This vegan gochujang cauliflower recipe is our new favorite guilty pleasure. As two people with IBS cauliflower is a glutton for punishment but this gochujang cauliflower makes it all worth it. Trust us. The cauliflower is deep fried, incredibly crispy, and delicious on its own but pair it with the sticky, sweet, tangy Korean gochujang glaze and it is mindblowing.
We’ve served these vegan cauliflower wings as starters, mains, and snacks and have received compliments like, “This is godly.” If that doesn’t convince you to make this easy recipe, then we don’t know what will.
Before we get into the recipe, let’s go over a few topics:
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If you love buffalo cauliflower wings but have grown tired of making them, why not try and make this asian style cauliflower instead? Without further adieu, let’s talk about the star show: gochujang.
What Is Gochujang?
What is Gochujang? Gochujang is a spicy fermented paste that originates from Korea. Is gochujang vegan? Yes, it is. Gochujang is a fermented spicy paste made from gochugaru (red Korean pepper flakes), glutinous rice, meju powder (dried fermented soya beans), yeotgireum (sweet rice malt powder), and salt.
It is a key ingredient in this glaze and gives it a unique flavor that you wouldn’t get from traditional chili paste. Gochujang is taking the culinary world by storm and appearing in plenty of Asian-inspired recipes. Dare we say it’s even reaching mainstream status? It can be found online or at any pan-Asian grocery store.
But if you can’t get your hands on this fermented chili paste to make this and other gochujang recipes vegan, sit tight. We’re going to include a list of substitutes for gochujang and an easy way to make it at home if you’re in a bind.
What Is A Good Gochujang Substitute?
A substitute will give a different flavor profile to this glaze but it will still be delicious. If you’re looking for a gochujang replacement to make these vegan Korean cauliflower gochujang wings, try these options:
- Sriracha and red miso
- Chili paste and red miso
- Chili flakes, rice vinegar and red miso
All of the options require a chili base in place of the gochujang and include miso to add some funk. The rule of thumb is to use a 2:1 ratio for chili to miso. The miso will mimic the ‘funk’ that comes from fermented foods and the chili will provide some heat.
Simply mix 2 tablespoons of your chili substitute with 1 tablespoon of miso. Try and get red miso if you can. White miso is sweeter and not as smokey. Lucky for me, the Albert Heijn or ‘ah’, a local supermarket chain in The Netherlands now sells gochujang. Yay, gochujang ah!
If you’re looking to challenge yourself and make a quick ‘cheat’ gochujang at home, then keep on reading.
Quick Cheats Gochujang At Home
If for some reason you don’t have gochujang at home but have gochugaru (red Korean pepper flakes), rice vinegar, and miso in your fridge, then why not try your hand at making this quick 5-minute gochujang at home?
Traditionally, you would need 6 months to allow the gochujang to ferment and a hangari or a Hangul: 항아리 (a Korean clay pot used for fermentation) to make the real thing. Not to mention ingredients like meju powder (dried fermented soya beans), yeotgireum (sweet rice malt powder), and a whole lot of other ingredients that are hard to find. So, gochujang hangul was not an option for us.
This simplified recipe utilizes ingredients that are more accessible and doesn’t require 6 months of fermentation. It’s not going to be an exact replica of traditional gochujang but it definitely does the job better than regular chili paste or sriracha.
- 2 tbsp Gochugaru
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp red miso
- 1/2 tsp rice vinegar
Grab a small saucepan and add all of your ingredients to it. Turn the heat to medium-low heat and stir everything. You can turn the heat off when the mixture begins to bubble and thickens up. Set your homemade gochujang aside and allow it to cool completely before storing it in an airtight container or glass jar.
Now that we’ve covered what is gochujang, where to get it, and how to make a quick version at home, let’s get into the main event! How to make these delicious, crispy, to-die-for fried cauliflower wings and gochujang glaze.
