Nashville Hot Cauliflower Sandwiches

June 10, 2021
4 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom. Prop Stylist: Megan Hedgpeth. Food Stylist: Samantha Seneviratne.
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Nashville Hot Chicken—fried chicken doused in a heavily spiced oil post-fry—is a local staple in (you guessed it) Nashville, Tennessee. In this vegetarian-friendly riff on the sandwich, the chicken is switched out for crispy fried cauliflower. Cauliflower florets are double-dredged with seasoned flour and a hot-sauce-laced buttermilk mixture, then fried to deep-golden perfection. Finally, they’re brushed with a lip-tingling cayenne-infused oil and layered on an Arnold®, Brownberry®, or Oroweat® Sesame Seeded Sandwich Bun with cabbage slaw, pickles, and mayonnaise. The plush, pillowy bread is perfectly constructed to soak up some of that delicious spicy oil.

While cabbage slaw might not be traditional when it comes to Nashville Hot Chicken—or cauliflower, in this case—sandwiches, the cooling, herb-laced crunch tames the fiery cayenne pepper for a balanced bite. If you want to stay on the classic Nashville Hot Chicken path, skip the slaw and just enjoy the fried cauliflower with a generous slather of mayonnaise and some pickles.

Looking for a little more fire? I got you, heat-seeker. Just increase the cayenne powder by up to 1 tablespoon and decrease the paprika by the same amount. You just want to make sure that you have 4 tablespoons of the two spices in total. —Asha Loupy

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe is shared in partnership with Arnold®, Brownberry®, and Oroweat®. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • For the Nashville hot cauliflower
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cayenne powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup canola oil, plus more for frying
  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 12–16 ounces), leaves removed and cut into very large florets
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar-based hot sauce, like Crystal
  • For the slaw and sandwiches
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, plus more for spreading
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups green or red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 small carrot, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
  • 4 Arnold®, Brownberry®, or Oroweat® Sesame Seeded Sandwich Buns
  • 12–16 dill or bread and butter pickle chips
  1. In a small bowl, mix the cayenne, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and brown sugar. Take 1 tablespoon of the spice mixture and transfer it to a medium bowl. To the medium bowl, add the all-purpose flour, mix well, and set aside.
  2. Heat 1/3 cup canola oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Carefully pour over the remaining spice mixture and let sizzle for 1 minute before stirring. Stir well and set aside.
  3. Toss the cauliflower in the spiced flour, lightly coating each floret. In another medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and hot sauce. Shaking off most of the flour from the florets, transfer them to the buttermilk mixture, tossing them to coat. Dip one floret at a time back into the spiced flour and then place on a wire-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining florets and then let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. (This will allow the buttermilk to hydrate the flour for a crispy crust.)
  4. While the cauliflower is resting, make the slaw by whisking together the buttermilk, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the shredded cabbage, carrots, and dill, then toss to coat and refrigerate until ready to assemble.
  5. To fry the cauliflower, add a couple inches of canola oil to a large, high-rimmed skillet or Dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat to about 350°F. Fry the cauliflower in batches until golden-brown and crisp, about 4 to 5 minutes, flipping halfway through. Transfer the cauliflower back to the wire-lined baking sheet after frying.
  6. Stir the reserved spiced oil and brush it on one side of the fried cauliflower, flip and brush the other side as well.
  7. To assemble the sandwiches, mound some of the cauliflower florets on the bottom bun . Pile some slaw on top of the cauliflower, along with a few pickle chips. Slather mayonnaise on the top bun and place on the sandwich. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches and serve immediately.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Alex Jablonski
    Alex Jablonski
  • Katieq32

2 Reviews

Alex J. May 3, 2021
Definitely need to try this again, as there was an accident with the spice blend, that said, it wasn't bad. I do think flavors and processes could definitely be improved upon though. Next time I'll want to marinate the cauliflower, or maybe sub out for marinated mushroom instead, but also I possibly might skip the spiced oil step. Ours almost burned after just 30 secs at the recommended heat, whether that's because my husband mistimed it or our crappy pot got way hotter than it should've, I don't know. It was "edible" but the flavors were definitely ruined. We couldn't redo the spice blend either as we run out of certain spices. That whole mishap led me to think about how our favorite Nashville-style place does their seasoning and I'm pretty sure they do a dry sprinkling of their spice blends immediately after the chicken comes out of the fryer. Going to research their process, because I really want a satisfying vegetarian/vegan option for my hot chicken addiction. I also took the opportunity to make buns as well to go with this so I used King Arthur's Beautiful Burger Buns recipe to do so.
Katieq32 April 15, 2021
This was delicious! My boyfriend was a really big fan and said that if all vegetarian recipes tasted like this, he would be a vegetarian. The only change I would make next time would be to salt the cauliflower right after it comes out of the oil. I used a kale coleslaw from whole foods instead of the cabbage and carrots and it worked well. Would recommend!