I know, I know. There are a lot of cauliflower buffalo wing recipes floating around the internet. Believe me, I’m with you. Another one? Really? Hear me out! The internet is chock full of these recipes: once batter dipped wings, twice batter dipped wings, breaded and baked wings, pan-fried wings, you name it. All different techniques developed in the name of that perfectly crispy wing. But I am here to tell you, as the wife of an upstate New York native, that those people are wrong. They’re all wrong. After much trial and error, I bring to you the definitive cauliflower buffalo wing recipe.
I lived in Rochester, New York for four years, during my pre-vegan days. During that time, I sampled many a wing. The spicier, the better (though there was an incident with some ghost pepper wings that we need never speak of again!) When I became a vegan, it became my mission to recreate the experience and sensations that come with a good plate of wings. The kind you can enjoy with a beer and good company. The kind served with ranch dip that offers just enough tang to offset the fire that is inevitably consuming your taste buds (in the best way possible.)
I tried dozens of recipes, but always seemed to find a problem.
Where Other Cauliflower Wing Recipes Fall Short
Like I said, there are so many buffalo cauliflower wing recipes out there. So what is the problem? Why develop yet another one?
- So many recipes require a thick batter dip. Not a bad thought, but more often than not the batter slides right off the cauliflower florets post baking, leaving you with a vaguely soft cauliflower with no seasoning on it.
- Many recipes do not have enough breading, leaving us with a simple, roasted cauliflower floret that is tasty, but 10/10 is not a wing.
What we are looking for is a happy medium: we want cauliflower floret that is fork tender but not mushy, but with a crispy exterior that actually adheres to our wing. Though it may seem counter intuitive, a thick batter is not going to give us what we are after.
You want to lightly coat your cauliflower in a dry dredge, followed by the breadcrumbs. Too many breadcrumbs, and your seasoning won’t stick. Not enough, and what are you even doing with your life?
The key here is a dry dredge. My recipe is loosely (and lovingly) inspired by Isa Chandra, the vegan chef who first showed me that a batter isn’t necessary to produce perfectly crispy wings.
How To Make Buffalo Cauliflower Wings
Like I said: dry dredge. Whisk all of your dry ingredients together in a shallow bowl:
- All-purpose flour
- Smoked Paprika
- Cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt
Cut your medium-sized head of cauliflower into florets. They can be whatever size you prefer, but cut them all to be of similar size to ensure even baking.
LIGHTLY (and I do mean lightly) toss your cauliflower florets in canola oil. If you do not trust yourself to use a light and measured hand here, you can use a canola oil spray and then massage the oil into the cauliflower with your hands.
Once coated, toss your cauliflower in the dry ingredients.
Once dredged, it’s time for breadcrumbs. The aim is to lightly press the breadcrumbs into the cracks and crevices of each wing, as opposed to completely coating the exterior. Too many breadcrumbs will leave you feeling bitter, jaded, and turn you off from these wings forever. Don’t be that guy.
Give the wings a small drizzle of nondairy milk, just enough to act as a slight adhesive, and then press the breadcrumbs into your wings. Bake the wings for 20 minutes at 425 degrees.
Round one of baking is complete! While you wait, you can prepare the buffalo coating, which is only two ingredients:
- Buffalo sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot)
- Coconut oil (you could use vegan butter, but you don’t have to)
Melt these together in the microwave and then give the mixture a whisk with a fork until thoroughly combined.
Remove the wings from the oven, but leave the oven on. After coating the wings in your buffalo sauce mixture, they will go back in the oven for an additional 15 minutes. When done, they’ll look a little something like this:
But Wait! During that final 15 minute bake, don’t forget to prepare your ranch. This is an easy one! Whisk the following ingredients together:
- Vegan mayonnaise
- Unsweetened, nondairy milk
- Lemon juice
- Dried parsley
- Dried dill
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
The wings are great on their own, but this ranch dip really takes them to the next level. Serve at your next barbecue (when we are allowed to have people in our homes again), football game (…is that the one with touchdowns?), or just because you have a hankering for something spicy.
Crispy Cauliflower Buffalo Wings
- Large baking sheet
- Parchment paper
- large mixing bowl
- 2 small, shallow bowls
- 1 medium head Cauliflower chopped into wing-sized florets.
For The Cauliflower Coating
- ¼ cup All-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon Cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon Smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon Cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 2-3 tablespoons Canola oil
- 3 tablespoons Nondairy milk
- ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
For The Buffalo Sauce Coating
- ½ cup Buffalo sauce (I prefer Frank's Red Hot, but any brand will do)
- 1 ½ tablespoons Coconut oil OR vegan butter
For The Ranch Dip
- ½ cup Vegan mayonnaise
- ¼ cup Nondairy milk unsweetened
- 1 teaspoon Lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dried parsley
- ¼ teaspoon Dried dill
- ¼ teaspoon Onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon Garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- pinch black pepper to taste
Preparing The Wings
- Preheat oven to 425°.
- Mix the dry ingredients (flour, cornstarch, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and kosher salt) into a shallow bowl and whisk together with a fork.
- Place chopped cauliflower into a large mixing bowl and drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons of canola oil. Mix gently with your hands until the cauliflower is evenly coated in oil.
- Pour the mixed dry ingredients over the cauliflower and toss together with your hands, ensuring that the cauliflower is coated evenly.
- Drizzle the nondairy milk over the wings and quickly add the breadcrumbs. Continue to gently mix with your hands until the breadcrumbs have coated the wings.Pro Tip: Here is the key! While mixing in the breadcrumbs, press them firmly into the nooks and crannies of each piece of cauliflower. This helps to ensure that the breadcrumbs will adhere and not peel off each piece after baking.
- Evenly space the cauliflower on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Do not turn off the oven after this 20 minutes.
Preparing The Buffalo Sauce
- While the cauliflower is baking, microwave the buffalo sauce and coconut oil together until the coconut oil is completely melted. I typically will start at 40 seconds, then continue to microwave in ten second increments until melted.
- Once the coconut oil is melted, whisk the two ingredients with a fork until full incorporated.
Assembling The Wings
- After twenty minutes, remove the cauliflower wings from the oven.
- Using a fork or tongs, dip each wing into the buffalo sauce mixture, make sure it is thoroughly coated, and put back on the same parchment lined baking sheet.
- Bake the wings for an additional 15 minutes.
Preparing The Ranch Dip
- While the wings are baking for the final 15 minutes, you can prepare the ranch. Whisk all the ranch ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Full disclosure: I could eat these wings as a meal entirely on their own. What do you like to pair your wings with? Are you like me and prefer to shove a whole plate of them in your face? Or are you are tasteful, having them as a side with a burger or fries? Let me know in the comments below!