How To Make Crispy Korean Gochujang Cauliflower
To make these korean cauliflower wings, we must first begin with the frying of the cauliflower nuggets. In order to achieve a crispy batter, we use two things: cornstarch (also known as corn flour or maizena here in the Netherlands) and the pièce de résistance: panko!
If you’re wondering what panko is, this post explains what it is and we’ve even added panko substitutes in it too! Looking for a low fodmap and gluten-free panko substitute? Have a look at this post:
To get a super crispy exterior for this asian cauliflower recipe this is how you make the batter.
There is nothing quite as satisfying as biting into crispy cauliflower wings and having the crunch be so loud, it’s basically deafening. To do this, we use a blend of regular all-purpose flour mixed with some corn starch. If you are gluten intolerant, consider using rice flour instead. Just be sure to adjust the amount of water used.
In addition to a blend of flours, we also add seasoning. Our absolute favorite seasoning is Badia Complete Seasoning.
It is a blend of herbs and spices that is perfect for everything. If you can get your hands on this, we really recommend it. If not, add seasoning of your choice into the dry mix to add more flavor to the batter.
Add water to the dry mix and voila, you have your batter sorted. This recipe makes enough batter for one whole head of cauliflower. Dip your cauliflower into the wet mix and shake each floret a little to remove excess batter.
And then, coat each battered cauliflower in panko.
After that, it’s really just a matter of baking or frying.
To Bake or Fry?
Ah, the age-old health question. To bake or fry? These are deep fried cauliflower wings simply because we had the oil on hand and it was just the mood we were in. However, out of curiosity, we did turn the oven on and added 3 battered cauliflower wings into the oven. Look at the picture below and see if you can spot 3 of the baked wings.
If you don’t want to deep fry your cauliflower, preheat your oven to 180c or 356f and simply follow the instructions to batter and coat each cauliflower floret in panko. After that, place them on a baking tray lined with parchment or baking paper and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Halfway through the baking process, make sure to spray or brush oil on the cauliflower to crispen up the batter and you’ll have Korean baked cauliflower.
For fried cauliflower wings, grab a large pot or wok and fill it with enough oil. We used about 800ml of sunflower oil. Before frying the cauliflower, check if the oil is hot enough. If it isn’t then the batter ends up absorbing the oil leaving you with heavy and oily cauliflower. To check if the oil is hot enough, either add batter to the oil or place a wooden spoon (chopstick or skewer) in the oil. If it sizzles rapidly then you can go ahead and start frying.
Fry the cauliflower for 5-6 minutes or until golden brown.
All About The Sauce
The sticky element to these sticky cauliflower wings come from the Korean gochujang glaze which is made from freshly pounded garlic and ginger, gochujang, tomato ketchup, vinegar, sugar, sweet soy (or kicap/ketjap manis), and salt.
Now, tomato ketchup might seem like an odd addition but hear us out -it lends a sweet note to this sauce and the vinegar echoes the tang from the zingy tomato condiment. To make this sauce for our korean cauliflower recipe dish, grab a small saucepan, and on medium heat add some oil.
To the pan, add your pounded ginger and garlic; saute this for a minute or until fragrant.
Add the gochujang along with the tomato ketchup and stir the mixture. Don’t worry if it separates, that is completely normal.
Cook this for another minute before adding the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt to taste. There you have it, a delicious sauce that is umami, sweet, savory, lip-smacking, and finger-licking good to serve with your cauliflower bites.
Speaking of serving, let’s consider some serving options.
Serving Options To Consider
There are two ways you can serve these wings. You can serve the sauce in a bowl and place the fried cauliflower on a plate so guests can dip as they please.
Or you can coat each nugget in the sauce. Simply grab a bowl, add a few tablespoons of the sauce and place the cauliflower in the bowl. Toss everything together with a spoon until each nugget is coated in the sauce.
