Cauliflower General Tso’s

Cauliflower General Tso's

If I had to venture a guess, I’d say General Tso’s Chicken is probably one of the best-known Chinese dishes here in America. Which is kind of funny, seeing as it’s such a far cry from traditional Chinese food.

Indeed, it has nothing to do with with it’s namesake, the military leader General Tso of the Qing Dynesty, nor did it even originate in Hunan, China, of which it is supposedly the cuisine.  Instead, it was created in the early 70’s, when Chinese chefs here in the U.S. needed a dish that would appeal to the American palate.

Well… they succeeded. Whatever it’s origins, there’s no question about it: it’s downright delicious. Sweet, spicy, rich sauce smothering crispy fried nuggets of chicken… how could anyone not love this stuff?

Cauliflower General Tso's

Ever since I was little, ordering General Tso’s has been a huge treat. Deep fried, sugary-glazed, and addictive as hell… I can make an order of General Tso’s disappear faster than you can say “alakazam.”

Unfortunately, I can also make it reappear somewhere around the top of my jeans a few hours later, which is why it’s become an increasingly more rare treat.

Then, a few weeks ago, I saw something new on the menu of one of my favorite restaurants: an appetizer of General Tso’s Cauliflower. Of course I had to order it, and once tasted, I knew I had to figure out how to make it for myself.

Cauliflower General Tso's

Because the sauce is really where the flavor is at, swapping the chicken for cauliflower really doesn’t affect the experience as much as you might think.  To get the crispy-fried exterior, I used a batter of gluten-free garbanzo bean flour and corn starch. Sure, you can skip the frying all together and oven-bake the cauliflower (a perfectly viable and no doubt healthier option), but then you’d be missing out on the crispiness that really makes General Tso’s so satisfying.

The biggest up-side to making this dish at home as being able to control all the ingredients. I used honey in place of sugar in the sauce, and was able to balance the levels of heat and sweet to exactly what I like.  With a few adjustments it could easily be made gluten-free or vegan, or tweaked however you like.

To be honest, I’m a little concerned about how easy this is to make from scratch. Not to mention all the possible variation there are with the sauce — it comes together in minutes, and tastes so good I kind of want to lather it on everything. Like sauteed veggies, or grilled meats, or my face. I might even try it for dipping my next batch of spring-rolls in, in place of my go-to peanut sauce. Yes, it’s really that good.

Cauliflower General Tso's

You see that look on his face? That’s the look of my hand model about to ruin the shot by eating the star of the show. The perks of being married to a food blogger, as he likes to say.

Cauliflower General Tso’s
Easily made vegan/gluten-free

For the sauce:
1 TBSP toasted sesame oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup hoisin sauce (or gluten-free hoisin sauce)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 TBSP soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari)
4 TBSP honey (or brown sugar, if vegan)
1/2-1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2-1 tsp. sriracha, or to taste
2 TBSP corn starch
1 1/2 cups water

For the cauliflower:
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour
1/4 cup corn starch, or potato starch
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup water
Corn, vegetable, or other neutral oil, for frying

Toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallions, for garnish

Steamed rice and broccoli, for serving

Method
For the sauce:
1. In a skillet over medium heat, add the sesame oil, garlic, and ginger. Saute for 1-2 minutes, then add the hoisin sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, honey, red pepper flakes, and sriracha. Stir to combine, and let cook for another 1-2 minutes.
2. In a bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the water and corn starch (start with just a small amount of water, and mix until smooth to avoid lumps). Stir the water and corn starch mixture into the pan, and let cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Taste, and add more sriracha or red pepper flakes as needed. If the sauce becomes too thick for your liking, add a splash more water.

For the cauliflower:
1. In a bowl, whisk together the garbanzo bean flour, corn starch, baking soda, salt, and water. Cut the cauliflower into evenly-sized florets, and toss into the batter until well-coated.
2. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat 2-3 inches of oil to 375 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towel, and set aside.
3.Carefully drop 4-8 florets into the oil at a time, being careful not to over-crowed the pot. Fry for 1-2 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.
4. Using a metal slotted spoon or a skimmer, remove the cauliflower to the paper towel lined baking sheet to drain. Let the oil return to 375 degrees, and repeat until all of the cauliflower is cooked.
5. When ready to serve, toss the fried cauliflower into the sauce. Serve immediately over steamed rice and broccoli, and garnish with toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallions.

Enjoy!

Recipe notes: I love the crispiness of deep-frying the cauliflower, but when I’m not in the mood for heating up a big pot of oil, I bake it instead. Here’s what I do: skip the batter all-together (I’ve tried many different recipes, and have never been able to get a crispy-battered cauliflower in the oven — if you know of a recipe that works, I’d love to hear about it!). Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F., and cut the cauliflower into florets. Toss cauliflower with a few TBSP of olive oil and a big pinch of salt, then spread into an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden around the edges. This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy cauliflower all on its own, too!

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28 Responses to Cauliflower General Tso’s

  1. Jeff June 26, 2014 at 8:19 pm #

    I really want to try this!

  2. movita beaucoup June 28, 2014 at 8:24 am #

    Okay, 2.0 has only just heard of General Tso’s chicken THIS WEEK. Also, I have all of the ingredients for this in my house, so…

  3. shannon July 6, 2014 at 6:36 am #

    General Tso’s! i could eat embarrassing amounts of it. And probably have. Which is why this recipe is so brilliant: i can now eat embarrassing amounts of it and NOT feel like i just gained 10 lbs. And i like the baked option too, because yeah…not always in the mood for big oil productions, either, although i agree about missing that crispiness. But still…the sauce.

