I spent my weekend in the kitchen, cooking batches of cauliflower wings. Even this vegetable lover was skeptical at first. I mean? Cauliflower wings? Can’t be possible.
I stand corrected. I now know why the internet is being taken over by variations of this unlikely combination. By recipe test #3, I couldn’t stop myself from popping these bites straight into my mouth from the pan.
Cauliflower serves as the base of this recipe. The vegetable is cut into bite-sized florets or “wings”. These wings are coated in batter then baked to perfection. You have the crispness of the breading topped with the sticky sweet smokiness from the homemade
barbecue sauce on top of perfectly cooked cauliflower. The cooked cauliflower is a great toothsome vegetable when cooked. It makes you feel like you are biting into something substantial, but you are getting all the benefits of a super healthy vegetable.
Now, these wings are taken to the next level by making our barbecue sauce from scratch. Sounds impressive, right? Intimidated? Don’t be. This barbecue sauce is surprisingly easy to make at home, and so incredibly delicious. It is sweet, smoky, the perfect thick texture to cling to the wings, and has just the right level of spice. Plus, this recipe makes enough to slather on your wings before baking, and extra for dipping. Any excess can be stored in the fridge for whenever a barbecue craving hits.
If your kids aren’t so keen on eating their veggies, this is a great recipe to sneak them into their diets. Anything with a fried texture and sticky barbecue sauce glaze is bound to win them over.
There are a lot of cauliflower wing recipes on the web. In the name of recipe testing, I took the liberty of whipping up a few batches from other sites. I am afraid to report that not all cauliflower wings recipes are created equally. Some recipes call for a very thin breading, that left me searching for more crunch. Some resulted in soggy wings (not good), and in others, the breading fell right off the cauliflower when you tried to flip them in the oven.
After developing rounds of my own recipe for these delectable bites, I discovered some tips and tricks for perfect wings every time.
Cauliflower is a bland vegetable. It needs lots of layers of seasoning to deserve the title of a “wing”. That means seasoning both the dry and liquid components of the breading mixture and cooking up a flavor packed barbecue sauce that deepens in flavor as it bakes onto the wings.
When battering the wings, you want to coat every single nook and cranny of the cauliflower to maximize the crunch factor. Once you have a floret coated. Use kitchen tongs to lift them out of the batter and onto the cookie sheet. Do not just dump the wings straight from your batter bowl onto the sheet. This results in a pool of batter on the bottom of the cookie sheet, which becomes one mass and makes the wings impossible to flip. Hold the wings in the air for a quick second to let the excess batter drip off and then place on your sheet pan.
Know when to flip.
If you try and flip the wings before the batter crisps up, the batter will fall off and you will miss all that glorious crunch. I tested flipping the wings at 10 different baking times to ensure I found the sweet spot. Each oven varies, so if your wings don’t look like the batter is crisping up, give them 5 more minutes before flipping.
For the barbecue sauce:
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil OR coconut oil OR olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon dried ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
- 1/3 cup tomato paste
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon liquid aminos OR tamari OR soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 bay leaves
For the wings:
- 1 head cauliflower
- 1 1/2 cups chickpea flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil OR olive oil
- A few dashes of hot sauce
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and coat a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Add the avocado oil, ginger, dried mustard, paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne into a pot. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until you just begin to smell the spices. Immediately add in the tomato sauce and whisk to combine. Add in the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes. The sauce will reduce and thicken. Set aside.
3. While your sauce is simmering, cut your cauliflower into bite sized florets.
4. Whisk together the chickpea flower, salt, and garlic powder.
5. Add in the water and oil. Whisk to combine. Add in hot sauce to taste and whisk again.
6. Add in the cauliflower florets and toss to coat.
7. Spread the breaded cauliflower out on the prepared cookie sheet.
8. Bake for 25 minutes. Gently flip the cauliflower florets over and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush with the barbecue sauce.
9. Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes. Serve with more barbecue sauce.