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.
Other Asian-inspired recipes from the blog:
To avoid a soggy bottom, I placed a rack on the tray, worked perfectly. For the sauce, I used honey and a little bit of brown sugar. Cooked the sauce on low longer than it says.
Judy Ameche-Kromschroder says
5 Stars ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Used Gf flour and Tamara for my celiac husband and it was so delicious!!!
Better than anything similar I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant!
Thank you so much for sharing and making me feel like a chef in my own home❤️
Delicious. I used regular all purpose flour and hot sesame oil instead of toasted because it’s what I had. I didn’t have sriracha but would have omitted anyway because the heat level for me was perfect with the hot sesame oil. It had a good kick. I doubled the sauce recipe as some others suggested because I do love a good sauce and I was glad I did. I also ran out of time and did not return to the oven after tossing it in the sauce and it was not a problem although I did let the sauce cook a little longer than indicated while my cauliflower was still browning. Over all I really like this recipe and will probably make it again and again.
Lovely weeknight recipe! It’s not super crispy as stated but has a lovely slight sesame, tangy flavour. I didn’t double the sauce like other readers did as just having the florets over jasmine rice was enough for me. The flat batter bottoms in the oven were also an issue for me similar to other readers but not so much that it ruined the dish. Any solutions to that particular problem is welcomed!
This is so so easy, so yummy and so good looking! We loved it. Thanks for the receipe!!
Excellent recipe, all the family loved it! Thankyou 😋
Delicious. Very clever recipe. I doubled the sauce recipe and it was just right.
I tried pan frying some caulis to speed it up – but oven roasted was better.
Ideal side or main for veg day.
Yuuum!! So delicious, I used rice flour as the flour and tomato sauce instead of paste 😁
AMAZING. My mom’s words: If I buy three heads of cauliflower, can we make that much tomorrow???!
Loved the recipe and enjoyed the process of making!! Thanks thanks thanks
R. Patrick Jenkins says
This is awesome! I make just the sauce whenever I need a dipping sauce for spring rolls or dumplings! Just yummers!
Karlie Slowiak says
great recipe! Subbed Ketchup for tomato paste and maple for agave and turned out wonderful!
Anne Nguyen says
One of my favourite new recipes. I don’t think I have ever felt strong enough about a recipe to rate it before so that’s an indication of how impressed I was.
Joe Lovell says
“I don’t recommend eating it by hand.”
Well what fun is that? 😉
Going to try this tonight.
After reading some of the other comments I was wondering if this recipe will turn out ok for me, but I just made it for dinner for my hubby and I, and we were both pleasantly surprised how awesome it tasted! The florets turned out deliciously crispy, sticky and tangy, just like the photos! I followed the recipe closely, except that I substituted the agave for maple syrup, and the sesame oil for pecan oil, as I didn’t have any. I’m putting sesame oil on my shopping list for next time! The only change I would make next time is to double up the amount of the sauce, as another reader had suggested, for we would’ve loved to have more coating on the florets. Delicious, thank you for posting this wonderful recipe!
Susan Riley says
I am going to make Sticky Califlower tonight to bring to a book club at a friend’s home.
Can I just follow directions as is and bring to the get together warm and reheat in microwave there or is it imperative to mix the sauce after baking the first time, bake again and serve immediately?
Shannon @ Yup, it's Vegan says
I don’t think this would be very nice reheated in the microwave unfortunately.
Yeah, I had the same flat bottom problem as others did. Seems to be that way with any cauliflower wing recipe I’ve tried. In this case, the cauliflower was mushy, but the little flat bottoms were crispy. The flour mixture was thick like pancake batter, so I don’t know! Good flavor, but I probably won’t make them again. Maybe an air fryer is the answer.
Emily K. English says
Delicious! I agree with other comments that more sauce would be nice (especially if it’s going over rice too) so I do recommend doubling that part. I also accidentally skipped the last step where it goes back in the oven after coating with sauce, and it still came out great. Also was lucky that my florets got nice and crisp in the oven – I think the trick might be shaking off as much batter as possible. I also used wheat flour which may have helped the texture.
Try adding dipping it in panko after the wet batter. It came out quite crispy and delicious.
One of my new faves! I used regular flour instead of gluten-free and it worked a treat. Very tasty.
Amanda PSN di Grazia says
Amazing recipe, can’t wait to try again. I did not see in the recipe if you leave them whole or cut them in half? I found that my cauliflower in the over ended up with this hard flat bottom because of the coating- what can I do to avoid this? Flip them? Thanks in advance I LOVE this recipe!
the coating turned out thin with the 1:1 ration of water and flour, my batter all ran down and formed flat cakes. so wasn’t able to re-create the author’s dish as per the photo… it was ok in the end but wish I had the same texture as in most Chinese dishes of this kind…
Made this recipe last night and it tasted delicious! Next time I’m going to try omitting the sesame oil as we are oil free eaters.
I’m making this tonight for my dinner and omitted the spice for my son who is 13 months old, and added gochujang instead of sriracha for my version. Am excited, the kitchen smells very good!
Totally delicious – also used maple syrup instead of agave and turned out really well.
Chickpea Express says
I made a similar cauliflower recipe to this one but it’s inspired by Doritos Sweet Chili Heat chips!! I used a sweet chili heat sauce instead of sesame, which is nice to switch it up once in a while. Love how the cauliflower turns out in the oven with the flour and water coating! Thanks for the idea! If you want to check out my sweet chilli heat version of these cauliflower bites you can see it on my website Chickpea Express.
Just tried this recipe, every one loved it. Even my 8 yr old!! I didn’t make enough sauce but trial and error. It was like eating a clean Chinese 💓
Wow I cannot rave enough about this recipe!!! Any kind of Asian food has always been my weakness so when I started changing my eating habits and decided to try going vegan I knew that my Chinese takeout would be one of the foods I missed the most. But boy does this hit the spot for me! I used oat flour since it was all I had on hand and it worked out perfectly. Thank you for sharing your amazing recipes.
Emily English says
Delicious recipe!! I would definitely suggest doubling the sticky sauce if you like a lot of sesame flavor! I doubled it and it was just the right amount of sauce for one head of cauliflower. I also used maple syrup instead of agave. When using the maple syrup you do have to cook at a lower head as the sugar in the syrup starts to bubble. Would definite recommend to any cauliflower lovers!
Emily English says
*lower heat not head 😂
this was a life a saver with becky and the reading club – i highly suggest adding some happy herb for an incresase in flavour and crisp texture – 10/10 would recomend!
eve bat says
what is happy herb?
My daughter served this at dinner a few days ago. She shared the recipe with me so i am making it today!! It was so good!! Thanks
Added the prepared cauliflower to a noodle bowl and it was a massive hit with the kids. Thank you.
This sounds delicious! Is it ok to use almond flour or oat flour? Which would be better?
Shannon @ Yup, it's Vegan says
Oat flour would definitely be better than almond flour – with almond flour you’d nee to reduce the liquid quite a bit and dip the cauliflower in some sort of egg substitute first. I haven’t tested oat flour but I think it would work more closely to AP flour.