Here’s something to consider when serving the cauliflower nuggets this way: only cover the fried cauliflower in sauce 5 minutes or just before serving. If you toss the nuggets in the sauce in advance, you may run the risk of the sauce seeping into the batter and turning the once crispy exterior soggy. It’s not a big deal but we thought we’d mention it in case. It’s always good to know in advance, right?
Whew, that was one heck of a comprehensive gochujang cauliflower post. We highly recommend that you give this recipe a shot and let us know what you think. We don’t want to toot our own horns but they really are heavenly.
And if you’re worried about having leftover gochujang in your fridge and don’t know what else to make with it, why not try making one of our other vegan gochujang recipes:
Leftover panko? Have a look at these dishes:
Vegan Korean Gochujang Cauliflower Wings
This vegan gochujang cauliflower features crispy cauliflower smothered in a delicious, sweet and sticky, umami Korean gochujang glaze.
- 1 cauliflower (ours weighed 850 grams)
- 150g panko for breading
- 100g flour
- 25g corn starch (corn flour or maizena)
- 200 ml water
- 1 tbsp seasoning of your choice (we used complete seasoning; picture in post)
- Enough neutral-flavored oil to deep fry (we needed around 800ml of sunflower oil) *see notes for baked version (1)
- 25g ginger (pounded or grated)
- 2 cloves garlic (pounded or grated)
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tbsp gochujang (we like it spicier and added 2 tbsp)
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
- 2 tbsp sweet soy (kicap/ketjap manis)
- 70ml water
- salt to taste
Prepare the cauliflower:
Break or cut your cauliflower florets into bite-sized pieces and set them aside.
Pound or grate your garlic and ginger until it is a smooth paste.
Place a saucepan on medium-low heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add in the garlic and ginger paste and saute for a minute.
Add 1 tablespoon of gochujang and cook for another minute before adding the tomato ketchup. The mixture will separate a bit but don't worry about that. It's normal.
To the pan, add the sugar, vinegar, sweet soy (kicap/ketjap manis), and 70ml of water. Stir everything until combined and adjust seasoning to your liking. Turn the heat off and set the sauce to the side until ready to serve.
Add flour, corn starch, and seasoning of your choice into a large bowl.
Add 200ml of water into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix until fully combined.
Place the panko in a separate bowl or plate.
Fry the cauliflower:
In a deep pan or wok, heat your oil on medium-high heat. Make sure the oil is hot enough before frying. *see notes (2)
Add a few cauliflower pieces at a time into the batter. Make sure each cauliflower is covered in the batter. Shake the cauliflower to remove excess liquid.
Place the battered cauliflower into the panko and ensure it is fully coated.
Gently place the battered panko-covered cauliflower into the oil and fry until golden brown. This took us about 5-6 minutes. When the cauliflower is golden, remove it from the oil, and allow it cool on kitchen paper to get rid of excess oil.
Repeat this step until all of the cauliflower is fried. We fried about 12 cauliflower nuggets at a time to speed things up.
Option 1: Add a few tablespoons of the gochujang sauce into a bowl. Add in a handful of fried cauliflower and toss until they are coated in the sauce. *see notes (3)
Option 2: Plate the cauliflower and serve the sauce in a separate bowl. Allow your guests to dip the cauliflower nuggets as they please.
- 1) We tested this as a baked cauliflower and achieved similar results! Simply follow the instructions as directed in the recipe to batter and coat your cauliflower and then place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake it for 25-30 minutes at 180c or 356f. Halfway through the cooking time, spray or brush oil on your cauliflower nuggets to help them crisp up.
- 2) To test if your oil is hot enough, you can add some of the batter to the oil. If it sizzles immediately then go ahead and start frying. You can also place a chopstick (wooden skewer or the back of a wooden spoon) into the oil. If bubbles form around the wood, then the oil is hot enough.
- 3) If you choose to serve the cauliflower this way, make sure to only toss the cauliflower in the sauce before serving. Otherwise, it will get a little soggy.