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Kung Pao Cauliflower over rice
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5 from 10 votes

Kung Pao Cauliflower

Cauliflower turns golden brown and tender as it soaks up a rich, sweet sauce in this classic Chinese take-out favorite. Add as much spice as you’d like (or none at all).
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Vegetarian
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: cauliflower recipe, easy dinner, vegetarian meal
Servings: 2
Calories: 390kcal
Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $5.00


  • Wok or Large Skillet


  • 12 oz Cauliflower Florets (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon Rice Vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • cup Peanut Oil
  • ¼ cup Unsalted Peanuts
  • 2 tablespoon chopped Green Onions / Scallions

Kung Pao Sauce:

  • 2 teaspoon chopped Fresh Ginger
  • 2 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • cup Water
  • 2 tablespoon Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
  • 2 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Honey
  • 2 teaspoon Toasted Sesame Oil
  • ½ teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes


  • Place cauliflower florets in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp paper towel and microwave for 1 minute. (This will get the florets started cooking, but they should still hold their shape.)
  • Whisk together rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, cornstarch, and salt. Pour over cauliflower florets and toss to coat. Set aside.
  • Make sauce by whisking together ginger, garlic, water, 2 tablespoon soy sauce, hoisin sauce, honey, toasted sesame oil, and red pepper flakes.
  • Heat peanut oil in a wok or skillet over medium heat. Add peanuts and fry in oil until they start to turn golden, Use a slotted spoon to transfer peanuts to a paper-towel lined plate. (Leave the wok with oil over heat.)
  • Use a spoon to toss cauliflower florets in cornstarch mixture once more to fully coat them.
  • Use a slotted spoon to transfer cauliflower to the hot oil. (Note: Test this with one small cauliflower floret. If the oil pops / spits, turn the heat down a bit and wait a minute to add the remaining cauliflower.)
  • Gently fry the cauliflower, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  • Drain off oil, leaving cauliflower in the wok.
  • Pour sauce over cauliflower. Simmer until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.
  • Stir in peanuts and green onions.
  • Serve over rice.


The bagged pre-cut cauliflower florets save time and work well here because they are fairly uniform in size. You can chop your own florets from a head of cauliflower, but make sure you have 5 to 6 cups of florets. If using a whole head of cauliflower, slice or chop the stems and stalk and add them to the dish.
Adjust the amount of red pepper flakes to fit your spice preference.
This recipe was tested with low-sodium soy sauce. Regular soy sauce is fine, though you should taste the sauce and consider adding some extra honey to give it that savory-sweet balance.
For a gluten-free version, use Tamari instead of soy sauce and be sure to grab a gluten-free Hoisin sauce.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 390kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 21g | Sodium: 1423mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 21g