Superbowl mania has swept in and out like a tornado, and Uncle Google has seen the last “Superbowl party snack ideas” search request for a while, but that’s no reason to let your vegan appetizer game get rusty!
Any self-respecting hostess or bringer-of-snacks to someone else’s party should, at all times, have a handful of tried-and-true recipes at the ready when the need arises to wow a crowd with vegan eats and treats. Well, I am here to bring you what is sure to be a hit that will be a staple for every potluck and party!
One of the most ubiquitous vegan dishes floating around on the internet at the moment is the buffalo cauliflower wing (or “bite” for those that don’t want to call them wings). Google that, and you’ll likely find hundreds of recipes, but something tells me that I know just what you’re looking for: a bite that’s tender but not mushy on the inside, with a light, crispy-crunchy coating on the outside. Oh- and you’d like them to be healthy, so you want them baked, not fried, only you just KNOW they can’t be crispy unless they’re fried in gobs of oil, right?
While I have sampled fried cauliflower buffalo wings before and beheld their crispy, crunchy awesomeness, let’s face it- that’s a TON of unnecessary fat. I wanted a recipe for crispy cauliflower wings that still had that satisfying crunch without the added calories of oil. I tried dozens of recipes that claimed to result in a crispy bite, but was disappointed every time. In developing this recipe, I used elements of many others and tried a few ideas of my own. The result is a healthier wing that is tender on the inside and crunchy on the outside. When I first made these for my husband, Chris, his eyes lit up like a little kid’s! I don’t make these just for parties, either- they’re great any time, and are kid (and husband) tested and approved.
Using panko breadcrumbs and a two-step baking method is KEY for a great crunch, and these are best served right away for optimal crispiness, so if you’re making them to take to a party, I suggest shortening the cooking time in the second step by about 10 minutes, then finishing them in the oven of your host- IF there’s room!
- 1 large head of cauliflower, or 2 small ones
- 1 cup of brown rice flour (NOTE: a variety of flours can be used, but in my experimentation I have found that brown rice flour resulted in the lightest, crispiest batter, while whole wheat flour yielded the heaviest, soggiest results)
- 1 ¼ cup non-sweetened, non-dairy milk of your choice
- 1 teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, and sea salt
- 1 cup (plus extra if needed) panko bread crumbs, regular or gluten free
- Large bottle of buffalo wing sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot!)
- 1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- 2) Cut cauliflower into bite-sized pieces- I cut mine a little smaller than the size of a golf ball. Cauliflower can be tricky to cut up and you’ll likely end up with a lot of little bits. Save those for salad!
- 3) In a large bowl, whisk together the brown rice flour, non-dairy milk, and seasonings. I like to throw in a few dashes of the hot sauce, too.
- 4) Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, OR you can use cooling racks sprayed with cooking spray on a baking sheet. I do NOT recommend simply greasing the baking sheet, as I’ve found that the wings tend to stick even on a heavily greased sheet. They release much easier from parchment paper.
- 5) Toss the florets in the batter a few at a time, shake off excess batter, then toss in the breadcrumbs in separate bowl. To keep things tidy, I like to use one hand for handling the battered ones, and my other hand to handle the ones finished in the breadcrumbs. Place them on the prepared baking sheet. If you need to use more than one baking sheet, switch racks in the oven halfway through each phase of the baking time.
- 6) Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.
- 7) Remove racks from the oven and set aside. In another bowl, dump in about half your bottle of wing sauce . One at a time, dunk the baked cauliflower florets in the wing sauce, turning gently with a fork to coat. Using tongs, return the sauced florets back to the baking sheet.
- 8) Bake an additional 20 minutes, turning florets halfway through baking time. This is key to prevent sticking.
- 9) Optional: for a little extra crunch, I sometimes like to finish them with a little blast under the broiler. Your call! Also optional: brush with a little extra wing sauce for added zinginess. This will, however, make the wings a little less crunchy.
- To make this a totally gluten-free appetizer, look for gluten-free panko breadcrumbs!
- Note about the sauce: You may choose to use another sauce such as barbecue or teriyaki sauce rather than wing sauce. However, if your sauce is thick, I would advise thinning it out a bit with water prior to the second baking stage. If the sauce is too thick, it will result in a less-crispy finished product.
- Serve with a vegan ranch dressing such as Follow Your Heart's High-Omega Vegan Ranch or Bleu Cheese, and carrot/celery sticks