A meatless version of General Tso’s chicken, replacing the chicken with crispy fried pieces of cauliflower.
We’ve been on another cauliflower kick lately. I’ve made several healthier cauliflower versions of some of Mr. K’s favorite Chinese American recipes in the past like baked orange cauliflower and honey garlic cauliflower, but this recipe is a little different because I fried the cauliflower, just like the chicken is fried for General Tso’s Chicken.
The crispy fried pieces of cauliflower tasted so good coated in the savory General Tso’s sauce! I went through several test batches of fried cauliflower trying to find the best way to fry it so that it stays crunchy even after you add on the sauce. The technique shared in the recipe has been my go-to for years and even after testing several other promising methods, it’s still the best one in my opinion.
I actually didn’t miss the chicken at all. I think I may even prefer the cauliflower version.
Crispy General Tso's Cauliflower
for the cauliflower
- egg whites from 2 large eggs
- 2 tbsp vodka (see note)
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 medium cauliflower cut into bite sized florets
- canola oil for frying
for the sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 1/2 tbsp dark brewed soy sauce
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 tsp hoisin sauce
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp granulated white sugar
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 6 dried red chilis
For the Garnishes
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- 2 scallions thinly sliced
- In a small bowl, add egg whites and vodka and whisk together. In a medium bowl, add cornstarch and baking powder and whisk together.
- Dip and coat a cauliflower piece in egg whites and then lightly roll and cover in cornstarch. Set coated cauliflower aside and repeat with remaining cauliflower.
- In a pot being used for frying, add about 1 inch of oil to the pot. Bring oil to high heat. When oil is hot, lower heat to medium and then add a few cauliflower pieces. Let cauliflower cook a few minutes until a crispy coating forms over the cauliflower. The batter will not turn golden brown and will instead stay very pale, but you should see a pale crackly coating forming around the cauliflower and when you tap the cauliflower, you can feel the hard crispy shell. When cauliflower is crispy, remove from hot oil and place onto a paper towel-lined plate to soak up excess oil. Repeat with remaining cauliflower, frying in small batches.
- To make the sauce, add all ingredients except chili peppers into a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Add sauce to a small saucepan. Bring sauce to a simmer and let it continue to simmer until thickened. Whisk every few seconds so that the cornstarch does not separate from the sauce and clump up while simmering. When sauce is thickened, add in chili peppers. Let the chili peppers simmer for about 30 seconds in sauce. Then remove sauce from heat.
- In a large skillet or wok, add cauliflower. Bring wok to medium heat. Pour sauce over cauliflower. Toss cauliflower until it is evenly coated in sauce and allow sauce to simmer for about 1-2 minutes until it thickens even more. Turn off heat. Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds and serve.
- The vodka is key to the thick crunchy batter which stays crispy even after you add on the sauce. I tried several techniques that didn't involve vodka, but the batter was never as crunchy.
The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have.