This Sticky Orange Cauliflower recipe tastes like takeout, with a crispy baked coating and flavor packed Asian-style sauce (ready in 30 minutes).
I’d forgotten just how terrible American Chinese food is. Like…wonderfully terrible. Because we love it despite it being terrible.
I was poking around my grandpa’s fridge over the holidays and found some leftover sweet and sour chicken takeout, with the sauce packaged separately. Let’s just say the sauce could have been mistaken for strawberry jello.
Like, how is this something we’re still eating, guys?! Fortunately ever since I discovered how to make General Tso’s sauce (and subsequently sticky garlic sauce), I’ve been satisfying that hankering for wonderful terrible American Chinese food (with a whole lot less terrible thrown in).
Ingredients For Sticky Orange Cauliflower
The ingredients for this super tasty orange cauliflower recipe are all classic Asian ingredients. Think soy sauce, citrus, ginger, sesame, etc, with some additional ingredients to ensure that cauliflower really crunches!
- Cauliflower: Obviously we need cauliflower for this crispy cauliflower dish! Cauliflower is a great option for making cauliflower orange “chicken” because it holds its’ texture when baked or fried and can be breaded like chicken.
- Flour: Flour is what will bake up into the crispy breading.
- Eggs: Eggs are what stabilize the breading when baked.
- Panko Breadcrumbs: By breading this baked orange cauliflower with panko breadcrumbs and flour, the breading ends up very crunchy and delicious with just baking (no frying needed!).
Panko breadcrumbs are a style of Japanese breadcrumbs that are ultra light and crispy, giving a more “fried” feeling than traditional breadcrumbs!
- Sesame Oil: Sesame oil is the thing that goes in most Asian-inspired dishes but you may not even know it’s there until you try it without it. So, be sure to use the oil! Toasted or non-toasted is fine.
- Garlic: Garlic is my love language. The Grinch made me think having a soul full of garlic was a bad thing, turns out – it’s probably what made his heart grow 3 times its size.
- Ginger: Ginger is a wonderful, zingy flavor that compliments the orange beautifully! I prefer to use freshly grated ginger, but minced ginger will work too.
- Orange Juice and Zest: Grab that fresh, winter citrus to use the juice and zest for this recipe! The juice adds flavor and the zest adds pow-pow flavor!
- Rice Vinegar: Rice vinegar is a unique type of vinegar that results in a slightly sweet and tart flavor. It is pretty mild so it does not overpower any of the other flavors. White vinegar could be used in place of rice vinegar.
- Honey: That sticky texture that orange chicken is known for occurs because the sweetener is reduced and when doing this with honey it is even stickier and more delicious.
- Soy Sauce: Of course, we need soy sauce for umami!
- Cornstarch: A small amount of cornstarch is needed to thicken this sauce. Arrowroot starch could also be used.
Cornstarch has to be added to room temperature or cold liquids because when added to hot liquids, it will seize. This is called making a slurry. Cornstarch works by expanding and absorbing the liquid it’s mixed in to thicken it. When added to hot liquid, it will not expand.
How to Make sticky Orange Cauliflower
Making this cauliflower is so simple and quick, you might not ever order takeout again! Just kidding, you probably will when you really just need that wonderfully terrible sweet and sour.
Step 1: Prep
Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Arrange your workspace, placing flour, egg, and panko in separate bowls. Mix salt and pepper into panko.
Step 2: Shake & Bake
Cut cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Working in batches, coat the florets in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Set on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crispy.
Step 3: Sauce
Set a small saucepan over medium heat and add the sesame oil, garlic, and ginger. Cook for 2 minutes, until fragrant, then add remaining “Sauce” ingredients except for the cornstarch mixture. Whisk to combine and bring to a simmer. While whisking, slowly pour in the cornstarch mixture. It should thicken quite quickly; if not, continue simmering until thick.
Step 4: Assemble
Drizzle sauce over the baked cauliflower and gently toss to evenly coat. Serve cauliflower over warm rice.
Storage: While this is best enjoyed fresh (like takeout), it will keep for up to 4 days in the fridge. When ready to enjoy, reheat them in the oven or toaster oven to ensure they are still crispy.
Gluten-Free? Try swapping 1:1 gluten-free flour and gluten-free panko breadcrumbs for the flour and breadcrumbs.
Why is my cauliflower soggy?
Soggy baked cauliflower happens when there is not enough room between the pieces of cauliflower for air to circulate. Ensure enough space for the hot air to get in between the florets of cauliflower to ensure they are crispy all around.
Why is my sauce not thickening?
If your sauce isn’t thickening, it could be because the cornstarch was not added at the right time or the sauce hasn’t been given enough time to simmer. When using cornstarch, it is super important to add it to cold or room temperature liquid so it has a chance to absorb. If you did this, then just let the sauce keep simmering until it reduces down and thickens.
Can these be made into vegan orange cauliflower?
Yes! By using an egg substitute like Just Egg, this will be a vegan dish. Thankfully, with the cauliflower, this dish lends itself well to being a vegan orange “chicken” cauliflower dish with just the simple egg swap.
Orange Cauliflower Pairings
Any of these recipes are delicious alongside this sticky orange cauliflower!
- Thai Cucumber Salad is one of my favorites to serve for dinner because it is fresh, light, and zingy with bright herbs and chili flakes!
- Kimchi Fried Rice can be served underneath the sticky cauliflower or on the side.
- Loaded Kimchi Fries are amazing! They are everything I love about fries with so – much – flavor that goes awesome with sticky orange cauliflower!
- ½ to 1 head cauliflower
- ½ cup flour 60 g
- 2 large eggs whisked
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs 50 g
- ¼ tsp each salt and pepper
Sticky Orange Sauce
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil 15 mL
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
- ⅔ cup orange juice 160 mL
- ¼ cup rice vinegar 60 mL
- ¼ cup honey 60 mL
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce 30 mL
- 2 Tbsp orange zest
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tbsp cold water can sub arrowroot starch
- Prep: Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Arrange workspace, placing flour, egg, and panko in separate bowls. Mix salt and pepper into panko.
- Shake & Bake: Cut cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Working in batches, coat the florets in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Set on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crispy.
- Sauce: Set a small saucepan over medium heat and add the sesame oil, garlic, and ginger. Cook for 2 minutes, until fragrant, then add remaining “Sauce” ingredients except the cornstarch mixture. Whisk to combine and bring to a simmer. While whisking, slowly pour in the cornstarch mixture. It should thicken quite quickly; if not, continue simmering until thick.
- Assemble: Drizzle sauce over the baked cauliflower and gently toss to evenly coat. Serve cauliflower over warm rice.
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