This baked or air fried Korean Chili Cauliflower is tender, spicy, and so flavorful. The cauliflower florets are air-fried or baked until crispy, then coated in sticky Gochujang sauce which gives this recipe its unique, mouthwatering flavor! Vegan and vegetarian friendly.
Originally Published: Feburary 16, 2021 | Updated: September 1, 2023
Why You’ll Love this Gochujang Cauliflower
One of my very first recipes on this website was a Cheesecake Factory copycat recipe of their Korean Fried Cauliflower. Since it was so irresistible, I thought I’d make an air fryer version!
This vegan Air-Fried Korean Cauliflower is just as spicy, sweet and to die for as the fried version. In my opinion, it’s less oily, easier to make and just as comforting as the fried version.
Here are a few more reasons we love this recipe and you will too!
- Quick & Easy: This vegan Korean cauliflower is super fast and easy to make. I love that I don’t need to turn on my oven for this recipe since it uses my countertop air fryer. While some of the beginning steps to this recipe are similar to the fried version, you could argue that this air-fried version is easier.
- Amazing Flavor, Sweet yet Spicy Sauce: Thanks to gochujang, this dish isn’t your ordinary cauliflower recipe. It’s has the perfect blend of spiciness and sweetness.
- Passive Cooking Time: Since there’s no frying involved, most of the cook-time is passive. All you need to do is throw the basket into the air fryer, and presto! 20 minutes later, your cauliflower is ready to eat.
- Great for Weeknight Dinners: Served over rice, these air fryer cauliflower wings become a filling weeknight dinner.
You’ll only need a few main ingredients to make this air fryer Korean cauliflower. This recipe has 3 main components: the tempura batter, the cauliflower, and the sauce.
- Cauliflower Florets: The cornerstone of this dish, providing a hearty and satisfying bite.
- Gochujang Paste or Sauce: It brings heat and a unique depth of flavor.
- Soy Sauce & Maple Syrup: They create a nuanced sauce that’s the perfect blend of sweet and savory.
- Sesame Seeds and Green Onions: For garnish, adding crunch and a burst of fresh flavor.
- Rice Vinegar & Garlic Cloves: These add acidity and a punch of flavor to the sauce.
- Cornstarch: To thicken the sauce and give the cauliflower its crispy coating.
If you’re missing an ingredient, here are some alternatives:
- Gochujang Paste: If you don’t have this, you can mix Sriracha and a bit of miso paste, however the flavor won’t be the same. Gochujang has a very unique flavor.
- Soy Sauce: Tamari or coconut aminos work as a gluten-free option.
- Maple Syrup: Agave nectar or brown sugar can also do the trick.
- Cornstarch: You can substitute potato starch for the cornstarch to help thicken the sauce.
- Mirin: If you don’t have any mirin you can use Sake or Rice Vinegar.
The Korean Chili Sauce
These sticky cauliflower florets have an absolutely mouthwatering exterior thanks to the sauce! This sauce’s main ingredient is gochujang, or Korean Chili Paste. I use a Korean gochujang sauce by the brand Chung Jung One which is labeled as vegan.
What is Gochujang?
Gochujang is a thick, sticky paste made from red chili peppers, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, and salt. But what sets gochujang apart from other hot sauces or chili pastes is its unique blend of spicy, sweet, and umami flavors. This makes it a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes.
Why it’s a Must-Have in Your Pantry
- Complex Flavor: One spoonful packs a punch but also brings layers of flavor to your food, not just heat.
- Versatility: From marinades to dipping sauces, gochujang can elevate simple rice dishes, take your soups to the next level, or be the secret ingredient in your stir-fries.
- Long Shelf Life: Thanks to its fermented nature, it lasts a long time in the fridge. So, you can experiment with it in various recipes without worrying about it going bad quickly.
Where to Buy It
You can find Gochujang in the international aisle of the grocery store, at specialty Asian markets, or even online. There are also different varieties, so you might find ones that are more spicy or more sweet, depending on your preference. If you’ve never tried Gochujang, I highly highly recommend doing so.
