto the cauliflower. Watch it carefully, as the sticky sesame sauce can burn quickly. Remove from the oven and serve immediately, sprinkled with sesame seeds and chopped green onions if desired.
The final result of this recipe will NOT be super crispy, but rather, sturdy yet tender after the sauce is added. I don't recommend eating it by hand.
Other Asian-inspired recipes from the blog: