Korean Fried Cauliflower | The Woks of Life

Korean Fried Cauliflower is a special, indulgent treat, and the recipe is entirely plant-based / vegan! Big, crunchy chunks of cauliflower are tossed in the same delicious soy garlic glaze we use in our popular Korean Fried Chicken recipe. 

It takes a few extra steps to fry the cauliflower, but it’s well worth the results.

The Best Korean Fried Chicken Sauce

Last year, in the final days of November, we posted a recipe for Dakgangjeong, i.e., Korean Fried Chicken. 

In just a matter of 36 days, it climbed to the top of our charts, making it to the #2 spot of our most popular recipes of 2020—a major achievement in a banner year for cooking at home. 

It’s largely thanks to the soy garlic sauce, which is tangy, sweet, salty, and packed with garlicky goodness. 

(For more on the expert behind the recipe, check out the original Korean Fried Chicken post!) 

A Vegan Korean Fried Cauliflower Recipe

What is it about cauliflower that has made it such a health food magnet? I will openly admit that I refuse to eat cauliflower rice or cauliflower pizza crust for that matter (and that I’m lucky enough to have the luxury to not have to worry about either). 

But never say never, because we are definitely fans of a good cauliflower sub for fried chicken. In the past, we’ve also made General Tso’s Cauliflower!

Tips for Crispy Cauliflower

Getting the cauliflower super crispy requires a double fry. The first fry is to set the batter and get it to the initial crunch phase. While the fried pieces rest, internal steam is released in the external coating. But if you just stopped there, the cauliflower would become soggy.

With the second fry, that moisture is cooked off, and you end up with a coating that is not just crunchy, it stays put on the cauliflower as you toss it and then gobble it all up.  You might think it’s counterintuitive given that everything is eventually tossed in a sauce ANYWAYS, but it’s the difference between a professional frying job and a soggy-riffic one. 

TIP!

For those of you wondering if you can do this in an air fryer, this is a rather runny batter. We haven’t tested it in an air fryer, but we think that the batter would drip off of the cauliflower during cooking. Notes on independent experiments very much welcome in the comments for inquiring minds! 

Choosing Cauliflower

There are two notable types of cauliflower: 

  1. a run of the mill cauliflower with tight, dense florets and a uniform round shape
  2. Chinese cauliflower, also known as Taishan Cauliflower, flowering cauliflower, or fioretto cauliflower. It has thinner, pale green stalks, looser florets, and is generally more tender than regular cauliflower. Supposedly, it’s a hybrid between cauliflower and broccoli that was developed in Japan.

The delicate florets of this second type of cauliflower offer plenty of nooks and crannies for crispy coating, and are more tender and mild-flavored. That’s why we used it when we blogged this recipe! However, the delicate structure can also lead to more oil absorption and uneven cooking. 

Flowering Cauliflower in metal bowl

While we were happy with our results, suffice it to say any regular cauliflower from the grocery store will do just fine—perhaps even better!

Korean Fried Cauliflower Recipe Instructions

Batter the cauliflower:

Wash and cut your cauliflower into very large florets. You want them to be about the size of your palm, so they are meaty and easy to grab. This also makes the frying process a lot easier. 

But if you prefer smaller cauli nuggs, you do you! 

Shake off any excess moisture from the cauliflower to avoid watering down the batter.

Whisk together the potato starch, cake flour, baking soda, salt, and white pepper. Add the water and sesame oil, and whisk to combine.

Fry the cauliflower for the first time:

Heat 4-5 cups of oil in a deep pot to 325°F/163°C. The oil should ideally fill the pot about halfway, so hot oil won’t overflow or splatter too much while frying.

Fry the cauliflower in batches until they’re golden brown and the batter is thoroughly set, about 2-3 minutes. If they brown too quickly, reduce the heat. You want the cauliflower to be somewhat well-fried at this point, so the batter doesn’t end up soggy with oil. 

Frying battered cauliflower in oil

Drain on a cooling rack placed over a sheet pan, and between batches, remove any particles left in the oil using a strainer.