I also have a super simple 5 ingredient Korean Chili Sauce, if you want a flavorful sauce that uses fewer ingredients.
- Air Fryer or Oven
- Parchment Paper
- High-Speed Blender or Food Processor: for the sauce
Step by Step Instructions
STEP 1: Preheat your air fryer to 400°F or your oven to 425°F. To prevent sticking, line the basket with air fryer-safe parchment paper. Line the baking tray with a wire rack and parchment paper on top.
STEP 2: Clean and chop the cauliflower into florets. Make sure they are all around the same size so they cook evenly.
STEP 3: In a large bowl, mix together the gluten-free flour blend, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Stir in the cold seltzer water until just combined. Your batter should be the consistency of a thick pancake batter.
STEP 4: Coat each cauliflower floret evenly with the batter. Arrange the battered florets in your air fryer basket, making sure they are not overcrowded. You may need to do multiple batches depending on the size of your air fryer basket.
STEP 5: Spray the battered cauliflower pieces lightly with cooking spray. Air fry for 17 minutes, flipping the florets halfway through the cooking time to ensure even cooking. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown, flipping halfway.
STEP 6: While the cauliflower is air frying or baking, prepare the sauce. Combine all chili sauce ingredients, except for the cornstarch, in a blender and blend until smooth.
STEP 7: Transfer the blended sauce to a small saucepan and heat on medium-low. To make a cornstarch slurry, combine cornstarch with about 1/4 cup of the sauce in a separate bowl. Add the slurry back into the saucepan and stir until the sauce thickens.
STEP 8: Heat a separate wok or large pan with sesame or vegetable oil. Add the air-fried cauliflower and the thickened Korean Chili Sauce. Stir fry for about 3 minutes until the cauliflower is well coated and the sauce has caramelized a bit.
Serving the Air Fryer Korean Chili cauliflower
Once done air frying, in a heated wok, I tossed these batter-coated florets with the sauce and some sesame oil. This extra step helps the sugars from the sauce caramelize and adds another level of tenderness.
This dish works as both an appetizer or a main course. If you’re making it a main dish, steamed jasmine rice would be a great addition. You could even make this coconut lime rice.
If serving as an appetizer, these Korean cauliflower wings would be great with vegan ranch or other dipping sauces! For garnishes, consider sliced avocados, a dash of sesame seeds, or even a sprinkle of fresh cilantro.
For a more decadent take on this recipe, try out the fried version!
You can store any leftover cauliflower in an airtight container for up to 3 days. For the sauce, keep it in a separate airtight container and it should last for up to a week.
Tips for Air Frying Cauliflower
Here are a few important tips for air frying these cauliflower wings:
- Make sure to preheat your air fryer.
- Line your air fryer basket with parchment paper specifically designed for air fryers. The parchment paper I use has holes in it which allows the air to circulate around all the sides of the cauliflower.
- I also recommend spraying cooking oil on both sides of the cauliflower to make sure every part of it is coated in at least a tiny bit of oil.
- Flip the cauliflower halfway through the cooking time.
Other Helpful Tips for the BEST Gochujang Cauliflower
- If the tempura is too thin: add more flour until it reaches a thick pancake batter consistency.
- If the tempura batter is too thick: add a splash of water at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.
- If the sauce feels too thick after cooling: reheat it on the stove with a splash of water to bring it back to the desired consistency.
- If the sauce isn’t thickening enough: add more cornstarch slurry to the mixture.
- Don’t overcrowd the air fryer basket or baking sheet: doing so will sauce the cauliflower to steam instead of getting crispy and golden brown.
Looking for more easy dinners?
- Vegan Sesame Udon Noodles
- Sticky Garlic Tofu
- Hoisin Tofu Bao
- Sesame Tofu
- Crispy Vegan Egg Rolls (+Air Fryer Option!)
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