This recipe for Southern Fried Cauliflower will satisfy all your comfort food cravings. You’ll never miss the chicken with this plant-based snack on the menu! They’re lightly battered and seasoned with savory spices for a perfectly crispy, flavorful finish.
Cauliflower is the chameleon of all vegetables. From pizza crust to gnocchi, rice to mashed potatoes, there’s nothing that cauliflower can’t imitate. Fried chicken is no different, though it may sound like an improbable swap at first glance. Chicken itself is incredibly bland, so you’re not losing anything by ditching the meat.
Even picky eaters won’t be able to resist these veggies. Vegans, vegetarians, and meat eaters alike will love this tried-and-true family favorite.
Why You’ll Love This Fried Cauliflower
You could fry just about anything and create an irresistible treat, but this Southern Fried Cauliflower has even more to offer:
- Healthier than fried chicken. While they’re still deep fried, they’re much lower in calories than conventional fried chicken and have zero cholesterol.
- Affordable. Fast food was once known for reliably cheap eats, but that’s not the case anymore. You can save much more money by cooking at home and skipping the drive thru.
- Just 10 ingredients. Not including salt or oil, you can count all the components for this recipe on both hands! Best of all, they’re all common pantry stapes and fresh produce.
Notes on Ingredients
Please note that this is important information on the ingredients and instructions and the FULL recipe with amounts and details can be found DOWN BELOW (scroll to it) in the recipe card.
- All-purpose flour – You could use your favorite gluten-free flour blend instead of wheat to make this recipe Celiac-friendly.
- Cornstarch – Substitute an equal measure of tapioca starch or potato starch if you’d like to avoid corn products.
- Kosher salt
- Smoked paprika – Sweeter and more earthy than hot Hungarian paprika, this Spanish staple adds incredible complex flavor with bold red color.
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Ground black pepper
- Unsweetened non-dairy milk – Any type of plant-based milk works well here, be it almond, oat, soy, cashew, or otherwise. Just make sure there are no added sweeteners or flavors that might throw off the recipe.
- Dijon mustard
- Apple cider vinegar
- Cauliflower – Fresh is best, but in a pinch, you can use frozen cauliflower. Thaw completely before use and only use the biggest pieces.
- Neutral oil – Anything with a high smoke point and light flavor is ideal, such as peanut oil, avocado oil, rice brand oil, or canola oil.
How to Make Southern Fried Cauliflower
- Combine the dry ingredients, including seasonings, in a large bowl to make the coating.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients until smooth.
- Fill a high-sides pan with about ½-inch of oil and set over medium heat. Bring to 350°F.
- Dip a few florets of cauliflower first into the wet ingredient, then the dry ingredients, tossing to coat. Shake off any excess and then repeat the process. Place the battered cauliflower on a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining cauliflower.
- Add 3 to 4 pieces of cauliflower into the hot oil using a slotted spoon or tongs. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes until crispy, golden brown, and fork tender. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining cauliflower.
- Serve hot!
Tips for Success
- Cut your cauliflower into roughly 1-inch florets. The pieces should be large enough to pick up with your fingers and eat in one or two bites.
- Thoroughly wash and dry the cauliflower. Excess water will make it harder for the batter and breading to stick evenly.
- Use a clip-on thermometer to make sure the oil stays at the right temperature. It can fluctuate throughout the cooking process, and it’s important to keep it consistent to prevent the outsides from burning or the insides from being under-cooked.
- Fry just a few pieces at a time. Don’t crowd the pan because that will cause the temperature to drop and the cauliflower to cook unevenly.
- Drain on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. It’s much too hot to eat right away, and you’ll want some of the extra oil to drip off to prevent it from becoming greasy.
What to Serve With Chicken Fried Cauliflower
You could be perfectly content to pop these crispy little morsels into your mouth entirely unadorned, but there are plenty of options to consider for dressing them up:
- Dipping sauces galore! That includes vegan ranch dressing, BBQ sauce, ketchup, mustard, and more.
- Make it a meal. Make a plate with your favorite southern sides, such as mashed potatoes, coleslaw, mac and cheese, collard greens, corn on the cob, or baked beans.
- Get zesty. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice to help cut the richness.
How to Store Leftovers
Although fried foods are always best when they’re fresh, hot out of the oil, you can still save any extras for a repeat performance. Keep them in an airtight container or zip top bag in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.
Don’t use the microwave to reheat them since that will make the outer breading soggy. Instead, pop them into an oven or toaster oven preheated to 400 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Alternatively, you could air fry them at 370 degrees for 5 to 8 minutes if you’d prefer.
Can I Freeze Deep Fried Cauliflower?
Yes, you can easily free Southern Fried Cauliflower for an instant snack whenever cravings strike! Just arrange any leftovers in a single layer on a cookie sheet, place in the freezer for at least 3 hours, or until solidly frozen. Transfer the cauliflower to an airtight container or zip top bag for safe keeping. When you’re ready to eat, bake them in the oven preheated to 400°F for 10 to 15 minutes, until hot and crispy.
More Easy Vegetable Sides:
- Southern Corn Salad
- Southern Fried Okra
- Southern Green Beans and Potatoes
- Slow Cooker Sweet Potatoes
- Mustard Greens
Southern Fried Cauliflower
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- large head cauliflower cut into 1-inch florets
- neutral oil for frying
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, 1½ teaspoon salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, mustard, vinegar, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt.
- Heat ½ inch of oil in a large high-sided pan to 350°F.
- Dip each piece of cauliflower first into the milk mixture, then into the flour mixture, turning to coat all sides. Shake off any excess, then repeat by dipping each piece back in the milk mixture, then into the flour mixture. Place on a baking sheet and repeat with remaining cauliflower.
- When oil is hot, carefully add 3-4 pieces of cauliflower to the pan with a slotted spoon or tongs, working in batches to avoid lowering the oil temperature or crowding the pan.Cook for 4-5 minutes, turning regularly, until crispy, browned, and fork-tender. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining cauliflower.
- Serve hot with hot sauce and/or ranch dressing.