Taiwanese Popcorn Cauliflower (Vegan)

Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken is hands down one of my favorite foods in the entire world — they hold a special place in my heart. Some of my most cherished memories with my friends involved getting popcorn chicken together.

There’s something about having a bag of warm bag of chicken in one hand, and a wooden prick in the other that just makes me feel so empowered, as if I was a Taiwanese mafia sauntering down the street.

Then I thought, could I make a vegan version of this almighty popcorn chicken that looks and tastes just as good? Cauliflower seemed like a viable alternative — I’ve had seen a lot of people deep-fry cauliflower to make dishes such as buffalo wings. After many trials with different batters, spices, and flours, I’ve finally settled on this recipe.

The cauliflower, after deep-frying, is so incredibly tender. And the batter, if fried correctly, is so incredibly crispy and crunchy. Here’s a cross section:

Not much more to explain here; this veggie-fied popcorn chicken is one of my proudest dishes, and I cannot wait to share with you all. Without further ado, let’s get into the recipe!

Taiwanese Popcorn Cauliflower (Vegan)

5 from 3 votes
Recipe by George L. Course: SnacksCuisine: TaiwaneseDifficulty: Medium
Servings

2

servings
Prep time

1

hour 
Cooking time

15

minutes

A vegan spin on the popular Taiwanese classic: Popcorn Cauliflower. Crispy and golden-brown on the outside, juicy and tender on the inside.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of a medium-large sized cauliflower

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground five-spice

  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1 teaspoon white pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 1 cup oat milk (or other non-dairy milk)

  • 1 tablespoon potato starch (or cornstarch)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • one bunch basil

  • vegetable oil, for frying

  • whole dried red chili peppers, for garnish

Directions

  • First, cut the cauliflower in half and cut out bite-sized florets. In a large bowl, mix together the garlic salt, five spice, cayenne pepper, white pepper, ground ginger, soy sauce, and oat milk.
  • Toss the cauliflower florets in the oat milk mixture. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap, and let chill in the refrigerator for an hour.
  • In a medium-sized pot, heat up some vegetable oil (oil level high enough to cover 2/3 of the cauliflower florets).
  • In a bowl, combine flour and potato starch (the ratio is 1 cup : 1 tablespoon if you need more) and mix well. The breading processes consists of a double coat, and is as follows: dip each cauliflower floret into the flour mixture, shake off excess, dip into the oat milk mixture again, shake off excess, and back into the flour mixture. Be sure to fully coat the cauliflower!
  • Before you start frying, prepare a tray lined with kitchen towel.
  • Check if the oil is hot enough (*see notes for a tip). Once the oil is hot enough, fry the cauliflower until they are golden-brown, and continue stirring to make sure they don’t stick together. BE SURE not to over-crowd the pot!!! I made this mistake the first time and a lot of the batter came loose. Fry the cauliflower in several batches if you have to. Remember to take out the little batter crumbles in the oil between each batch — if you don’t do so the cauliflower will burn more easily.
  • Once the cauliflower are fried to a golden brown, remove them from the oil and onto the kitchen towel to drain. Immediately sprinkle them with a dash of salt.
  • Now, take your basil leaves (make sure the oil is not too hot and that the basil leaves are DRY) and prepare a lid big enough to cover the whole pot. Drop the basil leaves, and immediately cover the pot with the lid — the leaves have some water content which will cause splashing when hit with hot oil. Count for 5 seconds and you can remove the lid, then take out the basil leaves. Drain together on the kitchen towel with the fried cauliflower.

Notes

  • The ” Wooden Chopstick Method” for checking whether oil is hot enough: simply take your wooden chopstick and stick it vertically into the oil. If the chopstick starts bubbling immediately, the oil is ready for frying.

Did you make this recipe? I’d love to see your recreations!

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Jennifer
Jennifer
5 months ago

Used an airfryer instead, so I ended with a wet batter layer than the flour mixture. It turned out great – so delicious 🙂

Nicole
Nicole
3 months ago

This was delicious, I love how crispy it stayed even after it cooled! I would put a bit less 5 spice next time, the flavor was a bit overpowering and it wouldn’t dissolve properly in the mixture. Will definitely make this again!