    • Willow July 9, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

      Same here… embarrassing is an understatement. The sauce is so good, you can basically get away with putting it on lightly steamed cauliflower. Really, that’s where all the flavor is at. It’s almost like a barbecue sauce, in that it pretty much makes everything it touches better. :)

  4. heather July 8, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

    This is going on my list of must makes- this looks incredible, I would have never thought to use cauliflower, but hey why not we use it in buffalo cauli wings which is pretty fantastic :)

    • Willow July 9, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

      Ooh, I hope you like it! I keep seeing recipes for the cauliflower buffalo wings, but haven’t tried them yet. They sound so good!

  5. Tawnya Wickli January 19, 2015 at 6:42 pm #

    Thanks for posting! I made Spicy Peanut Sauce with Broccoli yesterday, and this today. Love this!

  6. Betty Jean Henderson May 7, 2015 at 4:40 pm #

    My husband & I love this sauce! Can this be frozen? Want to make big batch and freeze in pts. There are only 2 of us. And for company, can thaw more! Thanks for good, healthy recipe.

    • Willow Arlen May 7, 2015 at 9:47 pm #

      Thanks, Betty, so glad you both liked it! I don’t see why the sauce couldn’t be frozen, so I say go for it! (In fact, that’s a great idea, I’ll have to try that myself the next time I make some!)

  7. Suzanne Connolly May 7, 2015 at 6:00 pm #

    really want to subscribe as well as try this recipe

    • Willow Arlen May 7, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

      Thank you so much, Suzanne! I hope you like the recipe. There’s a box near the top of the right-hand sidebar where you can enter your email to subscribe. So glad to have you following along!

  8. Manda July 1, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

    Can I use whole wheat flour instead of garbanzo bean flour?

    • Willow Arlen July 1, 2015 at 2:51 pm #

      Hi Manda, great question! I haven’t tried it with whole wheat flour, but my guess is it would work fine. Let me know how it goes if you try it!

    • Tiffany September 25, 2015 at 1:56 am #

      I would say no, because in vegan cooking….garbonzo flour does a great job as an egg stand in…in addition to presenting as flour. WHEAT simply doesn’t have the same characteristics. If you use WHEAT, you will need to coat the cauliflower in an egg type mixture first…flax or chia gel…or perhaps cornstarch and almond milk.

      • Tiffany September 25, 2015 at 1:57 am #

        And then dredge it in the DRY WHEAT flour.

        • Willow Arlen September 25, 2015 at 2:34 pm #

          Thanks for those helpful tips, Tiffany! I knew I was drawn to using garbanzo bean flour for a reason, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it worked so well. Now I know!

  9. Emily August 11, 2015 at 7:52 pm #

    Hi! This sounds amazing! I am planning on making this for dinner tomorrow (Wednesday) evening for a group up to 7 people (will probably be less). I was wondering how many people this recipe serves. Thanks!

    • Willow Arlen August 11, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

      Hi Emily, that’s great, I hope you and your guests enjoy it!

      How many this feeds depends on how you plan on serving it. I find it works well as an appetizer or side, in which case it should serve maybe 4-5. If you want it to be a full meal, I’d say it only serves 2, or maybe 3 depending on the size of your cauliflower. I usually just make this for my husband and myself, and one batch feeds us nicely, but it is a light meal since there isn’t much protein. I’d suggest bulking it up with rice and sauteed veggies, or a couple of sides, just to be safe.

      (Also, I usually have some sauce left over from a single batch, so if you decide to double or triple the amount of cauliflower, I’d say you should only need an extra half batch or so of sauce. You can always make the sauce in advance to see how much you have, or just make the full amount and save any extra in the fridge — it’s great over stir fry or rice, and keeps well for at least a week.)

      Hope that helps!

  10. Liz September 2, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

    Thank you ! Will definitely be trying this.

  11. Tiffany September 25, 2015 at 1:50 am #

    Just made this for din din this evening. I actually strained my sauteed herbs for a smooth textured sauce. Fantastic. I WILL try the baked version next time, but the pillowy soft and crispy fried batter definitely adds to the dish. Very fun.

    • Willow Arlen September 25, 2015 at 2:30 pm #

      Thanks for this wonderful comment, Tiffany! So glad you liked it! I agree, the fried batter definitely adds something special. I miss the crunch when I do the baked version, but sometimes it’s nice to not heat up the oil and make the mess.

  12. Sarah @ Champagne Tastes January 25, 2016 at 7:04 pm #

    I just bought cauliflower! This looks amazing, and I have all the ingredients already!.. I’ll definitely try the baked version because I’m horrible at frying things.

  13. Judy October 22, 2016 at 4:45 pm #

    I know this is Oct of 2016 so I hope you are stilling replying to these comments. Just came across your recipe and it sounds so good. I have a question though. Recently being diagnosed with diabetes I am always on the look-out for low carb and low sugar things to make. Cauliflower is right at the top of my list so I would love to know if using a sugar free substitute for the honey would be all right? Don’t know if anyone else has asked you about this but sure would love to know if they have. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you.

    • Willow Arlen October 24, 2016 at 11:08 am #

      Hi Judy! Thanks for your comment. I’m not an expert on using alternative sweeteners, but you should be able to swap the honey for your preferred sweetener without any issues. Hope that helps!

  14. Mary October 22, 2016 at 6:14 pm #

    Wow, this sounds wonderful but, i have never seen garbonzo bean flour, we have an Earth Fare and Trader Joe’s but they are so far away,not even sure they carry it, as much as i want to make it looks like i am going to have to shop around first.
    The sauce sounds to die for, thank you for sharing, namasta !

    • Willow Arlen October 24, 2016 at 11:09 am #

      Thanks Mary! If your local stores don’t carry garbanzo bean flour, you can find it easily online. You could also swap any other gluten-free flour you like, I just found the garbanzo bean flour crisped up nicely and had a savoriness once fried. Hope that helps!

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