I can confidently say that these are the The Best Spicy Cauliflower Wings Ever. Yeah, as their name states, they are nice and spicy, but it’s not the spice that makes these The Best Spicy Cauliflower Wings Ever. Spoiler: it’s the chickpea flour and rice crumb coating that seals the deal for these bad boys. They are intentionally vegan, and accidentally gluten-free, and you could easily make them without the use of any oil if you so desired. Whether you bake them in the oven, or crisp them up in the air fryer, when paired with my Guilt-Free Vegan Ranch Dressing, you’ll be convinced with the first bite that these truly are The Best Spicy Cauliflower Wings Ever.
The story behind this recipe is different from pretty much any other recipe on my website and YouTube channel. Usually I get an idea for a dish, test it out, and then share the final version with my audience. With The Best Cauliflower Wings Ever, though, I had been making these for myself and Ben for literally years, tweaking and changing things every time, not thinking about the fact that I might actually share the recipe one day.
How, you ask, did I have a recipe that I loved so much that I made at least a couple of times a month, but didn’t plan on sharing it on my recipe website or YouTube cooking channel? Well, it’s one of those “see the forest for the trees” kind of oversight.
With my channel and my website, I try to be creative and inventive, and come up with recipes that folks maybe haven’t seen before, or at least they haven’t seen vegan versions of before. At this point in history, though, the cauliflower wing is neither inventive nor creative.
Cauliflower wings are ubiquitous and probably the most prolific of all plant-based meat alternatives. You can find them on the menu at every “fern bar” in the country, and many large middle-brow restaurant chains have them listed in the appetizer section of their menus. Oftentimes they are made with egg or dairy, so they are not vegan, but the fact remains that nobody thinks twice about the fact that cauliflower is being used in place of chicken.
The Meryl Streep of the vegetable kingdom has done it again!
Can you think of any other meat alternative that’s managed to become so mainstream? Even people with no plans or desires to eat any less meat order them. They’re just that damn good!
Because they are rarely actually vegan when they appear on a restaurant menu, I’ve resorted to just making them for myself at home. I’m sure that when I made my first batch years and years ago I looked at a recipe for reference, but I honestly don’t think that the final recipe that I’m sharing with you today is inspired by anything other than my repeated making of these wings, and varying things slightly each time.
If you’ve been around my website or channel for a while now, you’ll know that I’m obsessed with chickpea flour (Link to Chickpea Flour Playlist on YouTube). It’s my favorite binder and egg replacer, but it can do so much more. It’s the perfect ingredient to make breading stick to any surface, but it’s also great just on its own, without any added rice or breadcrumbs.
The chickpea flour and seasonings create a batter that coats the wing, and gets crispy in the oven. Then, that crispy coating absorbs the buffalo flavor, and crisps up again when it’s returned to the oven . It’s magical!
Here’s What You’ll Need:
Pantry Staples (contains affiliate links):
- Chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour – Literally just ground-up dry chickpeas, garbanzo bean flour is by far my favorite plant-based binder and vegan egg substitute. If you have a strong blender that can grind flour, you can even make your own from dry beans. I don’t have any recommendations for substitutions. This is the best tool for the job.
- Nutritional yeast – This stuff is a must-have in any vegan kitchen. It’s got a deep, umami flavor that’s a bit funky. Most of the time you see it used in vegan cheese recipes because it can give sauces that “cheesy” flavor. In this recipe, however, it’s not being used as a cheese substitute, but instead it’s being used as a flavor enhancer to deepen the savory taste of the “wings”
- Rice crumbs – Imagine bread crumbs, but made with rice instead of whet. This is not the easiest ingredient to find, so there are a few work-arounds. If you aren’t concerned about gluten, you can use your favorite classic or panko bread crumb instead. If you are avoiding gluten, then you can use any brand of store-bought gluten-free bread crumb.
- Frank’s Red Hot sauce – If you want that classic “Buffalo” flavor, then you’re going to need Frank’s Red Hot sauce. They do make a pre-made Buffalo sauce that already has the oil in it, so you could use that as well. Just make sure that whatever sauce you choose, that it is a “cayenne pepper sauce”. Sriracha or other hot sauces wil taste just fine, but they won’t give you that classic flavor we all know and love.
