Air Fryer

Kung Pao Cauliflower

January 22, 2021
4 Ratings
Photo by WoonHeng Chia
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 2
Author Notes

This Kung Pao Cauliflower has a great balance of sweet, salty, spicy with a touch of tang.

Kung Pao is a popular dish from Sichuan which involves tempering the Sichuan peppercorns before adding the rest of the spices. Over the years, there are many different adaptations of this dish. This Kung Pao Cauliflower has the heat from the dried chili without the numbing spice -- which is similar to the taste I grew up with.

The recipe is easily customizable to your personal preference. For example, you can replace cauliflower with broccoli or any types of florets. Today, I'm using the cauliflower that I've mixed with a simple batter and fry them until golden brown. Feel free to bake or air-fry the cauliflower and check the notes for substitutes. Enjoy! —WoonHeng Chia

Test Kitchen Notes

- The batter should be thick enough to coat the florets with a layer of coating. If the batter is too runny, add a little more flour.
- Dark soy sauce has two versions, the thick one is usually sweeter while the thin one is a little saltier. Adjust the taste accordingly.
- Feel free to replace the Chinese black vinegar with rice vinegar
- Sauté the dried chiles over low heat as they can burn very quickly. —The Editors

What You'll Need
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Kung Pao Cauliflower
  • The sauce
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing cooking wine or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons thin dark soy sauce (see notes)
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • Cauliflower and assembly
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets (about 4 to 5 cups)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose or gluten-free flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • Neutral oil, for frying, plus more for cooking
  • 4 dried chiles, finely chopped, seeds removed
  • 4 slices ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup toasted cashews or other nuts
  1. The sauce: In a medium bowl, whisk the water and cornstarch until smooth. Add the soy sauce, cooking wine, dark soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar and whisk to combine.
  2. Cauliflower and assembly: Rinse the cauliflower florets under cold water. Drain in a colander.
  3. In a large shallow bowl, whisk the flour, water, salt, and white pepper until well combined.
  4. Dredge the cauliflower in the batter; shake off any excess. Into a wok or Dutch oven, pour the oil until it comes about 2 inches up the sides; heat over medium-high heat until shimmering (or use an air fryer instead). Fry the cauliflower, turning occasionally, until golden brown.
  5. Transfer the fried florets to paper towels to absorb the excess oil (if you're using the fry method).
  6. Wipe out the pot and heat about 1 tablespoon of oil over low heat. Cook the chiles and ginger, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes, until fragrant, Add the garlic and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
  7. Add the bell pepper and onion and continue to cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes more.
  8. Whisk the sauce again (the cornstarch may have set at the bottom of the bowl) and pour into the bell pepper mixture. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes, until the sauce is slightly reduced and thickened.
  9. Add the cauliflower and quickly toss to coat the florets with the sauce. Taste and season accordingly. Fold in the cashews and give it a quick toss. Serve warm and enjoy!

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1 Review

Claireberk February 23, 2022
It was delicious! Cut the florets into medium sized pieces and double the batter. I ended up needing to make a lot more for the amount of cauliflower.