Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings”

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5 from 1 vote

Pinterest image for buffalo cauliflower.
Pinterest image for buffalo cauliflower.

These Buffalo Cauliflower Wings are the perfect way to enjoy a healthier, vegetarian version of chicken wings. They have up to 66% FEWER calories than regular chicken wings! These oven-baked buffalo cauliflower bites will satisfy that wings craving completely without the guilt, with a crispy panko breadcrumb coating and classic buffalo sauce smothering every bite. And they’re easy to make vegan, too!

Buffalo cauliflower bites on a white plate with celery.

Buffalo cauliflower bites on a white plate with celery.

Have I made this buffalo cauliflower twice in the last week? Yes. Did I immediately add the ingredients to my grocery list for next week? You betcha. Have I found the healthy holy grail of vegetarian buffalo recipes? Methinks so.

YOU GUYS. These buffalo cauliflower bites are heaven. If you love buffalo flavor, you really have to try these.

I should clarify: I really don’t like cauliflower pretending to be something it’s not. Cauliflower rice? Meh. Cauliflower pizza crust? I’ll stick to the real thing.

But these are an exception to the rule. The texture and flavor of the cauliflower is so perfect, coated in a batter, dipped in crispy buttery panko crumbs, and baked and tossed with classic buffalo sauce.

The cauliflower is firm enough to hold up when it’s cooked and smothered in sauce and not get mushy. And since cauliflower is lighter and healthier than chicken wings, this recipe may make you feel a lot better after eating it instead of slipping gently into a delicious food coma.

What makes buffalo cauliflower healthier than traditional wings?

Chicken wings are usually deep fried, and coated in a really buttery hot sauce mixture. This version has up to 66% fewer calories than some wings you would get at a restaurant. This means you can eat the whole batch in one sitting… right?

Since they’re oven-baked, they use less fat to cook them. And the buffalo sauce has less butter than other recipes, with a touch of honey to help sweeten it up a bit and thicken up when cooking.

And while chicken may have more protein, cauliflower has more fiber, vitamins, and nutrients. It’s a great way to sneak more vegetables into your diet.

Horizontal image of buffalo cauliflower on a white plate with ranch and celery.

Horizontal image of buffalo cauliflower on a white plate with ranch and celery.

How to make buffalo cauliflower bites

Cauliflower florets are coated in a batter, dipped in buttery panko, baked, tossed with sauce, and baked again. Here are the details.

  1. First, mix up a batter with flour, milk, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. I like to use a whisk to make sure it’s really smooth with no lumps.
  2. Then, coat cauliflower florets in the batter. I recommend adding all the florets to the mixture and stirring, gently, to coat. It’s a little easier than dipping individually.Process collage showing how to make a batter for oven-baked buffalo cauliflower.
  3. Mix up some melted butter and panko breadcrumbs in a bowl and stir to coat each breadcrumb. Why add the butter? This will negate the need for added oil when baking, and ensure an evenly cooked crispy (but not dry) coating.
  4. Coat each piece of batter-covered cauliflower in the panko and place on a baking sheet. I like to take the florets from the bottom of the bowl, since they’re covered in more batter, which will help the panko stick better.Process collage showing how to coat buffalo in panko breadcrumbs.
  5. Bake the cauliflower for 20 minutes at 425 degrees and make your buffalo sauce– a mixture of melted butter, a little bit of honey, and hot sauce (I like using Frank’s for this recipe).
  6. Then, toss the cauliflower with the sauce, return to the oven for 10 more minutes, and you’re done! I like to serve these with ranch dressing and celery sticks.Process collage showing how to toss baked cauliflower with buffalo sauce.

Tips and tricks

  • Make sure your cauliflower florets are as dry as possible. If you’re making this from frozen, thaw them and pat them dry. If you’re using fresh cauliflower, make sure you pat them dry after washing them.
  • Speaking of fresh cauliflower, here’s a tutorial on how to cut broccoli and cauliflower into florets.
  • It’s good to let the florets sit in the milk/flour batter for at least 30 seconds, so they get a really good coating.
  • I recommend lining your baking sheet with parchment paper– you don’t need it for sticking, but it makes cleanup much easier.

Can I make this buffalo cauliflower vegan?

Yes! It’s really easy to adapt. In fact, the recipe from which is this inspired is vegan. You can check out the Alamo Drafthouse’s vegan buffalo cauliflower wings for yourself (they’ve also got a vegan ranch recipe for dipping!).

Simply substitute a non-dairy milk, such as soy milk, for the regular milk. And use olive oil instead of butter.

Close up photo showing the texture of crispy baked buffalo cauliflower wings.

Close up photo showing the texture of crispy baked buffalo cauliflower wings.

Other Buffalo recipes

Other cauliflower recipes

Check out all my vegetarian recipe here.

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Buffalo Cauliflower

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5 from 1 vote

These Buffalo Cauliflower Bites, or vegetarian “wings,” are baked in the oven with crispy panko – such a healthy, easy recipe to replace traditional wings!

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Prep Time10 mins

Cook Time25 mins

Total Time35 mins

Course: Appetizer

Cuisine: American

Servings: 4 servings

Calories: 312kcal

Author: Elizabeth Lindemann

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. cauliflower florets (1 large head, fresh or frozen and thawed is fine)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup milk (any kind, water will also work)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons butter divided
  • 1.5 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce such as Frank’s
  • 1 teaspoon honey (or brown sugar, optional)

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, for easier cleanup.

  • If the cauliflower is wet (from thawing from frozen or washing), pat it dry as best you can.

  • In a medium bowl, mix together the flour (1/2 cup), milk (3/4 cup), kosher salt (1 teaspoon), and black pepper (1/2 teaspoon) until well combined. I like to use a whisk for this so it’s very smooth.

  • In a small bowl, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the panko breadcrumbs (1.5 cups) and stir to coat in the butter.

  • Add the cauliflower to the milk mixture and stir gently to coat every piece. Make sure every piece is very well-coated, and allow it to sit in there for at least 30 seconds.

  • Coat each piece of cauliflower in the panko breadcrumb and butter mixture, making sure to coat very well, and place on the prepared baking sheet. (Tip: I like to get the cauliflower from the bottom of the bowl, so it’s really coated in the milk and flour batter, which helps the panko stick better.)

  • Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, make the buffalo sauce by melting the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a pyrex measuring cup, or a small bowl. Mix in the hot sauce (1/2 cup) and honey (1 teaspoon).

  • After the cauliflower has roasted for 20 minutes, pour the buffalo sauce on top, toss to coat, and spread back out on the baking sheet. Roast for another 10 minutes at 425 degrees.

  • Serve with celery sticks and ranch or blue cheese dressing, if desired. You can also mix up a little more buffalo sauce to drizzle on top if you want.

Notes

  • This recipe was inspired by the Alamo Drafthouse’s Vegan Buffalo Cauliflower. To make these vegan, use soy (or other plant-based) milk, use olive oil instead of butter, and sugar or maple syrup instead of honey.
  • Buffalo cauliflower is best served immediately for crispiness, but leftovers are great added to a salad (cold or reheated).
  • When tossing with the buffalo sauce, it’s OK if some of the coating comes off. Those crispy bits are delicious!

Recommended Equipment

Nutrition

Calories: 312kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 35mg | Sodium: 1693mg | Potassium: 503mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 473IU | Vitamin C: 77mg | Calcium: 121mg | Iron: 2mg

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