- Seasoning – For this dish, I like the basic garlic and onion powders, along with some smoked paprika. You could definitely season these “wings” up any way you would like, or add more or less of these spices. Sweet paprika can also be used in place of smoked paprika if that’s all you’ve got.
- Cayenne pepper – Since these are The Best SPICY Cauliflower Wings, they need cayenne to bring the fire. The Buffalo sauce is made with a cayenne pepper sauce, but adding a bit more cayenne pepper to the batter helps to make the “wings” themselves a bit spicier. Not a fan of spice? Leave it out.
- Olive oil or melted vegan butter – Buffalo sauce is traditionally made with equal parts butter and Frank’s Red Hot sauce. When veganizing a Buffalo wing recipe, you could choose to use either oil or a “vegan butter” to do the job. I like to reduce the amount of oil or butter by about half just because I don’t think these “wings” really need all that much. If you are oil-free, or trying to limit the empty calories that you consume, then by all means just leave it out, and maybe add a bit more Frank’s Red Hot sauce to fully coat the “wings”.
Gotta Have Ranch!
- Guilt-Free Vegan Ranch Dressing – I use what I call my “Universal Vegan Cold Salad Dressing” for a number of recipes that call for mayo or a creamy dressing. Recently I used it as a base to make my Guilt-Free Vegan Ranch Dressing. You could easily use any other kind of vegan ranch (I have about 3 other recipes around monsonmadethis.com), but the beauty of this particular ranch recipe is that it’s very high in protein and very low in calories. Win/win.
- Very large bowl – The bigger the better. Use the biggest one you’ve got.
- Rubber (silicone) spatula – A tool that will help you get all of the batter or sauce off of the side of the bowl and onto your “wings” will really help maximize the coverage without having to use an excess amount.
- Baking sheet – I grew up calling them “cookie sheets”, but as a sophisticated adult, I now call them “baking sheets” or “sheet pans”. Whatever you call them, use the biggest one that you can fit into your oven to maximize the distance between each “wing” as they cook.
- Parchment paper – You want something that’s going to prevent the “wings” from sticking the pan, but that still lets heat transfer through the bottom. Parchment is the way to go. Silpat or silicone mats will work, but they don’t transfer heat through the bottom as efficiently.
Coconut Teriyaki – There are a lot of ways you could go with these wings. One variation would be use unsweetened coconut flakes in place of the rice crumbs, and teriyaki sauce in place of the Frank’s Red Hot sauce
The Best Spicy Cauliflower Wings Ever!
The name says it all! These really are The Best Spicy Cauliflower Wings Ever! And they also just happen to be completely vegan and plant based, gluten free, and they can be made just as good without the use of any oil.
- 1 pound (about ½ of a large head) cauliflower, cut into “two bite”-sized pieces
- ½ cup (45 g) chickpea flour
- 1 tablespoon (5 g) nutritional yeast
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- ¼ cup 2 ounces water
- 2 to 3 tablespoons rice crumbs or bread crumbs of choice
- ¼ cup Frank’s Red Hot sauce or cayenne pepper sauce
- 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil or melted vegan butter*
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Guilt-Free Vegan Ranch Dressing (link in notes)
- Preheat the oven to 425 Fahrenheit.
- Prepare the cauliflower by cutting into “two bite”-sized pieces. Set aside.
In a very large bowl, combine the chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt. Stir in ¼ cup of water to form a paste. If the mixture is too thick, add another tablespoon of water. If it’s too thin, add a bit more chickpea flour.
- With a rubber spatula, stir the cauliflower into the seasoned chickpea flour paste. Continue to stir for a minute or two, trying to get the cauliflower completely coated. Sprinkle on rice crumbs, and gently stir to coat.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, and distribute the cauliflower evenly, making sure none of the "wings" are touching.
- Bake for 15 minutes at 425 F. Turn over each “wing” and bake for another 15 minutes.
- While the cauliflower bakes, prepare the buffalo sauce by combining the sauce ingredients in the very large bowl.
Remove the cauliflower from the oven, and gently toss the cauliflower in the sauce, being careful not to break off the breading.
Return the cauliflower to the baking sheet, and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the “wings” are crispy again, and starting to darken.
- Serve immediately with a side of Guilt-Free Vegan Ranch Dressing.
*To make these wings oil free, just omit the oil, and add a bit more cayenne pepper sauce to coat the wings.