Fried cauliflower draining on rack

As the cauliflower sits, it will release steam that will later help the cauliflower get crispy during its second trip through the frying oil. 

Make the glaze:

In a saucepan over medium low heat, add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, along with the shallot, garlic, and dried chili peppers (if using, for optional spice). Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the shallots are translucent. If using the dried chili peppers, you can deseed them and chop them, or simply chop and include the seeds for an extra spicy kick. If you’d like to keep your sauce more mild, omit them entirely.

Next, add the soy sauce, water, mirin, rice vinegar, light brown sugar, gochujang, and dijon mustard.

Stir and bring the sauce to a simmer, stirring constantly (4-5 minutes). When the sauce has come to a simmer, remove from the heat, cover, and set aside to keep warm.

soy garlic glaze for korean fried cauliflower

Re-fry the cauliflower and toss in the sauce

For the second and final fry, bring the oil temperature again to 325°F/163°C. Fry the cauliflower in batches for another 1-2 minutes, until crunchy and golden. Drain on a cooling rack.

Once you’ve fried all the cauliflower for the second time, add it to a large bowl.

Fried cauliflower in metal bowl

Pour the sauce over the top.

Pouring sauce over fried cauliflower

Toss until the pieces are well-coated, and serve. 

Plate of korean fried cauliflower
Korean Fried Cauliflower

Korean Fried Cauliflower

Korean Fried Cauliflower (with the same soy garlic glaze in our popular Korean Fried Chicken recipe) is a special treat, and entirely vegan!

Korean Fried Cauliflower

serves: 6

Ingredients

For the soy garlic glaze:

Instructions

Batter the cauliflower:

  • Wash and cut your cauliflower into very large florets, about the size of your palm. Shake off any excess moisture.

  • Whisk together the potato starch, cake flour, baking soda, salt, and white pepper. Add the water and sesame oil, and whisk to combine.

First fry:

  • Heat 4-5 cups of oil in a deep pot to 325°F/163°C. The oil should ideally fill the pot about halfway, so hot oil won’t overflow or splatter too much while frying.

  • Fry the cauliflower in batches until they’re golden brown and the batter is thoroughly set, about 2-3 minutes. If they brown too quickly, reduce the heat.

  • Drain on a cooling rack placed over a sheet pan, and between batches, remove any particles left in the oil using a strainer. As the cauliflower sits, it will release steam that will later help the cauliflower get crispy during its second trip through the frying oil.

Make the glaze:

  • In a saucepan over medium low heat, add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, along with the shallot, garlic, and dried chili peppers (if using, for optional spice). Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the shallots are translucent. If using the dried chili peppers, you can deseed them and chop them, or simply chop and include the seeds for an extra spicy kick. If you’d like to keep your sauce more mild, omit them entirely.

  • Next, add the soy sauce, water, mirin, rice vinegar, light brown sugar, gochujang, and dijon mustard. Stir and bring the sauce to a simmer, stirring constantly (4-5 minutes). When the sauce has come to a simmer, remove from the heat, cover, and set aside to keep warm.

Final fry & toss in sauce:

  • For the second and final fry, bring the oil temperature again to 325°F/163°C. Fry the cauliflower in batches for another 1-2 minutes, until crunchy and golden. Drain on a cooling rack.

  • Once you’ve fried all the cauliflower for the second time, add it to a large bowl, and pour the sauce over the top. Toss until the pieces are well-coated, and serve.

nutrition facts

Calories: 308kcal (15%) Carbohydrates: 45g (15%) Protein: 6g (12%) Fat: 13g (20%) Saturated Fat: 1g (5%) Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g Monounsaturated Fat: 8g Trans Fat: 1g Sodium: 976mg (41%) Potassium: 661mg (19%) Fiber: 5g (20%) Sugar: 14g (16%) Vitamin A: 74IU (1%) Vitamin C: 75mg (91%) Calcium: 60mg (6%) Iron: 1mg (6%)

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